Used Mountain Bike Buying Guide

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Used Mountain Bike Buying Guide

Mountain bikes are designed to handle anything the terrain can throw at them - from towpaths and bridle ways to big rocky descents. The question is: once they’ve taken a beating from their first owner, do they have anything left to withstand hard treatment from a second owner? The answer is ‘yes’ provided the buyer takes a careful, well informed approach. It’s worth the bother for one simple reason. You can get more than you pay for, much more. 

Consider first of all what a new bike mountain bike costs. An entry level model from a mainstream manufacturer like Trek or Specialised will cost around £500. Buying used, brings such a bike into your reach at a more affordable price.

The pinnacle of mountain biking can be as high as £4,000 for a BMC Teamelite TE01XO 29er with a carbon fibre frame and SRAM gears (we explain such technicalities below). The used price of such a high-end bike, however, might put a gleam in the eye of a less well off but passionate enthusiast. 

Buying strategy

A wise way to start is to have a rough idea of a budget.  Search extensively for pre-owned mountain bikes on eBay and get to know what’s available in the market for around that budget. Many mountain bikers sell because they want to upgrade which means it’s possible to get a relatively new bike in a good condition at a competitive price.

Having made a short-list, read through the product descriptions thoroughly to tell whether the parts meet your needs. Look carefully at the photos, check they are of the original product and not just a stock photo from the manufacturer’s website. If you are not satisfied with some of the details do not hesitate to Ask the Seller &  to get clarification.

Try to ascertain:

  • the reasons for selling. 
  • the frequency of rides
  • whether it’s really been on the trail or just the high street
  • whether it has been kept indoors or outdoors
  • what kind of mileage it has done
  • whether it has a service record. 

Then examine the bike systematically. The checklist below starts with an overview of the whole bike then describes each component group, giving tips on what to look out for.

What makes a mountain bike?

A mountain bike has a triple chainset which gives a wide range of gears to cope with steep climbs and fast pedalling descents. Fat, knobbly tyres give traction over mud, rocks and dust. Mountain bikes can be split into two groups – hard tails that only have suspension at the front and full-suspension bikes that have suspension at the rear as well. Mountain bike suspension has been designed to absorb the shocks from riding over uneven terrain. It aids grip over difficult, loose surfaces and helps you to control the bike.
A hard tail bike will provide enough suspension for not too challenging terrain. For slightly more extreme trail riding, full-suspension can make the experience more comfortable. However, many cross-country (CX) racers still favour hard tails as they insist on the lightest bike possible for maximum gains on the climbs. There are now several full-suspension bikes on the market as light as hard tails. CX bikes have slightly less travel than the trail bikes – used for day rides - as the emphasis is on speed not comfort.

Buying tip: Cheaper full suspension bikes can be unreliable and you may get a better bike for your money by looking at a hard tail.

The Sum of the Parts

All bicycle parts wear at different rates, some more visibly than others. Here is a brief run-down of the main parts and components, where they show signs of wear or damage, how to recognise a promising prospect and what to back away from.

1. Frame

Hard tail and full suspension bikes have different frame configurations to accommodate their suspension systems. Here are some factors which relate to the type of frame and the metal it is made from:

  • Steel: Most old (10 years and older) frames are made of steel. Steel frames generally last for many miles/years as long as they stay painted. If there is rust, tap it to see if it flakes off or it is just on the surface. Welds must be in good shape or the integrity and lifespan of a frame will be compromised. Make sure the picture of the frame clearly shows most of the welds, and if you're concerned about a particular area, ask the seller for a close-up of that area.
  • Aluminium Rigid frame bikes selling for £250-plus (new) are now almost exclusively aluminium. The paint on an aluminium frame is not as crucial as on a steel frame. Aluminium doesn't rust but it does dent more easily than steel. The integrity of welds is crucial with aluminium.
  • Titanium: Titanium frames will also not rust, but having good welds is just as important as with steel and aluminium frames.
  • Carbon Fibre: Since these frames are not made by combining multiple tubes, they are not welded. When buying used carbon fibre frames, be sure to inspect all the seller's pictures closely to check for chips and scratches.

Buying tips: Check for cracks, dents or bends. Aluminium, steel and titanium frames can take dents, gouges and dings without compromising the structural integrity, for the most part. Cracks, bends and huge dents mean the frame needs to be replaced. With carbon fibre frames, dents and scratches that do not fully penetrate through the resin clearcoat are nothing to worry about. But if it is chipped it is most likely ruined. 

2. Forks/suspension

Forks, just like frames,, are made mainly of aluminium, steel, and carbon fibre. This guide’s recommendations for checking welds, lugs, and chips or scratches also apply to forks.  It is not possible to find out whether the suspension actually works without trying it.

Buying tip: Focus on how the suspension feels when it is compressed. It should be smooth and even in travel.

3. Headset, Bottom Bracket, Hub

Newer types of bottom brackets tend to use sealed cartridge bearings. Non-cartridge bearings need to be kept clean, free of everything but grease and be kept under a certain amount of pressure. If a hub or headset with non-cartridge bearings has been well maintained, then it can last a very long time, but a hub or headset that is too dry (lacking grease) or under the wrong amount of pressure, can and probably will be damaged.

Buying tip: It can be very hard to tell whether or not a cartridge bearing is working properly by looking at the outside of the part housing it. Ask the seller.
4. Drivetrain

The drivetrain is composed of cranksets, freewheels, cassettes, chain, derailleur - components that generally last a long time. They all have gears that wear out slowly over a period of years. If cog teeth are missing on any of these components or they have been used extensively, ask the seller to make an allowance in the price for replacement.

  • Crankset: It is important to be able to see the spindle in the product pictures. The spindle is the opening in the metal that the bottom bracket slides into. A spindle that looks out of shape can result in several types of problems.
  • Pedals Except for the really cheap ones, pedals are generally made to last. Pedals occasionally have bearing problems, and the clipless type common on mountain bikes can have springs that wear out. If pedals look in good shape, generally they are functional.
  • Derailleur gears are some of the more durable mountain bike components. Rear derailleur gears tend first to wear at the pulleys - the two small cogs enclosed in the derailleur hanger (the cage that sticks below the derailleur body). These are often replaceable, but check before buying. As both front and rear derailleur gears accumulate miles, their springs lose their strength, and results in somewhat sloppier shifting than a new derailleur.  As with pedals, if a derailleur looks good, then it’s probably functional.

Buying tip: Shimano and SRAM are the big names in drivetrain components for mountain bikes.

5. Shifters

Higher-end, higher-quality shifters (the levers or twist grips on the handlebars that shift the gears)) tend to last fairly long, and therefore are decent investments.

Buying tip: Try and avoid really old shifters, as replacement parts may be hard or impossible to find.

6. Seat, Seat post, Stem, Handlebars
These components tend to be very durable. But look at the seat for signs of tears, and check the seat rails are straight. Cheap or abused tubing can be bent, and heavily used seat posts, stems, and handlebars can develop tiny cracks resulting in creaking noises when they’re under load.

Buying tip:  Check paint on these parts, as rubbed-off paint can be indicative of a worn-out area.
How to Buy a Used Mountain Bike on eBay

Now that you've worked out which Used Mountain Bike you want, find them quickly on eBay. While you shop, don't forget Tyres & Wheels,, Handlebars & Stems,, Headsets,, Drive,, Brake Components and Saddles & Seatposts.. To start shopping, go to the Sports and Leisure category. Click the Sporting Goods portal aand click Cycling..

  • Categories: The Categories list on the left side of each page will help you narrow down your listings by item type. You'll find links for Bikes, Bike Parts, Clothing, Footwear & Helmets, Cycling Accessories, Trophies and Other Cycling.  As you refine your search you'll be able to narrow down your choice by subcategory.
  • Product Finder: Use the Used Mountain Bike Parts Finder to quickly narrow down brand, model and condition (new or used).
  • Keyword search: Search eBay listing titles for specific words. For example, if you want to find used mountain bike parts, type the keywords "mountain bike parts new" (without quotation marks) into the Search box. Click "Search title and description" to expand your results. Visit eBay's Search Tips page for more tips on searching with keywords.

If you can't find exactly what you want, try browsing eBay Stores or tell the eBay Community what you’re looking for by creating a post on Want It Now,, or save a search on My eBay and eBay will email you when a matching item becomes available.

Buy Used Mountain Bike Frame with Confidence

Make sure that you know exactly what you’re buying and understand how eBay and PayPal protect you.

Know your item

Read the details in the item listing carefully.

Remember to add delivery costs to your final price. If you’re buying a high value item, check that the seller will insure it until it is delivered to you.

If you want more information, click the “Ask seller a question” button on the seller’s profile or the “Ask a question” link at the bottom of the item listing page.

Always complete your transaction on eBay (with a bid, Buy it Now or Best Offer) otherwise you will not be covered by eBay Buyer Protection.

Know your seller

Research your seller so that you feel safe and positive about every transaction.

  • What is the seller’s Feedback rating? 
  • How many transactions have they completed?
  • How many positive responses do they have?
  • What do buyers say in their Feedback? 
  • Are they positive about the seller?
  • Most top eBay sellers operate like retail shops and have a returns policy.
  • Do they offer a money-back guarantee? 
  • What are their terms and conditions?

Buyer protection

In the very unlikely event that you do not receive your item or it is not as described, eBay Buyer Protection your purchase price plus original delivery cost.


There are a great many used mountain bikes available on eBay,, and with some basic understanding of what you're looking for you can find a great, affordable bike. You should consider what you'll be using it for, as a downhill racer won't be suitable for long treks, and ask the seller any questions as they often have a lot of knowledge to share.

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