I love Craigslist. It's like the garage sale I can get to at any time of the day. It feeds directly into my addiction for buying cheap stuff.
Alas, it isn't without its nonsense. I don't know if it's worse in other groups, but the bikes listings, at least in Vancouver, are subject to frequent bouts of nonsense.
Some of this may be put down to sellers who don't know what they're selling, but it appears many of the sellers who should know better are up to ridiculous silliness, too. If you need a reason to read on, here it is: I'll share my basic hints on how to buy an acceptable used bike at a garage sale or (if you're desperate) Craigslist.
Now, some recent Craigslist examples. I know, this post will be unusable in a few weeks when the ads expire. Life sucks.
LADIES "Apollo" bikes (2) one is 60's, 2nd (mixte frame) is 70's - $225 (Downtown)
Both are large frames (suit 5'6" to 6')The mid-60's is a blue 'sissy-bar' style w/ pullback handlebars and wire basket and rear rack. 5 speed w/ 2 handbrakes; full, original chrome fenders and chainguard; good tires and seat. The 'mixte' framed 10 speed ladies is 'drop-handlebar' style (w/ 'suicide levers' too), 10 speed light metallic blue; also original chrome fenders, good tires and brakes etc. A speedy ride, as a city commuter, that's still very 'retro' and stylish. I can put a Swiss-made alloy rack/rat-trap on it if you wish. Your choice at $225 each.
No photos, but I know what we're looking at here. Apollo was a secondary brand for Kuwahara bicycles (most famous for their BMXes, but I have a pretty nice early-80s mountain bike from them, too). There are a few nice, acceptably rideable Apollos out there, but there are many seriously terrible ones too, and this is clearly among them.
5-speed? This is a cheap bike. it probably looks acceptably nice, and will try to kill you with steel rims. If I saw this bike at a garage sale, I'd bargain the price to $5, strip the basket and fenders, and leave the rest out for the garbage man. You could get twice the bike for half the price at a used-bike shop, and do as well for $10 at any garage sale.
The 10-speed offering is actually worse, and virtually guaranteed (like the other) to have chromed-steel wheels (which means no braking in the rain, oops!) and a dreadful drivetrain. Maybe something French if you're especially unlucky. The mixte frame will have some cachet, but a cheap Apollo is a cheap Apollo, and again, the fenders are the most attractive part of this package.
$225 for either bike is an insult to common sense, and since the seller can spell "mixte," they ought to know better.
Rambler Ten Speed Road Bike - $150 (Mount Pleasant)
Ten Speed road bike in ridable condition.
Well, I give the seller credit for an unpretentious description of the bike, and for including the photo. But I take back all those credits and a few extra for the price. This is a nasty lady-framed piece of bike-boom garbage with an all-crap drivetrain (cottered cranks, unreplaceable chainrings, steel rims again) that happens to look nice because it's a sunny day and it still has its original fenders. $150 is some kind of comical lunacy on the part of the seller; about $145 more than I would ever pay for this bike, the last $5 only for the cute fenders. So sue me—I have a thing for fenders.
LADIES VINTAGE CRUISER - $100 (van)
made by sears roebuck, one speed, nice bike, but has rust on rims and handlebars.
pretty cheap to replace those things.
let me know!
What? This person is selling a rusty bottom-of-the-line Sears bicycle, something that was produced by the tens of thousands per year, for $100? Sir or madam: you do not want me to let you know. Friends, do not buy this bike. It would not qualify as safe transport outside of your back yard, and it has the aura and desireability of bent cutlery.
Oh, but this next one is my favorite!
super bike - $300
this bike is like a dream its fast the speed is 21 its a good company i brough this for $400 but i must sell this ASP so i willin to go ti $200 last the bike is like this but red and silver i color
The bicycle of mystery! Red? And sliver? $300? Do I hear $200? Bought for $400? Okay, so at least it's likely the seller is negotiable, they've dropped their price once before even finishing the ad. But for a fast bike, that seems totally reasonable. And, it's a good company! Which company? It's a mystery!
And, okay, I know it's cruel to mock this person who is just, after all, trying to get the word out, but it is craigslist, not craigsTXT. I've posted often enough to know that the service shows you your ad as it will appear just before you finally post it, and suggests you check the spelling. Would it be too much to ask that they at least notice "silver i color" before posting? And I know, thanks to "ASP" that their keyboard can manage capitals; the poster is not Archy, and I expect certain standards from my hominid brethren.
So, what makes an acceptable bike? Here's the minimum: aluminum (aka "alloy") wheels. A Japanese-made drivetrain, because French stuff like Simplex and Huret will drive you mad. That's about it. Cotterless cranks are a good thing, because they suggest a certain standard and because cotters are evil, but even that is more a signifier than a key feature.