So now you know that you want a cheap bike and you have a pretty good idea what kind of bike you want, so now you need to know where to go to buy it.The obvious answer is a department store. Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target, Sears and a wide variety of similar stores sell all the standard cheap brands and even an occasional interesting odd-ball. These are easiest place to look and usually a safe bet for getting a decent machine, but they aren’t the only choice.
The first alternative is the great department store of the web, Amazon.com. They offer just about every cheap bike currently on the market. When you factor in shipping they can’t match the price of a department store sale price, but it’s a great place to research and compare bikes, and sometimes you find something unusual and cheap that the brick-and-mortar stores don’t carry.
If Amazon is the web’s department store then eBay is the web’s flea market. Sellers on eBay often have exaggerated views of their junk’s value but if you are persistent you can find some good deals. The biggest problem I have with eBay is the shipping costs, but if the seller is reasonable this won’t impact the price too much.
Surprisingly, eBay isn’t all just used bikes. There are many “importers” who see brand new cheap bikes that seem to be a pretty good deal. I put importers in quotes because all it takes to become a bike importer is a credit card and a shipping address. There are scores of websites where you can order very cheap bikes from the Chinese manufacturer. minimum orders are as few as a dozen. Most advertise that they have Shimano parts, but look carefully. One example only had Shimano pedals and the rest of the parts were cheap off brands. These bikes may be fine, but where will the seller be six months from now? It’s a risk.
Then there’s the web’s garage sale, Craigslist and other free classified sites like it. I’ve found some great bikes on Craigslist but you’ve got to be careful. When I’m search bikes there I always keep another browser window open to look up bikes models I’m familiar with. More often than not the seller’s description is, shall we say, optimistic. I could write a book on what to look for and out for on Craigslist, but mostly it comes down to common sense. Don’t have strangers come to your home when you’re alone and don’t go to stranger’s homes alone.
Continuing our trip we must consider actual yard sales. This is where you will find the cheapest of the cheap used bikes. Unfortunately you can’t go to yard sales with expectations of what you want to buy because you will be searching a long time and still may not find what you are looking for. Yard saling is all about compromise and making due. The biggest problem will be that nearly every yard sale bike will have flat tires and need work to make it operational so there will be no test ride. That’s risky.
I want to finish back on the web. There are bargains to be found there as well if your willing to take a minor leap of faith. This leap involves trusting in house brands. There are many websites that sell bike brands that only they seem to sell. Is this good or bad? I don’t know. Reading reviews online you see a lot of prejudice against house brands, but you also see lots of evangalizing for them as well. It’s again a matter of research. The sites I look at most are bikesdirect.com and nashbar.com. They both sell bikes covering the full range of prices including cheap bikes.
See how simple this all is. In my next article I’ll discuss putting your new bike together and who should be doing it.
Disclaimer: I have no financial connection to any of the companies mentioned in this article.