Used Mountain Bike Frame Buying Guide

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Used Mountain Bike Frame Buying Guide
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Used Mountain Bike Frame Buying Guide

Basically, a mountain bike is a bicycle created for off-road cycling - including traversing rough ground and coping with steep ups and downs. To able to withstand such challenges a mountain bike usual 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 the mud, rocks and dust encountered on the ride.

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. Each type has a different frame configuration to accommodate its suspension system. But they both have to have the optimum combination of toughness and lightness.
Why buy a frame separately?

Some mountain bikers, being rugged individualists, like to build from scratch.  It’s logical to start with the frame, the triangular heart of the bike. Everything else hangs from it or is attached to it. By custom building the bike the owner can select the parts to suit their preferences and ambitions.  Another reason is to replace a broken frame or upgrade the material, say from Chromoly to aluminium, and re-fit the valued set of parts.

Why Buy a Used Frame?

The frame is the most expensive item on any bike, so even if buying the other components new, there are major savings to be enjoyed. It enables a budget minded buyer to step up to a premium brand frame like Norco, BMC, Jamis Dakota, or a high-end Trek, Specialised or Fuji which they could probably not contemplate as part of new bike.

What Kind of Material?

As Mountain Biking has grown, and grown, manufacturers spend time and money to improve materials used in mountain bikes. Lightweight and durable is now the standard of mountain bikes. Anything less than this is mediocre. But of course, it really all depends on where you will be using your mountain bike. Here are some of the materials used in a mountain bike frame.

  • Steel Alloys were commonly used in first generation mountain bikes. Though considered the heaviest of all materials, steel alloys offers inbuilt shock absorption and exceptional strength-to-weight ratio that can only be rivalled by titanium. For comfort, due to its density compared to aluminium or titanium, steel does provide a very responsive ride that pleases many riders.

The alloy is called Chromoly, because chromium and molybdenum make up about 2-3% of the compound, the rest being good old fashioned iron. The combination of the chromium and molybdenum with the steel and minimal amounts of carbon, make it stronger than generic steel (or 1020 steel–used in bikes found at your local supermarket), which allows steel manufacturers to create highly durable, lightweight, and easily weldable tubes; perfect for bicycle frames. That is why its proponents in the mountain bike community say “steel is real”. Another advantage of steel alloy mountain bike frames is that they are easy to repair.

  • Aluminium Alloys are now the commonest materials which manufacturers use for mountain bikes. Easton Aluminium, Alpha, Columbus, and Reynolds are names that are synonymous with these tube sets. Aluminium alloys are lightweight, affordable, and have high resistance to corrosion which makes them easy to maintain. Aluminium is also easy to use in producing mountain bike frames since it is easy to shape. Aluminium frames also offer great rigidity, which is crucial in the construction of full-suspension mountain bikes. Lastly, Aluminium alloys will always have comparatively low production costs since aluminium oxide is one of the most abundant metals on earth.
  • Composites Carbon-fibre and Kevlar are the two most commonly used non-metal compounds in Mountain Bike Frames. They have been proven to be a viable and successful frame and component material. Since they are made with a mould, they can be shaped, sized, and designed in whatever way is required. However, composites are irreparable, and react negatively to solvents and acids. Carbon-fibre frames may be costly but they are durable and light.
  • Titanium frames are often used by professional mountain biking teams. Titanium is the highest quality of material one can choose. It is light but as strong as the most durable steel frame. It has resistance to corrosion and is exceptionally durable. However, all these assets come with a very high price tag when bought new. A used titanium frame, if it can be found, may just be affordable. 

What size?

Size is probably the most important consideration in buying a mountain bike frame, since comfort and ability to ride the bikes will depend on getting the right size. A mountain bike frame is considerably smaller than your average road bike frame. A general rule is to get a mountain bike frame that is approximately 3 inches smaller than your road bike. Small adjustments to fit are possible by adjusting the length of stem, height and angle of seat post.

Manufacturers traditionally list the seat tube length, but even that varies because some are measured to the top of the seat tube and some to the middle of where the top tube joins the seat tube. Many manufacturers simply list their bikes as S, M and L, perhaps with XS or XL at either end. Either way, the measurement that matters more is top tube length. Together with seat position, stem length and handlebar position, top tube length dictates the comfort and efficiency of the body on the bike.

So, where do you start to find out what size frame you need? Here are some guidelines:



Rider height


13 to 14 inches

5ft to 5ft 4in


14 to 16 inches

4in to 5ft 7in


16 to 18 inches

5ft 7in to 5ft 10in


18 to 20 inches

5ft 10in to 6ft 1in


20 to 22 inches

over 6ft 1in

What shape?

The critical angles in bicycle geometry are the head angle (the angle of the head tube), and the seat tube angle (the angle of the seat tube). These angles are measured from the horizontal, and drastically affect the rider position and performance characteristics of the bicycle. Mountain bike geometry will often feature a seat tube angle around 73 degrees, with a head tube angle of anywhere from 60-73 degrees.

How you use the bike affects its geometry very heavily. In general, steeper angles, closer to 90 degrees from the horizontal, are more efficient for pedalling up hills and make for sharper handling. Slacker angles, leaning farther from the vertical, are preferred for high speeds and downhill stability.

What condition?

Start by searching extensively for pre-owned frames on eBay; get to know market price levels and what similar frames cost new. Having made a short-list, read through the product descriptions thoroughly to tell whether the frame meet your needs. Look carefully at the photos. If you are not satisfied then do not hesitate to Ask the Seller  to provide close-ups. You may want to request further photographs to see details more clearly or from an angle not shown in the listing.

If it is not given in the seller’s item description, try to ascertain the reason for selling. Many cyclists sell because:

  • they want to upgrade
  • the frame does not quite fit them.

This means that it is possible to get a relatively new frame in a good condition at a competitive price. If you are not clear about the history of the frame, then you can ask the seller. Has the bike it which it belonged to been kept indoors or outdoors and what kind of mileage has it done?  Does it have a service history? Has it really been up mountains or just down the high street?

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. 

How to Buy Used Mountain Bike frames on eBay

Now that you've worked out which Used Mountain Bike Frameyou 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 and 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 Frame 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.


A used mountain bike frame can be a starting point for building a new bike, or upgrading an existing bike that's been taken as far as can be with parts upgrades. Upgrading your frame can add to your bikes performance, giving you greater enjoyment no matter what you use your bike for. There's a wide selection of used mountain bike frames available on eBay and with a small amount of time spent narrowing down the options you can easily find the right frame for you.

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