You can save a lot of money and score some great deals when buying pre-owned tri gear, but there are a few red flags and avoidable pitfalls to be aware of. Shop with confidence, knowing what to look for—and pass up—in pre-owned multisport gear.
Unless you’re buying used gear from a friend, consider that if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. When shopping for used gear in-person or buying tri gear online, go with your gut instinct and leave emotions aside. Use Amazon and eBay to see what new and used items sell for to see if you’re getting a great deal or if you’re about to pay too much for used tri gear.
Things to Avoid
Even though it should go without saying, we’ll say it anyway: Stay away from open containers of sports nutrition and hydration, even if offered by a friend. Note expiration dates—even processed foods can go bad. Items that are relatively inexpensive, like goggles, swimsuits or socks, should be bought new, as the overall cost is low compared with any associated health risks.
When shopping for a used triathlon wetsuit, make sure you’re looking at tri-specific wetsuits. A diving or surfing wetsuit won’t have the arm mobility required. Make sure to ask if there’s been any rips or repairs. Since fit is so important, try to buy from someone with a similar body type.
When buying a used triathlon bike, it’s really helpful to know your bike fit numbers—stack and reach—or your specific size for a specific brand of bike. Get a bike fit before you shop for a bike. When buying from Craigslist or eBay, buyer beware: There’s more that can go wrong with anonymous, online sales, compared to moderated groups on Facebook where sellers may have good reviews of positive sales transactions. Beware of any bike that’s been advertised as having been crashed or repaired for any reason, as some damage may not be evident.
When shopping for used bike wheels, you’ll want to stay away from unbranded or generic, Chinese-manufactured products, as quality control is not on par with big brands. Make sure to ask about age and use: Wheels ridden in wet environments may wear more quickly.
Drivetrains—chains and cassettes—wear, so you’ll want to stay away from buying anything with more than 500 miles of use or anything that has been used in wet environments and shows visible signs of use. When buying brakes and shifters, make sure to replace cables with new ones. If looking at saddles or handlebars, ask if they’ve been dropped or crashed, or have been ridden indoors a lot—sweat can be brutal on even high-end bike components.
Stay healthy: There’s no reason to purchase used water bottles. Buying new old stock—previous years’ colors or prior models of items—from a bike shop is a great way to save a few dollars. Bottle cages and similar hydration storage solutions generally don’t wear out or fail, so shop with confidence for these kinds of used items.
Bike computer batteries have a finite number of charging cycles, so a model that is several years old may not hold a charge as long as one that was used for just a season or two. Inquire about the “tabs,” which secure the bike computer to its mount, and be sure to ask for close-up—detailed photos of the back side of the head unit. These tabs are a wear point and may fail over time with use.
When shopping for indoor trainers, pay attention to close-up photos and ask questions, like how many hours/years of use. Make sure to ask the seller for all of the small parts used for connecting a bike to the trainer. Fluid trainers are generally smoother and feel better than magnetic trainers, but the seals on the resistance fluid compartment can wear over time with use. When shopping for smart trainers, ask about any known issues with controlling the unit from a phone, bike computer or laptop.
Photos can tell the story: If cycling shoes look almost new, they probably are. If shoes look worn, they may have stretched to fit the previous owner’s foot shape. Although used cycling shoes may be the correct size, they may not provide comfort needed for extended use.
Manufacturers suggest replacing bike helmets about every four years, depending on use and sun exposure. UV light can degrade the integrity of the helmet. Don’t take any chances with this bit of cycling gear; stay away from a helmet that’s been dropped. Even the slightest dent can jeopardize its life-saving properties.
Inquire about the fit of the specific cycling apparel brands, and even try to buy from someone with a similar build and body type to increase the likelihood of optimal comfort. Don’t go for any garments that have any visible indicators of wear or damage. Chamois do wear out with use, as do the cuffs on leg, waist and arm openings.
Like cycling shoes, running shoes that look new might be a great find. But if they have more than a few miles, they may start to conform to the previous owner’s feet and foot-strike location. Racing shoes may not last as long as trainers, so take caution when buying pre-owned shoes that may not be rated for high-mileage or durability.
Great deals can be found when shopping for used performance sunglasses. If you can try sunglasses on before buying to see how well they fit on your face, do it!
As new wearable devices are brought to market on a frequent basis, previous models—ones that may not have a lot of use—become available in aftermarket channels more regularly too. If buying a pre-owned GPS unit, ask about any issues with the wristband and built-in barometer. These are the most common failure points.
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