Buyer’s Guide: Get a Deal on a Used Bike
No ride yet? Plenty of good late-summer buys remain. We asked Ron Smith and Carene Hoskins, the co-owners of the vintage bike shop Lugs (1152 N. Milwaukee Ave.; lugschicago.com, 773-227-1400), for five questions every savvy bike shopper should ask
1. Does the bike fit my body?
“Consider the geometry of the bike . . . whether you’ll be comfortable when you’re on it,” Smith says. Adds Hoskins: “When you stand over the bike, make sure there’s a little bit of space—a minimum of one centimeter—between your body and the top tube.”
2. Is the frame damaged?
“Look at it straight on to see if the fork’s been bent back,” says Hoskins. “Check for any stress marks like cracked paint on the top tube or down tube, right behind the head tube. That’s how you know it’s been in a front-end accident.”
3. Were the tires ever replaced?
“The best way to know if the tire is done is to look for dry rot—cracking on the sidewalls. If you see threads in the rubber [chances are] they’re going to tear. And you’re going to be more susceptible to flats,” says Hoskins.
4. Are the cranks tight?
A “crank” is the lever that extends from the bottom bracket to the pedal. Says Smith: “Give them a jiggle to make sure they’re tight and that the bottom bracket isn’t loose. If the spindle is loose it will move back and forth, and you don’t even want to ride something like that.”
5. How’s the spoke tension?
“Feel the spokes. If they’re loose and you hit a pothole they’re going to give out and the wheel will bend or ‘taco.’ Also: Make sure there’s no busted or missing spokes,” Smith explains.
Looking for a used bike?
Try one of these shops:
Working Bikes Cooperative 2434 S. Western Ave.; 773-847-5440, workingbikes.org
A Nearly New Shop 3826 N. Broadway; 773-525-0692
Boulevard Bikes 2535 N. Kedzie Blvd.; 773-235-9109, boulevardbikeshop.com