The sport of triathlon, and even more broadly cycling, is often associated with a more affluent crowd. In large part that is because the price of entry is relatively high. Not only that, there are real measurable benefits that can be gained from spending more on good gear.
Sure, fitness and power can be trained, weight can be lost, aero position can be taught, but that is only part of it. At the end of a day two identical riders, one on an entry level heavy, high drag, fat tired communter ride and one on a high end aero-dynamic, light weight one are going to finish far apart from each other.
Even with that reality out of the way, we are big believers that a nice bike should not be a requisite for getting into racing. First of all, as we cover in our guide to first time triathlons, many athletes are going into a race not competing for a win. They are there to test their own fitness and that can be done on any bike, be it a fixed gear BMX or the latest time trial machine. And yet still, having a comfortable bike that is designed for the task at hand can be a great investment. Here we cover some of the considerations when getting a triathlon bike, where buying used can really be a benefit.
Benefits of Purchasing a Used Triathlon Bike
Purchasing a used triathlon bike has many advantages over buying a new one. Used bikes are often hundreds of dollars cheaper than new ones, allowing you to stretch your budget further. Additionally, you can often find great deals on used triathlon bikes that have been lightly used, giving you the opportunity to get great performance at a fraction of the cost.
There is also a non-financial benefit, from the access to newer components. You can often find models that have been replaced by newer models, giving you access to the latest technology without having to pay the full price. This means that for the same amount of money you may be able to get yourself into a higher performance ride, or upgrade individual components that would otherwise be out of range on a new bike.
Where to Look for Used Triathlon Bikes
Local Bike Shops. Some of the best spots to find used equipment is through local bike and triathlon clubs or shops. There are benefits of being local that you an verify what it is you are buying, and even try things out on a ride. For a seller, selling locally also reduces all the hassle of packing a bike and shipping it off where it can be damaged and payment held. No doubt, local sales benefit both ends, and the savings in hassle and transport can be passed on in price. Many local shops will not only sell second hand, but also facilitate sales through simple physical message boards. Of course when you get a new bike, having it built, fit, or maintained is also crucial. Local shops where you can build a relationship with the mechanics can be ideal for this throughout the lifetime of a bike.
Online Marketplaces. If you have a bit more trust in shipping or are seeking out more obscure rides, going to an online marketplace can be a great option. The most popular ones are Pros Closet, Bike Exchange, and Pink Bike. Pink Bike specializes in mountain bikes, so the amount of triathlon bike listings is limited, but sometimes this results in great fins.
Online Classifieds. Options like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and eBay are still viable for bikes. For higher end bikes the transactions can be rather large though so be wary of scams on bikes that are meant to be shipped. eBay is better than the others about protections, but still suffers from the inability to test out a bike and validate the specs prior to purchase.
Tips for Buying a Used Triathlon Bike
Research the Type of Bike You Need. The big question that many triathletes have, and we did too when buying our main bike, is whether or not getting a dedicated triathlon bike is necessary. As a rule, triathlon bikes are similar to time trial bikes, they are designed more for performance on flat sections where you can hold an aero position for longer periods of time. In addition to this there are minor differences about geometry that are designed to make running off the bike easier.
Check the Bike’s History. There is no such thing as a CarFax for a bike, the catalog of what it’s accident history is. For this instead you need to trust the owner and their stories, although there are some tell tale signs available. Look for any obvious nicks and dents, especially on the frame. Carbon fiber frames are prone to breaking down after some initial damage which will ruin the overall integrity of the material. For things that are just scratches you can sometimes get a great deal, but for bikes that have been in major crashes and have damaged components, consider how quickly you will be replacing those.
Test Fit the Bike. When test riding a bike ahead of purchasing, it is important to pay attention to the bike’s fit and comfort. Make sure the bike fits your body size and riding style. Better than just checking the saddle height and handlebars, try to get a proper bike fitting before hand and then ensure that the relevant dimensions can be reached. Some components simply won’t allow for the needed saddle height, fore/aft, and tilt to be reached. Avoid getting a bike that will needs immediate modifications just to reach the desired dimensions, instead focus on those that can achieve the right fit through a simple turn up.
Test Ride the Bike. Beyond just getting the fit right, make sure to test ride the bike as well. This includes cycling through all gears to make sure nothing is broken, as well confirming if there is anything is off based on a visual inspection. Generally speaking you want to make sure you feel confident on a new bike, although there may be some learning curve, don’t expect to go from feeling unstable on a bike to a confident rider within a few miles. If something just feels off, it’s best to keep looking.