Selling your bicycle

Raleigh Team Ti bike

Last week, we provided a list of bang for your buck upgrades that can transform your bike for as little as £5, but if you feel you’d rather get a new bike, than upgrade your old one, you’ve come to the right place with our guide to selling your bike.

Bikes generally retain their value really well, and it’s certain someone out there would fall in love with your second hand bike. Here’s how you get it to them.

1) Decide where to sell

There are many options:

  • If you belong to a cycling club or group you can probably advertise via a forum, newsletter or word of mouth – this means no liaising with strangers, the process will likely be less formal and simpler – but remember it’s hard to haggle, talk terms and business with friends – don’t sell the bike for less than it’s worth because you feel duty bound.
  • A local bike shop sales board – local means no hassle over travel but cuts down the size of your audience
  • Your local paper
  • Forum Classifieds – these are free, and reach a wide audience – www.lfgss.com is a popular London based forum, we have a list of more bike forums here.
  • GoingGoingBike –  The website was created to help buyers who wanted to know they weren’t purchasing a stolen bike – the site is teamed up with Bike Revolution and an ownership test will be run, and if you have a frame number this will be listed too. You pay nothing to Going Going Bike if the sale is unsuccessful, and in the case of a sale, you pay 10% commission to them.
  • There are plenty of other second hand bike websites: Gumtree, eBay, Bikesoup, BikeMeUp the list goes on!

Once you’ve chosen a medium – next up…

2) Make sure the bike is in good nick

If you want to offload your bike as quickly as possible, and don’t want much money for it, feel free to ignore this step. However, you’ll get more in return from your ex-pride-and-joy if you give it one last spruce. Start by cleaning the bike, but then look for any parts which are a little worn – brake pads, chain, cassette, bar tape.

Replacing these parts might seem a little bit counter productive, but if you do so, you’ll be able to include ‘brand new brake pads, chain, cassette, bar tape…’ in the description, and consequently charge more for it. If it’s an entry level bike, your buyer might be a beginner – and they’ll appreciate a bike that isn’t going to take them hours to fix up, or cost them a fortune in servicing.

3) Collect all receipts, proof of ownership and paperwork you have

If you’ve got original proof of purchase of the bike, or it’s been logged with a security company like Bike Register, have the details ready, and scanned in so you can prove via email if need be. A sensible buyer will want to know you actually own the goods yourself. Of course, if the bike is tagged and logged with a frame look-up system such as Bike Register, you’ll need to transfer ownership – this is usually done via your login or via email, but varies between organisations.

Other paperwork – receipts from servicing, the original owners manual – are all valuable items that make your bike much more desirable.

4) Decide on a price

Firstly – ‘sensible offers only’ is not a price, and not stating the price is only annoying for a buyer. Bike buying process goes a lot like this:

a) decide what you want to do with the bike (ride on roads, ride off-road, race..) and how much you want to spend

b) research what is available at that level

c) either buy appropriate bike, or release a little more can be obtained for a tiny bit more investment, leading to more research and eventual purchase

It all starts with a decision on the required style of bike, and the amount the buyer is both willing and able to spend – and it’s an obvious deciding factor – so don’t leave it a mystery. Buyers will probably see 5 bikes they could be interested in investigating – if one requires an email, phone call or other just to find out the cost, they might not bother.

To determine the appropriate price, do some research and find out how much similar spec bikes are going for, then alter that depending upon how yours compares in state of repair. You can do the research by looking at second hand sites like eBay, Gumtree and see if you can spot the same bike or at least a similar specification.

5) Descriptions – be positive, but honest

There is absolutely no point telling the world the bike is ‘pristine’ if it’s covered in scratches – a viewing will only result in an irritable customer who has wasted time. By all means, blow your bikes trumpet – tell the world it’s comfortable, handles great, and if it is faultlessly ‘as new’, tell them that – but don’t try to bend the truth.

In the world of second hand purchasing, pictures say a thousand words. Include as many as you can, detailing components and any damage you’ve referred to in the text. For example ‘slight scratch to downtube’ could put someone off, but if you attach a picture and the damage is not that bad, they’ll feel both reassured that it’s not an issue, and they’ll appreciate your honesty. Of course, if certain components are in great condition, include pictures of them too.

Include the size of the frame, and if you can find it a link to the manufacturers sizing guide (for an online ad) or a height range. You can also give your own height and state how well or otherwise the bike fits – these sort of details help a first time buyer who might not have experience of fitting themselves to a bike.

Be sure to include the spec of the bike – is it Shimano Sora, Shimano Tiagra? Have you replaced the brake calipers? All these details matter. Try to include all brand names (especially “Shimano”, the kind of brands people associate with quality, and thus might be searching for… )

6) Titles – Be SEO minded

SEO = Search engine optimisation.

If you’re selling online, you want to be ranking high for the right query – meaning if someone is looking for your bike, you want to beat all the other people selling the same one.

Make sure you include the full title of the bike in your ad – for example “Specialized Allez” can range from £600 RRP to £7k RRP (S-Works version) – if you’ve got a “Specialized Allez Sport C2 Sora 2014” – say so. Someone out there might be looking for a second hand version of exactly that bike.

Do make sure you include more general terms, too – to catch those who are less focused on a specific model – for example an ideal title might be “Second hand road bike:  fully serviced Specialized Allez Sport C2 Sora 2014”.

7) Test rides

It goes without saying you should be careful meeting strangers who have contacted you via a phone number in the paper, or via an online site – meet somewhere where there are people and be sensible.

It is understandable that the buying might want to try riding the bike. It’s not uncommon for bikes to be stolen thus. Make it clear before they arrive that you’ll want a form of ID and a deposit before the test ride, and keep them in view.

Have you sold a bike, and do you have any further advice to give? 

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11 Responses to Selling your bicycle

  1. Barney 18/09/2014 at 1:03 pm #

    No advice I’m afraid, but I’m curious to know whether there are any used bike dealers that have good reputations in London?

    At some point I might want to buy a used bike with the security of buying from a well established dealer who has checked its condition rather than directly from a private seller.

  2. MJ Ray 19/09/2014 at 1:54 pm #

    Put the frame size or possible rider heights in the title. That can make or break the sale right off the bat. Omitting that key fact wastes everyone’s time.

    • Joe 21/10/2014 at 10:19 am #

      Totally agree to this point. Nearly nobody states the size of the bike in the adds, but a bike that doesn’t fit is no use for the buyer! I prefer to give a range of suitable stature rather than the bike measurements, as to most users it does not help them to know the seat tube is 48cm or 52cm (unless it is a high range bike).

      I don’t agree to install new components in a bike to be sold (unless the old component is just broken) as you would never get that investment back. Sometimes I even prefer to mention that broken component in the add (i.e. “middle ring needs replacement”) and offer a small discount rather than buy it myself as it never pays off.

  3. SteveP 19/09/2014 at 6:16 pm #

    Nice ideas, but you can see why Gumtree and eBay survive. 10% commission? Bit steep, I’d say. And as someone who buys ancient steel bikes – who the heck would have a 25-yr-old sales receipt?

    Sure – newish bike, as much proof as possible, frame number, meet at seller’s home, ask questions.

    And don’t expect much more than 50% of purchase price unless almost unused. Stilla better return than a diamond 🙂

    BTW – if you do measure the frame, explain how (i.e. from where to where) as this varies even amongst pros

    Finally – sometimes the bits are worth more than the bike. And they are a heck of a lot easier to post, giving you a national (or even international) market. So many bikes are offered “Location – middle of nowhere – will not ship – pickup only”

  4. Spencer 20/09/2014 at 5:22 pm #

    Be wary of selling the bike from home. Been known for thieves to come back and steal bikes from garages/sheds after inspecting one up for sale!

    SteveP makes a valid point on selling bits. My bike is custom made so if I ever sold would likely get more for the parts than as a whole…

    • Spencer 20/09/2014 at 5:25 pm #

      Also ensure you get the money for the bike, don’t accept cheques or banker’s drafts and check for counterfeit bank notes.

  5. SteveP 20/09/2014 at 6:26 pm #

    Buyers get more assurance if they meet the seller at home. They need see no other bikes or even past the door.

  6. simon 16/04/2015 at 5:25 pm #

    Just be careful of the many scams in the market at the moment – PayPal and other payment gateways are not exempt (esp the distance buyer scam) – I’d recommend only dealing with buyers who will meet you – there are very few scammers around who will be willing to meet you in person.

    Also, try and use sites that give you the option to mask your exact address if you are advertising from home. (like http://www.onceridden.com ☺)

  7. Jonathan Cridge 16/06/2015 at 1:54 pm #

    Try selling your bike for free via a Facebook group.

    This one seems to be the biggest in London:
    http://www.facebook.com/groups/londonbicyclebuyandsell

  8. Steve M. 10/08/2015 at 12:54 pm #

    Jonathan Cridge, you are the owner of the http://www.facebook.com/groups/londonbicyclebuyandsell group. Please say so instead of posing as a third party.

  9. Ricardo 14/12/2015 at 10:05 pm #

    Hey guys, I have a mountainbike (CUBE AMS 120) with a 3×9 drivetrain, I have some 10 speed parts laying around and for extra 100€ I could upgrade it to 10 speed, will this help? how do you feel in general about doing upgrades before selling? does it help or not?

    Thanks!!!

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