DRF aka Thrifty Bill
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: The NC Mountains
Bikes: 86 Katakura Silk, 87 Prologue, 87 Cimarron, 14 frame school custom, 73 Paramount
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Either you are comfortable riding an older bike, or you are not. That is a very personal decision. If you are not comfortable riding an older bike, then I would get your money back and get a newer bike.
Note: for Treks, I currently own an '05 1000, '94 800, '94 950, '92 950, and an '83 520. I also have a '73 and a '75 Peugeot. So obviously, I am not concerned about riding an older bike. All of my older bikes are steel, FWIW.
Rust is the main threat to a steel bike. So I would pull the seat post, and with a flashlight, look down inside the seat tube. This is a common area for rust (and is really easy to check). If the bike has rust, either the price should be much, much lower, or you should pass. And even if the price is much lower, unless you are comfortable doing some serious wrenching on a bike, you should pass. A "reasonable" amount of rust can be dealt with, but requires you strip the bike down to the frame, treat it, and reassemble it. Such work done by a bike shop would be cost prohibitive.
Assuming the bike is in ready to ride condition, the price is reasonable. You should be able to ride the bike for many, many years, and then sell it for close to what you paid for it. The Trek 520 is a classic that many riders appreciate (and seek).
As far as upgrades, assuming your 91 is all stock, I would just do the usual maintenance: bearings, cables, brake pads and ride it. My '83 has 27 inch rims and DT shifters. I am looking to swap a spare set of 700cms wheels I have on hand, and perhaps round up some barcons for it. I would basically upgrade my 1983 to be very similar to your 1991.
I like the Deore DX components that came with the 1991 520. All in all, that year is a sweet bike!!
Last edited by wrk101; 10-02-08 at 08:01 AM.