March 23, 2010
Velo Boulot Dodo
Flip yo’ bike part 2
Its finally that time of year. The time when everybody who left their bike out over the winter, sold it to pay for hydro or made a resolution to never spend another summer in the metro is looking for a new ride. And as new riders come out of hibernation, so too do the bike flippers, people who sell used bikes for profit.
Last week we discussed the emotional hurdles associated with buying a bike off Craigslist. This week it’s all about how to sell them, make money and not be a wiener while you do it. In order of importance:
How not to seem like a shady vampire
Don’t steal bikes.
No fuckin’ way. Even if you don’t mind the idea (you dink), stolen bikes have little value because you can’t advertise their sale without getting busted. Bikes from the trash are okay, and it’s also fine to strip parts from a bike that got hit by a plow.
-Keep records! Even if you’re the worst mechanic in the world at least you can prove you didn’t steal the damn things. Handwritten receipts and serial numbers will do.
-Don’t be secretive. Telling a buyer you want to meet on a street corner in the Plateau is weird; drug dealers don’t even do that. Meet at your house/workspace.
-Try not to be stoned or drunk when people come to your house. Most people don’t mind, but five minutes before a buyer arrives is a bad time to realize your roommate has just erected
a record-setting gravity bong.
How to actually fix bikes
Buy the tools you need. It might cut into your profits but you’ll find having the right-sized wrench is better than relying on a hammer and chisel to smash parts off of frames. Park Tools makes just about anything you could possibly want.
Replace broken parts. Obviously, but the hard part of this is knowing how to identify if something is in fact broken. If you can’t tell, ask a real mechanic, or Google it.
Use the Internet. BikeForums.net and Sheldon Brown’s website are a wealth of information. Between the two, there are few problems you can’t at least get decent advice on, if not solve outright.
-Ask for help from a pro. Sometimes you’ll have to pay for it, but knowing exactly how to do something is an asset that’s worth more than the 10 bucks you might pay a shop to do the work.
-Keep parts on hand. Even if your tool selection is based largely on the dollar store, a large and well-organized stock of parts can help you save any bike build. Save everything, every nut, bolt and washer. You WILL eventually miss something if you throw it away.
Buy low, sell high
Buy low. The cheaper you can get bikes the better. When you start flipping,
your bikes will probably be crappy. Free machines from the trash, junks
from garage sales or old stuff from scrap metal dealers.
It’ll take a bit of money and work to get them running well so try to pay as little as possible.
-Build contacts. The best way to get stuff is to have other people find bikes for you. There are a lot of folks who make their living picking over estate sales, junk piles and antique collections. Check with them.
-Use Craigslist and Kijiji. It’s pretty much a no-brainer. The Gazette classifieds ain’t gonna get you anywhere.
-Understand what it’s worth. If you know your market and what it’s generally willing to pay for a given type of bike, this is where the real profit is. If you have a good feel for value you can do fewer sales and make more money. It can also help keep you from looking like an idiot with massively inflated prices.