How to Sell Bikes or Bike Parts on the Internet - Tips for Getting Top Dollar

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First Thing to Understand: Somebody Wants Your Stuff

One of the facts of the universe is that if you ride bikes, you're going to start accumulating bike parts. It's almost like they reproduce on their own. Maybe you decide to change out your handlebars and end up with an extra set. Maybe you swap out your pedals or bike seat. Regardless, before long, you'll find yourself with a nice little collection of parts that you don't need and don't necessarily know what to do with. This is especially true if you like to work on bikes and upgrade your ride(s) frequently. That's because even a ho-hum project like converting a 12-speed bike into a single-speed commuter is going produce a whole pile of cast-off parts. Even now, people reading this article are nodding their heads in agreement, thinking of boxes of greasy old parts in their garage or basement that they knew what to do with.

The same holds true with whole bikes. It's easy to suddenly find yourself with a couple extra bikes sitting around. Maybe it's that mountain bike you took with you to college, and that you've kept for mostly sentimental reasons. Maybe it's a BMX bike you got for your kid that has been long since outgrown. Maybe it's a $20 rummage sale special that you couldn't pass on. It's easy. I have six bike sitting around right now and I'm not sure how it happened.

The good news is that for every old bike and every greasy old bike part you've got sitting around, someone somewhere out there has a need for it, and is willing and in fact happy to pay you cash for it. It's an awesome thing to be involved with, cause it's gonna help them get their currently kaputt bike working again or even better, or allow them to complete that dream project they've been working on.

Don't think that an item doesn't have value. I guarantee that every old part has a buyer; it's just a matter of connecting with them. And best of all, the older and more obscure your extra parts are, the better. That means it's going to be harder to find, and that there are not millions of other people out there already clogging up eBay offering the same thing.

However, speaking from the experience gained by both buying and selling lots of parts both online and in person over the years, I'll tell you that there are easy things you can do to help yourself and help others get matched up with what they are looking for. These tips will make the process go that much smoother, and best of all, help get you cash for the stuff you just have sitting around gathering dust.

Related article: Best websites for selling bikes and bike parts

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Be as Descriptive as Possible: List Manufacturer, Serial number, Spec Details

Stronglight Chainring 52t

The first step in selling bike parts (or a whole bike, for that matter) is to be as descriptive as possible. Ever see an ad on Craigslist that reads like this? "Men's bike - great condition - $125 bucks" I'm normally a pretty calm guy, but whenever I see an ad like that, I can feel myself going a little ape and start looking for somebody to strangle. There are about 50 questions that come to mind immediately about this bike. Like what size is it? What style is it - is it a road bike? It could be a mountain bike or hybrid bike, too. There is simply no way of knowing without more detail. What does "great condition" mean? In perfect shape, never been ridden outside, or that the paint only has a few chips and the wheels mostly spin straight but only if you don't look real close. There is a variety range of interpretations, which is why you want to be as specific as possible.

That means when you list your items, you aren't just going to list "Chain ring" and a price with your ad. You're going to say it's a 52-tooth chain ring from a 1982 Raleigh 12-speed bike. You'll also say that while it's got some use, it's still in good condition with no rust or bent teeth. And finally you'll say that it has the part number XB17115 stamped on the back. And using that specific part number and name of manufacturer is perhaps more important that it first seems. Remember, people looking for a specific part on the internet may only have that little information to go on. And if they are looking for that same chain ring, chances are they are going to do a search on XB17115 and you want your ad to be the one that comes up.

One of the magic things about the internet is that even if your part doesn't have a number, and even if your original owner's manual is long gone, many times you can research your own part and determine the product ID number from one of the many sites that will store the original paperwork and manuals on a wide variety of bikes that become an incredibly handy reference in these situations.

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Tell it All - the Good, Bad and the Ugly

A dirty bike chain - you don't want this in your pocket or purse.
A dirty bike chain - you don't want this in your pocket or purse. (c) Steve Ryan

My dad bought and sold a lot of cars when I was growing up. Corvettes, mostly. He's see one listed in the paper, go and look at it, and if he thought he was getting a deal he'd buy it and pull it home on a trailer. He'd maybe clean it up a bit and then resell it and make a little cash. The thing that always amazed me was when he was talking to a potential buyer for one of his cars, he would tell them every little thing wrong with it first thing on the phone even before they'd come to look at it.

"The AC doesn't work," he'd say. "The seats are bad, the tires need to be replaced and it leaks a little oil," going on and on, listing all the problems with the car.

To me that seemed like the exact wrong strategy. You'd want to emphasize the good points, I thought, and downplay any flaws. But he was intentional and insistent about disclosing potential problems early, and for good reason, as it turns out. And you should be that way too.

Why should you be very clear about wear to the part, damage or any flaws that may exist? Several reasons. First, you don't want to waste anyone's time. That goes for you and your buyer both. If there is a problem with something you're trying to sell that's going to kill the deal, it's best to know that before either of you have much time or invested, like when you have to pack and ship something to someone far away. That's particularly true if you have someone coming to see something in person, a whole bike for instance, and they are driving any length of time to look at your stuff. They should know of any problems before they've spent an hour behind the wheel. If they only learn about it after they show up, they're going to be ticked, and for good reason.

Another thing - sometimes even a non-functional item (broken or damaged or very-worn) may be desirable to people. Maybe it's going to be disassembled and used for its sub-pieces. Maybe it's for back-up for a better piece. Maybe the person intends to repair or restore it, and the fact that it doesn't work is what actually makes it appealing to them.

Also, after you've talked about any potential problems that may exist with your item, then you have the opportunity to really accentuate any positives. And by describing the bad things first, it'll make the good things seem that much better. With my dad and the used cars, after he described the problems, then he'd say, "But the paint's great, it's got the original engine and a brand-new transmission." And all that stuff would sound awesome.

Finally, if you disclose any problems up front, that removes potential leverage for them to try and knock down your price. If someone comes to look at a bike frame, for instance, and you haven't mentioned the rust inside the bottom bracket, if they're smart they'll certainly use that as a justification for offering less than what you're asking. They can't use this as an excuse to lowball you if you've told them all potential problems up front.

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Use photos - lots of 'em and close up - on the bike and off the bike

Kona Major Jake 2009
This is a photo I took of a bike leaned up against the side wall of an old log cabin. The cool background makes the bike look even better. David Fiedler

Good photos are the most useful tool you have when selling bike parts. They tell a person exactly what you're selling, even if they're not completely sure what you're talking about from the description. They reveal in better detail both the potential problems you've described and the positive features of your item as well. Good photos allow the person to visually compare your item with the item they are looking to upgrade or replace.

Tips for taking good photos:

  • Lay your item on a background that provides clarity and contrast. For instance, if you're selling black handgrips, don't lay them on black carpet. Putting them on just about any other lighter color will be more helpful.
  • Get as close to the item as you can. Not only does that show lots of detail, but it eliminates distractions from the background.
  • Make sure your item is adequately lit. Natural light is best. Indirect artificial light works good too. Be attuned to glare, reflections and shadows that may distort or obscure your item.
  • Take lots and lots of photos. Often, the tendency will be to take a couple photos that kidna look good in the little display in the back of your camera, and then stop. However, you will thank yourself, if you literally shoot a couple dozen shots while you're out with your camera and the item is set out. Experiment with different angles and lighting. Take pictures of the item from the top and bottom, front, back and all sides. Then review your images and pick the ones that looks the very best.
  • Experiment with different, interesting backgrounds to see what might make the product look better too. Something like patio brick, or weathered wood, etc., all add character and a nice feed to your images.

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Smart Pricing - fair but low; compare to new

Tyler McPheeters

When pricing your item, see what other comparable pieces are selling for, then price accordingly. If you want to move the item quickly, mark it down that much lower. You can perhaps get a higher price if you are willing to wait, but it will mean having patience and perhaps a couple times relisting the item on eBay or Craigslist until the right buyer comes along.

Fortunately it is usually easy to find comparable prices for just about any item you're trying to sell, and you can use an item's listing point when sold new for comparison's sake. But be sure you know that if you're out looking up prices, your shoppers will be too. If you price items higher than the going rate, you either need a good explanation (condition, rarity of item, special features, etc.) or else you will lose potential buyers before they even talk to you.

Word of advice - if you're generally interested in selling your item and just want the cash, price items on the low side and you'll be surprised at how quickly they move.