What's the best way to buy a second hand folding bicycle
May 3, 2008 7:58 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way to buy a second hand folding bicycle? I'm not looking for a place to get an under the counter type deal, I just want to make sure I have as good an idea of what it's fair to expect from a bike in my price range.

I'm moving into the city next year and I want to buy a folding bicycle that I can take on the tube, and fit in my meagre apartment.

Having done a bit of research already, I think I want to buy a Brompton, since I've heard them to be reliable and popular; thus also easy to service, get parts for and *might* retain some resale value. Unfortunately a brand new one is way out of my price range (which is £240 max), but having never spent any kind of money on a bike before I'm looking for some advice on where to get a good second hand one and what things (positive and negative) to look out for before I hand over the cash.

Two older threads What folding bike should I get and Folding are interesting, but don't help my question about getting one second hand, now that I (pretty much) know that I want.

So far I've looked on ebay and gumtree. Ebay has plenty, but for all kinds of reasons I don't like using it that much anymore. I think it’s too easy to over pay, and whatever tactics there might be to it all, I just can't be arsed with it frankly. I want to see my bike and the person selling it to me, before I pay for it (is this so wrong?). Gumtree has Bromptons with a really wide price distribution £80 - £575, but before I go out and have a look at some of them I want to know more about what I'm looking for and should be expecting to pay.
posted by munchbunch to Travel & Transportation (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I can give you only a general answer. A long time ago I worked in the bike trade and the rough general rule was that a brand new bike lost about half its value the moment it was wheeled from the shop. So, assuming it's in excellent condition, look for about half the new price. Reduce the price thereafter based upon condition and wear. Used bicycles, unless they're something rare and exceptional, don't hold their value. It's a buyers market if you know what you want and can competently asses mechanical condition.

Brompton is a great choice and you're right, they're good about providing support, in my experience. Don't relay on just any bike shop to service them well, however - there's a few subtleties with them that can catch out unwary or inexperienced mechanics. Best to go to a Brompton dealer for service.

If you're in London, try Bicycle Workshop for a used one (or they might keep an eye out for one for you), or for servicing.
posted by normy at 8:52 AM on May 3, 2008

Just bought a Mezzo for London commuting but it might just as well have been a Brompton. I went for a new one on that basis that (i) I found that pretty much all modern folding bikes (and Bromptons in particular) seem to depreciate very little and (ii) I was able to benefit from the UK Govt Cycle Scheme which worked out at nearly 50% off. Do check with your employer if you can use the scheme.
posted by Dan Brilliant at 9:19 AM on May 3, 2008

Best answer: I also work in the bike trade and agree about near-new being half the price of new. Less (40% of new) for mountain bikes that get thrashed. More (65% of new) for high-end road racing bikes that haven't seen a wet road, especially a hot brand like Cervelo. Stick with half or less a used Brompton.

I have a Brompton myself (obviously you've read my raves about it), but I would be very cautious when buying a used one. Definitely do NOT buy one unless you can give it a close inspection and test/ride. Though marvelously simple to use, they are actually quite complicated in construction. The tricky bits are, in my experience:

1) the Sturmey-Archer internally-geared hub. Getting access to it is hard enough, actually overhauling it (clean, re-lubricate) is a nightmare. The shifter is also a bit flimsy.

2) the serpentine cabling for rear brake and hub gear. If the cables/housing need replacing, it's a LOT more work than for a non-folder.

3) the tall steering column -- check this very closely for fatigue cracks.

Take a bike-nerd friend with you if you're not one yourself, and make sure everything is in very good running order before you buy it.
posted by randomstriker at 10:08 AM on May 3, 2008

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