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Selling secondhand

| Buyers Guides, What Mountain Bike | 23/07/2010 09:58am

If you buy a new bike, only to sell it on a whim as soon as you feel the urge to try something different, you’ll lose money.

Even the best secondhand bikes are often only worth half of what they cost new. However, with a little care you can avoid losing money on buying and selling MTBs. The ground rules are simple: buy secondhand and then, when you come to sell, make the bike look way better than it was when you bought it.

Okay, so it’s easier said than done, and you certainly need a modicum of mechanical know-how to ensure that your ride experience stays free, but read through our brief secondhand guide and you’ll be well on the way to minimum expenditure for the rest of your life.

Most real MTB enthusiasts are buying new bikes and bits all the time. Work on a buying principle of seeking out bargains being sold by riders who’ve lost their enthusiasm or need quick cash for cars, houses, babies or life’s other cash suckers. Okay, so it’s predatory, but by keeping a finger on the secondhand pulse, you can buy stuff for way under the going rate and, with good planning, sell it for above the accepted norm.

Don’t be afraid to buy a dirty bike. It’s a sign that someone’s lost their enthusiasm and just wants rid of it. Just remember, though, that dirt could be hiding problems. If your own mechanical knowledge isn’t great, take a mate who knows exactly what to look for.


When you’ve bought your bargain, give it a good clean/de-grease then touch up or T-Cut all paint blemishes and add protective strips to areas where cables or the chain rubs. Bike Shield or similar clear protective strips do a great job. You can cut them to size and they ‘heal’ when they get scuffed. Look after a bike and it’ll look the same a year later.

When you come to sell, make sure everything looks and feels as close to new as possible. Clean, de-grease, re-lube and polish the bike. Fit a set of new brake blocks, tyres (buy old model tyres for under £10 each) and cables. Make sure there are no rattles. If you have any upgrade stuff you don’t want, like a riser handlebar, new grips or some old bike-candy quick release skewers, fit them or tell the potential buyer you might be willing to include them. A couple of upgrades will make any bike seem worth a bit more than the average 50% of the new price. Chuck in a bit of clothing to secure an ‘asking price’ sale.

The cleaning process
It usually doesn’t take any more than £25 to rejuvenate a mud-crusty modern MTB. Take the rusty chain off and get a new one – or if it’s not too far gone, soak the old one in rust remover or paraffin, give it a good brush scrub then hang it up to dry before re-lubing it with a lightweight oil. Remember though, if a chain is worn out you may have to replace all the sprockets, too.

In principle, you could do the rest of the cleaning work with soap and water, but our favourite fast method is to use a powerful degreaser, like X Lite’s Muc-Off. Spray it on lavishly, leave it for a few minutes (if you leave it too long it’ll start lifting decals and penetrating bearings), then hose it off. Use a soft brush to get into the nooks and crannies and a harsher bristle brush with more Muc-Off for cleaning the cassette and all the other bits that need a bit more effort. We’d recommend investing in a brush set, too. Such tools make the job far easier.


When the bike’s become a mud-free zone, use a light lubricant that can penetrate to give all the moving parts a once over. Leave the bike a good half hour, then apply a heavier weight oil to the chain and all other hard working parts. One way to get some oil into the wheel and bottom bracket bearings without dismantling anything is to put the bike on its side so that the wheels still spin then dribble oil in under the bearing seals with the wheels spinning. If you want to do a more thorough job, take things apart and regrease them. We deal with this regularly in the workshop sections of WMB.

Stand the bike upright in the fresh air, wipe it down with a soft rag and leave it to dry. An hour or two after starting, you’ve got a bike that looks nearly as good as new. Ready to sell again for another £100? Well, that’s how the secondhand shops do it, but after all that work you’ll probably just want to go out and ride it.

Safe secondhand sales
There are a few basic rules when you’re selling secondhand and they’re nearly all related to justifiable paranoia about dodgy customers.

  • Never put your full address in the ad, as someone may pay a visit to your garage in the middle of the night.
  • Always ask your potential buyers lots of questions about what sort of bike they’re looking for before you give them your address – ask them how tall they are, for example. You usually get a feeling about how genuine they are.
  • Ask the full name of potential buyers on the phone and take their phone number. If they’re hesitant, they may not be genuine.
  • If you’re particularly paranoid (you have every right to be), arrange to meet them somewhere, rather then letting them know where you live, where you keep the bike or whether your family are at work all day.
  • Assume that they’ll want to go for a test ride. Be prepared to go with them if you can use another bike. If you can’t, then get them to leave at least a wallet, credit cards or something of importance that they can prove is theirs. A leather jacket may be worth less than the bike.
  • Once you’ve processed all the paranoia, be as helpful as you can. Show them receipts, service records, etc. Tell them about any work you’ve done on the bike recently – it’s well worth fitting new cables and brake blocks before you sell.
  • Be prepared to throw in some extras if it helps to secure the sale.

Top 10 Scrooge tips
How to keep your bike looking great and running sweet for peanuts

  • Clean, trim and oil inner and outer cables instead of buying new ones. Squirt X Lube or WD-40 through the outers.
  • Prolong the lives of brake blocks by filing them flat if they’re unevenly worn.
  • Alternate between two chains to prolong your sprocket’s life.
  • Fitting your chain round the other way from time to time will prolong its life by spreading the wear more evenly.
  • Always buy a new chain before the sprockets wear themselves out.
  • If your chainrings can be fitted either way round, swap them over from time to time so that the teeth don’t start getting hooked forwards.
  • Mask your paintwork in vulnerable areas until it’s time to sell.
  • Keeping your tyre walls clean is sure to keep a bike looking new.
  • Make a bike feel like a bargain by including extra kit when you sell it.
  • Wash your bike just before someone comes to look at buying it. Wet things always look cleaner.

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