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Old 06-06-12, 09:49 AM   #1
Mercian Rider
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Giving advice on buying an older bike Part III: evaluating condition

Mea culpa

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

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Old 06-07-12, 09:34 AM   #2
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On fit, I'd add: bar top is higher than correctly-positioned seat. (Yes, experienced riders ride lower than that; I've not seen anyone who rides less than 50 miles a week who is comfortable with drop bars with the tops below seat level.)
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Old 06-07-12, 11:05 AM   #3
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Spin the wheels and cranks, listening and feeling for rough and possibly damaged bearings. Should spin smoothly. If it feels like it is rough and binding, then the bearings will at minimum need cleaning/greasing/adjusting, and at worst may be damaged.

Tires: Check for worn out tread with cord showing. Check for dry and cracked sidewalls. New tires are not expensive, but you are still looking at an additional $25-30 to replace them with modestly priced ones.

Brakes: Operation of brakes should have some smoothness when actuating and should snap back when released. If they feel like they are binding and hard to operate, then brake cables with need replacement and calipers may need a cleaning/lube/adjustment. About $10 for generic cables if you can do it yourself.
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Old 06-07-12, 11:06 AM   #4
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At the right price, buy now, check later. I have seen people pour over each little aspect on a bike for $10. Last five bikes I bought were $20, $25, $28, $30, and $50. I just did a quick glance, while the bike was in my hands. Now at the $50 pricepoint, I usually will look a little closer, but it was a no brainer.

Step 1 is I get the bike in my hands, before someone else grabs it. I do not stand back and gaze at it, as you risk someone coming up and grabbing it (it happened to me once, thats the last time I did it). Now if it is a one on one environment (just you and the seller), then ignore my grab it advice.

I usually will check the seat post and stem, to make sure they are not stuck, and look for rust. But even then, those are not a deal buster. Price trumps defects.

Even a newb, if they have access to a bike co-op, can consider buying a project. Realize if you do buy a project (or even get a project for free), that unless you do the work yourself (with assistance from a friend or co-op), then projects rarely make $$ sense. The cost of repairs at a bike shop will almost always exceed the value of the finished project.

Now if the bike is presented as "ready to ride" and priced accordingly, I would do all the checks mentioned above, plus make sure stem and seat post are not stuck!

Last edited by wrk101; 06-07-12 at 11:27 AM.
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Old 06-07-12, 11:12 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wrk101 View Post
At the right price, buy now, check later. I have seen people pour over each little aspect on a bike for $10. Last five bikes I bought were $20, $25, $28, $30, and $50. I just did a quick glance, while the bike was in my hands. Now at the $50 pricepoint, I usually will look a little closer, but it was a special bike.
Good point. It certainly depends on what you are paying. I bought this recently for $40, expecting something with good bones, but needing a lot of work. The seller was another enthusiast that just had too many bikes in the shed and never got around to doing the overhaul on it. Note the rusted & frayed shifter cables with no housing remaining. I've already stripped it down to almost the bare frame and am repacking all the bearings. Not something a beginner wants to do just to start riding.


1987 Nishiki Sport by Yo Spiff, on Flickr
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Old 06-08-12, 09:03 AM   #6
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On fit: a way of fitting on the go is to place the fingertips on the bottom bracket axle, and extend the seatpost until the saddle contacts the armpit. If the bike is too small, the usually short seatpost of vintage bikes run out. In the same vein, the handlebar to tip-of-the-saddle distance is roughly the same as from the elbow to the tips of the fingers.

Components: Worn brake pads are a fixable concern that can hinder testing.
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