Buying a second-hand bike is an ideal way to make your touring budget go further.
A second-hand bicycle that we fixed up for touring. Read more about this touring bike.
Setting aside $300-500 U.S. should be enough to buy an older bike and make some upgrades like adding a better saddle, robust racks and bar ends. With $1,000 U.S. to spare, you might pick up a bike that sold for twice as much when it was new. Often people get rid of brand-name touring bikes because they simply never use them.
Whether you go for an older model or a high-end bargain, you’ll be saving a lot of money. That’s cash you can use towards the rest of your trip.
A steel touring bike is the ideal find but mountain bikes are far more common and easily adapted for the job. To help sort the good from the bad, focus on brand names like Trek, Cannondale, Marin and Specialized. This usually guarantees components of a reasonable quality and (if you know little about bikes) protects you from buying a totally shoddy bicycle – the type often sold in supermarkets for $100 U.S.
Look also for a ‘hardtail’ bike without back suspension so you don’t get cornered into buying specialist racks for carrying your luggage.
When you examine the bike, pay special attention to the frame. Touring puts a lot of pressure on a bike frame and serious damage will be expensive or impossible to fix. Be cautious if you spot dents, cracks or anything more than a tiny amount of surface rust.
Other things to check:
- Wheels – Do they spin in a perfect circle? Squeeze the spokes together to see if they are loose. Examine the rims for any sign of cracking.
- Headset – There shouldn’t be any movement when you grip the brakes and push or pull on the handlebars.
- Gears – Run through all the gears and make sure they change smoothly.
- Chain Rings – Look for sharp points on the teeth. This indicates heavy wear and a need to replace the chain ring.
- Attachment Points – Look to see if the bike has braze-ons or attachment points for racks, mudguards and bottle cages. These could be challenging to fit if the bike wasn’t designed with this in mind.
If you don’t feel ready to gauge the state of all these parts, take a bike-savvy friend along to help out. You can also ask a local bike shop to do a quick assessment. It might be slightly tricky to arrange but checks like these can save you a nasty surprise down the road.