Used NYC Bike
June 9, 2009 1:59 PM   Subscribe

Help me buy a (probably used) bicycle in NYC.

I've decided that I want to buy a bicycle in the next couple weeks. I used to bike a lot as a kid but haven't biked more than a day here and a day there in probably 8 years (mid 20s).

I will use it mostly on roads/bike paths, so I think a Mountain Bike is out. Still torn between a road and a hybrid. I may use it for commuting but that's not my goal at the moment. More leisure/exercise rides, errands, etc. But not ruling out commuting either.

I'm about 5'11"/165Lbs so more or less "standard" body type. Pretty athletic, no health problems to speak of. I'm looking at used just because I don't have $700 to spend on a bike. I would like to go into a bike shop if possible so that I can ride a bunch of different styles/brands/models before I choose, but it seems that not a ton of NYC bike shops do the used thing(?)

I've looked into (read: researched on the internet) Recycle A Bike, GreatUsedBikes, and of course CL. Anyone have any recommendations for a B&M store that will let me ride around some bikes and can sell me a good one for $300-$400 or so? Or am I going to have to go into a bike shop, act like I'm going to spend $800, and then bail to look for a similar used bike elsewhere? That seems like bad juju...

Any NYC-centric biking tips or suggestions are also welcome.

(I've been reading Ask MeFi about bikes and NYC biking all day, so please don't just link me to another thread. Chances are I've read it!)
posted by jckll to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I got my bike on craigslist for 100$. It's an aluminum Trek and it is great. The bike shops selling used bikes would have gotten my bike for 100$ and sold it to me for 300$. No foul, that's just what they do.
Good luck
posted by Studiogeek at 2:05 PM on June 9, 2009

Different people have different opinions on this, but I would recommend going with a hybrid, possibly a mountain bike if you are going to ride on city streets. Road bikes always get flats in NYC. Well you are going to get a ton of flats anyway, but you'll be better off with thicker tires.

Also think about getting a very light bike cause you will want to take it on the train sometimes.

Finally, if this is your first bike in a while, there is no shame in going to a bike shop and testing out some different bicycles before buying a used one off of Craigslist. See what feels comfortable to you, and then buy what you like and can afford. You don't need anything special for leisure/exercise, errands, and possibly commuting.
posted by RajahKing at 2:16 PM on June 9, 2009

I got a bike from Recycle a Bike about 5-6 years ago, and they definitely let me ride as many bikes as I wanted. I paid about $125 then for an old-ish road bike. They also gave me some free adjustments over the following weeks while I was getting used to the bike. Plus, it's a good cause.
posted by one_bean at 2:20 PM on June 9, 2009

Dah Shop
134 Division St.
New York City

Btwn Ludlow and Orchard, one block south of Canal

212 925 0155

Independent shop, will walk you through every aspect of buying a bike. Ask for Qian (kee-un).
posted by paulinsanjuan at 2:26 PM on June 9, 2009

I always recommend looking for a road-style commuter bike. Lighter and faster than hybrids, but built a little thicker than actual racing style road bikes, and I've ridden mine over the worst Boston has to offer for years (plus, embarassingly, crashed it at high speed) with one flat and no other damage. The trick is to properly inflate your tires: most take around 90 psi, but people get scared to pump them up that much. Underinflated tubes pop easily.

Whatever you do, though, get fitted at a bike shop and concentrate on what a properly sized bike feels like under you before buying a used bike; the frame size measurements are an ok first approximation, but are non-standardized and don't account for things like top tube length.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 2:29 PM on June 9, 2009

I was in your situation a few months ago, I hadn't really biked since I was a kid and I wanted to have one for errands and fun rides. I started shopping and was amazed at how much bike you can get for $300 these days. I ended up with a basic mountain bike, a Giant Boulder. I love it to death, it's great for negotiating the urban environment and I've even taken it up on the mountain a few times with no problems other than being unable to wipe the grin off my face. I'm convinced that a basic mountain bike or a hybrid that leans towards being a mountain bike is your best all purpose option.
posted by TungstenChef at 2:55 PM on June 9, 2009

Recycle a Bicycle sounds like a perfect fit for your needs. They have two shops. Give them a try!
posted by gum at 3:24 PM on June 9, 2009

nthing Recycle a Bicycle. have gotten lots of parts there; have donated old bikes to them. Definitely check them out. Currently riding a bike i built with parts from there and craigslist.
posted by dubold at 3:49 PM on June 9, 2009

First, when you are making your bicycle-buying budget, add around a hundred bucks, maybe a bit more for a helmet and a lock. You want a hefty u-lock with a cable - u-lock locks up the frame and the cable secures both wheels to the lock.

Secondly, I second Recycle a Bicycle.

If you go to bike shops, just say you're trying to figure out what you want and you'd like to try some different types of bikes. You don't have to act like you're holding eight hundo for them to pay attention to you... but it would be decent if, after you use their service, you return to buy that helmet and lock from them even if you get your bike elsewhere.

From there you might be able to get something you like on Craigslist, but there's a lot of reason for a buyer to beware on craigslist... the old bit about polished turds, specifically. Great deals can be found if somebody can guide you through the signal:noise ratio, you know?

There are a lot of neat urban bikes being made by companies - basically, rugged road bikes with flat handlebars. Sounds like something you might be interested in.

Furthermore... check out Bike New York, Transportation Alternatives, and Time's Up for other resources on biking in NYC.

Finally... be safe. Biking in nyc kicks ass but there are steps you must take to make it less dangerous than it can be.
posted by entropone at 6:17 PM on June 9, 2009

As someone who's ridden and commuted on a road style bike in NYC for 16 years, I find amusing when people say that road bikes are just not sturdy enough to withstand the stresses of urban riding. Drop bars are far better suited to squeezing through tight spaces on jammed city streets, and will give you multiple positions for your hands. Road tires (aka slicks) are far easier to brush glass off in case you ride through a pile of glass. Buy a floor pump, and make sure you inflate your tires properly to help prevent pinch flats. Sure, you will get flats. It happens.

I am a fan of the Bike Hub, in the West Village on Morton Street, between Greenwich and Hudson Streets. Nice little shop. Craigslist has a huge noise to signal ratio, and you really have to know what you're looking for when wading through all the garbage listed there. I got my commuter there for $80, but YMMV.

The main issue is how much locking up outside this bike is going to be subjected to. The more you plan to do so, the less money you should spend on the bike. As I have pointed out in previous threads which you have probably already read, would you really want to spend $800 on a sweet "urban" bike if it's just going to be stolen while you're in Trader Joe's? Errand bikes should be very inconspicuous tools, with nothing that attracts a thief.

And looking toward when you do have your new/used bike in hand, please also buy front and rear blinkie lights and do NOT ride around with music blasting in your ears. There are too many goddamn morons on the streets who are far less concerned with not being a nuisance than they are with showing off their cool track bike top tube pad, U-lock stuffed into the back pocket of their fashionable messenger shorts, '80s retro sunglasses, earbud cord swinging wildly in the breeze. [/old lady rant]
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:11 PM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

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