Tips For a Successful Swap Meet

Our favorite day of the year is almost here, it’s time for the bike swap.  Obviously we will have this on our list of weekend cycling events this afternoon, but in celebration of the impending swap, we thought that we would provide you with some tips for making sure that you come home with a box full of useful parts, as opposed to a box of junk.

So take notes, follow along (and don’t forget to hit up the ATM).

1) Come prepared. – Before you head up to Blaine there are a few things that you should do at home to get ready beginning with remembering what you have at home.  If your basement looks anything like ours, there are some things tucked away in corners or in tubs, that you completely forgot that you had.  Take about a half hour to dig through some of your boxes and bags, to remember what you already bought for future projects, that you never quite got around to.

2) Bring cash. – Don’t be the jackass asking every seller if you can pay for something with a check.  It is one thing if you are buying a thousand dollar time trial bike, but whipping out the checkbook for a $10 saddle, come on.  Many sellers really don’t want to take a check from you anyway so if you can swing it, bring a wallet full of cash, you can always put it back into the bank after it’s over.  Also this will keep you from spending what you don’t have on a bike you don’t need.

3) Make a list. – While you are rooting around in your basement, take some notes, of what you would possibly need, and don’t forget to try to figure out what would be compatible with your current bike.  Make up a list of what you are looking for and then take a look at the list periodically when you are walking around the swap meet room.  This will keep you focused on what you really need and keeps you from getting distracted.  We have come home before with a car full of parts, most of which just find a spot in the corner of the basement.

4) Be realistic and know what to expect. – You are not going to find a Shimano Di2 slightly used for $50. Swap meets are quite a bit different in the internet age, these days people will sell higher quality stuff on eBay or Craigslist and make a lot more money from it than they can at the swap meet, but if you are looking for some downtube shifters for that 1980’s re-build you are working on, you might just have your pick.

5) Timing is everything. – You need to be sure to prioritize what you absolutely need to have, and what just seems like a good deal.  Remember vendors there got up at the crack of dawn, packed up their cars, hauled a bunch of stuff they no longer want all the way up to Blaine, they do not want to go home with it.  Cash is easier to pack up than parts are so as time is winding down, walk around see how much (or little) people are willing to take. Unless your money is all gone, there is no reason to leave the swap meet before it is over.

6) Good time to stock up on tools and consumables. – There will be a number of bike shops at the swap that are trying to get rid of old tools and overstocked tire and tubes. You can never have enough inner tubes and they don’t really go bad, so if you see a deal stock up.  With tools, you can buy them much cheaper used than you can new and the functionality hasn’t much changed.  Guess what? A truing stand from 1983 works pretty much exactly the same as one manufactured last year.

7) Don’t be afraid to ask questions. – The folks selling to parts want them gone, so if you have a question about something just ask.

8 ) Have fun and get excited for spring!  The real reason why we love the swap meet so much is because it means that spring is right around the corner.

Eight seems like a good place to stop.  We will be there for most of the day so if you see someone rocking the CTC button (see below), come on up and say hi!

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