Selling Used Bikes to Coco's Variety

Why won't you buy my bicycle? Why are you so cheap?


We have a robust document that goes into great detail about what we do and don't buy.


High fixed costs, LA real estate, a changing retail landscape, fair employee compensation, worker's comp insurance, property taxes, liability insurance, overhead, theft and the risks associated with buying used bicycles are all factors that have to be baked into the price.


Used bikes are risky. It is why most bike shops don't mess with them. More often than we would like - more often than you would believe - we get stung by discovering something during rebuild that we didn't catch when purchasing. Miss a crack in the frame, rust in the bottom bracket shell, a bent frame that only appears when we measure with frame alignment tools, cracks at the spoke eyelets, etc.


And, expensive bikes are even more risky! Yes, that vintage Italian road bike is exquisite and of undeniable craftsmanship but it is also super lightweight tubing that is so easily damaged. Carbon is awesome! But something as simple as peeling clear coat would mean a bike we wouldn't buy or sell.


Unless it is a very recent, very lightly ridden, very well kept modern bicycle, we will strip and rebuild to a high level. We generally replace consumables like saddle, cables, housing, chain, brake pads, grips, bar tape and also non consumables like new pedals. Frequently, we will take a mountain or road bike and convert to a city bike and then they also get a new stem, new bar, new shifters and brake levers. There are all kinds of exceptions, but this is a long way of saying that the dollars spent by us buying a used bike is a fraction of the total money and labor that goes into the bike.


A brand new bike that we purchase from a manufacturer present zero risk to us and the margin is 25-38% depending on manufacturer, model and price. Therefore, to compensate for the considerable risk in a used bike, we seek a higher margin to balance out the losses of bikes that don't work out for some reason. 


Important Buying Note: we require government issued ID from all people selling bikes to Coco's Variety. We are going to make a copy of your ID and ask you to sign our buyer agreement in which you swear that the bike is yours to sell and that it is not stolen. If you have a problem with these conditions, we will not be able to buy your bike.


The following are practical considerations and guidelines that we use when evaluating and purchasing bikes. I will happily concede that what makes sense for us may not work for other bike stores or individuals buying and selling bikes. Where we don't have a market for a used set of carbon race wheels or a three year old tri-bike, that is our failing for not finding the market for those items.


1. Not to Coco's Standards - Condition - though we have brought bikes back from death, it is very time consuming to resurrect a bike that has been improperly stored or left outside. It takes so long and requires so many parts that it is not profitable. Sometimes, it is too far gone.


2. Not to Coco's Standards - Damage - from a crash, hard riding or abuse.


3. Not to Coco's Standards - Practical - cool bikes that we (personally) would ride and love, like an old Chicago Schwinn or a Robin Hood branded Raleigh are not practical for the majority of our customers. They are looking to ride off curbs, rarely true their wheels, ignore loose crank cotters and not follow the Sturmey Archer maintenance recommendations.


4. Not to Coco's Standards - Initial Quality - we don't generally buy department store or mail order bikes. Many legendary brands like Schwinn and Mongoose have been consolidated under a few large conglomerates like Dorel. There are no absolutes, but the bulk of their business is selling fairly modest bikes through mail order, Amazon, Costco, Dick's Sporting Goods, etc. There are exceptions e.g. Dorel bought Cannondale and those are still 'bike store' grade bikes. Brands like GT and Diamondback are on a case by case evaluation - some are high quality bike store grade bikes while some are mass market. 


5. Not to Coco's Standards - Geographically Inappropriate - 'Fixies' & Cruisers -  our interest in single speed bikes and cruisers (even 3-speed cruisers) is limited. The wide bars of a cruiser, with big soft tires and limiting gearing means that it is a less than ideal choice for our urban, hilly neighborhood. As is the case with cruisers, single speed/fixies/track bikes are just not a good fit for our pragmatic, transportation oriented store. Wonderful bikes, beautiful craftsmanship, gorgeous, lovingly built with exceptional components - but fixies have run their course. NJS is not Enron stock, but we hope you had a diversified portfolio. Do we say no to all cruisers and fixies? Nope, but our level of financial investment in them is very limited i.e. we are cheap. 


6. Not to Coco's Standards - Aesthetics - some bikes are ugly. Some are too plain. A pink and purple fade paint job will sell, while a plain grey bike with black logos will take 5 times longer to find a buyer. Taste is subjective and no single person can be the arbiter of good taste, but I have been doing this for over eleven years and I know what I like and what sells.


7. Not to Coco's Standards - Can't Warranty - all of our used bikes come with a warranty and there are some bikes that we don't feel we can warranty due to the unavailability of parts, cost of parts or complexity. For example, we are not going to buy a 10 year old full suspension MTB with hydraulic brakes. If something goes wrong, all profit is let out of the deal like air from a balloon.


8. Not to Coco's Standards - Not our 'thing' - we only do what we do well. We are not a high mountain bike shop, triathlon outfitter or a fixie store.


9. Not to Coco's Standards - Too Collectible - we love classic and collectible bicycles but we have a hard time building a business around that. The collector mindset (which I have) is to find undiscovered gems in the wild, buy them at a great deal, enjoy the artifact as much as the story and eventually sell at a profit. Collectors don't want to pay what we need to charge. Also, they don't want to accept the money we are able to offer.

Many collectible bikes are in desirable, original condition and are awesome untouched. Our primary business is to build daily riders which means breaking it down to a raw frame and rebuilding from scratch. For a classic Schwinn collector, removing dry rot original tires is a travesty but we are a riding shop not a wall hanger shop. As collectors generally enjoy working on bikes, they often don't feel our level of refurbishment is a value add. They often feel it removes value. I get both sides and maybe will one day figure out a pure collector store, but for now, we focus on classic riders.  Bikes that 'ride fine, need nothing' still get the full service because if we don't go through it at deep level, we can't warranty it.

Also, many collectible bikes will have tubular tires. I know we can use sealant and they still make great tubulars, but they are expensive, not novice rider friendly and the labor to remove the old glue and re-glue is significant.


10. Too Many Bikes - we have too many bikes that are waiting to be built. Or, we have too many of the type of bike you are selling.


11. Frankenstein Bikes - we have all built them, have loved them, ridden them but it is not what most of our customers are looking for.


12. Not enough profit - we need to make more margin/profit on a used bike than a new bike. We need to cover all the labor, parts and risk involved in rebuilding a used bike. Our new bikes have 1 year warranty on parts and 5 years on frame from the manufacturer - they present zero risk! If there is a problem, the manufacturer covers all parts and our labor!


13. Feels Wrong - maybe the paint has been stripped off, the serial number is obscured, painted with a rattle can or maybe the story doesn't feel right. If it feels funny, we will pass. Do we miss out on some cool stuff from an abundance of caution? Sure, but the cycling community is just gutted by bicycle theft and we are going to do everything we can to fight it.


14. "A little old" - maybe your bike is 3-4 years old and it was a high end thing at the time, but there have been advances in the interim that makes it less desirable to the buying public. For example, if you bought a $1500 road bike 5 years ago, it was probably aluminum frame, 10 speed 105 and caliper brakes. Now, for just a little more money, a modern road bike would be full carbon, disc brake and 11-speed. Even more damning if you bought a really nice 26" wheeled carbon fiber best of everything mountain bike a few years ago, now the market has shifted and everybody wants 27.5".

The "little old" issue most directly impacts higher end mountain bikes and road bikes as that is where the technology is changing. 


15. Too French - we love the aesthetics, style and history of French bikes. They are, personally, some of my favorite bikes. However, they represent a significant retail/commercial challenge as they use many "French standards" that are different than US/English/Rest of World bikes. For example, French cranks require French pedals, which means if they break then you are stuck buying another used set of unknown durability. This can be tricky for our warranty. We aren't saying no to all French bikes, but it is an issue that does effect our buying decisions.

Peugeot made some wonderful bicycles but they made many more of the most hated bicycles in the bike world.


16. Too Upgraded - oftentimes a bone stock bike is worth more to us than an upgraded bike. For example, we would rather have a bike with a perfect set of stock Shimano wheels than pay more for an upgraded set of carbon race wheels. We almost always change the saddle, so an upgrade saddle that is still in good condition may present little added value. An upgrade stem may be longer than stock may make it an odd fit for more people. That said, we will often pay more for a bike with a Nitto rack, a Thomson stem, really nice pedals, a Brooks saddle or other components that either elevate the bike in a way that makes sense to us/customer or that we can strip and sell individually.


17. Flipper Bike - appears to be a craigslist flipper bike. The dead giveaways are a very cheap saddle, a mishmash of parts, poor quality tires, lack of brake hoods, a stuck seatpost, a buried seat post, odd saddle angle, stem above minimum insertion line, incorrect tube valves, mismatched components, odd hardware solutions, mismatched wheels, suicide levers or brake levers where the suicide lever was removed. It is possible to dial it back, replace the errant hardware and upgrade the bike but that takes time and money. Complete, original bikes are worth so much more to us. Flipper bikes are often also cracked, bent or rusty.


18. Hypebeast-style Colab Bikes  - May be 'super valuable' as a limited edition but to us it looks like a bike and we are going to value it on quality, aesthetics and usability.


19. Asking $$$ - if your initial asking price is way too high, we will probably not make an offer. We need to be frugal and don't want to insult you. Sometimes, someone will want to sell us something for $500 but it is only worth $150 to us. For whatever reason, they must sell it and don't want to do the work to wipe it down, air it up and sell it themselves. So they take our $150 with sour feelings and grumbles. I don't want that bike karma and would much prefer to not sell it. We have two customers - the person we are buying from and the person we are selling to and we want both to be happy.


20. Too Much Recent Repair Value - if you recently had your bike tuned up with new tubes and tires at another shop, we don't place much value on that. Many of our bikes are strip and rebuilds. If we are going to sell it, we are going to warranty it and, for that to happen, we have to be secure in every aspect of the bike. We are buying tubes, tires, et al wholesale and are paying raw labor cost. What cost you $100, looks like $20 to us - tubes and tires we can re-use. Or what cost you $50 from a swap meet guy or a buddy in the garage with used tires, looks like nothing too us. We are no denigrating the work of swap meet guys or community mechanics reusing used components - we love that! It's just that it doesn't translate to value to us the same way it does to you.


21. Police Auction - though legal and completely above board to buy bicycles from the police auctions, the reality is many of the bikes are stolen. Few police reports are made for stolen bikes as people rarely have a serial number. So the vast majority of stolen bikes are not returned to their owners. Though it is fine to buy from a police auction, it is bike karma that we don't want to take on. If we complete a bike that is super cool, we did all the work and we are proud of to post to Instagram  - then someone says, "hey asshole! That is Tommy's bike that was stolen last November!!" Then we are in a funny spot - we are glad to return the bike to Tommy but we are out all the money. Also, this is tied very closely to 17. Flipper Bikes.

Why are you willing to pay so much for my used bike?


22. Immaculate - it is absolutely pristine. The grips are like new, the tires have no cracks, the chain has no wear. Everything is completely stock or very sensibly upgraded.


23. Gorgeous - we get high from being in your bike's beautiful presence.


24. Prop Rental - we think we will rent the hell out of it.


25. Right Size, for employee! - one of our employees really loves it and it is their size.


26. Just What We Need - it is exactly what we need to meet high demand.


27. Personal Interest - it is a bike I want in my personal collection.


28. Special Interest - it is a bike of special interest that we can connect to a (known) collector.