Want to ride to work but not sure about spending $500-800 on a new bike? Thought about getting a bicycle to ride to the shop? Maybe its for more time with the family?
Whatever your reason, we firmly believe a quality, free or cheap bike is out there waiting for you. Before you pay for a new item, it doesn't hurt to start on a free or cheap bike to test the waters.
'Surely it’s easier to get a new bike for $300?' you say? 'I even saw one advertised in the supermarket catalogue with suspension and disc brakes...' This is certainly a viable option, but given the build process, materials and equipment used on these bikes, we’d suggest otherwise. If you do decide to get a new bike, be sure it’s of reasonable quality and has been put together by a good mechanic.
Here are our tips for getting a free or cheap bicycle.
1. Check the shed
Census data from 2011 states the average Australian household had 1.47 bicycles in working order. Based on a small sample, i.e. my immediate family, I’d suggest for every working bike, there are two-three that require less than $200 to get them functioning. So ask your friends and family to check the shed.
2. Go to your local op-shop
Nothing in the garage? Head to the op-shop. I recently ventured past the Salvation Army store in a wealthy Melbourne suburb. Sitting out front was a $50 mountain bike from a very reputable brand. There was absolutely nothing wrong with this beauty which had clearly been sitting in someone’s garage.
3. Post on social media
I’ve got two bikes sitting in the garage. If you posted an offer to come over and take them off my hands to free up space, that’d be great! I’d even throw in a six-pack for the favour you are doing me. Etiquette would suggest you buy me the six-pack though. I like Australian Pale Ales. A full bodied red from McLaren Vale would also suffice.
4. Wait for the local hard-rubbish collection
This can be a tricky given the likelihood it actually is rubbish, but there are some gems to be found. If you do go down this path, be sure to get good advice from a local bike shop or cycling friend. It also pays to ask the household if they don’t mind you grabbing it – more out of courtesy than anything.
5. Local Council recycling centre
Council recycling centres are great as they usually have the bikes that were too good for landfill. It’s best to check your Council’s website and call before visiting. Not all recycling centres will keep or have bikes lying around.
6. Community groups
This option may require getting your hands dirty, but can be very rewarding. The Bike Shed in Melbourne’s inner North for example, is known as a space where you can fix, buy or build bikes. Check the website as you’ll need to become a member (for a very, very reasonable price). Other groups keep include ‘Men’s Shed’s’, where skilled folk may be interested in helping you in your quest.
Now you know where to look, here are some items to check to ensure it's safe and of working order. If you have doubts, head to your local bike shop or ask a friend who knows about
Brakes and safety: Test the brakes (without riding to begin with). If they feel slow to respond or don’t work at all, check the cables, levers and calliper. Look for rust or frail/damaged cables to begin. If you don't feel comfortable assessing these parts, take photos or video footage to get an experts opinion later.
Rust and Moving parts: Check the chain and other moving parts for rust. You can generally work with some rust and potentially replace parts, but too much rust on a cheap bike doesn’t make it feasible to keep.
Kick the tyres: Well, not literally. Flat tyres would be one of the most common reasons a bike remains unloved in the garage. If they are flat, pump them up and see if they deflate immediately or slowly overnight. If this is your only problem, new tyres and tubes are easily replaced at a good price from your local bike shop.
Test it: If the brakes worked, moving parts seemed sturdy and everything appears safe, take it for a spin.
Seek advice: If you are unsure if the bike is safe or feasible to keep, take plenty of pictures or video footage and get advice from a cycling friend or local bike shop. Even better, let them see the bike in person.
There you have it. Hopefully your pre-loved bike sets you on the path of many cycling fanatics before you. We can’t promise your new passion will always be this cheap, but the return on your cycling investment usually outweighs the initial cost.