When you’re choosing your ideal bike from the thousands available on eBay, think about how and where you’ll use it and how often.
You may want to escape the traffic jam and exercise your way to work, go off-road cycling at the weekend or find a classic BMX. Whatever your needs, our guide will help you make the perfect choice.
Before you set your heart (and money) on the latest Kona racing bike, do your research first. Don’t invest heavily in a bike until you don’t know your derailleur from your carbon forks. Here’s a quick introduction.
| Anatomy of a Bike
- Steel: The old standard for bike frames is affordable, strong, flexible, sturdy and durable. A steel-framed mountain bike like the Orange Hitman or Giant Trance will last for years and give you a comfortable ride. Disadvantages: steel is prone to rusting, and can be heavy. Popular makers of steel-framed bikes include Dahon, Marin, Giant, Kona and Raleigh.
- Aluminium: The most common frame material, aluminium is light, rust-resistant and fairly affordable, though it can feel stiff. Popular brands include Trek, Giant, Kona, Marin, Orange, Specialized and Ridgeback. Aluminium is a popular material for portable folding bikes such as the Giant Halfway, and for road racing bikes like the Specialized Allez Elite.
- Alloy: Makers of racing and high-end bikes often come up with variations on steel or mixes of aluminum and other elements. Specialized's M5 tubing is lighter and stronger than aluminum, and the Giant TCR Composite Zero bike weighs just 7.35kg.
- Titanium: As light and rust-proof as aluminium, as strong and durable as steel and very comfortable. Titanium is not a budget material, so be wary of cheap titanium frames. Titanium frames by brands like Litespeed provide ultimate performance for a price. Specialized, Giant, Bianchi and Kona also make road bikes with titanium frames, and its lightness makes it ideal for folding bikes such as the Brompton P6R-XDL.
- Carbon Fibre: The latest must-have material. Carbon is stiff, light, flexible and absorbs vibration, so carbon-framed bikes like the Specialized Roubaix Elite guarantee a smooth ride. But carbon fibre is expensive, so it’s often used for components rather than entire frames. The Trek Liquid 55 mountain bike has a carbon seat and chain stays, and the Specialized Allez comfort-speed hybrid road bike has a carbon blade fork. Look out for “carbon fork” in listings for all types of bikes from brands including Trek, Giant, Kona, Shimano, Scott, Marin, Orange, GT and Bianchi.
More gears means more flexibility on lots of surfaces. You’ll find 24 or more gears on new bikes like the Raleigh Max Lite mountain bike and the Giant OCR racing bike.
When you see “derailleur” in an item listing this refers to the gears. The derailleur system consists of a chain, sprockets and a mechanism to move the chain from one sprocket to another.
Some mountain bikes from brands such as Scott, Cannondale, Marin and Specialized have disc brakes, which provide good stopping power when wet. The Marin Mount Vision Pro, Trek Liquid 55 and Giant XtC SE have powerful hydraulic disc brakes. However unless you’re intended to ride up hills in the rain, a well-maintained set of standard caliper brakes will get the job done.
The more suspension a bike has, the easier it is to handle on various surfaces. Front suspension is standard on most mountain bikes (MTB), but a bike described as “full suspension” (such as the Trek Fuel series and the Specialized FSR XC Combo) also has rear suspension for unbeatable off-road control.
Suspension adds weight and complexity, and full suspension bikes from names like Shotgun, Cougar, Barracuda, Saracen, Marin and Scott may attract thieves if you use them for commuting. Full suspension bikes are best kept for dirt tracks.
Tip: Look for a bike whose components can easily be upgraded. Top makers of forks, brake pads and other components include Shimano and Marzocchi.
If you want to cycle to work in the week and ride on dirt tracks at the weekend, you’ll need two very different bikes. Your perfect bike depends on who you are:
| Find the Right Bike for You
There’s a huge choice of bikes to suit commuters, from basic folding steel models like the Concept City to the super-lightweight titanium Brompton P6R-XDL.
Think about whether you’ll use the bus or train for part of the journey. Many train services won’t allow full-sized bikes on board during peak hours, so a folding bike with small wheels would be ideal.
Also consider luggage. Use a pannier if you’re carrying too much to hold in a small backpack. You’ll see panniers made by Brompton, Raleigh and Karrimor for sale on eBay.
Tops brand for commuter bikes include Giant, Mezzo, Biachi, Ridgeback, Specialized, Trek, Cannondale, Condor, Marin and Dahon. Giant, Mezzo, Globe, Brompton and Moulton make specialist performance folding bikes, and if you’d like some extra help, the Giant Twist series includes a lightweight battery-powered motor.
If you’re more of a weekend road cyclist, choose a lighter entry-level road bike from a big brand such as Specialized, Shimano, Tiagra, Trek, Giant or Bianchi. The Giant TCR Compact is a great bike for occasional road cycling.
- Mountain Biker
Mountain bikes are strong-looking bikes with the weight and tread you need to conquer trails and hills. Tyres are often up to 2” wide, and can have specially padded saddles, shock absorbers, up to 27 gear speeds and toe clips to keep your feet on the pedals.
Despite their hefty appearance, really good mountain bikes such as the Specialized P2 are as light as racing bikes. A good all-around mountain bike will double as an off-road bike and commuter bike, though you’ll need two sets of tyres.
Top brands in this area are Specialized, Orange, Giant, Cannondale, Marin and Trek. If you like to take jumps off any available hill, try a GT BMX Jump
- A Bit of Both
If you want to cycle to work but fancy using the same bike for weekend off-roading, opt for a hybrid.
Hybrids normally have wide handlebars, powerful brakes and lots of gears to ensure control on terrain, plus light frames and narrow tyres for smoothness on the road.
Popular hybrid bikes include the Trek 7100 FX, the Specialized Sirrus, the Giant GSR 600 and the Ridgeback Adventure. Marin make an Urban range of 26” wheeled hybrids (mountain bike size) for fast road use.
- Road Racer
If you're after pure speed and handling, go for a road racing bike. These bikes typically have a lightweight frame of aluminium or carbon fibre for optimum performance.
Sporty road bikes can be thrilling to ride, but the “forward” riding position can be hard on your back if you’re a beginner. Be careful not to catch the speed habit in heavy traffic – it won’t make you any friends on the road.
Top road racing bikes include the Marin San Marino, the Bianchi Veloce and the Cannondale R900. Shimano, Campag, Giant, Scott, Specialized, Airborne and Hewitt also make good road racers.
- Long-distance Cyclist
Touring road bikes are designed for lengthy bike trips. They have slim tubing and a more relaxed riding position than sporty models. Good road tourers from brands such as Cannondale, Marin, Trek and Specialized also include mounts for racks so that you can strap on your luggage. Tourers can be heavier and less flexible than racing bikes.
- Female Cyclist
Women’s bikes used to have step-through frames and dropped top tubes, but now there’s not much visible difference between men’s and women’s bikes other than a few inches of frame size.
However manufacturers recognise that specific frame geometry and components work better with a woman’s physique. For example, “ladies’ saddles” from brands like Avocet and Milano have a wide shape and gel inserts to promote comfort.
Companies including Ridgeback, Trek, Marin, Cannondale, Scott and Specialized make bikes designed for women. Popular choices include the 24-gear Specialized Crossroads Elite, the Specialized Crossroads Comp with Milano Comfort Max saddle and the Marin Larkspur commuting bike.
- Young Children
Ridgeback and Trek make bikes with small frames and raised handlebars to fit a child's body. Look for adjustable components that grow along with your child, durable steel frame and fork, spoke guard and coaster brakes. Popular choices include the rugged Ridgeback MX 16 bike for boys aged 5-8 years, and the Trek Mystic for girls.
- Older Children
BMX bikes never go out of fashion among big kids. All BMXs have higher handlebars than road bikes and mountain bikes, and the frames look relatively small. Look out for GT’s Freestyle BMX range, as ridden by BMX champ Jamie Bestwick. These bikes have super-strong steel frames and forks to reduce bone-shaking on ramps and terrain. GT also makes a BMX Race range, which are designed purely for speed. Race-level components and GT Team paint scheme are standard.
Not all teenagers are BMX fans. The Specialized Hotrock range of scaled-down adult road bikes, which has carbon forks, Shimano derailleur with 21 gears and premium aluminium frames. You’ll also find some great vintage Chopper bikes on eBay, but check them thoroughly for safety when you buy.
Comfort bikes have the same sporty look as mountain bikes, but they let you sit more upright. They’re not as fast as hybrids or as rugged as mountain bikes, but if you just want a ride in the park a comfy Giant Sedona or Specialized Sirrus is ideal.
- Riding Recumbent
Recumbent bikes have a chair-like seat lower to the ground than traditional bikes. They may look unconventional, but they’re extremely fast and very comfortable for long journeys. Challenge make a range of recumbent bikes, and the Giant Revive N7 offers a mid-point between a traditional bike and recumbent.
People with disabilities are not excluded from cycling. On eBay you’ll find a range of adapted cycles, tandems, tricycles, side-by-side cycles and recumbent cycles to make cycling accessible to almost anyone.
- Two saddles or one wheel
If you want to share you pedal power on a tandem or show off your balancing skills on a unicycle, you’ll find what you want on eBay.
Once you’ve settled on a type of bike, make sure you’re buying the right size.
| Get the Right Size Bike
- Frame Size:
Different frames fit different people. If you have a 40” inside leg, you won’t be comfortable on a compact Specialized mountain bike with a 14.5” frame.
Most adult bikes have frames of between 12” and 26” (31-65cm), measured from the top of the seat tube to the middle of the bottom bracket. Some measurements are given in inches, some in centimetres. To find your perfect fit, take your inside leg measurement and do some maths according to the type of bike you’re buying:
If you find a bike on eBay that you’d like to bid on, click the "Ask seller a question" link to double-check frame measurements.
- Road bikes: Frames are measured in centimetres. Take your inside leg measurement in centimetres, multiply by .65 and round to the nearest whole number to get your ideal frame size.
- Mountain bikes and hybrids: Measured in inches. Take your inside leg in inches, multiply by .59 and round to the nearest whole number.
- Comfort bikes: Measured in inches. Multiply inside leg in inches by .65 and round to the nearest whole number.
- Wheel rim size:
Useful when you’re shopping for a child’s bike. As a guideline, choose a 12” (31cm) wheel rim for a child between 28”-38” tall, a 16” (41cm) wheel rim for a child 38”-48” tall and a 20” (51cm) wheel rim for a child or small adult up to 5ft.
- Crank length: The crank length is the distance between the centre of the pedal and bottom bracket spindles. It’s normally measured in millimetres. Long legged cyclists should have long cranks (around 175mm) and short-legged cyclists should have short cranks (165mm).
| Cycling Accessories
When your tyres wear down or your crank fails, don’t throw out your bike – eBay has thousands of components for sale, including Shimano cranks and pedals, Marzocchi forks and Bodyfit saddles.
The right kit keeps you warm, comfortable and streamlined. Pearl, Sugoi and Berghaus make popular jerseys, jackets and shorts for men and women.
- Clothing Accessories:
eBay has a wide choice of cycling gloves from familiar names such as Specialized. Oakley, Briko and Madison are the big names in sunglasses for cyclists.
The right cycling shoes ensure comfort and grip. The Specialized Taho is a trail-ready mountain biking (MTB) shoe, and comes in men’s and women’s sizes. The Pearl Izumi Tri Road is designed for triathletes, and the Specialized Sport Road is ideal for racing cyclists.
Inspire confidence and stay safe with the right helmet. BMX bikers will love the full-face Giro Mad Max collection, while commuters will prefer the lightweight Specialized Air Force. Met produce helmets specially for children. You’ll also find body protection items on eBay, such as knee and elbow pads.
- Luggage and Hydration:
Carry a water bottle or hydration pack to ensure against dehydration. Camelbak is the big brand for small backbacks or water bottle carriers. If you’re carrying work gear and other items, choose a larger backpack such as the Dakine Apex or Vaude Air Alpine, or fit your bike with panniers.
- Bike Storage:
Don’t leave your bike unlocked when you’re not using it. If you commute to work on your bike, lock it up with parabolic hardened steel lock such as the Abus Granit 54 X-Plus, designed to stop bolt cutters.
- Bike Safety:
Safety lights and reflectors make you visible to motorists. Maintain proper tyre pressure with a pump – Shimano, Topeak and Specialized all make air pumps.
- Child Seats:
eBay has a good range of secure bike seats for toting the kids when you’re out and about.
There are lots of ways to find the bike you want on eBay. Here are a few tips:
| How to Find Bicycles on eBay
If you know what you’re looking for, use the Search box. Go to the Sporting Goods Overview page, type in your keywords and select Cycling from the drop-down box. For example if you’re looking for a GT mountain bike, type in “GT”, select Cycling and click the Mountain Bikes link on the left of the listings page.
- Narrow your search
Just above the listings you’ll see a short list of the most popular brands matching your search. In the Cycling category these may include Kona, Specialized, Giant, Shimano, Scott, Orange and GT. Click on a brand to see matching items currently for sale.
The list may also include popular search terms such as BMX, racing bike, MTB wheels, carbon forks or full-suspension.
You can also narrow your search by using the Categories list on the listings page. For Cycling, the list includes Bike Parts, BMX Bikes, Cycling Accessories, Clothing Footwear & Helmets, Hybrid Bikes, Mountain Bikes, Road Bikes and Unicycles. If you’re looking for a Marzocchi carbon fork but want to browse other brands too, click the Bike Parts link in the Categories menu to see all carbon forks currently for sale.
- Browse the categories
To browse for bikes and accessories, start from the Sporting Goods Overview page and click the categories that interest you. For example if you want a Kona racing bike, click on the Road Bikes link to see all racing bikes currently for sale. If you want a GT BMX, click on BMX Bikes.
- Want It Now
Desperately seeking new tyres for your Kona racing bike, or pedals for your Trek mountain bike? Post a message on Want It Now and tell millions of sellers exactly what you want. Post your message in the cycling Cycling category, or target specialists by posting in a sub-category such as Bike Parts or Mountain Bikes.
- Go to eBay Shops
eBay Shops are run by experienced eBay sellers who sell hundreds of items each day. They tend to specialise in one area such as Shimano components, so you’re buying from someone who knows their stuff. Click the eBay Shops link on the eBay homepage, then click Cycling to explore pedal and tyre specialists, racing bike experts, mountain bike shops and so on.
To search just within eBay Shops, go to the eBay Shops homepage and enter your search term, such as “Kona racing bike”. The results will look similar to any other listings page, but the sellers are all Shops sellers.
You may find the racing bike of your dreams and want to bid on it. But before you do, here are some tips:
| Buy With Confidence
- Work out the postage and insurance:
Bikes may be best bought from someone who lives nearby, though sellers will often send them to you for reasonable postage and packing costs.
- Read the item description carefully:
This is particularly important with expensive items like high-end bikes and accessories.
- Is it under guarantee?
What are the terms?
- Check the return policy:
Email for clarification if you need it.
- If in doubt, ask.
Click the “Ask seller a question” link. Important information about the wheel size of a Kona racing bike or the type of brakes on a GT mountain bike will be crucial to your decision to bid.