Buying A Used Cruiser
So you don't have the coin to spring for a brand new cruiser or you just want to save a few bucks on the initial purchase to splurge on accessories later. What should you look for and how do you get the best deal?
A used cruiser bike is a bit like a used car. How it's going to treat you depends a lot on how the last owner treated it!. If vintage is your thing obviously used is the only way to go but if you're just getting in to the wonderful world of cruising you might not have the cash to lay out on your first bike. This guide will try and tell you what to look for and help make sure you get the best cruising experience.
It'd be nice if everyone treated their bikes like their babies. But you know what, half of this is having a good time and once in a while either you or your bike is going to take a few lumps. Some of us are better than others at rolling with it and not doing too much damage! While pretty much anything is fixable there's going to be a cost involved so let's get an idea of what you're looking at before you pick up that "great deal"
The Common Stuff
There's a few things that go before just about anything else. Newer cruisers look great and have a lot of nice parts you wouldn't find on an older bike but there seem to be some common themes with parts that break.
Cranks and bottom brackets are definitely an area to watch out for - Dyno/Kustom Kruiser and Electras definitely have issues in this department. If the cranks don't turn smoothly or you hear creaking/clicking noises coming from the bottom bracket area then chances are your bearings are hooped. Luckily this is a pretty cheap fix - you'll probably be rolling out of the bike store for about $35 all told. Cranks are another big one - most of the cruisers out there have one-piece cranks. The 'weak spot' on one piece cranks is the little pin that sticks out of the right hand crank into the front chainring. Regardless of what make of bike you have this seems to be a common problem - the pin gets bent/cracked or even sheared right off resulting in a bike that won't pedal too well if at all. Again this is a pretty cheap fix, about $25 for a new crank and a bit of labour.
If the bike has been ridden hard... like hard into a curb in the middle of a drunken escapade then you might find bent wheels or forks. These are often quite a bit trickier to fix - best way to check is to flip the bike over and give the wheels a spin. Watch for side to side movement - a little bit isn't a big deal but if it's really bent you might need a new rim and that means $$. Forks should be STRAIGHT and even side to side - if you notice anything funny with the front fork you should probably find another bike - if it's hit something hard enough to bend the fork it's probably screwed the headset bearings too and you're looking at a fair chunk of change to fix it. Trust me, it's not worth spending $120 in parts on a used cruiser when you can score a new one for not much more. Unless you're doing a restoration or otherwise really know what you're up against just walk away and catch the next posting on Craigslist.
Coaster brakes are usually pretty tough - since you're dealing with steel or brass brake parts they tend not to wear down like those rubber shoes on rim brakes and the like. However most shops will tell you to just toss your hub and buy a new one if it's worn out - there's literally hundreds of different coaster brake models out there so your average bike shop can't possibly stock the parts for all of them. At that point you're looking at the cost of a hub plus about $40 to get your wheel rebuilt. Ride the bike and try out the brake - squealing and such may just mean the hub needs to be serviced which any shop can do for you pretty easily. If you're not afraid of getting a little greasy single-speed coaster servicing won't take too long and you don't really need anything special tool-wise. I'll post a HOWTO on that some time soon, keep an eye out.
Fenders that need paint, dents, scrapes and flaking chrome really aren't that easy to fix regardless of what anyone tells you. I have seen dozens and dozens of people buy bikes and talk about how they're going to paint the fenders etc etc etc... While a few do actually manage to pull it off the majority of people really don't have the time to properly paint bike parts. Even worse most shops only stock fenders in plain chrome - the chances of replacing that bent up but sleek fender that matches the bike perfectly are kind of rare. I'm not saying it can't happen but let's just say it's a lot easier to talk about what you want to do than actually DOING it. Save yourself some hassle and grab the bike without the smashed-up rusty fenders, unless that's your thing.
Naturally if you're doing a restoration you aren't necessarily going to care about a lot of these things. But then again if you're doing a bike resto chances are you don't need a shop to handle any of the work I've mentioned above! If you're not confident enough to re-grease a bottom bracket or a coaster hub on your own then you probably should practise before you decide you're going to resuscitate some old piece of iron from its rusty grave. The good thing is all of that is pretty simple to do if you don't mind getting a little greasy!
So Get At It!
New or old if you treat your cruiser right it'll take care of you. Keep it oiled and serviced - if you can't do it yourself take it in once a year to your local bike shop. Trust me, it's a lot cheaper to get some fresh grease than it is to get fresh bearings!</div