Thunder Mountain Bikes’ Ready to Sell program transforms rentals into the best deal on the used mountain bike market!
Since eBay’s inception in 1995, I have purchased exactly two bikes on the platform. First came a Schwinn Homegrown Pro in 2002 from a gentleman in Florida. That bike was so pristine—practically new!—and the experience so positive that a few years later I didn’t hesitate to grab a Specialized Epic from a seller in Utah.
The Epic looked sparkly in the listing. But on its arrival, I found a thrashed drivetrain, a leaky fork stanchion, dinged rims, and well-used tires. By the time I rehabbed and replaced everything, I might as well have purchased new.
Lesson clear: When purchasing preowned bikes online, buyer beware. The challenge of buying used bikes on the internet is that, until the bike arrives, it’s almost impossible to discern the history, quality, and precise state of repair of what you are getting.
At least it used to be.
Thunder Mountain Bikes’ Ready to Sell (RTS) program transitions the shop’s premium demo fleet into preowned sale bikes with ride history and maintenance records, complete pre-sale overhauls, and a full, manufacturer’s warranty. It’s not unlike buying a car at the end of a lease: you get something virtually new, impeccably maintained, factory refurbished and guaranteed, and all at a major discount. Depending on the model, condition, and history, RTS bikes sell for between 30 and 50 percent off retail.
That might sound too good to be true, but it’s the result of careful fleet management.
When new rental bikes arrive at Thunder Mountain Bikes (TMB), they get a full treatment of frame tape; a custom plastic covering that protects the bike against scratches, dings, dents, and chips. Throughout the bike’s life as a rental, it’s washed, dried, tuned, and repaired after every ride. Even the most meticulous private owners might miss a day or two of cleaning or tuning, but TMB can’t because every rental customer, every day gets a bike that looks and rides as good as new. That’s like detailing your car every day.
When the life of the rental is up, somewhere between 50 and 70 days depending on ride time and use, the work begins.
TMB techs first strip off the frame tape and carefully inspect the bike to ensure integrity. Assuming the bike is sound, the mechanic cleans the frame then begins a full suspension service, including a lower fork rebuild up front and a rear shock air can service out back. While the bike is apart, the mechanic checks the frame’s suspension bearings and linkages and replaces anything that needs it.
Next, both wheels are stripped, trued, and rebuilt with brand new Continental tires and fresh tubeless sealant. All drivetrain components (chain, chainring, cassette, and derailleur parts) are pulled from the bike, degreased and cleaned, and reinstalled. If they show more than 50 percent wear, they are replaced. Both brakes are inspected and bled, and pads are also replaced if they are worn more than 50 percent.
Every bike gets new grips. And finally, two mechanics test ride it to ensure it’s running like new. Then the frame gets a final polish, and the bike is broken down and professionally packed. Typically, this means removing the front wheel and handlebars only, which makes for easy reassembly when the bike arrives to its new owner.
If that sounds like a lot, it is.
Unlike buying from a third party, a Thunder Mountain Bikes’ RTS model comes with the manufacturer’s warranty. So if something goes wrong, you’re protected.
“We have a reputation for demoing some of the best new bikes around. You can come to Sedona and check out the hottest models on some of the finest trails anywhere,” says Mike Raney, owner of Thunder Mountain Bikes. “But the natural next step is to pass those bikes on to our customers. I honestly don’t think you can find a better deal on better bikes anywhere.”
TMB’s model is dialed, but not exactly new. In 2006, Nick Martin started The Pro’s Closet (TPC) as an eBay channel to unload last year’s racing gear from him and his cohorts to consumers who might not be able to afford such high-end gear at full retail. The Pro’s Closet has since grown into the largest online retailer of preowned bikes in the world, with Certified Preowned and Carbon Frame warranties. The company buys bikes from consumers, refurbishes them, and then resells them with a quality guarantee. With TPC, Martin took the risk of late-model Epics with thrashed drivetrains out of the equation.
“The secondary market has always been there,” says Paul Calandrella, General Manger at The Pro’s Closet. “We are connecting consumers who believe in the benefits of that—less manufacturing, no shipping across the ocean costs, and wallet savings—to a premium shopping experience that guarantees safe payment, trust in the transaction, and the delivery of a certified bike.”
TMB has simply shifted the model. The benefit of The Pro’s Closet is you can get a huge range of certified bikes at any moment. TMB offers smaller inventory with more control over the history of the purchase.
Sounded great, but I didn’t really believe it until I witnessed it firsthand. A buddy of mine—very German, a.k.a. very high standards—wanted to upgrade from his well-loved-but-long-in-the-tooth Salsa Horsethief. But he didn’t want to pay the exorbitant costs of today’s new bikes. I passed along a deal on an XL Ibis Ripley I discovered on TMB. Less than a week later, it was in his garage.
To be exact, this was an Ibis Ripley, XT build, which costs $7,000 new, but he picked up for $4,000. It had been ridden exactly 52 times prior, and when it arrived it was showroom clean. The padding and packaging looked as pro as if shipped direct from the Canyon factory, and the suspension was trampoline supple. My German friend built it up immediately, found everything in order, shredded his first ride, and hasn’t looked back. With apologies, that decade-old Salsa can suck it.
And that’s the thing: On eBay, you might get the best bike deal of your life…or you might get the equivalent of a broken-down wheelchair. Or you can just pick up this year’s model—lightly used, always maintained, completely guaranteed—for a fraction of the cost. Easy math.
The German even had enough left over to pick up carbon wheels and still come away under the retail cost of the Ripley with alloy hoops. If only my eBay Epic wasn’t a 26er, I would have gladly sold him mine. Though clearly, he’s a smarter shopper than that.