I know this is a pretty general question, but I'm wondering what I should look for in my search for a classic road bike. I'd rather spend $300 (Or less. I like fixer-uppers more anyway) on a nice classic than a cheaper new one. I'm selling off a few I have (77' Motobecane Mirage, Early 90s Bridgestone Sport Touring 300, Schwinn World, 70s Peugeot) now to buy a single better road bike. I test road a Really nicely tuned up Diamondback Expert today at a local bike shop, but they want $489 for it. I really liked it, but it doesn't look like it's worth what they're asking. I can't find one on Craigslist, so I'm wondering what other nicer classic road bikes I should check out.
In that price range I believe the best value would be a mid 1980s Japanese bike. You should be able to find something with Tange Prestige or Champion #1 or equivelent tubing and Shimano 600 components. Miyata's proprietary triple butted frame is pretty good as well.
There are others here more qualified on this question, but the 2 that jump to mind are the Centurion Ironman and the Miyata 912. There are probably 50 bikes that fit this description from almost all the companies. Fuji, Nishiki, Panasonic etc.
1982 Tomassini, 1963 Peugeot PX10, and eight special issue Canadian lightweights...
There are hundreds of possible choices, from real junky, entry level, department store wonders to top of the line and even special issue bikes that will cause grown men and women to weep. Rather than know exactly what bike to purchase, it might be better for you to know the characteristics of a good bike, compared to a lesser bike.
I published Vintage Road Cycle Basics in my website, MY "TEN SPEEDS",to help people, just like you and me, identify worthy bicycles. Spend a bit of time sifting through the pages and my guess is that you will develop a better understanding for what you seek.
Thanks. I'll keep doing some research, and that gives me some direction. Would you have any particular bike names I could search for?
Don't focus on a couple of models or a couple of brands. There are about a dozen different Japanese brands from the 1980s that made nice bikes. Instead, as mentioned earlier, look for good frame tubing, good components, and good paint/frame condition. The good bikes should be light in weight. If you want indexed shifting, then you need to look at the late 1980s. Everything before that was friction. The Schwinn Tenax bikes are pretty nice, as are the US built Trek bikes.
A lot of the nice Japanese bikes had Suntour components. Its common to see Suntour Cyclone derailleurs on good bikes. In the $250 market value +/-, you should be able to find a nice bike.
In any transaction, the person that knows the most, gets the best of the deal. So spend some time up front studying and then you will be ready to pounce. I have been recommending the Frank Berto Book, Upgrading Your Bicycle. It was written in 1988 and goes through many of the details of the better bikes. You can usually find it used on Amazon cheap (my last copy cost me 21 cents plus shipping). But I recommended it on the list a couple of weeks ago, and that wiped out the cheap copies. So I would check your local library.