Finding used bikes online is like coming across photos of Miley Cyrus' tongue. You don't have to look very hard—there are too many too count. Finding the right bike that's within your budget, however, is much more challenging.
Even the cheapest beater bikes (you know, the ones wrapped in, cringe, duct tape) are overpriced for the simple reason that two-wheelers are really hot right now. In the last decade, bike commuting has increased 62 percent with nearly a million people pedaling to work, according to the American Community Survey. With so many eager new cyclists looking to ease into the trend, used bike sellers have a real opportunity to make bank at others' expense. And who can argue with them since they're the only one's who know their bike's worth. That is, until now.
Finally there's a way to calculate the value of a hand-me-down bike and call these secondhand swindlers on their B.S. The new website BicycleBlueBook.com has taken a page from the famous Kelly Blue Book for used cars and created a pricing guide dating back to models made in 1993. The three founders came up with the idea when they started selling their own used bikes stacking up in their garages.
Using their combined past retail experiences, they created this online database of used bike values based on millions of actual sales transactions, explains Matthew Pangborn, the site's director. “Ultimately, we hope to increase the frequency of new bike purchases by helping cyclists sell their used bikes for fair and trusted prices in a safe manner,” he says.
How does it work? Say you found your dream bike on Craigslist or your local bike shop (yup, they sell used ones too). You can verify the cost with the “What's the bike worth?” tool on the homepage. All you need is the name of the brand (i.e., Specialized), model (i.e., Ruby), and year (i.e., 2007) to find out what's a fair price for this pre-owned ride.
Vice versa, if you're looking to sell your steel steed to upgrade to a faster carbon-fiber frame, you can also use this same tool to determine an asking price and even list your bike on the site's Marketplace (they'll connect you to a local bike shop to help you ship it too). I recently used the value tool to sell my sister's 2003 Specialized Allez on Craigslist and a savvy shopper questioned my price (we had both consulted BicycleBlueBook.com). I was able to justify the $50 increase because the bike had just received a tune-up, which included replacing the chain, and it had a new saddle. I might not have pointed out these improvements had the buyer not asked, so this tool can help you ask the right questions to make the best decision.
With that in mind, one thing this tool doesn't consider is any changes that might have been made to the bike since it's original purchase. The owner might have pimped it out with a new wheel set, a better braking system, or more aerodynamic handlebars—and of course, all of these tweaks can add up to a pretty penny. Conversely, they could have also added scrapes, nicks, and seat gashes from crashes, so it's worth discussing about the bike's history before you agree on a price.