Sunday, July 10, 2016

5 Tips for Buying Used Family Biking Gear

Sometimes you can score great deals used: like our bakfiets!
Living in Vancouver is expensive, particularly for families of young children. So it's not surprising that I get lots of questions on buying used biking gear at the ABCs of Family Biking workshops.

Buying used can be a great way to save money, to try something out without committing much money, & to get higher end gear than you could afford to buy new. We've bought family biking gear used & saved (literally) thousands of dollars.

Just like any time you buy used, there are a few things to consider so you get the best deal. Here are my top tips for buying used bike gear for family cycling:

Finding the gear

Used sporting good stores may have child carriers, though the prices are usually a bit higher there. There are generally lots of seats & trailers for sale on used sites or in online forums. If you are looking for something specific but you can't find it, post 'In Search Of' ads in large Facebook Groups, on sites like Craigslist, or in the Vancouver Family Biking group. You'll often get a hit because another family has been meaning to sell their biking gear, but they just haven't gotten around to listing it yet.

Do your homework online first

Maybe you've found an ad & contacted the seller. Do a little research before you actually decide to buy. Get the brand name & model of the product, Google it to find reviews so you'll have an idea of what issues it might have or what other parents liked & disliked about using it. Find out the maximum weight limit. Check the manufacturer's website to see if you can download the instruction manual & check to see what parts should come with it--mounting brackets & bolts for a child seat, all the parts of the hitch for a trailer. Knowing how much it costs new is important--child seats & trailers vary widely & you don't want to pay near new price for a used item. Find out where it's sold new & if you can buy replacement or extra parts like mounting brackets or hitches so you can transfer the carrier from one bike to another, or stroller add-ons for trailers.

A good example of what not to buy: rusty, needs tons of work
Check for damage

When you actually see the used product you're considering buying, look it over for any signs of cracks in the plastic or metal. Rust or bent frame parts are a bad sign too. Check that straps & buckles are functional; however, these can often be replaced or repaired fairly easily & inexpensively, so it may not be a deal breaker for you. Trailer wheels should spin freely & true (look at the wheel from the tire as it's spinning to see if it wobbles).

This post is mainly aimed at buying child trailers or seats. However, if you're buying a bicycle (or even a cargo bike), but are worried you won't know what to look for when you're inspecting it, Sidesaddle Bikes has a great service for this: Ride Review. You can meet the bike seller at Sidesaddle & have their mechanics inspect it thoroughly to find any issues, as well as tell you how much it would cost to repair or change anything on the bike. It's $25 for the full inspection, which will give you some peace of mind for riding with your family.

Test it out

Try to bring your bike with you to make sure the carrier will actually fit. A test ride will help you assess how well it works. If you can't install it, you can at least hold it in position so you get a sense of if the seat will work--if it's a front seat, does it hit you in the chest? Think about how you'll get on & off the bike & how the seat might impact that--front seats with a bar from stem to seat post will prevent you from stepping through your frame, rear seats mean you can't swing your leg over the back, with trailers that clamp onto the frame, check to see if that works with your disc brakes if you have them, or any cables that may come out of the chainstay (in the bottom of the rear triangle of the frame).

When a good deal isn't a good deal

I recommend spending as much as you can on the best gear you can get so that you'll have a better experience riding. It's tempting to save money on buying a big box store child seat for $20 on Craigslist, but they're not a great quality product (typically more flexy which impacts your balance when riding, & often the way they attach to the bike limits your use of panniers or affects how easily you can get on & off the bike. Having poor quality gear may end up turning you off family cycling, or at the very least mean that you have to replace it & spend more money in the long run.

Someone loves her MET kitty helmet
What not to buy used (Bonus tip #6!)

I don't recommend buying used helmets for kids. I won't get into the helmet debate here (for the record I'm 'pro choice' for adults) but since they're legally required for cycling in BC, you'll probably be buying one for your baby. You're very very unlikely to get into a crash with a child seat or trailer, but probably your baby will still be wearing the same helmet when they are a toddler & start riding their runner bike. If you've bought a used helmet, it can get brittle & become less effective in a crash or a fall. MEC sells decent baby helmets for $19--you don't have to spend a lot!

Hopefully these tips will help you avoid some of the pitfalls of buying used. Buying stuff for your child can be a bit nerve wracking, I know, because OMG you are entirely responsible for the health & well being of a small human being. 

Please let me know if you have any other suggestions for making the process easier. I'd also love to hear your stories of buying used family biking gear in the comments below!

This post is the second in a series of tips for family biking. Check out the first one in the series, all about Route Planning for Family Biking.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this nice post on bikes. Everyone must read this post to have a safe biking.


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