Did a writeup on this a couple of months back:
Original post: http://burnmetal.wordpress.com/2010/...-garage-sales/
Hope it helps.
On Dumpster Diving and Garage Sales
Every Frankenbiker, junk-yard, and freak-bike maker knows one thing. You need parts! You always need parts! Several people have asked me how much each of my projects cost (or how much it would cost to buy a Tall-Bike in a shop! Ha!). My typical answer is, “Besides the paint (gosh-darned money sink!!!), not much.” The bikes are usually free or a couple of dollars. The parts are salvaged off other bikes. When I can’t get the part off another bike, I’ll buy it new for around 10 to 20 dollars. The Tall-Bike project has probably cost me about 30 to 40 dollars and that is mainly in the form of new tires and tubes.
With that in mind, and before I get into the specifics of how to locate parts, I want to touch on what you might have to buy new. Tires, tubes, and chains are the first thing to go in neglected bikes. Rubber rots and the chains tend to rust the most. While chain rings and cogs will rust pretty quickly as well, you can usually salvage them. Chains need to bend and flow smoothly and I’ve found that it’s easier to buy a new chain for around 10 dollars than to try and salvage it. Often times, I’ll fully change out the brake lines (or derailleur lines) as well, because of these same issues. Beyond this, plenty of Acetone, bearing grease and CLP (i.e. Break Free, Cleaning-Lube-Protectant) are a must. In the Corps, I hated CLP! It wouldn’t clean as well as the solvents and it took forever to get a rifle to inspection-ready with it. But I rely on that stuff now, more than ever. Often times you can get a rusty, gritty, freewheel cogset clean by just putting it through a CLP rinse. I really need to buy a jug of the stuff, the little cans go too quickly.
Alright! On to the fun stuff… “The Hunt” as we call it! The two main ways to get bikes for parts or base structures is through garage sales and dumpster dives / landfill roams. Let me immediately say that Criagslist is absolute crap for this purpose!!! While you can get a good, ready-to-go, bike from CL for a good price, you cannot reliably get junk parts cheap. Too many CL’sters want to get a large return on their purchases. You’ll have people buy a walmart bike for 70 dollars and try to get 50 back for it! Their cries of “Ridden seldom and only dropped once” translate into “Left in the backyard to rust and rot.” I’ve found that it’s just not worth the trouble. Stick to the couple of blocks around you for what you need.
Garage Sales: Time – Saturdays; Enemy – Housewives and old Biddies : You can’t plan for this hunt. Stay away from the newspapers and (again) Craigslist (anything listed will be picked over clean). Get up early and start driving around your neighborhood. You’ll see plenty of signs. When I say early, I mean it. Be out of the door around 7:30. Most sales start at 8 and end in the early afternoon. If you don’t get out early, the sales will be picked clean. Those little old ladies never sleep…. they’re always roaming the streets looking for “deals.” Creep the hell outa me….
Take about twenty dollars with you. For a VERY GOOD bike, I will pay at max 10 dollars. For a crap bike, I might pay 5, if that. If they want more, drive on. You’re not here to buy a good bike, you just need that crank-arm! Also bring a good adjustable wrench. Typically that is all you’ll need, though a set of allen wrenches and a good hammer doesn’t hurt either. You just need to take off the front wheel and maybe do some other adjustments to get it in your car or truck (or hatchback!).
Now here’s an interesting fact that I’ve found. To begin with, good bikes are the first thing to go. If you don’t get to a sale that has a bike by 9 oclock, chances are someone else has picked it off before you. Now! If a bike hasn’t been bought before 9 or so, chances are it’s a complete rusted pile of junk. These aren’t always bad, you can typically salvage them and bring them back from the brink. If you wait until a garage sale is about to end, you can typically snag these bikes for free (they were going to throw them away anyway). I got two Huffy bikes and a 1980 Schwinn Suburban like this. They couldn’t sell it and when I stopped by and asked the price, they just said to take it! One Huffy is the top part of my current tall bike, and I’m restoring the Schwinn Suburban (had a bit of rust on the handlebars, that’s it. Actually was never ridden and still had the original manual attached to it). All of that being said, I don’t recommend waiting until the end of the afternoon. Too risky… Places close early and you can never rely on a person just giving stuff up. Instead, get out early and hit the sales until about 4 in the afternoon. You’ll get great stuff in the morning and a chance for free stuff in the afternoon.
Dumpster Diving and Landfills: Time – Depends on pickup, Enemy – Winos, Store Managers, junk-yard Dogs and Tetanus!!!: First off, it is actually illegal to dive into a dumpster without permission. My buddy, Chad, back in highschool, found some metal ladels behind the fast food joint that he worked for. Took them home and got fired the next day for “stealing.” So, what do you do? First off, a real good way to find used bikes for free is to cruise the alleyways (or curbs, depending on where trash is left). Do this the day before the local pickup. People will throw away perfectly good bikes. Now! Before you just take it, make sure you go and ask permission. This is other people’s property and they might, honestly, have just parked there bike there. Don’t be an arse….
Dumpsters at apartment complexes are great for this as well. Head out before a trash pickup, and you’ll see them parked right next to the dumpster or inside the box. Be careful… don’t get hurt… I hear that the dumpsters behind the Goodwill stores are good for this as well. Many people donate their bikes to goodwill only to have the bikes thrown away because they don’t work properly. Again… go inside and ask permission (I cannot stress this enough…). I hear that Landfills are great for this as well. I just haven’t tried it yet. The idea is to go just AFTER a pickup and look through the area for salvagable parts. Talk with your local landfill manager for public times and rules. If you want a really great rundown on Dumpster Diving, I recommend Lars Eighner’s writeup (found here) on it (Thanks Mr. Dunkin for making us read this in highschool!)
What to look for: So, what exactly are you looking for? For me, it’s pretty much any adult bike. 24 inch on the small end, 26 / 700 on the high end. I don’t pick up kid’s bikes as I honestly have no use for them. They don’t swap out parts very well and I like to leave those for the families that really need it (kids grow out of bikes so quickly, a single kids bike will pass hands through many different families before its thrown away). You’ll never know when you will need a part, so keep a good stock handy. I was working on my tall-bike and found out one of the cranks that I was using didn’t fit the particular bottom-bracket that I was trying to stick it in to. I went through my bike pile and found a crank that fit perfectly. This saves you a lot of time, effort, and money in the long run and is quite fun while you’re hunting.
Heck, you might even find a couple of bikes worth restoring (can get a pretty good turnaround for those…)