We first heard rumors about Bicycle Blue Book over the summer. We met them at Interbike, we perused their site and we learned a little about what they do. The idea is incredibly simple, create a system that accurately values used bikes and couple it with a safe place to buy and sell them. It’s one of those, “No one does that already?” ideas. But the reality is, no one was doing it and when new bikes can cost north of $10,000 we’d say it’s an idea whose time has truly come, so we wanted to learn more.
How do they arrive at these values and how do we know they are accurate? How does the sales process work and how is if ‘safer’? As bike’s get more and more expensive it does two things to the market – people are more inclined to sell their used bike rather than just let it get dusty in the garage and more people become interested in buying a high-end used bike. There is no question the current mass-market options, E-bay and Craig’s List, don’t serve riders well. On Craig’s List you will never get top dollar and there is no way to know if what you buy isn’t someone’s ill-gotten gain. And E-bay, well, these days it seems like a 50-50 proposition. When you sell something you wait for the bad news to roll in. The buyer sites ‘not as described’ after they race it for the weekend and send it back dirty, or the seller sends you a broken wheel set and tells you to take it up with UPS. No thanks. Needless to say, the Bicycle Blue Book could be the answer – as long as they deliver on all the promises.
We sat down with Bicycle Blue Book’s Ryan Yee for an interview to find out just what Bicycle Blue Book is all about and our first question was simple.
Just what is the Bicycle Blue Book?
Ryan Yee: Bicycle Blue Book is just two things, a valuation tool and a marketplace. The valuation is simple. It’s a way for you to go online and look up how much your bicycle is worth. We all have these expensive bicycles, we all know what we paid for them, but a year later, or two years later, what are they worth? We have done a ton of research, we have millions of data points, and we compiled it into an easy place for you to access online.
The second piece of what we created is a market place. Our founders saw that there wasn’t a good, safe place to sell bicycles, a place where the fees weren’t really high, where you could be sure of exactly what you were going to get. With our marketplace we keep the fees low and what you think you are buying you actually are going to get. We’ve gone the next step to, where we actually guarantee it.
What is the user experience? Take us through the process for someone that wants to list their used bike.
RY: The process is simple. If you have a bike in your garage you want to sell because you want to upgrade to the latest and greatest model we can help you. Say for example, you have a 2008 Madone. You go on the web site, pull up the valuation tool, select Trek, Madone, 2008, all the details, and we’ll show you exactly what that bike is worth today. If you want to sell that bike, there is a little button that says ‘List Your Bike’. Click on that button and it takes you directly to our market place, where it instructs you step by step, how to list your bike. You don’t have to guess which pictures to take, we tell you which six picture we want you to take. It’s for your security and also for the buyer’s. They get an accurate and detailed description of the bike you are listing.
Can you go in more detail about the value you put on these bikes and why you believe it is the most accurate?
RY: Our valuation model was created on the premise that people are often emotionally attached to their bikes, and until now, that was the value they stamped on them. For the first time Bicycle Blue Book has gone out there and done the research. We’ve got millions of different data points that are based on real transactions that will tell you exactly how much your bicycle is worth. We have a proprietary algorithm, we’ve spent an enormous amount of money developing, to go out there and scrape the Internet for data, for transactions. Anytime we receive a data update from one of our many sources it is updated live to the site, and the valuation is adjusted based on that point of sale.
How does the sales process work? How do you guarantee the bike is what the seller says it is?
RY: When another rider looks at your bike on the market place and decides they want to buy it they send you an offer. You can make a counter offer or accept their offer. Once you have agreed on a price you take your bike to one of our partner bike shops. For the first time, since the inception of the Internet we are driving customers to the bike shop.
The seller drops the bike off at their local partner shop for verification. The verification is for the buyer, so they know they are getting exactly what they think they are getting. The local shop makes sure the pictures match, the serial number hasn’t been tampered with, it’s not broken.
Once the bike has been verified and signed off by the bike shop, you get your money. You have two options then, you can ship the bike yourself or have the bike shop do it for you. It’s a $100 flat rate to ship with us, whether you do it yourself or the shop does it. We’ve pre-negotiated all the rates. Were confident in this process, we’ve gone through hundreds of transactions. We stand behind the sale and we guarantee the bike you saw in those pictures is the bike you are getting and it’s not stolen or broken or damaged and if it is we’re going to take care if it.
What if I can’t find my bike in your database?
RY: Our data is still improving, we are still collecting data. We’re a relatively new company and we are out there constantly getting new bikes in our database. If you are searching our database and you don’t find your bike what you can do is submit a custom quote. Email us, give us a detailed description of what bike you have – make, model, year – and we will go into our database and find out what it’s worth for you.
What if my local shop isn’t one of your partner shops?
RY: Our bike shop partnerships are growing incredibly fast, but if you sell a bike and we don’t have a partner in your neck of the woods yet what we have in place is a central shipping location. You can ship your bike to our location, we’ll inspect it there, and then we’ll ship it back out to the buyer, for the same $100 flat shipping fee. If you have a bike shop you think is a standout in your neighborhood we’d love to know about it, you can recommend them and see if they want to partner with us.
Tell us a little about the company. Are you all riders or just business guys?
RY: At our core we are cyclists, we’re people that love cycling. A good example is all our conference calls just discussing the day-to-day operations. For the first part of the call were usually just talking about bikes. We run through the bikes that were riding, the trails we ride, the group rides we’ve been on. We’re cyclists at heart. Between the founders there are probably fifty years of bike riding experience.
In a nutshell, Bicycle Blue Book is just two tools, we’re a free valuation tool that you access and look at prices for new bikes, used bikes, see what your bike’s worth. And we’re a marketplace where you can sell or buy used bikes in a safe, trusted manner. As a buyer Bicycle Blue Book is your best friend. You no longer have to worry if the bike you look at online is going to be the bike you actually get. We guarantee that at Bicycle Blue Book.
After my chat with Ryan I headed over to bicyclebluebook.com and started poking around. I started with the 2008 Madone he mentioned. A 2008 Trek Madone 6.5 retailed for $5830 when new with Dura Ace and Bontrager carbon bar and stem and their Race X Lite wheels. Today, in excellent condition, that same bike is worth $2447. That seems pretty accurate, certainly not too high or low, a fair price. The genius of the Bicycle Blue Book is what happened next. For the following two hours I looked up bike after bike. The 2010 Cannondale CAAD 9 I raced a couple years back ($1225 in good condition because it was dented after a guy pulled a pedal on the club ride sprinting for a sign and took two of us out.) The gorgeous 2004 Merlin Extralight I never should have sold ($2016 in excellent condition because it was my baby).
If you love bikes, the site is a lot of fun. Sure, the search could be easier. The pull-down menus are huge and when you want to find a Trek Madone you have to scroll right to the bottom, though hundreds of listings. While the vast majority of bikes are in there, some don’t have complete specs just yet. We imagine this will rapidly get resolved as the site sees more traffic and that proprietary algorithm of theirs continues to crunch numbers. The bottom line is, the Bicycle Blue Book is already the definitive site for bike value, on one hand, because no one else is doing it, but on the other because they appear to be doing it very well. While the Marketplace clearly needs time to add users and bikes to be truly comprehensive, the early adopters have filled it with some interesting listings, from Trek Madones to Specialized Enduros, from Wilier GranTurismos to Fuji Cross bikes.
Spend a few minutes checking out your bike’s value, and were willing to bet two hours later you will still be on the site looking at bike after bike and finally finding out the value of that Pinarello Dogma Di2 the rich guy on the group ride has. It’s addictive good fun.