Everything You Need to Know about Buying a Safe Second-Hand Bike

Gumtree is a great place to find your dream wheels at a reasonable price, or a practical second-hand bike to reduce your carbon footprint while getting you from A to B. But how do you know you've found a great option? Here’s how to buy a safe bike online.

Buying a secondhand bike

The basics:

Mountain, road or hybrid?

It might seem obvious but your bike should suit your travel needs. Mountain bikes, with their many gears and sturdy tyres, are ideal for hitting the trails. If you’re getting serious about speeds, perhaps you’re hunting for a good-value, second-hand road bike. For commuting or getting to the shops, you might prefer a more upright, ‘Dutch-style’ bike, while a hybrid can be handy for tackling both streets and trails.

Know the height

There’s no point finding your dream bike online and then realising your feet won’t reach the ground. There are plenty of handy online guides to help you determine what frame size works for your height, so consider working this out beforehand. We’ve taken a look at mountain bike sizes and how to find the best road bike to help you choose the right option for you.

Check it’s not stolen

It probably isn’t stolen, but bike theft is fairly common in the UK. If you’re in any doubt about whether your seller is trustworthy, ask to see a proof of purchase or ask for the frame number so you can check online.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Don’t be disheartened if you can’t find your dream pistachio-coloured city bike with a basket. Baskets can be added. Paint jobs can be changed and improved. It’s handy if the bike comes with a pump, but otherwise you can easily spruce it on our bike accessories page.

Second-hand bike

Bike safety deal-breakers:

Frame cracks

If you find these, it’s a no-go, since the frame is something you can’t replace on your bike.


Check the brake connections and that the pads aren’t worn down. To ensure the best bicycle safety, you should check this in person when you ‘meet’ your potential bike. Apply each brake, then rock the bike back and forth, and repeat a few times to get a sense of how sharp the brakes are.

Gear issues

If possible, you should hop on the bike and test the gears and shifting. If you have a basic two-gear bike, you probably won’t find many issues, but a 7- or 8-gear mountain bike could cost you more money if the gears don’t work well.


Your bike’s bearings are the internal pieces that move the joints. When you go to see your potential buy, move all the joints to check they move freely.

Easy fixes

Rust and scuffs

If your frame has a few scuffs or light rust issues, these are usually only skin-deep and easily sorted.


One damaged tyre isn’t a deal-breaker unless you don’t have the budget to replace it. Flat or poorly pumped-up tyres could be a sign there’s a puncture, which you’ll want to check before you commit – but most tyres are easy to replace.

Worn-out chain

You should give the chain a once-over to check it isn’t too rusted. If it’s a bit worse for wear, they aren’t too expensive to replace.

Remember, if you go to collect the bike and you find a deal-breaker fault, then it’s okay to walk away. Bike safety comes first, whether buying new or second-hand. Before you buy a bike that needs repairs, consider whether it’s a reasonable price or whether you should keep hunting to find your dream second-hand bike. You can also ask for proof of purchase or look up the bike on BikeChecker to be sure it wasn’t stolen, and read our tips for buying a secondhand bike on Gumtree.