Buying used Mountain Bikes online: Don’t get caught out

Here is what you should know when buying used mountain bikes, especially online.

As you will see in my guide on how to choose a mountain bike, buying used mountain bikes online is a great way to get the bike of your dreams. You can find some great deals on the internet, and for the price of a brand new bike, it is possible to get a used mountain bike with a higher specification.

Alternatively, you could check out the discounted new bikes online. Click here to find the best ones, you may get lucky.

Reducing the Risk of Buying Used Mountain Bikes Online

Buying online can be risky, as you may not be able to look at the bike before you commit to buying it. However, there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk.

Choose a brand that you know – You can find lot of obscure brands on the internet. But, if you stick to a brand that you know about, you will eliminate some risk.

Does it look clean? – If I was selling a used mountain bike online, I would make sure that it was nice and clean in the photos. If a bike looks dirty, it is a good indication that the owner hasn’t really looked after it.

Factor in replacement parts – Buying a bike that needs parts replacing isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, you will want to factor in the price of the replacement parts. This could be anything from drive train components to gear cables.

Choose the marketplace


used mountain bikes

There are many good things about buying used mountain bikes off eBay. The first one is that good sellers usually give you lots of information. eBay has created  a culture of describing everything good and bad about items that people are selling. Additionally, you can get a good idea on how honest a seller is by looking at previous items they have sold (although this is not fool proof). Additionally, you can look at the feedback they have received.

If you buy the bike and it turns out to not be as described, eBay have a money back guarantee. As long as you can prove that you have been deceived, you will be able to send the bike back and get refunded.



eBay isn’t the only way to buy used mountain bikes online. You may want to check out Bikesoup. Bikesoup has a six step process for buying bikes.

  1. Find a bike using the filters
  2. Ask a question, make an offer or buy instantly
  3. Your money is held by Bikesoup until you give them permission to release it
  4. Your bike is delivered to your door
  5. Check your new bike over. If you are happy, mark it as OK, and the seller will be paid
  6. Go for a ride

I think this is a great idea, and worth looking in to if you are searching for used mountain bikes.

Ask the right questions

You shouldn’t be frightened to ask the seller questions about the bike. Here are a few essential questions you should ask before buying used mountain bikes:

When and where did you buy it? – This can indicate if it has had lots of owners, or if the answer seems a bit dodgy you will get an idea if it has been stolen or not.

How much did you pay? – You can get an idea of how much of a bargain you are getting.

Why are you selling? – You may get a hint that there is something wrong with it.

Has it been raced or crashed? – Bikes that have had a hard life, need extra looking after. So this is a good question to see judge the condition of the components.

When were the suspension components last serviced? Brakes bled? Pads replaced? Tyre sealant refreshed? – You should ask this question to see how well the bike has been looked after.

Inspect it carefully

used mountain bikes

If you do manage to see the bike before handing over your hard-earned cash, there are a few things you should look in to before you commit to buy a used mountain bike.

Is it clean?

Some bike owners treat their bikes like loved children and are genuinely good buys. But, some bikes are used and abused without the TLC they deserve.

A good place to start, is to look how clean the bike is. If the current owner can’t be bothered to clean it properly to sell it, they are probably not going to clean it the rest of the time.

Keeping a bike clean is important. This is because all that dirt and grit grinds away at moving parts, reducing their life span.

Click here to see the Kärcher OC3 Cordless pressure washer review

Is it the correct size?

You should really know what size bike you need before you buy a bike. To do this, sit on a friend’s bike to gauge what size frame you need. You should also check the manufacturer’s website to see their sizing chart.

The previous owner may have altered the geometry. For example, they could have chopped the steering tube down. This may suit you, but if it doesn’t, you will need to buy a new tube or crown to raise it back up again. Alternatively, you could use riser handle bars to make up the difference. But, this is all down to personal preference.

Additionally, the owner may have chopped the seat post down. This may not be a problem, but you should look to see if you have all the adjustment you need.

Check for damage

The frame is the most expensive part of the bike. Therefore, you really don’t want to buy a damaged one. Look for cracks in the frame. Vulnerable points are the bottom of the frame, where rocks can ping up and hit it. If possible, check underneath any stickers or additional protection that has been added. They may be hiding some damage. This is especially important on a carbon framed bike. DON’T BUY A CRACKED FRAME!

On a steel or aluminium bike, you should pay attention to the welds for weak spots. You may find a dent in the frame, which isn’t the end of the world, but you could use this to negotiate on price.


Scratches are common on used mountain bikes, especially on the chain stay. This is where the chain whips up and down on rough terrain and hits the bike. You can protect the chain stay, so if the owner has put the necessary protection on it, it is a good indication that they care about the bike.

Forks and Shock

used mountain bikes

You will probably find the lower parts are scratched, however the most important parts are the stanchions. If these are scratched or dented, you should probably walk away. Check the seals too, this is because the coating on the stanchions can wear off if the seals have not been kept clean.

You really need to squash the suspension up and down to make sure there is no play and it feels nice and smooth. A good check to do on the forks is to put the front brake on and compress the forks, then lift the front of the bike up. If there is an issue with them, you will feel the wheel clunk back down, indicating a problem inside.

Additionally, put the front brake on and rock the bike backwards and forwards. This will highlight any movement in the headset or play in the fork bushings. This can be expensive to fix.

With the shock, you should compress it, to make sure it is all working how it should do. You need to check that there is no play in the bushings too. If there is, it will be easy to spot as the shock will move slightly. These are not expensive to replace, but this could help with any haggling you need to do.


Check all the frame bearings to see if they need changing. A good way to do this, is to try to move the back wheel side to side while looking at the rear end of the bike. If there is movement, it probably means the frame bearings need changing.

To check the headset bearings, spin the handlebars from side to side with your hand around the head tube. If there is an issue, you will feel a grinding sensation or some movement.

Decent pedals are serviceable, so give them a spin to see if they move freely. If not, they may need a service or replacing.

Click here to see my guide to mountain bike pedals

Wobble the cranks from side to side. If there is movement, there may be an issue with the bottom bracket.


Rock the wheels sideways, if they move a bit, it means the wheel bearings will need changing. This isn’t an expansive fix, but it is pretty important.

You now need to check if the wheel is spinning true. Lift the bike up and spin the wheel. If you hold your finger close to it as it spins, you will be able to see if it is wobbling around or if it is buckled.


used mountain bikes

While you are spinning the wheel, check the brake rotors are not bent or damaged (don’t stick your finger in, you can chop it off easily).

When pulling the brake levers, they should feel light and consistent. You can also ask the owner when the brakes were last bled. This will be a good indication on how competent they are at looking after their bike.


used mountain bike

Look at the chain. If this is worn out, it is likely that the cassette and chain rings could be worn. You should also check that it changes through the gears properly. If it doesn’t, have a look at the derailleur to make sure it is straight and not bent.

Additional things to look at

Grips, tyres and gear cables are pretty much regarded as consumables, as you can expect them to wear out. There is not a lot you can do about this, but it is something to think about when you are trying to keep to a budget.

It is worth checking the seat post, especially if it is a dropper post. Make sure it goes up and down freely and smoothly. If the bike has a normal seat post, just make sure you can easily slide it in and out of the frame, and it isn’t ceased. This is because it can be a real pain to get out.

Test ride it if you can

You don’t need to take it to the trail, as a simple pedal up the road and back should give you a good idea of what it is like. Check that it changes through all the gears, listen for any noises and make sure the brakes work.

Go and Buy that Bike!

Buying anything unseen will always have an element of risk involved. However, if you follow these steps, you will reduce that risk significantly. Putting the groundwork in and doing you homework will mean you will have a much better idea of what you are buying.

Let me know how you get on in the comments section below.

Click here to buy used mountain bikes on eBay

used mountain bikes

Click here to buy used mountain bike on Bikesoup





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.