It’s no secret that Vermonters like to bike. Cycle paths and trails crisscross our urban and rural landscapes. And biking’s not just a recreational activity anymore — rising gas prices and concerns about global warming have prompted more of us to commute using pedal power.
But buying a bike can be expensive, especially if you’re looking for one you can take to the trails at Mill Stone Hill  in Barre. If you want to find a two-wheeler that won’t bust your budget — or if you want to sell one for quick cash — now’s the time to do it. Four local bike shops are hosting swaps this weekend.
Never been to a bike swap? Here’s how it works: If you’ve got a bike to sell, drop it off at the store beforehand and decide on what you consider a fair price. If someone buys your bike, the retailer will give you a percentage of the take, give you store credit toward a new ride, or both. If you’d like to buy a bike, show up at the appointed hour and browse the selection. The earlier you arrive, the more options you’ll have.
Burlington’s North Star Sports  inaugurated Vermont’s swap season with its sale last Saturday. The sunny and unseasonably warm weather was perfect for the occasion. The staff hung about 80 secondhand rides on tall wooden sawhorses in the parking lot across the street from the Main Street store. The swap started at 10 a.m. By 11, some of the sawhorse racks were bare.
Staffers in blue shirts talked with college students, parents and others looking for deals. Potential customers who wanted to take a test drive signed waivers and turned over their drivers’ licenses.
Owner Pat Miller said this is the fifth year North Star has held a swap. The event certainly drew shoppers into the family-owned store — Miller took a break from frantically ringing up sales to talk to a reporter. “It’s great for us,” she said. She pointed out that North Star uses the swap as a fundraiser: Last year, the store donated $1500 in proceeds to the Make-A-Wish Foundation . This year, it raised money for the Cystic Fibrosis Lifestyle Association .
Miller reported that the number of swap cycles was up slightly this year. Often, she said, parents bring in perfectly good bikes their kids have outgrown. Sometimes customers want to swap an old bike so they can upgrade to a new one. And sometimes, she explained delicately, customers haul in cycles after experiencing “a lifestyle change,” meaning they can’t or don’t want to ride their pricey mountain bike anymore.
“There’s a lot of really nice bikes out there,” Miller said.
North Star staffer Kevin Bouchard agreed — and offered to point out some of the best deals on display. His first pick was a stunt bike, a black matte We the People Thrillseeker  that was selling for $259. Gleaming metal stunt pegs protruded from the centers of its front and rear wheels. “I think this one’s a really good deal,” he said, “because these wheels right here normally go for $200 a set.”
Next to the Thrillseeker was a worn pink Schwinn  that Bouchard guessed was 20 years old. It was selling for $10. Bouchard also pointed out a 5-year-old blue-and-black Giant Yukon , a men’s trail bike with a price tag of $175. It would run $479 new. Next to that hung a tan Trek 7300 , a “comfort bike” that you might ride to work. The seller was asking $249. New, it would cost about twice that.
The most expensive bike on the lot was a used orange LeMond  racing model, which weighed just 8 pounds and looked only slightly used. It was listed at $3400, but Bouchard said that was actually a steal of sorts. “A bike like that could go for as much as a new crotch rocket, or a car,” he said, estimating the price at 10 grand.
UVM senior Montana Burns walked away with something more reasonably priced. She found a green 21-speed Mt. Shasta that was 10 to 15 years old. “It’s in great shape,” she said proudly, pointing to her purchase. “It looks like they just tuned it up. And it fits perfect. It was love at first sight.”
The best thing about the bike? “It was $70,” Burns said.