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Big takeaway from the Seattle Bike Swap: Now is the time to buy a bike

Two wide shots from a second-floor balcony showing the bike swap below.

After years of major supply issues and high demand pushing the price of bikes out of reach for many people, prices have come crashing back down. This trend has been going on for much of the past year, which is one reason why so many bike shops in town are having a tough time or are closing entirely. But the extent of the price drop was on full display during Cascade Bicycle Club’s annual Seattle Bike Swap at Seattle Center over the weekend.

In fact, prices were dropping before our eyes during the swap, especially in the e-bike area. Vendors from a number of e-bike shops and makers were there to give people a chance to test ride bikes and get a deal on stale stock. But many of the price tags had hand-written price drops on them as the vendors tried to stay competitive with each other for similar products. It was like an old-fashioned gas price war between neighboring filling stations, except for e-bikes. The Bike Swap just so happened to coincide with a major sale from Rad Power Bikes, the budget e-bike industry leader in the U.S., who were selling bikes for some rather ridiculous prices. The RadTrike, an electric cargo tricycle, is currently listed on their website for $1,500, for example. A RadWagon longtail cargo bike is $1,800. A vendor for a different e-bike company near the Rad Power table told me they went ahead and marked some of their bikes down to the wholesale price.

Of course, this isn’t great news for the industry. But if you’ve been thinking about getting a bike, there are legitimately some great deals to be had at essentially every price level. My advice is to start by heading to a local bike shop to see what deals they have on the floor or what deals they can get from their wholesale suppliers. You may be surprised.


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But the Bike Swap didn’t just show that e-bike prices are down. The price of a functional used pedal bike has also come back down to earth. As the supply of new bikes dried up during the early years of the pandemic, demand for used bikes also increased significantly. At points, it seemed like the price floor for any bike in riding condition was $500 or more. “Quality” used bikes, which I would define as any fully serviceable bike in decent condition (excludes many department store bikes and bikes with outdated proprietary parts), started even higher. But the consignment area at the Bike Swap showed that those days are over. I saw many quality bikes starting at $350 or so, which is much closer to the direct-sale price we were used to before the pandemic (buying from a shop, which includes professional service and a warranty, usually costs more). Quality used bikes are the lifeblood of urban cycling, providing an affordable entry point for a bike that is reliable and maintainable. For less than the average cost of owning a car for one month, you can buy a bike that will last for many years.

My advice for anyone looking for an affordable used bike, especially if you are new to cycling, is to buy from a local used bike shop rather than an online marketplace. Not only will the bikes be professionally maintained and warrantied, but they can also help you figure out the right size for your body. You can also test ride several to see what feels best.


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13 responses to “Big takeaway from the Seattle Bike Swap: Now is the time to buy a bike”

  1. Anita L Elder

    My husband thought he’d have to pay over $2K for an e-bike and I convinced him to go to the bike swap. He ended up buying a Propella e-bike that usually sells for $1K for only $500 simply because it was used as a test ride bike and had 134 miles on it. He took it on an inaugural ride yesterday and said riding up Stone Way in Wallingford was well worth the $500!

  2. Glenn

    At what point was the price for any rideable bike starting at $500? Target and Dick’s Sporting Goods have been selling new bikes in the $250-$400 range for forever, and you can test them like in any bike shop. You could even save a couple of bucks on top of that by buying online on Amazon or something, as long as you were willing to assemble it by yourself (visit a tool library maybe).

    1. Mike

      $500 was a general overview for a quality bike in a shop. During covid average pricing was closer to $600. Usually plus or minus 10% for the Treks and Specializeds vs the Fuji and Gts. The industry kinda replacates the big 3 in auto.

  3. Anthony Avery

    I was in the market for a family e-bike to haul my twins around on. Rad marked down their refurbished RadWagon they brought to $1500+accessories. I’m so thrilled to be able to bike my kids to school and around town! The bus has been good, but bikes just give us so much more freedom.

  4. Robert D Freeman

    E-Bike Expo?? The incidence of obesity in the US is above 40% as of 2020. Probably worse now. Promoting the purchase and use of electric powered bikes doesn’t help this terrible statistic. Traditional bikes (or as you call them, “pedal bikes”) can help a person keep their weight under control. Electric bikes make people lazy. Anybody can ride a traditional bike. Cascade Bicycle club now allows electric bikes on all their rides. This is a mistake. If anything, they should have separate rides for electric bike users. Apparently they feel this is discriminatory, which is as it should be.
    Bob Freeman, Cascade President 1980 and still riding 6000 miles a year on traditional bikes.

    1. Adam

      This is the type of exclusionary attitude that is thankfully dwindling within the cycling community. Not only should we welcome anyone who is willing to join us on a bike, you are completely wrong about health and exercise benefits of riding an e-bike, and making the declaration that anybody can ride a traditional bike. There are plenty of studies that show that riding e-bikes provide tremendous health and exercise benefits, and that injuries and health conditions that prevent some people from riding a traditional bike, but can ride an e-bike.

      https://news.byu.edu/intellect/e-bikes-provide-intense-exercise-but-it-doesnt-feel-like-a-workout

      https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2214140516303930

      https://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/trec_reports/187/

      https://journals.lww.com/acsm-tj/Fulltext/2021/04150/Metabolic_and_Cardiovascular_Responses_to_a.5.aspx?context=LatestArticles

      https://www.peopleforbikes.org/news/the-health-benefits-of-electric-bikes

    2. Jeff

      Your comment assumes that people only purchase a bike for recreational riding and exercise. Even if they did, as Adam backed up with data, there are still health benefits of riding an e-bike.

      For some a bike is an alternative mode of transportation that is more affordable then a car with the added benefit of being a cleaner and safer mode of transportation. My e-bike has allowed my family to dramatically reduce our dependency on driving as I can now shuttle 110 lbs of kids around town.

      Jeff, Cascade member since 2015 and still riding 2000 miles a year on a traditional bike while also taking another car off the road by using an e-bike.

    3. Al Dimond

      I’m far from the biggest e-bike cheerleader out there (and quite unlikely to own one any time soon) but… on the roads and paths I ride it’s pretty clear that e-bikes have had a positive impact on our city and its bike community. E-bikes have brought in new riders with new perspectives that use bikes for things they wouldn’t have had any notion of doing before. New riders that haven’t yet been beaten down by years of being pushed to the side by cars into accepting the bad state we’re in, that expect better. That’s good for all of us, no matter what we ride. Within the bike industry we can only hope that the e-bike sector’s focus on practicality for everyday riding rubs off on the rest of it.

      As far as the question of “obesity” goes… the relationship between weight or body shape and health is not the straight line some people make it out to be. There’s some pretty compelling evidence out there that one of the worst things that people can do for their health is to focus on weight, chasing externally-imposed ideals… and yet they’re badgered to do so from all sides, even within the health-care world. And there’s a lot of evidence that getting outside and being active routinely is usually good for health, regardless of weight or body shape, and regardless of its effect on weight or body shape. E-bikes are almost certainly getting more people outside turning the cranks routinely, which is usually going to be good for physical and mental health.

    4. Keith

      Just grumpy old man thinking from someone who refuses to evolve. Everybody who doesn’t believe as you do is automatically lazy and shouldn’t be allowed to ride with the real bicyclists like you. Cascade Bicycle Club is lucky that you are not setting policy or they would be in a death spiral. People choose to ride bikes of different types for many different reasons and e-bikes are dramatically expanding the ranks of bicyclists and getting people of many different backgrounds outside and exercising.

    5. Dirt McGirt

      What an absolute antiquated and terrible take, Bob. Please don’t mention Cascade in the same breath as that horrific take. Cascade is a wonderful organization full of folks that want to get more people on bikes more often, unlike you from the sounds of it.

      Here’s where your ill-informed prejudice is showing: a proper shop-quality ebike will still need to be pedaled and can be pedaled by more people than those thin enough by your standards to ride an acoustic bike in this town. You would know this and thusly be able to form an actual opinion on ebikes if you had ever gotten on one.

      I think your main issue might be that you look at bikes as fun time toys for the weekend or group rides. This is the most american car-brained way of looking at bikes and that standpoint needs to go.

      I ride every day all year long for transportation. And guess what? I’m fat. 6’2″ 275lb at last check. And I’m putting in more miles than you per year on my ebike because I sold my car that I only had for 2 years to begin with because my ebike made that car obsolete. I don’t just ride for funsies, Bob. I’m out there in the trenches rain or shine every day with purpose.

      You need to check that gate-keeping attitude of yours and toss it in the dust bin of history where it belongs.

      Grow up, Bob. Good lord.

  5. Mike Scott

    I’m 68 not on one yet still competitive. but a lot are not blessed. e is the way for any one with the need. don’t point the finger until uve. tried it.. then u can talk objectively.. loveing my stumpy evo….

  6. paul tolme

    Thanks for the great story as usual, Tom, and thanks to all the commenters who view e-bikes as powerful tools for both car-replacing transportation and as inclusivity machines that allow more people of all biking abilities to get outside for healthy recreation and exercise. Check out photos from the Seattle Bike Swap and E-Bike Expo here. The smiles are all the proof necessary: https://cascade.org/news/2024/02/swapping-stories-bike-swap-photo-album

  7. Richard Howard

    Yay for reasonable bike prices! Here’s a great article in The New Yorker from a few years ago about cycling in Holland — primarily about the mood and consciousness shift that’s required for folks from automobile-privileged cultures to get with the program and into the flow when cycling in a city like Amsterdam. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/personal-history/how-i-learned-to-cycle-like-a-dutchman

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