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Old 01-08-12, 09:21 PM   #1
StinkyJeff
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1983 Trek 520 (first year made)....what do you think of them?

Hello,
I am brand new to road biking (been riding hybrid for a while now....but getting itch for drop bar living). I also want to explore riding a vintage machine. Not that I know alot about them (that's why I'm lurking here), but because I just love the look of the old steel bikes, and I'm in my mid-40's and have a soft spot for older things. Hey, everything needs a second chance right?
Anyway.....what do you think of the early Trek bikes? I have a chance at an '83 Trek 520 (guy wants over $600 for his mint original owner bike) but don't know enough about the bike to know if it is one to sink money into, or if it is a good ride. He lives 2 hours away, and before I jump in for the long ride to his place, I wanted to get some information here. Anything you can tell me about those early Trek's would be great. For that kind of money, should I be looking for a better year? Different model? etc.

My budget has a ceiling of around $700.

(Also.....a guy has a 2010 Surly Pacer in my area too for $650.....it's not vintage, but from what I read, the Surly's are build with the heart of a vintage bike but with updated components. Maybe that is a better way to go?) Help this noobie out please.
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Old 01-08-12, 09:31 PM   #2
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600 is too much for an original 520 IMO. They came with 27" wheels, and iirc the '83 had a helicomatic (crap) rear hub and freewheel. At a minimum I would want to convert it to 700c. I used to have an '84 and it was a great riding bike, but I think with your budget you could do better. Surly makes OK frames but they are generally heavy and probably not as nice as a higher end vintage frame. $700 can get you a lot of bike in the used market, don't settle.
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Old 01-08-12, 09:37 PM   #3
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The early 520 is nice, but it would have to be dead mint before I'd consider parting with $600. The Pacer is a nice bike from what I've read, and it does have at least a passing resemblance to a vintage bike. For nearly equal money and as a newcomer to road bikes, the Pacer is the way I'd go.

Here's an '83 520 that I parted with last year, I would certainly have kept it if it fit me better.

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Old 01-08-12, 09:49 PM   #4
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Given a choice between the Surly Pacer and a mint Trek 520 at twice the price, I'd opt for the latter - but that still does not make the Trek a good deal at $600. Mazdaspeed is correct: $700 can get you a lot of bike in the used market, don't settle.
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Old 01-08-12, 09:51 PM   #5
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REALLY nice looking bike, Chris. It's a shame it didn't fit you.
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Old 01-08-12, 09:51 PM   #6
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1. $600 for that bike is beyond ridiculous.

2. Look for a vintage touring bike with cantilever brakes. I have sold several in the last few years, none went for this type of money.

Around here, nice vintage touring bikes with cantis in beautiful, ready to ride condition, go for $350 to $400 (look harder, and you can find them for less). There are a couple of rare exceptions that bring more $$: Miyata 1000, Trek 720 and a couple of others.
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Old 01-08-12, 10:09 PM   #7
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Jeff - The late 70's early 80's steel Treks are truly great bikes - Equivalent, IMHO, in every way to the fine European marques from the same era.
That being said, with $700 to spend, you ought to be an opportunist: Almost any high end Trek or European bike is fair game. There are a few Japanese bikes too, that approach the same levels, but which can be had for considerably less. (Nishiki Int'l, Miyata 610/1000, Fuji America/ Finest, etc.))

Bottom line: Start EDUCATING yourself in all of the major makers from whatever period most interests you, and then be ready to pounce when a good deal pops.
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Old 01-08-12, 10:09 PM   #8
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Even for the impatient, $700 should get you several amazing vintage bikes for the money without any drive.
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Old 01-08-12, 10:18 PM   #9
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That was my first good bike store bike. Mine might been an '84 model, not sure. have A lot of memories in that one. I think it was about $400 new. Not worth anywhere near $600 now, however. I never had any problems with the helicomatic hub, perhaps I was lucky. I do still have the freewheel removal tool for it if anyone needs one.
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Old 01-08-12, 10:19 PM   #10
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REALLY nice looking bike, Chris. It's a shame it didn't fit you.
Thanks Auchen. I've filed it under "the one that got away." It wasn't really too big, but I find comfort in maintaining that it was...
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Old 01-08-12, 10:38 PM   #11
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IMO, the seller of that ’83 520 is hanging his hat on the 520’s reputation by asking that price. But you are a wiser buyer because you are doing your due diligence and asking the question. But the Trek ’83 520 was not the great touring bike that it would later become. There is nothing wrong with Reynolds 501 tubing IMHO, but it's not all that desirable today, and the lack of appropriate braze-ons and eyelets and cantilever brakes pretty much makes it just another average vintage steel road bike that you should be able to pick up for $200 or so. I’m presently trying to sort-out a very nice ’83 500 frameset, which appears to basically be the same 501 frame except for the triple crank, and I would be surprised if I could sell it for $300.

You'd be better off looking elsewhere, and keep asking questions.

BTW, if you are looking for a modern light touring bike for $700, you might want to take a look for a used Surly Cross Check or Soma Double Cross, among others.

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Old 01-08-12, 10:52 PM   #12
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Chris, you’d be hard pressed to distinguish the difference between the ’83 520 and 500. I got this frameset from someone who obviously knew what they were doing. I’m not trying to divert your post OP, just representing the potential of the bike in question. (This is the previous owners build, I'm not so ambitious.)

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Old 01-08-12, 11:25 PM   #13
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I have worked on bikes for over five years and haven't worked on that Trek, but similar ones. I noticed this one has a Reynold 501 frame and is a touring bike. If this bike your thinking of buy has the three chainrings up front and eylets for a front rack and the Reynold name on the frame its a very good bike. I would offer him $500 tops if it was mint. It would be better for you if you had a bike with 700C wheels for touring just because its easier to get parts on the road. I converted a KHS touring bike to 700Cs with cantilever brakes, but its not always easy because the canti's don't move up and down to fit wheel. It would cost a bunch to have someone do the conversion for you and would put you over budget. To bad your not closer i would try to do it for you, or see if it was possible. My vision for a small business is to convert old steel touring bikes to 700C wheels and upgrade the bike. I have done the KHS and will be doing a Univega touring next.
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Old 03-31-13, 05:14 AM   #14
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Hi, I just find the kickstand in this picture very intriguing. I scoured the net for something similar but I can't find any reference (image or otherwise to anything like it. Does anyone know what it is?
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Old 03-31-13, 06:11 AM   #15
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OP, not sure what a Surly Pacer is worth, but a Trek 520 at $600 is absurd. Given the choice of the two you are thinking about, hands down I'd op for the Surly and more up to date components, especially for a newbie. If you're looking for just a vintage ride, a steel frame Trek is an excellent choice, but the bike should be selling for half, or $300 for a completely rebuilt steel frame Trek. Less if it's just an old bike that needs to be rebuilt. Don't eliminate the other Trek models from that era. I have two, and they have an excellent ride.
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Old 03-31-13, 06:59 AM   #16
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IMO, the seller of that ’83 520 is hanging his hat on the 520’s reputation by asking that price. But you are a wiser buyer because you are doing your due diligence and asking the question. But the Trek ’83 520 was not the great touring bike that it would later become. There is nothing wrong with Reynolds 501 tubing IMHO, but it's not all that desirable today, and the lack of appropriate braze-ons and eyelets and cantilever brakes pretty much makes it just another average vintage steel road bike that you should be able to pick up for $200 or so. I’m presently trying to sort-out a very nice ’83 500 frameset, which appears to basically be the same 501 frame except for the triple crank, and I would be surprised if I could sell it for $300.

You'd be better off looking elsewhere, and keep asking questions.

BTW, if you are looking for a modern light touring bike for $700, you might want to take a look for a used Surly Cross Check or Soma Double Cross, among others.
I agree with the consensus on pricing - $600 is too much.

The tubing may not be favored now, but let's look at it: CrMo, 9/6/9 wall thicknesses, very competently seamed by Reynolds. Except for the seaming, it should be equivalent to Columbus SL, which in the main tubes meets the same specs. I think it's because of those dimensions that the 510s and 520s earned their reputation, compared to the Trek 6xx's which had a 10/7/10 downtube - same material elasticity but significantly thicker walls, and I feel the 6xx's (I own a 1984 610) are somewhat stiff. Most modern CrMo bikes have larger diameter tubing (stiffer) and not much if any thinner-walls than the 9/6/9 (again, stiffer than the early 520). This bike should offer a responsive, stable, and comfortable (caveat: with correct fit) ride for nearly any kind of riding.

My 610 came with the Helico rear wheel, too. The only real issue is if you want to change the gearing or the freewheel is worn out. The wheel bearings are the same as any other cup/cone hub of the era, quality is good but not that of Campy or Dura-Ace, and the shifting is as good (?) as with a vintage freewheel: Regina, Atom, Cyclo, and other Maillard products. NOT in the league of Shimano Hyper, modern Campy, or Sachs-Maillard ARIS. The rest of the parts are essentially comparable in performance to modern parts, but for the most part much, much more durable. You can buy some pretty decent 27" tires if you look.

If you could get the whole bike for more like $400 it would be a deal - ride it as long as you like with maintainance, and upgrade as you figure out your real needs. You could even cold-set the rear end and convert it to Campy 10-speed indexing.
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Old 03-31-13, 07:00 AM   #17
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Hi, I just find the kickstand in this picture very intriguing. I scoured the net for something similar but I can't find any reference (image or otherwise to anything like it. Does anyone know what it is?
I think it's just an aluminum rod of some sort that he finagled into that position.
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Old 03-31-13, 07:04 AM   #18
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I have worked on bikes for over five years and haven't worked on that Trek, but similar ones. I noticed this one has a Reynold 501 frame and is a touring bike. If this bike your thinking of buy has the three chainrings up front and eylets for a front rack and the Reynold name on the frame its a very good bike. I would offer him $500 tops if it was mint. It would be better for you if you had a bike with 700C wheels for touring just because its easier to get parts on the road. I converted a KHS touring bike to 700Cs with cantilever brakes, but its not always easy because the canti's don't move up and down to fit wheel. It would cost a bunch to have someone do the conversion for you and would put you over budget. To bad your not closer i would try to do it for you, or see if it was possible. My vision for a small business is to convert old steel touring bikes to 700C wheels and upgrade the bike. I have done the KHS and will be doing a Univega touring next.
In this case it's not a given that he needs cantis if he converts to 700. My 610 and Chris's 520 both had the brake shoes at the upper edge of the slot with 27, and on mine I only had to reposition teh brake shoes lower to make them hit a 700c rim correctly. One should try the simple approach before going into surgical procedures.

Mine didn't need them, and my frame is not "special."
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Old 03-31-13, 12:04 PM   #19
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Jeff,

I hope you found yourself a cool old bike to enjoy! And I hope it didn't cost you too much.
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Old 03-31-13, 12:22 PM   #20
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I'm another vote for "$600 is way too dear."

If it was really mint, $350-400 would be reasonable in my (rather spendy) market. Also, what most sellers on Craig's List call 'mint' is not even in the same solar system as what I call mint. To me 'mint' is what the bike looks like new, in the bike shop's show room. To some used bike sellers 'mint' means it still has both tires and you can tell what the original color was.

And because I like to share my sickness with others, my recommendation is to spread that $600 over three or four super bargain bikes (I see super deals all the time), ride them around a bunch to find out what your preferences are, then when you find the perfect match, you can resell the others if you don't want to ride them any more.
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Old 03-31-13, 07:59 PM   #21
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There's market price and then there's emotional price, your seller is definetly very emotional !
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Old 03-31-13, 08:00 PM   #22
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Since the thread is from January of 2012 and the OP hasn't been back since February '12 he's probably made his decision.

With that, I love my '83 520, but it's not a full on touring bike It does make for a nice day tourer.
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Old 03-31-13, 08:38 PM   #23
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I think it's just an aluminum rod of some sort that he finagled into that position.
That's correct, it's a leg from an old Gitzo tripod wedged between the front derailleur and the crank arm, it's not attached to the bike.
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Old 03-31-13, 08:43 PM   #24
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FWIW, I had one last year that I really enjoyed. Nice and clean and mostly original with upgrades. Sold it for $220.
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