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Old 06-06-12, 08:07 AM   #1
Mercian Rider
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Giving advice on buying an older bike Part I: brands to avoid, brands to seek

Mea cupla

http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...olks-I-blew-it

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Old 06-06-12, 08:38 AM   #2
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Any lugged bike with Reynolds,Tange, or Ishiwata tubing (particularly in the early 80's, there are a lot of small Japanese brands).

Lotus
Panasonic
Miyata
Centurion
Specialized
Trek

Not a brand recommendation, but at that price range I'd actively avoid shocks and non-steel frames.

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Old 06-06-12, 08:58 AM   #3
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Any lugged bike with Reynolds,Tange, or Ishiwata tubing (particularly in the early 80's, there are a lot of small Japanese brands).

Lotus
Panasonic
Miyata
Centurion
Specialized
Trek

Not a brand recommendation, but at that price range I'd actively avoid shocks and non-steel frames.
Good list and I agree on shocks and sticking with steel.
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Old 06-06-12, 09:11 AM   #4
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I'd add that, if possible, avoid any bicycles that come with "safety" brake levers, as seen in the photo. This is one of the biggest hints that the bicycle is of low-quality.
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Old 06-06-12, 09:14 AM   #5
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Good advice here. Safety levers are an indicator of a lower-end bike but not a deal killer. The amount of Varsitys still being ridden is proof.
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Old 06-06-12, 09:16 AM   #6
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Give aways that it's probably lower end:

Kick stands
Suicide levers
Turkey stems
IGH (I kid, I kid)

Obviously there are exceptions, I have a kick stand on my Koga Miyata, but I do think these are good rough guides. You can usually learn to spot a cheap crank quickly, and those are a good give away.

Some other brands to avoid:

Kent
Murray
Free Spirit

It is possible to find nice Ross bikes...honestly I'd consider the better Ross bikes to be over the level of a Varsinentinal. I typically advise ignoring Schwinns altogether...the good ones are always priced over comparable non-schwinn bikes and the Varsitys are heavier than I think most people want. The odds of finding a good value on a Schwinn seem low to me. Some of their late 80s MTBs are exceptions to that.

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Old 06-06-12, 09:25 AM   #7
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Yes, steer clear of bikes w/ stem shifters and safety levers...I'll reluctantly deal with them and make sure they at least get ridden.
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Old 06-06-12, 09:26 AM   #8
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Yes, steer clear of bikes w/ stem shifters and safety levers...I'll reluctantly deal with them and make sure they at least get ridden.
There are always exceptions...but they are exceptions. Besides - the asking price on that is going to scare away introductory riders anyway.

I LOVE that color - Schwinn's Kool Lemon is one of my favorite bicycle colors.
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Old 06-06-12, 09:29 AM   #9
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Based on your other thread, since you are recommending 3 speeds, then take Columbia of your avoid list. Also a lot of good Puch made Free Spirit 3 speeds.

Personally, while I admire your attempt, biking is an individual experience. I had some of my best experiences on bad bikes before I knew better.
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Old 06-06-12, 09:32 AM   #10
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As far as Columbia goes, pre-70s bikes were considered equal to or even better than Chicago Schwinns.

Raleighs also have weird threading, and examples from the 70s were lackluster compared to 60s and earlier, and 80s (Raleigh USA) examples.

French bikes have as you mentioned have threading and dimensional issues, but they're excellent platforms for singlespeed bikes. What derailers came with French bikes tend to be made out of explodium, so encuraging singlespeed use, even ghetto singlepeed is perferrable.

The rule of thumb for "Brands to avoid" is, the more simpler the better. When applied to department store bikes, this tends towards cruisers (speaking of which, if one of your relations mentions an interest in a dutch bike, Wallymart has them available online as "Hollandia").

A lot of bikes (read Raleighs and French bikes) before the 80s came with cottered cranks, and that tends to put people off, with quite a number of the newer bike shops being unfamiliar with them. A trick for crusty bottom brackets for cottered cranks is to pour motor oil down the seattube and flush out the grit. This is messy, but it avoids dealing with cotters.

Given that a good number of these old bikes have been sitting unused for quite a while, they tend to be a bit on the stiff side. Refreshing lubricants will bring them back to life. Wiping down the frame, and generally cleaning it up will make it less decrepit and easier to evaluate possible repairs that need to be done.

Fit is important, an ill fitted a bike can make things sufficiently unpleasant to turn people off to riding. The distance from the armpit to fingertips is more or less close enough to the ideal distance from the top of the saddle to the bottom bracket. In order to fit a bike, one puts their armpit on the saddle, and adjust the saddle height until the tips of their fingers are touching the bottom bracket axle. For saddle to handlebar distance, a good ballpark estimate from the tip of the saddle to the handlebars is the same as the distance from the elbow to the tips of the fingers.

Nice to have features are fenders. Even in a dry sunny location, they help with puddles and dust. Aluminium rims are a plus. Shimano Positron and Forward Freewheel are to be avoided. Most 3-speeds are geared too high, changing out the rear cog (they're the same as coaster brake cogs) for something bigger is perferred.

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Old 06-06-12, 09:47 AM   #11
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There are hundreds, and possible thousands, of different brands that you can run into. With that in mind, suggesting this brand over that, is not going to be as productive as it should be.

Rather that trying to decide between an entry level Raleigh and a top of the line unknown brand, you would be best served to develop an understanding of what a Quality Bicycle looks like and what characteristics to look for when attempting to determine Bicycle Quality.

Armed with that information, you will be able to tell your friends what to look for in a bike, as opposed to suggesting that they buy a Raleigh, or a Peugeot, or a Piccini. One of those three is a pretty good bike! The others, much better known, I might add, offer such a wide range of quality levels that suggesting either could prove to be horribly misleading.
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Old 06-06-12, 09:50 AM   #12
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Randy - you are, of course, right...but do most people have the time or desire to really learn what to look for? A lot of it takes time and experience, and I do think there is a value in a general guide, as inaccurate and flawed as it will be, for inexperienced buyers.

There are always exceptions - the Serotta Huffy, the Paramount with stem shifters...etc...but if you can narrow down to a GENERAL and quick guideline, I think there is some value. What percentage of Free Spirits I come across are made by Puch? 5%? Even those are hardly top end...so I think, as a general guide, writing off Free Spirit is a good way to proceed. Really learning this takes time and effort - and few folks want to invest those things. If they dismiss a good Free Spirit, OK - they'll move on to something else.

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Old 06-06-12, 09:58 AM   #13
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I don't think French threading will matter to most new buyers -- it's unlikely that they'll want to jump right into a BB or headset replacement. Good deals on Pugs and Motos are pretty common. I say put 'em on your list.
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Old 06-06-12, 10:51 AM   #14
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There are hundreds, and possible thousands, of different brands that you can run into. With that in mind, suggesting this brand over that, is not going to be as productive as it should be.

Rather that trying to decide between an entry level Raleigh and a top of the line unknown brand, you would be best served to develop an understanding of what a Quality Bicycle looks like and what characteristics to look for when attempting to determine Bicycle Quality.

Armed with that information, you will be able to tell your friends what to look for in a bike, as opposed to suggesting that they buy a Raleigh, or a Peugeot, or a Piccini. One of those three is a pretty good bike! The others, much better known, I might add, offer such a wide range of quality levels that suggesting either could prove to be horribly misleading.
+1. Add to that, it really helps to develop some sense of how old a bike is, since innovations in componentry tend to trickle down the line. So in threads like this we usually recommend against, for example, cottered cranks; but all the best bikes came with cottered cranks once.

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Randy - you are, of course, right...but do most people have the time or desire to really learn what to look for? A lot of it takes time and experience, and I do think there is a value in a general guide, as inaccurate and flawed as it will be, for inexperienced buyers.
If people don't have the time to learn, well, they won't. That's not my first choice, but I'm okay with it.
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Old 06-06-12, 10:54 AM   #15
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I did pick up a Schwinn Clear Creek for $20.00. For the price, it was alright. The weakest part of the bike is the rims. The rest was workable. Had a boingy front fork and a boingy seat post topped off with a poofy seat with springs. Like riding a Twinkie. The 6'+ college kid I picked it up from didn't know the seat could be adjusted. He had it slammed all the way down. Sold it for $90.00. I don't feel great about the sale, but we need the bux.

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And it is ugly. This is the result of having a product designer design a bike instead of letting form follow function.
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Old 06-06-12, 10:59 AM   #16
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I see people posting bikes like those on their facebook pages with titles like "I got a bike!" or "I'm starting a new work-out plan!" and die a little inside.

Both because I know I should be supportive and also because I know after they ride the thing they'll hate bicycling. But I keep my mouth shut.
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Old 06-06-12, 11:05 AM   #17
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I see people posting bikes like those on their facebook pages with titles like "I got a bike!" or "I'm starting a new work-out plan!" and die a little inside.

Both because I know I should be supportive and also because I know after they ride the thing they'll hate bicycling. But I keep my mouth shut.
I think the reason we see so many Varsitys and Continetnals is less because they were such tough bikes and more because they discouraged cycling. People rode them for a week and, like the bowflex of 20 years later, they went into storage. People felt too guilty to throw them out. I'll use it next year! 20 years later they give it to their kid to commute with around campus.
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Old 06-06-12, 11:07 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by KonAaron Snake View Post
Randy - you are, of course, right...but do most people have the time or desire to really learn what to look for? A lot of it takes time and experience, and I do think there is a value in a general guide, as inaccurate and flawed as it will be, for inexperienced buyers.

There are always exceptions - the Serotta Huffy, the Paramount with stem shifters...etc...but if you can narrow down to a GENERAL and quick guideline, I think there is some value. What percentage of Free Spirits I come across are made by Puch? 5%? Even those are hardly top end...so I think, as a general guide, writing off Free Spirit is a good way to proceed. Really learning this takes time and effort - and few folks want to invest those things. If they dismiss a good Free Spirit, OK - they'll move on to something else.
That's my basic point. I'm not talking the nuances we fuss over, but something a novice can use that's generally reliable. I've listed brands that show up commonly on the local CL. As far as learning more, it might surprise you that most people aren't interested, but would still benefit from having a decent bike and deserve as much. A major part of my hobby is finding bikes for people, and they genuinely appreciate it. I'm looking to give them enough information to make a decent choice, even if, as KonAaron points out, they might pass by a Huffy branded Raleigh.

I'm also familiar with Randyjawa's My Ten Speeds site, and while it's excellent, I think it's geared toward people who are interested in entering our hobby, not the people I typically deal with.

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Old 06-06-12, 11:38 AM   #19
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For those who want to ride, few bikes are bad enough to stop them. Those folk who really don't want to ride, no bike is good enough. My number two bike is an 80s era Schwinn ATB Frankenbike that no serious rider would look at. Weighs about 35 lbs or more. If it were my only bike I'd still put in the same miles.

I always advise new riders to get the best bike they can afford, not the cheapest they can find. A decent old rigid mountain bike or bike-boom 10 speed is better than the Clear Creek toad I posted above. Beware of bikes with too much styling- they are trying to hide how bad they are.

My theory about the Clear Creek is that it seems to be designed to fit a wide array of riders. The seatpost has a huge amount off travel, and the stem is an old fashioned quill type (which I still prefer) as well as being adjustable. It really doesn't fit the shorter or taller riders well though. At 6', I found it cramped. Oddly enough, the cheap gripshifters and the awful bottom of the bin derailleurs worked flawlessly. Banged off shifts perfectly. How long it would function we cannot say.

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Old 06-06-12, 11:46 AM   #20
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I disagree...smoothly operating bikes encourage cycling. Bikes that don't weigh a ton and can be easily moved around the house/garage and stairs encourage cycling. I remember as a 12 year old riding my dad's old Raleigh Sport and thinking if this is cycling, forget it. I ended up on a Lotus Odyssey shortly thereafter and loved it. My wife bikes a lot more now that her bike has been upgraded. Bikes with crappy brakes discourage cycling as well (think anything with steel rims).

If you want to discourage cycling, give someone a department store bike that constantly needs maintenance for parts out of true, breaking, etc. and that weigh a ton.
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Old 06-06-12, 12:12 PM   #21
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I had a 70s era Huffy 10 speed that was the poster child of bad bikes. I ended up kicking it into the back of garage and walking the two miles to work. It was a horrible, dangerous wretched pile. If it had been the only bike I'd ever ridden I'd never would have ridden again. In high school I was forced to use a women's Raleigh 3 speed to commute. Killed any chance of getting a date, but did the 5 mile flat ride just fine.

Be interesting to re-visit your dad's Raleigh Sport now.

I believe that heavy is better than unreliable and that fit is paramount. A wrong-sized bike will never work right. My crappy old Schwinn fits perfectly. Makes up for a lot of faults.
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Old 06-06-12, 12:17 PM   #22
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Last year I found a Raleigh Supurbe for my brother and he loves it. Yes it's heavy, and the gearing is high, but it's comfortable and fits him. He wrote me a thank you note telling me how much he's enjoying it. But then he's going on 1/2 to 1 hour rides in residential neighborhoods.

I think another reason people walked away from old bikes is that completely aside from fit they found them uncomfortable. Narrow crappy saddles and drop bars are a terrible combination, and that describes 3/4 of the lightweights sold in the 70s bike boom.
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Old 06-06-12, 12:32 PM   #23
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Narrow crappy saddles and drop bars are a terrible combination, and that describes 3/4 of the lightweights sold in the 70s bike boom.
That is exactly why MTB's became the go to bike for most folks in the 80's and early 90's until of course the MTB morphed into a spaceship.
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Old 06-06-12, 12:48 PM   #24
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forged dropouts vs stamped!
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Old 06-06-12, 12:57 PM   #25
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forged dropouts vs stamped!
Unless it's a 70's Raleigh, then some models, some years have 531 frames and stamped DO's.
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