How much to spend on a used bike?
September 13, 2008 2:38 PM   Subscribe

My bicycle was recently stolen, and I need one for my 5-mile (each way) daily work commute. I went to a local used bike shop (I'm in Portland, OR), and the cheapest was an awesome vintage Trek for $550, including tune-up. Seems like too much for a bicycle. How much should I realistically expect to spend on a decent road bike?

A couple of notes: I'm a man, I'm about 5'7", and I'm in really good shape, and it used to take me 30 minutes to get to work on my Specialized hybrid bike (the one that got stolen). Would I be paying for speed? I'd get this bike if I had a good reason (for myself and my wife).
posted by sholdens12 to Travel & Transportation around Portland, OR (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
$550 was the cheapest price at your local shop? Weird - I'm in Canada, where bicycles definitely cost more on average, and I got a new hybrid for about $420 from a local shop, and I love the hell out of it. It's a KHS, which are made solidly and with pretty good (e.g. Shimano, low end on mine but still just fine) componentry.

Also, Portland? Aren't you guys like bike capital of the universe? I'd do some more shopping around.
posted by the dief at 3:37 PM on September 13, 2008

That's a very reasonable price for a good bike, especially at a LBS (local bike shop), where it's (a) probably being properly tuned up, and (b) not a case of lowered profits/bike amortized across a high volume of bike turn-over. A complete tune-up from a good mechanic should run $60-$100. You tend to get what you pay for.

For reference, a high-end road bike will generally cost $2000+, a mid-range (stock Surly Crosscheck, etc.) will cost about $1000, and a lower-end bike that isn't crap will run between $400 and $700.
posted by ellF at 3:42 PM on September 13, 2008

Which bike shop? If you didn't find anything at that one shop, there are plenty more to choose from in Portland.

$550 is kind of on the high end, but it really depends on exactly what you're looking for. If you don't care so much about having the latest lightest components, and are willing to settle for something a bit older and/or heavier, I imagine you can find something reasonable around the $300 range. The Community Cycling Center's bikes for sale page says that their range is usually $200-500 for adult bikes.

At an average speed of 10 MPH I'd be surprised if you got significantly faster on a road bike -- if you're biking in town there's enough traffic and stop signs to make it difficult to really crank it up. You might save 5 minutes each way. Your speed is going to depend much more on you and your riding style, not so much the particular bike, assuming that it's not broken and isn't ridiculously heavy or anything.
posted by xil at 3:44 PM on September 13, 2008

Bicycle prices are very inflated in Portland. VERY inflated. Used bikes (especially if they're quirky 'vintage' varieties) are ridiculously, stupidly expensive, I sold a shitbox schwinn varsity that weight a billion pounds, with flat tires and a rusted out chain for over 200 dollars. I bought it for 10 bucks at a goodwill out of state.

That said, check out other shops in portland. if you're looking for an inexpensive roadbike in Portland, check out the Recyclery, A Better Cycle, and Citybikes. Also, if you can go new check out River City Bicycles. They sometimes have deals on bikes that are a season old (but still new). They are the best shop for buying anything new in Portland, and they'll tune up your bike for free most of the time, and the people who work there are simply amazing.

Also, craigslist is a brilliant place to find a bike, if you don't need one right away.

If that bike you looked at is solid, and they're willing to do a tune up on it, 550 really isn't out of line for a used, vintage bike in portland. That said, if you threw a couple hundred more down, you could get a pretty solid new Specialized, albeit lower end. I'd also wager that a newer bike will almost certainly be lighter and easier to commute with.
posted by furnace.heart at 3:55 PM on September 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Portland, I've no idea about, but for reference here in Santa Cruz a reasonable used bike costs $100-$150 in private deals. I got a Trek with Shimano shifters and front RockShock suspension (fixed rear) for $150 earlier in the summer. Shop prices might be a lot more, I don't know - try CraigsList?
posted by airplain at 4:06 PM on September 13, 2008

If it was an older, high-end Wisconsin-made Trek in good condition, in my opinion, it was worth it, though not a super bargain; many of those are really quite nice bikes, and have a bit of a following. If it was a newer, crappier trek, no way. I don't really know much about the Portland market. Take a look here to see if you can locate the model.
posted by pullayup at 4:18 PM on September 13, 2008

It sound like that Trek went from being an old bike to a vintage bike. That said, a hand brazed Trek built from 531 tubes in great shape might be worth what they were asking. Craigslist, etc. In Philly, you could find a reasonable bike for $250 or so. Also, as another poster has noted for not too much more you could be riding a new bike with a warranty and a free 30 day tuneup.
posted by fixedgear at 4:31 PM on September 13, 2008

Seconding the Community Cycling Center. After that, Seven Corners is pretty good.
posted by Skwirl at 5:16 PM on September 13, 2008

The Community Cycling Center is probably quite slim right now - they were the first place everyone went when they decided to start cycling again. Supply and demand strikes again!

Why not expand your search (Vancouver) and also let everyone you know what you are looking for? Have you checked REI?

I hope all interested portlanders can check their basements and garages for spare bikes to donate to the Community Cycling Center - they do fantastic things for the community!
posted by TomSophieIvy at 5:31 PM on September 13, 2008

Is it a road bike? That is a decent price depending upon the original price. A used bike of recent origin, say less than seven years old, should go for about 50 to 60% of its original sale price, more if it is in really great shape, and less if beat up. I would Google up its original suggested price. The actual selling price would have probably been about 10% less; bikes don't get marked down very much.
posted by caddis at 6:54 PM on September 13, 2008

Honestly, for a ten mile commute, go to Target and get a $150 mountain/hybrid bike. It'll be good and solid, and you won't have to worry about it too much. They have decent bikes with decent components. This is what I'd do, the owner of a $5000 road bike.

But to more directly answer your question, a decent new road bike will run between $600 to $1000. Used, if you're persistent, you can land a nice used one on eBay for $150 to $400, and a nice carbon Trek 5200 for maybe $800. I can recommend eBay for road bikes. I've bought five with no problems.

Let me help you justify it. Yes, you will be paying for speed. A road bike will be faster than a hybrid. Depending on your fitness level and skill level, I would an expect 3.5 mph increase in your average speed. With certain Treks and classic bikes, like Pinarellos, Colnagos, and so on, you're buying a handbuilt product that's crafted by artisans. There's a lot of value in that. These bikes will hold their value, and possibly even increase in value, so it can be a better investment.

All that being said, I still suggest the Target bike.
posted by luckypozzo at 7:23 PM on September 13, 2008

Please don't buy the Target bike. Even a ten mile commute will be miserable if you do it with any regularity. The main point of a bike you are commuting on is that it should be FUN FUN FUN to ride and make you want to get on it in the morning.

The Trek you were looking at is not really the right kind of bike... more for a bike snob really. I second the idea of buying a good quality used bike on eBay or Craigslist. Bikes have, overall, improved massively year on year on year. A $300-$400 two year old bike is going to be very nice.

Bikes are simple things and not hard to repair, so don't be scared of buying a pig in a poke. If the frame is true and not cracked, and the wheels are true, everything else can be fixed. Those other things can be fixed too, but make the deal a bad deal.

For a new bike $300 is the point at which you are not buying a complete pile of shit. Target do VERY occasionally have decent bikes in stock. But you have to be an expert to spot them.
posted by unSane at 8:22 PM on September 13, 2008

The Bins.
posted by eccnineten at 9:57 PM on September 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

They're down at the moment, but if you haven't already, try registering the theft of your bike at Finetoothcog. You might just luck out and have a helpful citizen spot your beloved lost whip.
posted by mumkin at 10:20 PM on September 13, 2008

New road bikes: low-end 700-1200$, mid-range 1200-1700$, high-end 1800$+
Under 700$ you're looking at used or often "lower quality" bikes. These bikes will still be able to get you 5 miles, which is a reasonably short commute.
posted by beerbajay at 1:16 AM on September 14, 2008

Have you looked on Craigslist for your old bike?
posted by j at 8:35 AM on September 14, 2008

Good suggestions all around - but let's think about the costs we're saving by riding bikes. Yes, I know this isn't technically answering your question, but hear me out. By paying $550 (or $750 or $1,000) you're saving the gas you might pay in a car. If you don't drive at all, no insurance / registration / license plates, etc. You know all about the benefits of scrapping the car for your commute, which is why you do it - just a reminder about the economics of it all.

At the same time, remember that the bike you need isn't a $75-100 bike at Walmart, and it's not a kids bike. A well made bike shouldn't necessarily cost a lot, but it usually isn't cheap.
posted by chrisinseoul at 11:28 AM on September 14, 2008

Thanks to everyone who commented. These are all great suggestions. The hive mind comes through again.
posted by sholdens12 at 2:58 PM on September 16, 2008

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