The Anatomy of the Used Road Bike: Things to Look for to get the Best Used Bike You Can
I have a little bit of experience in used bicycles, maybe just enough to be dangerous, but whatever. There are quite a few tricks one should know about buying a used bike before one jumps in that pool – without knowledge, there are simply too many things that can go wrong, as can be understood by my purchase of the bike in the photo above. First, there is nothing technically wrong with that bike. It operates quite well and is quite cool (as old bikes go). There were plenty of problems that I ran into because I wasn’t informed well enough at the time but, in fairness, I only had four whole months of cycling experience when I bought that bike. I was 40 years old, but previous to getting into cycling to shake up my running boredom with a triathlon or two, the only bike I owned was a steel POS mountain bike purchased at a Sears for less than $150, brand new. So, the problems in order of importance:
- The frame is too small. Not a little bit too small, it’s a lot too small. I am tall enough to need a 58-59 cm frame, that’s a 54. The smallest I should go, with that style of frame (Standard frame, compact (Criterium) geometry is maybe a 56. It took a few new parts to make that bike fit close enough that I could make it go fast. Even so, the first time I brought it into a shop, the owner noticed it was too small instantly, just by watching me wheel it into the shop.
- The crank arms are too small. According to most accepted fitting and measuring practices (including the online calculators) I need a 172.5 mm crank arm. The cranks on the Cannondale are 165’s. 7.5 mm may not be much, but on a crank arm that’s huge. It feels like I’m pedaling a little kid’s bike when I go from my Venge or 5200 to the Cannondale.
- Those down tube shifters. A few people will say they prefer down tube shifters, I thought I’d be able to muscle through their obvious deficiencies next to integrated brake lever shifters. I was wrong. Entirely. If you’re planning on riding fast, with a group, or in an activity other than just cruising around the block to get in shape, they’re useless. Being able to shift into the perfect gear for your cadence, the speed a group is going, or to tackle a hill, instantly and without removing the hands from the hoods is too much an advantage to overcome with “want to”. Unless you’re Peter Sagan… but that’s a lot of “want to” right there.
Those three things led to the purchase of this, because I did want to ride with a group and I wanted to ride comfortably, and fast:
Now, just so you can see the size difference between the old Cannondale and the new(er) Trek:
That’s a pretty stark size difference right there. The first photo of the Trek was the day I brought it home (thankfully the old particle board entertainment center has been replaced with something that consists of a product that actually grew in a forest at one time and fits the television – woof). Anyway, I digress… See that big ole’ saddle? That was too wide for my sit bones so that went first. I actually went through the process of having my sit bones measured and ended up with a Specialized Romin saddle that I’ve come to enjoy thoroughly (both of my road bikes have that saddle). The handlebars were next, because I hated the one’s that came on the bike (they were too wide and I hated the drops). Then the brake surfaces wore so thin on the wheels that they cracked a couple of years ago so I put the wheels that came with my good bike on the Trek. Then I had it painted and with all of that done, it looks like this:
So here’s the anatomical breakdown:
Add all of that up (including the items I didn’t have to pay for but someone else would) and you’re looking at about $1,980 for a veritable, carbon fiber, horse. Eventually I’ll throw some decent wheels on this steed, because the wheels on it now are noticeably slow, but for what I use that bike for (training and easy miles), it’s great. Take away the unnecessary money (the paint, decals, housings, handlebar and seat post) and it’s less than $1,430… Now that’s a fair value for a great bike – all though I don’t think any of the upgrades can be legitimately argued against. The bike, in my humble opinion, went from pretty okay to awesome sauce.
Anyway, a few additional costs you should expect to incur should you go the used bike route: New pedals, without a doubt; Bikes never come with pedals (new or used). Possibly a new saddle and maybe some new bar tape.
With all of that out of the way, it cannot be stressed enough, be very careful when purchasing a used road bike if you’re not well versed in the ways of the cyclist.
**Apologies to the purists for having the bike in the middle ring. I know. It’s colder out there than it looks and I didn’t realize the error until I was already inside. I wasn’t going back out.
***Weight is around 21 pounds and some change, give or take, with cages and pedals. I can get it down to 20 and a lot faster with a decent set of wheels, but that’s for another time, down the road. Right now I need to live with the wheels as they are.
Perhaps the Single Greatest Song Ever Written…
My wife and I are sitting in the stands watching our daughters swim practice and The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony comes on over the loud speaker.
My mood instantly brightens.
This is my alarm every morning. Sometimes I wait a minute to close it, just so I can hear a little more. I’m almost always already awake when it goes off.
It’s the perfect, “I’m gonna make this day my bitch” way to start my day. But in a good way. Can’t explain it, the song just hits the right chord with me. Perhaps it’s that the song isn’t your typical scream, bang on the drums and make that guitar screech song. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Rob Zombie, Korn and Drowning Pool. Maybe it’s my background in music. I haven’t played or held a microphone in decades but I’ve never lost appreciation for a good tune.
Anyway, just feelin’ the power and thought I’d pass it along.