It may seem like a good way of saving a little cash, but there are risks involved in buying a cheap bicycle that you need to take into account before laying down your money. There's nothing wrong with getting a good deal, of course – we'd all like to pay less – but you should make sure that your good deal doesn't turn out to be too good to be true.
The first thing you should do is always to do what research you can. Get the make and model of your proposed cheap bicycle, and go to the website of a reputable bicycle seller. Check to see what you can about the bicycle – who makes it, how much is it usually, is it still in production, and so on. Only if you like the answers you get to this sort of question should you even consider buying the bicycle cheaply.
Cheap New Bicycles
If you're buying a new bicycle, you should always buy one from a specialist seller, rather than from any other kind of shop. Smaller, independent sports suppliers are usually okay, even if they are not exclusively bicycle shops, but they will rarely be cheap. The larger sporting goods chains are less good to buy from, especially if located in a mall. These shops are far too often staffed by people who are more interested in making sales than in the actual goods they sell. Similarly, the larger department stores tend to be like this as well. You may get lucky with the occasional staff member who does know their bicycles, but you wouldn't want to bet money on it – and buying under circumstances like that is always a gamble.
The reason that you should be careful who you buy from is that the cheap bicycles that are sold by too many shops achieve these cost savings by using sub-standard parts. To make things worse, the part affected by this cost-cutting are most likely to be the ones you can't see, such as bearings and cables. If you absolutely must buy such a bicycle, you should take it to a reputable mechanic to get it fully serviced and have any sub-standard parts upgraded as soon as you possibly can. Which will, in all probability, may push the cost back up to what buying a cheap bicycle from a bicycle shop would have been in the first place.
Another thing to consider, no matter where you are buying the bicycle is that its cheap price may be the result of it being an end of line run-out. There's nothing wrong with that, especially not with the larger and more well-established manufacturers, but if you buy a cheap bicycle from a smaller manufacturer, you may have trouble sourcing parts later on. This isn't often a problem – most manufacturers use similar parts and standard sizes – but it is something to be careful of. Before buying a cheap bicycle, ask the seller if the price is a reflection of the bicycle being an end of line run out, and check to make sure that they have plenty of other bicycles from the same manufacturer.
Second Hand Bicycles
Buying anything second hand has always been a good way to save a few dollars.
When buying a second hand bicycle ask a lot of questions: why are they selling it, what brand is it, what is the availability of parts should it need repairs, when was it last serviced, and so on. If the seller gets touchy about this, apologise, but point out that you don't know them and they don't know you, and that a few questions now can prevent problems for both of you further down the line. After all, if you're buying a cheap bicycle, it's because you want it to be a cheap bicycle, not a cheap bicycle now with a lot of repair and replacement costs later on.