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16" wheel, general $28
6" wheel, with training wheels $35
20" wheel, curved frame tubes ("stingray" or general, boy's or girl's) $20 - 35
20" BMX, plain steel frame/steel wheels $45
20" BMX, chrome-moly frame/alloy wheels (considerable variety of price, ask local kids, they know what's in current style)   $100
  24" thin tire, 10-speed   $55
  26" thin tire 3-speed   $45
  26" thin tire 10-speed   $45
  27" American/Taiwanese   $49
  27" European/Japanese   $80
  27" Chrome-moly frame/alloy parts   $125
  27" racing quality   $200 - up
  Mountain bike, 10-12 speed, American   $60
  Mountain bike, 15-18 speed, basic   $100
  Mountain bike, chrome-moly frame/alloy parts   $150
  Mountain bike, high-quality parts   $400 - up
  Cruiser, post 1965   $65 - 120
  Cruiser, pre 1965, original paint & complete with all parts (minus 1/3 for women's style frame)   $150 - up
  Cruiser, 5+ speeds   $65 - 100
  Unicycle (with 3-piece crank)   $35
  Adult 3-wheeler   $125 - 275
  Child's 3-wheeler   $8 - 12
  Folding bicycle   $65



The prices in the chart may vary where you live. This chart reflects the actual price the bikes are traded at. They are often marked up to a higher "asking" price. I price the bikes to sell fast, and mostly they do. You can charge 25% more than these prices, but the bikes will take longer to sell. If your sources or repairing time are limited, maybe that's ok, but I think its better to move the bikes quickly, and make money. You can charge less per bike, if you have bought well, and I advocate this if you need to, but I seem to sell the bikes at the same speed if I sell them for less, so, basically, why sell them for less? Most of my customers wonder how my prices can be so low, anyway. Well, they don't have this course, or they would not be so surprised.

Notes: Generally women's model bikes are slightly less valuable. If you mark them to the same prices as men's bikes, they tend to take 2 to 3 times longer to sell. If there are many young women in your community (college community) and a shortage of women's bikes, the situation may reverse. Be careful if you have a big inventory, because it is far easier to find used women's bikes than men's and therefore, if you buy whatever you can get, you will have too many women's bikes in stock. In the collectibles, classics from before 1965, women's bikes will often be worth only a third as much as men's. This is probably because more men's bikes were wrecked by the young men that owned them. In previous days, boys tended to play with their bikes harder than girls did. For example, when I got a new bike at age 8, I had removed and lost the fenders within the first two weeks.

When you get a bike with accessories such as a luggage carrier, speedometer, or generator light, usually you will make more money if you remove the accessories and then sell them separately. (This is not true with vintage cruisers.)

I go to yard sales and I look for bikes. When I come across a bike I examine it carefully. First, I apply a simple formula to determine whether I should buy a bike. I take the price of the bike, add the price of the parts I will need to fix it, and multiply the whole thing by three. If the figure exceeds what I think I can get for the bike, I don't buy it.

This formula gives me a really large mark-up, but lets look at a potential purchase another way. Perhaps the mark- up is not so large when you consider that every bike purchase is a gamble, it may have a problem I missed, it may sell slowly, or I may have to discount the price to sell it.


Some Examples:


Bike: men's 3-speed Raleigh

      being offered for $15
      Parts required:

      rear tire, tube    $3


      total cost:       $18
Formula: $18 X 3 = $54

Retail according to the chart: $45, don't buy it!


Bike: girls 20", curved frame

      being offered for $3
      Parts required:

      handlebar, stem   $3


      total cost:       $6
Formula| $6 x 3 = $18

Retail: $20+, This one is a very good bet!


 Bike: BMX plain frame, steel wheels

      being offered for $10
      Parts required:

      none               $0


      total cost:       $10
Formula: $10 x 3 = $30

Retail: $45, OK deal.


Bike: men's European 10-speed

      being offered for $25
      Parts required:

      none                0


      total cost:       $25
      Formula: $25 x 3 = $75

      Retail: $80 OK deal!


Bike: adult 3-wheeler

      being offered for  $40
      Parts required:

      grips               $1


      total cost:        $41
Formula: $41 x 3 = $123

Retail: $125+, OK deal


Bike: BMX chromoly frame, alloy wheels

      being offered for  $20
      Parts required:

      2 x tires, tubes  $12

      handlebar, stem    $6

      grips              $1


      total cost:       $39

Formula: $39 x 3 = $117

Retail: $100, don't buy it! Not enough mark-up.


Bike: 10-speed, American

      bqeing offered for  $8
      Parts required:

      h-bar tape         $2

      inner tube         $3


      total cost:       $13

Formula: $13 X 3 = $39

Retail $49, OK deal!


For those of you using the simple plan, only three of the above bikes would have qualified. I am assuming that you can probably install hand grips on the adult three-wheeler no matter what your mechanical skills and how limited your space is. Using the simple plan does require more buying effort, but the situations are there. Last week I bought a men's one-speed, fat-tire cruiser for $7.50, in fine condition. Today I sold the bike for $39. Profit: $31.50!



If the prospective bike passes the formula, I look it over more carefully for hidden mechanical problems. There are so many ways you can go wrong here, especially if you are using the simple plan. If you are able to store parts and do your own repair work, a mechanical disaster is not so bad, you can simply strip a bad purchase for parts. You do want to make good buys, so on the next page is a list of what to look for. You may want to make copies of this chart and use them as you shop.


 system                              good bad   devaluation

 ==================================  ===  ===  ==============

 Paint  (note #1)                    ___  ___  $10/3.0/$35

 frame  (note #2)                    ___  ___  $10/3.0/total

 bent back headtube?

 separated intersections?

 damage at top of seattube?

 dropout damage?

 fork   (note #3)                    ___  ___  $10/.5/$25

 bent back?

 dropout damage?

 bearing damage (note #4)            ___  ___  $5/1.0/$15(ea)

 headset, bottom bracket,

 front hub, rear hub

 wheel alignment (note #5)           ___  ___  $5/.25/$20(ea)

 laterally true?

 flat spots?

 corroded spokes?

 missing spokes?

 worn chain/freewheel (note #6)      ___  ___  $20/.5/$20

 coaster brake/3-speed (note #7)     ___  ___  $5/.5/total

 cable? brake arm strap?

 hand brakes (note #8)               ___  ___  $3/.25/$7 (ea)


 tires (note #9)                     ___  ___  $2/.1/$10(ea)

 worn spots, bulges, tears?

 missing chainguard (note #10)       ___  ___  $3/.75/$10

 seat (note #11)                     ___  ___  $7/.1/$10

 loose seat clamp?

 handlebars/stem (note #12)          ___  ___  $5/.25/$15

 slipping (check 2 ways)?

 loose crank (note #13)              ___  ___  $30/.25/$30

 cotterless arms loose?

 crank cotters hammered?

 bent seatpost                       ___  ___  $3/.1/$3

 derailleurs                         ___  ___  $3/.5/$18

 bent? cables?

 missing parts                       ___  ___  $3/.25/$10(ea)

 see below                                  ==============
                                  total:    ______________

Check to see if any of the following parts are missing:
 shifters                 ___  front derailleur           ___

 coaster brake arm strap  ___  rear derailleur            ___

 brake hand levers        ___  derailleur nuts and bolts  ___

 brake calipers           ___  chainwheel nuts and bolts  ___

 brake nuts and bolts     ___  some spokes                ___

 cables                   ___  stem bolt                  ___

 pedals                   ___  3-speed cable attachments  ___

 chain                    ___
(chart simplified, prices may require adjustment)

FINDING THE MECHANICAL PROBLEMS (as indicated by the preceding chart)

Reading the Chart, Cost Analysis

Notes: Look at the column headed "devaluation". There will be three figures listed. The first is approximately the cost in parts/supplies for you to repair the system. This first price assumes that you have the proper repair facilities and used repair parts when applicable.

The second number is average time to perform the repair. This factor must be considered if your time is limited. If you do not have much time, a long repair can waste profitable time that you could use better, such as repairing easier bikes, talking to customers, going to more garage sales, etc.

The third number is approximate devaluation of the bike from one in perfect condition. If you had a bike worth $100, but with bad paint, the same bike would be worth $35 less, or $65. The devalued price generally reflects what the bike can sell for if offered in unrepaired condition. Some of these conditions should not be offered for sale by you until repaired because of safety.

These prices are not hard and fast rules. The prices and repair times vary considerably with each specific case.


The Paint

Note 1: Evaluate the paint in terms of 'can you sell the bikes as is' for the usual profit? Most used bike customers expect that the paint will not be perfect. A few scratches are ok, but the overall appearance of the bike is an important factor to most buyers. In some cases, if you apply a custom paint job, the bike will become worth even more than one with factory paint in good condition.


The Frame

Note 2: Frame problems are often hard to spot. Look for a headtube that has been bent back due to front-end collision. The headtube should be nearly parallel to the seattube. If the paint is chipped on the toptube or downtube 1/2" or so behind the headtube, the frame has been bent.

On women's model frames, look to see if the seattube is bent at the toptube intersection. When bent, which is common with American-made women's frames, the pedals will be closer to the ground and will scrape when cornering. This bend usually gets worse with time.

Look at each intersection of frame tubing. Are any lugs or welds separating?

Look at the top of the seat tube, where the seat post comes out. Look at the back side where the seatpost bolt tightens the seatpost into position. Is this squished or deformed? Is the seatpost inserted only a short way and the seattube funnel-shaped? Is there any cracking here (particularly BMX bikes)?

Look at the rear part of the frame around the rear wheel. Bikes that have been run over by cars backing out of driveways are bent so that the rear wheel is not directly behind the front wheel, and the chain likes to fall off.

Any separation between the rear dropouts and the rear frame tubes? Sometimes a wheel bolted in without axle washers will squish the dropout slots out of alignment. Often this is a minor repair, just re-bend the dropout into shape with pliers. Forged dropouts (the thick ones) can crack, especially if they are the type that have a small screw built in. A built in derailleur hanger can be bent, cracked, have a too small cam surface or have stripped threads. Usually, the derailleur hanger can easily be cut off if is a problem.

Look the frame over for obvious faults like dents. If there is any non-factory welding, chances are the welding was done too hot. The frame is likely to fail at the home- made weld.

If you are looking at a bike with frame damage, you should avoid it unless you are expert at frame repairs. Another choice is to strip the bike for parts to put on another frame. Sellers who know their frame is broken may take a remarkably low price to be rid of it.


The Fork

Note 3: The most common fork problem, and it is very common, yet hard to spot, is a fork that has been bent back due to collision. The upper two thirds of the fork should be parallel to the axis of the steering. A fork bent back less than 3/4" can usually be straightened if the bend is below the fork crown. Straightening a bend in the steering tube (top of the fork) is not safe.

Look at the bottom of the fork for damage to the dropouts. Also turn the fork from side to side. If it is loose when straight ahead, but binds when turned to one side, the steering tube may be slightly bent, making proper headset adjustment impossible. In this case, the steering tube may be rubbing inside and wearing out, ready to break in two.


The Bearings

Note 4: Look at the headset, bottom bracket, and front and rear hubs. There should be no more than slight looseness. A very loose headset or bottom bracket set may respond to adjustment, without having damage inside, but examine loose hubs carefully. Many times a loose rear wheel means a broken axle. Try to spread the dropouts apart to see if the axle is broken. A loose front hub, especially the small diameter ones, can have irreparable cracks around the inside of the flanges, behind the bearings. This condition should not be ignored because the hub can totally collapse, collapsing the wheel along with it. Examine loose wheel bearings (hubs) carefully, they can fool you.


The Wheels

Note 5: A wheel laterally out of true more than 1/2" may not be repairable. A wheel with a flat spot more than 1/4" deep is difficult to repair. If a wheel has loose spokes or the wheel is out of true, the spokes may be too corroded to adjust. You can take a spoke wrench when you go shopping and test a few spokes on a suspect wheel.

Broken spokes are hard to spot. They occur most often in the rear wheel. Most of your customers will not buy a bike from you if they see a broken spoke because they know that they cannot fix it. If the rear wheel has broken spokes that seem to be breaking near the flanges of the rear hub, all these spokes may be fatigued. If you replace only the broken ones, others may break later.

Many bike wheels have kinks. These are small outward protrusions of the rim caused by hitting sharp edges or rocks in the road, especially when the tires are under inflated. They are easy to repair by squeezing with pliers or bashing with a hammer. Look around the tire for where it would skid when the kink lines up with the hand brake. The tire may be totally worn in this one spot.


Worn Out Chain And Freewheel

Note 6: A worn chain and freewheel causes more headache for people in the used bike field than almost any other. Quite often people will ride their derailleur-equipped bike with not enough oil on the chain. They will compound the problem by using the smallest front sprocket along with the smallest rear sprocket for long periods of time. This results in a worn out chain and freewheel. They ride the bike until the problem becomes annoying, then they offer the bike for sale to you. They generally will not mention the problem. If you ask, they may tell you that the problem can be corrected with an adjustment. Don't believe it.

The symptom is a jumping or clunking of the chain over the rear sprocket. It is more pronounced when the chain is engaged on the smaller sprockets. The symptom is slight at first, showing up only occasionally under high torque. It develops slowly, until the bike is almost unridable.

The skipping is caused by the chain's wear, it becomes longer as each chain rivet becomes worn. At the same time, the trailing edge of each sprocket tooth gets worn away. The chain and the freewheel sprockets wear together. If you replace just the chain or just the freewheel, the problem becomes worse, you must replace both at the same time. Furthermore, a worn chain will cause rapid wear to a new freewheel, and visa versa. Because the front sprockets are much larger, having more teeth in contact with the chain, these do not often indicate wear and can survive many chains and freewheels.

Many used bike sellers replace the chain and the freewheel with brand new parts, that is why the listed repair cost is so high.

This symptom can be confused with a stiff chain link, which is easily repaired. A stiff chain link skips rhythmically, once for every revolution of the chain. You can see a stiff link by watching the chain go around as you pedal backwards. Most skipping is caused by worn out parts, however, not a stiff link.

How do you spot a worn chain and freewheel? This is difficult. Look at the smallest freewheel sprocket. Do you see any hooking of the trailing edges of the teeth? Do you see a gray, pearlescent sheen? These are the only visible effects. If you have an older 10-speed bike, that looks like it has seen lots of miles, or a bike with no oil on the chain, you should expect that replacement will be necessary. You can also measure 24 links of chain. The length should be no more than 12-1/16". The only sure diagnosis is a test ride. If the bike is rideable, you can discover or rule out the problem by riding hard while shifted into the smallest rear sprocket and the smallest front.


Coaster Brake and Three-Speed Hubs

Coaster Brakes

Note 7: A coaster brake should work right. Turn the pedals forward and backwards several times and look for the following symptoms:

* Very stiff operation, particularly in a Bendix indicates old, dried up grease, probably needs overhaul, but not parts.

* Very loose bearings are commonly due to a broken or missing brake arm strap, the piece that holds the brake arm to the left chainstay of the frame. When the brakes were applied, the arm tried to unscrew. This can be repaired by repositioning the arm, and replacing the brake arm strap. Sometimes the axle threads are damaged severely, examine closely.

* Erratic operation, where one time the brakes apply after 1/4 turn of the pedals and 1/2 turn of the pedals another time, or where you have to pedal forward more than 1/4 turn to engage, means that overhaul or another rear wheel is necessary.

If possible, test-ride a bike with a coaster brake.

Three-Speed Hubs

Most Sturmey-Archer 3-speeds are in good condition internally. If one gear slips, usually only a simple adjustment is required. Most Shimano 3-speed hubs should be examined carefully for smooth, proper operation; they are fragile, and will fail completely after minor symptoms.

A 3-speed internal problem is not a problem if you have a spare wheel of the same type Shimano and Sturmey-Archer (the two most common brands), are not interchangeable unless you replace the shifter and the cable too.


The Hand Brakes

Note #8: Most caliper brake problems are simple. Most are in the cable, replace the cable and the problem is gone.

Look at the cable inner wires, especially where they join the brake hand levers. If even one strand is broken a cable must be replaced. After one strand breaks, there are less strands left to bear the load that already was great enough to break one strand on a strong cable. Therefore a cable with one strand broken is much weaker than a new one. This is important because brake cables do break often, and they break when you need them most; when you are pulling hard on the levers in an emergency stop.

Missing parts sometimes requires replacing the whole unit because some use non-standard parts. Most of the little nuts and bolts are interchangeable. Be careful about brakes that don't quite fit the bike. On these, you will have trouble getting the brake pads to go low or high enough in their adjustment slots. These are seldom the fault of the bike's owner. The manufacturer chose the wrong brakes! (strange, but common*) Another common brake problem on "racing"-style handlebars is hand levers that won't tighten up or fasten securely to the handlebar. These must be modified or replaced.

* If you owned a bike company, and you accidentally ordered 10,000 brakes that were too short or too long to properly fit the bike, but you could sort of get away with it, would you try? Well, you probably wouldn't, but several bike manufacturers have done just that!

Continue To Assessing Value Part 2

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