The complete guide to buying a second-hand bike in Berlin

The complete guide to buying a second-hand bike in Berlin

Berlin is undeniably a treasure trove for cyclists. Its well-maintained bicycle lanes, an extensive network of bicycle streets, and picturesque landscapes make it a cycling paradise. Yet, the dream of owning your own bicycle in this vibrant city can be a costly reality. Economic factors have driven up the prices of new bikes significantly, leaving many searching for alternatives.

In Berlin, buying a second-hand bike is often the answer. It's not just budget-friendly; it's a sustainable choice. However, navigating the world of used bicycles requires a certain set of skills. As a company deeply committed to creating a more sustainable and eco-friendly future for our beloved city, Recyclies offers a unique solution: a monthly subscription to refurbished bicycles. We do understand the constant dilemma of whether to purchase a bike or not, which has endowed us with a wealth of experience in buying second-hand bicycles.

In this article, we invite you to join us on a journey through the art of acquiring a bicycle in Berlin with confidence. We'll share invaluable insights and tips on making a smart and eco-conscious choice.

What is the best place to buy a second-hand bike in Berlin? 

Friends and Colleagues: Before delving into other options for acquiring a bicycle, consider reaching out to friends and colleagues. Many individuals have a bicycle they no longer use, and they may be willing to offer it to you at a reasonable price or even give it for free (Verschenken).

Kleinanzeigen: This platform is highly popular for finding quality bikes. Some of the finest Recyclies bicycles are sourced from here. However, it comes with certain risks, as some bikes may have concealed and challenging-to-repair damages. Moreover, there's a chance of encountering stolen bicycles. In our experience, focus on dealing with individuals (Privater Nutzer) selling their own bicycles to minimize these risks. Look for opportunities where a person is clearing their basement or simply moving out of the city as these tend to provide a better value/price ratio.

Facebook Marketplace: Similar to Kleinanzeigen but with a smaller selection of bicycles and a higher risk of stumbling upon stolen ones. Based on our observation we believe that on Facebook Marketplace there are more stolen bikes. The reason could be related to the Keinanzeigen having stricter algorithms or simply the Police being more present on Kelinanzeigen. 

Local Second-Hand Bicycle Stores: These stores typically offer bicycles in good condition as the retailers (Fahrradhändler, Fahrradverkäufer) have experience with purchasing quality bikes and they usually invest time to repair them. However, they come with a relatively higher price tag. Make sure that the store has good reviews and that they provide a receipt or any proof of purchase. Also, ask them for a couple of months of warranty as this will shield you from any hidden damages on the bike. 

Bicycle Markets: Berlin's bicycle markets are great for trying out different bicycle models. These markets offer a fantastic opportunity to connect with fellow cycling enthusiasts and to get information from experienced second-hand bicycle dealers. However, if you're on a strict budget these may not be the best option as the bikes offered there often come at a price and dealers may leave less room for bargaining. Due to the competitive atmosphere, you may feel overwhelmed by the options and negotiations if you're not well-versed in the world of bicycles. The Bicycle markets usually start in April and end in October. Some of the best ones are organized by FahrArt, Fietsenbörse and Berliner Fahrradmarkt. They usually take place in Kreuzberg, Mitte, Tempelhof, Moabit and Prenzlauer Berg. 

What to look at when buying a second-hand bicycle?

Buying a used bicycle is a savvy and sustainable choice. However, to make this a successful endeavor, you must pay attention to several crucial factors. The most significant risks are purchasing a stolen bicycle and the potential for hidden mechanical problems. While the bike may appear fine on the surface, issues with the gears, brakes, or electronics can be lurking beneath. These problems may not be immediately apparent during a test ride or inspection. As a result, you could end up with a bike that requires costly repairs or upgrades, significantly increasing your overall investment.

Here's the gameplan for purchasing a second-hand bicycle:

1. Make sure the bicycle is not stolen

When contacting the seller ask if he is willing to sign a bicycle purchase contract (Kaufvertrag über ein gebrauchtes Fahrrad). Simply ask “Sind Sie mit der Unterzeichnung des Kaufvertrags einverstanden?”.

Signing this contract requires the seller to provide their identification, typically their ID card, a measure that deters individuals attempting to sell stolen bicycles from participating. This simple yet effective step can help confirm the bike's authenticity, giving you peace of mind in your purchase. Having a bicycle purchase construct protects you from being accused of bicycle theft or of handling stolen goods. 

Furthermore, you may verify the bicycle frame code number (Rahmennummer or Fahrradkennzeichen) by cross-referencing it with various bicycle theft databases. While this method did not yield substantial results in our experience at Recyclies, it remains a viable avenue for further due diligence in your bicycle purchase journey.

2. Meet with the seller to check the bicycle:

It is common for the buyer to go to the seller's address when checking the bike. Simply ask “Wie lautet die Adresse?”. Before actually going check the address on Google Maps to make sure it is an actual address and not some shady location. It is always good to bring a friend along as the friend could be more objective, have different views, and notice damages you did not notice. 

Here are some of the questions you should ask the seller:

  • Why are you selling the bike?
  • How long has the bike been in your possession?
  • Do you possess the original purchase receipt?
  • Are there any current issues with the bike's functionality that I should be aware of? This is important because it is illegal to hide malfunctions when selling items in Germany. 
  • When was the bike last serviced, along with details about the work performed?

3. Check for Wear and Tear

Now let's talk about the interesting stuff! Inspect the bike thoroughly for any signs of damage. Whatever you find can make you decide not to buy the bike or can be a good argument when haggling. 

You have to check the following:


Check for frame cracks: Examine the entire frame for cracks or dents, especially around the joints and welds. If you notice any cracks, don’t buy the bike because fixing the cracks usually is not worth the effort.

Check for rust or corrosion: Look for rust spots or corrosion, which can weaken the frame. Pay particular attention to steel frames. Finding some rust may not be a huge issue, but it can be a good price negotiation point. 

Check frame alignment: Your goal here is to ensure that the frame is straight and properly aligned. This can be hard to do without proper tools. You can research the technique involving the use of a string line to check the frame alignment. Make sure to check the fork is not bent. 

Frame size: Make sure that the frame size is suitable for your height and riding comfort.


Treadwear: If the threads as shallow that indicates excessive wear and the need for tire replacement. 

Tire condition: Check for any cuts, punctures, or bulges in the tire's sidewalls. If the tires are old the cracks should be visible on the side. This indicates the need for replacement. 

Proper inflation: As a stress test inflate the tires to the maximum of recommended values. Weak and overused tires usually can’t tolerate maximum recommended pressure. 


Rim condition: Examine both rims for any signs of damage, such as dents, cracks, or deep scratches. What often happens is that the rim is damaged during the impact against a driveway edging. Even minor damage can affect braking and overall performance.

Braking surface: Inspect the braking surfaces (usually on the sides of the rims) for wear. If they are excessively worn or have deep grooves, it may indicate the need for new rims.

Wheel trueness: Spin each wheel and check for lateral (side-to-side) and radial (up-and-down) wobbles. If the rim is touching the break or if you hear any unusual sound it is usually a good indicator that the rim is bent. 

Spoke tension: Gently squeeze adjacent spokes in pairs around the rim. They should have consistent tension. Loose or overly tight spokes can affect wheel strength. Make sure to check all the spokes as replacing them is a costly effort.

Valve stem hole: Ensure that the valve stem hole is in good condition, without any cracks or deformities.

Quick-release skewers: Verify the functionality and condition of quick-release skewers. They should close securely and engage properly.


Brake pads: They usually have a wear line annotated. They should have sufficient material left.

Brake levers: Squeeze the brake levers to ensure they respond promptly and smoothly. There should be enough grip when squeezed so the bike does not move when you try to push it. After releasing the squeeze observe how the brake leavers are recalling. The recall should be prompt and equal on both sides. 

Brake cables: Examine the brake cables for fraying, kinks, or signs of rust as they can slow the break response or even result in complete failure and fatal accidents. 

Alignment: Make sure the brake calipers are correctly aligned with the wheel rims.

Gear shifter

Shifting gears: Shift through all the gears to confirm smooth and precise shifting. Shift gear from lower to upper and vice versa as sometimes the behavior may vary. 

Cable condition: Inspect the gear shift cables for wear, kinks, or signs of corrosion.

Chain alignment: Check that the chain moves smoothly across the gears and doesn't slip or jump.


Pedal attachment: Verify that the pedals are securely attached and rotate smoothly.

Pedal condition: Check for any damage, bent axles, or worn bearings. While riding the bike some pedals create a cracking noise. This is an indication of worn bearings. 


Chain wear: Without a chain wear tool it is hard to assess chain elongation. What you could do is assess the cassette and the crank blade for the so-called shark teeth. If you notice the spiky cassette teeth you may have to change the chain. Remember that the chain, cassette, and crank blades are usually placed together with the chain. 

Another test you can do is to apply a lot of pressure when riding the bike. For example, you can shift to the highest gear and try to swiftly increase the speed of the bike by applying pressure on the pedals. If the chain is worn it should start skipping. 


Light functionality: If the bike has lights, test them to ensure they work correctly. Confirm the power source for the lights (battery or dynamo) and check its condition. Sometimes the bike has lights but the dynamo is missing. Other times the light bulbs can be broken. LED light tend to shine stronger and last longer.

4. Take the bike for a ride

The most crucial step in evaluating a second-hand bike is taking it for a test ride. This hands-on experience can reveal valuable insights about the bike's condition and how it performs. At this step, you may want to over-exaggerate your riding conditions or put excessive stress on the bicycle during the test ride. Excessively applying pressure or engaging in high-stress maneuvers may reveal hidden bicycle issues. 

Here's what to observe during your ride:


While pedalling, listen attentively for any unusual noises or creaks. Sometimes, the source of these sounds may be the rims touching the brake pads, or it could indicate worn-out bearings. Identifying these issues during your test ride can help you make an informed decision.


Test the brakes under various conditions to gauge their responsiveness and their ability to bring the bike to a smooth and controlled stop. If you encounter spongy or noisy brakes, it's a sign that they may require maintenance or adjustment.

Gear Shifting

Shift through all the gears to ensure smooth transitions and accurate shifting. Stiff or imprecise gear changes could signal potential issues with the drivetrain, which may need your attention.


Pay close attention to the pedals, checking for any play or wobbling. Occasionally, you may notice cracking noises coming from the pedals, indicating a need for replacement.


If the bike features a dynamo or integrated lighting system, verify that the system is working correctly and producing light. Additionally, listen for any unusual noises or friction that could affect its functionality.

In conclusion, buying a second-hand bicycle in Berlin can be a rewarding experience, offering both economic and eco-friendly benefits. We hope that this guide has provided you with valuable insights and tips to make an informed decision when acquiring your perfect bicycle.

However, if you prefer a hassle-free approach to cycling in Berlin, consider renting a bicycle from Recyclies. Our specialized service focuses on sourcing quality bicycles and providing them to our members with added benefits such as repairs and theft protection. With Recyclies, you can enjoy the convenience of a reliable bike without the uncertainties of the second-hand market, all while contributing to a greener and more sustainable Berlin.

Whether you choose to buy or rent, the joy of cycling in this vibrant city awaits you, and we're here to support your journey. Happy riding!

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