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  1. #1
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    Favorite less-expensive but light steel bikes?

    I decided you all were the folks to ask this question after spending some time reading the threads.

    I'm looking to find a good used bike that I can use in the friendly streets of NYC & Brooklyn. Ideally I want one which is;
    1. comfortable to ride - i'm thinking steel.
    2. fairly quick (25 lbs or so - this is also important because i will have to carry and lift the bike quite a bit).
    3. good enough that i won't be constantly looking to replace it with something lighter.
    4. not-so-good that it will be a tempting bike to steal or too expensive to buy (~$300?) or wasted on a talentless rider like myself.

    i see on these threads that some bikes are high-interest (schwinn paramount etc). what are the quite good (strong and light) but not top-notch good older bikes that tend to sell for below what you think they're worth on craigslist or ebay? (which peugot or bianchi or motobecane or somesuch but not cannondale or other thief-magnet)?

    to give you an idea of what i am looking for - i emailed a guy about a used bianchi san jose but didn't hear back. i'd also be happy to ride something from the 80s or 90s.

    ideally i will end up setting it up with an 8 speed hub and maybe some bullhorn bars. a ride to the library or down to coney island or occasional commuter kind of bicycle to balance my little 1 speed folding bike that i keep at work. so i wouldn't want to be defacing some super-classic rare collectable bike (even if i could afford it). : )

    and perhaps extra-ideally the bike would have a generous top-tube to standover height ratio, since i have kind of short legs for someone 6'.

  2. #2
    Senior Gumby fbagatelleblack's Avatar
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    Look for an old Univega, Panasonic or Nishiki. Any of the models which came equipped with 700C wheels should meet your criteria, although some very well maintained/restored top-end models might be outside your pricerange.

    Also look at Bridgestones. They are sometimes harder to find, but they do have long top tubes.

    - FBB

  3. #3
    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    I think I may have the bike you're looking for: a late 80s Trek 660. By this time, Trek had switched to True Temper, which many think was as good as Reynolds 531 but didn't have the provenance. Trek also had longer geometries (mine is 52 ctc ST but 54.5 ctc TT: perfect for a short legged 5'10" like me).

    I have mine set up as a fixed gear but I may eventually throw an old 9speed Ultegra group on it.
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  4. #4
    seńor member seaneee's Avatar
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    Bridgestone was an excellent suggestion, they can be a bit harder to find, but they are great bikes. Even some of the mid level models were nice. I had a 400 (RIP), that I loved.

  5. #5
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    Schwinn Traveler would an excellent option, +1 on Bridgestone, especially the 400 (I found one of these in excellent condition at a thrift store for a few bucks), You could also check out the Dawes Lightening Sport from ebay seller Chickabike. I have owned one of these for a little over two years and for $250.00 delivered it has been excellent.
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  6. #6
    Prodigal road guy MajorA's Avatar
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    Look for any of a number of Japanese bikes from the '80's; signs to look for include bikes stickered as having been made made with Tange tubing (yeah, I realize that there are different grades, but it's a starting place) and/or equipped with Shimano 105, Shimano 600, Suntour Cyclone, or similar. Brands include Fuji, Centurion, Nishiki, Miyata and others. Schwinns from that era with comparable equipment (Prelude, Le Tour) get good remarks here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by juggleandhope View Post
    what are the quite good (strong and light) but not top-notch good older bikes that tend to sell for below what you think they're worth on craigslist or ebay? (which peugot or bianchi or motobecane or somesuch but not cannondale or other thief-magnet)?
    I find it curious that you would regard a Cannondale as more of a thief-magnet than the others, but I think I follow the question.

    Univegas definitely fit your bill. I own three. I'd also consider some other Schwinn models from the mid- and late 80s, including Premis and Tempo. I sometimes see them selling for less than Traveller and LeTour, which are better-known names, but were lower in the lineup.

  8. #8
    Muscle bike design spec robtown's Avatar
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    My 85 Schwinn Prelude is only 22 lbs and is fast. I may end up keeping her or making her my new fixie [I just got a carbon tt bar that would work on my old-school CF Miyata that's my current fixie].
    Here is my craigslist to get an idea - I have approx $270 sunk into her now.

    http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/n...379146411.html
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  9. #9
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    Big fan of the Reynolds 531 Raleigh USA Grand Prix. Doesn't carry the cachet of a Carlton Raleigh with collectors, and in purple and light green it has a very '80s (read: unstylish) look. Rides very well, not too hard to find.
    One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach -- all the damn vampires.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Bikedued's Avatar
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    Centurion, ala 80's yellow and purple, etc. Also a Prelude, Le Tour, or anything else mid range later 80's Schwinn. Find one, tear it down, and paint it flat black, and reassemble. The only problem is that if a bike guy can spot good components, some thieves can too. A no name single color paint job will do alot. No candies or pearl laden clearcoats. A beacon that the bike is highly thought of.,,,,BD
    The one good thing about black cork wrap is that it's better than nothing.

  11. #11
    Senior Member DVC45's Avatar
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    I think anything on the frame with names like Columbus, Waterford, Reynolds and Vitus is a good start.

  12. #12
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    Raleigh Sprites are quite excellent for the purpose. Not too heavy, though they could stand to drop a couple pounds by upgrading the cottered cranks to something newer. Pretty common, too, I see a lot of 'em go in the $20-$40 range.

    Centurion is good too, I love my old Lemans.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Bikedued's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DVC45 View Post
    I think anything on the frame with names like Columbus, Waterford, Reynolds and Vitus is a good start.
    He wants something that "isn't" a thief magnet.,,,,BD
    The one good thing about black cork wrap is that it's better than nothing.

  14. #14
    Disraeli Gears Charles Wahl's Avatar
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    I just overpaid for a 80s Nishiki Prestige. Nice frame in good shape, with fender eyelets, but I didn't realize that it had crummy wheels until I was standing there with the guy, my money in my hand, and I'd taken an hour train ride out to Westchester to pick it up. Gave them away. BB shot, too, and maybe needs a new headset. Since I'm planning to convert it to singlespeed, I'll sell off the derailleurs, Shimano 600 in decent shape, once I clean them up (but won't expect much). Bars were stock, but cramped and narrow in that 80's way, so they went too. And the seat was really uncomfortable. Strange that the bike had Campy Super Record cranks, though 172.5s, too long for me -- they're up for auction.

    One attraction of the Nishiki is that it's already totally black, but too many Nishiki logos on it. Ah, well.

    But enough about me: there seem to be decent deals here on CraigsList if you're patient. Also, take a look at www.greatusedbikes.com, who delivers and has good word-of-mouth -- a lot of decent old rides for less than $250. Check out their Crescent, with curved top tube + delicate seat stays, sn***y orange with sixties graphics. I almost bought it, but it has an Ashtabula type crank (could be retrofitted), and might be a bit small for me (I fit a 57-ish). He advertises on CL, as does another "bike recycling" outfit in Sheepshead Bay. A lot of fixies and SS for sale in NYC also, at a bit more $.

    A guy in Park Slope just put a (80s?) Motobecane Grand Tour up on CL, yellow or gold, and it was still there tonight $200 obo. I have half a mind to go see it tomorrow. Looks like the size you'd want, too.

  15. #15
    Senior Gumby fbagatelleblack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Wahl View Post
    A guy in Park Slope just put a (80s?) Motobecane Grand Tour up on CL, yellow or gold, and it was still there tonight $200 obo. I have half a mind to go see it tomorrow. Looks like the size you'd want, too.
    If I remember correctly, the Grand Tour was not the greatest touring bike. Swaged crank, mid-range drivetrain, center pull brakes (not cantis). It did have the nice Weinmann concave rims, but $200 still seems high...

    BTW: I had a friend who rode across the USA on one of these, and it never let her down...

    - FBB

    PS: I'm not senile quite yet. I was checking out CL right after I posted this, and lookey here:

    http://losangeles.craigslist.org/lac/bik/383175296.html

    It is a Grand Touring, just as I remembered it...
    Last edited by fbagatelleblack; 07-27-07 at 10:55 PM.

  16. #16
    Disraeli Gears Charles Wahl's Avatar
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    Correction: the bike I saw on CraigsList in NYC is a Motobecane Grand Record, not Grand Tour[ing]. Shimano 600. Here's the link:
    http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/bik/382416214.html

    It's sold; just spoke to the (previous) owner.
    Last edited by Charles Wahl; 07-28-07 at 08:57 AM. Reason: breaking news

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    The best affordable bikes ever made were the "Made in Japan" road bikes of the 1986 to 1990 era. Lugged steel frames. Nice steel forks. "Complete" bikes with a "real world" weight of 22 or 23 pounds (which is close to the "real world" weight of today's road bikes in the $600 to $800 price range).

    Just look for bikes with lugged steel frames and a Shimano Ultegra, Shimano 600, Shimano 105, or Sun Tour drivetrain and downtube shifters. And look for the "Made in Japan" sticker. Weigh the bike...the best ones will weigh under 25 pounds, including "loaded touring" bikes, such as the Centurion Pro Tour.

    AVOID French-made bikes. The true "Made in France" bikes often used a French drivetrain....the worst of the worst. And, they used French sizes for various components, including some seat post sizes that are no longer in production...it can be hard to get parts that fit.

    Those "Made in Japan" bikes are available under zillions of names, including Schwinn Super Sport, Schwinn Peloton, Centurion Dave Scott, Panasonic Team...look in enough Goodwill and Salvation Army stores, and you might find one for under $50.

    Be "fussy" about the condition of the bike. When I see a bike from 1985, it tends to be in two categories. Some look "almost like new". The bike got used for a summer, and was then put in a closet for twenty years. A light tune-up and wheel truing is all this bike needs.

    And, there are the old bikes that have been ridden hard and put up wet for every day of those twenty years. Restoring them to good riding shape can cost $200 or $300...far more than makes sense.
    Last edited by alanbikehouston; 07-28-07 at 10:29 AM.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Grand Bois's Avatar
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    Nobody mentioned Fuji. I think highly of them. Even the low to midrange bikes with Valite tubing are nicely made and fairly light.

    I paid $16.50 + $25 shipping for my wife's bike. Obviously I've put a few dollars into it, but I used mostly used parts.


  19. #19
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    It seems that a lot of people agree that the best way to go might be Japanese. I would also suggest you look for something with Suntour components. Most bike thieves weren't born when Suntour went out of business, so they probably won't know that Suntour made some excellent stuff.
    I recently picked up this 1989 Centurion Ironman with Suntour GPX for $120. My only problem with it is the lowest gear is 42T/24. An old man with bad knees has no business trying to maneuver the hills around here with that kind of gearing. I might just slap some aerobars on it and make it my flatlander bike. But the way it has been raining, I may have to put pontoons on instead.
    Last edited by CardiacKid; 07-28-07 at 01:46 PM.

  20. #20
    Senior Gumby fbagatelleblack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dirtdrop View Post
    Wow! What a beautiful build! I hate to hijack the thread, but that bike is just lovely!

    I saw the two photos on the link you posted. Are there others?

    I am sure that Cyclofiend would love to post photos on the "Current Classics" page of his website,
    http://www.cyclofiend.com/cc/, and many folks would love to see them there.

    Nice work!

    - FBB

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    thank you

    thanks very much for all this advice. a lot of good leads and i will hopefully eventually find something good (ideally through craigslist or someone around here but ebay if necessary) and post pictures. unfortunately i've not seen any thrift store bicycles since i got to nyc. and i've been in a number of thrift stores.

    i've made a list of particular suggestions and also have a set of criteria now (japanese, certain components) and will keep checking back to see if anyone adds anything new. did people agree with the anti-french suggestion?

    it seems like a lot of great bikes were made in the 80s and 90s (and earlier) but that only the rare exception is remembered at all. i guess that's how memory goes. i think that's part of my attraction in this quest - to find the inadequately recognized goodness and enjoy it (and probably then to congratulate myself and you all on our greater understanding).

    my new question - after reading stuff about the 650b wheels - is whether i could use them to lower the standover height of a bicycle so that i could get a top tube that fit me better. sheldon brown kind of ambiguously cites that as a virtue of the wheel size but then says that it might not actually (need to?) affect standover. i'll search some more threads and if i can't find anything (and no one has a quick answer here) i'll post a new thread somewhere.

    thanks again.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by juggleandhope View Post
    my new question - after reading stuff about the 650b wheels - is whether i could use them to lower the standover height of a bicycle so that i could get a top tube that fit me better. sheldon brown kind of ambiguously cites that as a virtue of the wheel size but then says that it might not actually (need to?) affect standover.
    Sure, a 650B wheel will lower your standover. Effective rim diameter is 584mm versus 622 for 700c wheels or 630 for 27" wheels. One problem I've had in looking to convert bikes to 650B is that you need a fairly high bottom bracket in the first place or the result will be too low and you'll have pedal strike problems as you pedal through turns. Another issue is brake reach. If the bike was originally made for 27" wheels, you'd be hard pressed to find brakes that'll offer an additional 23mm reach (630-584/2). Going from 700c to 650B is much more do-able, but again you'd need brakes with longer reach (14mm).

    Lots of good info on 650B conversions at these sites:

    http://sheldonbrown.com/650b.html
    http://www.bikeman.com/content/blogcategory/78/93/
    http://www.freewebs.com/650b/index.htm

    Neal

  23. #23
    Disraeli Gears Charles Wahl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by juggleandhope View Post
    my new question - after reading stuff about the 650b wheels - is whether i could use them to lower the standover height of a bicycle so that i could get a top tube that fit me better.
    I'd be leery of this, because of the clearance and brake issues stated above. If you have shorter inseam and longer torso than the norm, you can get a frame with reasonable standover and 700C or 27" wheels, and stretch the "reach" dimension by moving seat back on rails (within reason) and getting a handlebar stem with greater reach dimension. That's a lot cheaper than replacing a lot of more expensive parts (including the 650b wheels). Sheldon Brown has fairly unlimited access to parts and good deals!

    And, depending on your age (speaking here as an old f**t), you might want a more upright posture, with less reach, and more elevation to the bars anyway; in that case a taller stem than you're likely to find on an old "racer" is in order. This is affected by bar selection too -- the Nitto Moustache bars, for example, should be mounted with a taller, shorter reach stem than bars with classic drops.

  24. #24
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    Took your advice

    finally found a good bike in mass-transit range of nyc. bought a January 1988 Centurion Dave Scott (N8A5940) off ebay for $102.50. unbeknownstedly outbid a good friend who i sometimes go biking with!

    it was advertised as "full shimano 600" but is really "full shimano 105" (expert not master). but the guy was real nice (just not a bicycle expert/master), met me at the huntington train station with the bike vertical in the back seat of a convertible, and the bike is in good shape. so i'm not feeling bad about it. didn't see any steel dave scott's on craigslist in a couple months, and most of the ones on ebay are in california and i didn't want to have to pay shipping of almost the cost of the bike. there were some extras on the bike - aero bars (pretty heavy, i took them off, may use them if i do one of the longer half century nyc rides), look pedals (which i plan on cleaning up and trying to sell), and a little old computer that may or may not work once i change the batteries.

    i measure the top tube and seat tube as both 58cm (center to center) and the standover is around 33" which is right at my palpable limit. it was advertised as 53cm and 31.5 standover one of those instances where the transition between virtual world and physical world has obvious difficulties.

    the front tire is 20mm and the rear is around 23mm, so i'm already thinking about seeing if it could fit 28 or even 32mm tires on there without changing the standover height too much. nyc roads are not the best. i'm also reconsidering the hub idea - i don't know how much weight i'd save taking off the derailleurs and the cogs (anyone?), but the hub itself is 3.4 pounds and then there's the shifter and possibly the adaptor for the shifter and it all gets expensive.

    at the corner chinese laundromat it weighed 20.8 lbs. the owner and a client were also interested in the results.

    as far as fit, what i could notice in just the little bit of riding i've done is that the seat is pretty uncomfortable (a vetta), that it shifts fine (i cleaned and lubed the chain last night), and that the brakes aren't very strong. it felt like i could stretch out pretty well, but i might want to add an inch or two of height to the handlebars. i'll ride it awhile before i mess with it - i'm also thinking of taking it to some "time's up!" bike mechanic workshops. and of using the weigle frame protector on the inside of the tubes. such a huge difference over the older and massive and heavy schwinn i had for 10 years.

    thanks for all the advice and help.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by juggleandhope; 08-20-07 at 08:13 AM.

  25. #25
    <3s bikes Re-Cycle's Avatar
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    Schwinn le tour 12.2 gets overlooked and was built by panasonic I think
    A wild man once explained to me how bicycles came from sailboats.

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