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  1. #1
    Senior Member Mercian Rider's Avatar
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    Giving advice on buying an older bike Part IV: signs of good quality/poor quality

    Last edited by Mercian Rider; 06-08-12 at 10:09 AM.
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    Gearhead old's'cool's Avatar
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    signs of low quality:
    crimped dropouts
    obvious seam in tubing
    no lugs in early-80s to 50s bikes (I don't know about older bikes), unless accompanied by high quality cues: tube brand, light weight, well finished brazed joints (maybe this one isn't simple enough for your intent)
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    Senior Member Roypercy's Avatar
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    Eh... my wife's Motobecane Grand Touring came with an aftermarket kickstand installed by the PO. I'd hate to have overlooked what is a really nice bike for that reason. A LOT of decent bikes from the 60's - 80's either came with kickstands or had them added at purchase. I wouldn't take it as necessarily a sign of "poor quality".

  4. #4
    Senior Member zukahn1's Avatar
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    I would have to disagree with a lot of what the OP said. Having alloy Suntour Shimano components doesn't mean all that much, same for just alloy cranks. There where a lot of bikes sold that had cheaper alloy components that where pretty bad. Also the broad statements that any drop bar bike that has any of these is low quality bad is just wrong.
    - steel cranks on any drop bar bike

    - kickstand on any drop bar bike

    - stem shifters on any drop bar bike

    - suicide levers on any drop bar bike

    - steel handlebars on any drop bar bike

    - steel stem on any drop bar bike

    - steel rims on any drop bar bike
    I have see many a nicer drop bar bike from the 60's through early 80s'. That has one or more of these features.

  5. #5
    Senior Member sykerocker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mercian Rider View Post
    Signs of poor quality:

    - stem shifters on any drop bar bike

    - suicide levers on any drop bar bike

    - steel stem on any drop bar bike

    - 26" wheels on any drop bar bike
    Afraid I've got to do some editing - I'll go with the above as being marks of, say, "a lesser desirable bike", not necessarily a "poor quality bike". All the stuff I edited out from the "poor quality" section would have been found on a Peugeot UO-8. Which were definitely not poor quality bikes. Inexpensive, yes. Poor quality, not.

    And actually, the 26" wheels on a drop bar road bike is about the only characteristic you've got listed that is an absolute "run away". A lot of the others (suicide levers, stem shifters, etc.) were found on otherwise worthwhile Schwinns.

    For people that look for me, I keep it simple: If it's got an Ashtabula crank (at which point I explain Ashtabula, cottered, and cotterless cranks) and isn't a Schwinn, it's garbage.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member auchencrow's Avatar
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    In many cases the things you cite are true - but there are exceptions to every rule and a lot of parts swapping that goes on out there.
    IMO the best advice for a newbie is to educate himself, and lurk here in C&V, until he can confidently spot the smoking hot deals for himself.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member Flying Merkel's Avatar
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    My '79 Univega Viva Sport had stem shifters and turkey wings. I believe that people expected them. It was a lower end bike in the line-up. Did have alloy rims and cotterless cranks. Wish I still had it. In later years Viva Sports used down tube shifters and lost the safety levers

    I agree with the OP's list. There will always be exceptions, but in the main it's true.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by sykerocker View Post
    Afraid I've got to do some editing - I'll go with the above as being marks of, say, "a lesser desirable bike", not necessarily a "poor quality bike". All the stuff I edited out from the "poor quality" section would have been found on a Peugeot UO-8. Which were definitely not poor quality bikes. Inexpensive, yes. Poor quality, not.

    And actually, the 26" wheels on a drop bar road bike is about the only characteristic you've got listed that is an absolute "run away". A lot of the others (suicide levers, stem shifters, etc.) were found on otherwise worthwhile Schwinns.

    For people that look for me, I keep it simple: If it's got an Ashtabula crank (at which point I explain Ashtabula, cottered, and cotterless cranks) and isn't a Schwinn, it's garbage.
    Nope. Could be a very fine ultra-light-weight Crescent or Monark racer from the 50's

  9. #9
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    I'd disagree with these three:

    - kickstand on any drop bar bike

    - steel handlebars on any drop bar bike

    My Lotus Odyssey had both, and is definitely a good-quality bike. I think that those may be warning signs for 1990's bikes, but they were pretty common on the early 80's Japanese bikes.

    I'd add "forged dropouts" and "centerpull brakes" to the good quality list, and "stamped brakes" to the run away list.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member randyjawa's Avatar
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    This is most of what I have learned, over the years, regarding Vintage Bicycle Quality, is contained in that link. I will say this, that everyone of the rules suggested do not always apply. Keep in mind that one cannot compare a quality bicycle, of today, to one that is sixty or seventy years old.

    Quality will always depend on two fundamental things, once past the design stage - craftsmanship and choice of materials. Poor craftsmanship plus top grade stuff, does not equal quality. And the best stuff, poorly fabricated and assembled, is not quality.

    There was a time when you could get a pretty nice bicycle, fitted with dual purpose brake levers. And some bikes, that were considered close to state of the art in days gone bye featured stamped drops. Eyelets suggest poor quality? Check out a Miyata 1000 Gran Touring. Eyelets, galore, and yet it would be tough to find something of better quality.

    As for editing the presented list of quality indicators. Good idea. The list is quite misleading, in my opinion. As for less desirable? This old Torpado has steel cranks (cottered to boot), stamped drops, steel rims, high tensile steel tube set and steel derailleur (yup, only one derailleur on a five speed). Yet my guess is that this old Torpado, though lacking in quality, is still quite desirable in some circles...
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  11. #11
    DRF aka Thrifty Bill wrk101's Avatar
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    +1 Walmart is full of bikes with Shimano components. Suntour made a full product line, from bottom of the barrel to top end. And many times, I have found high end bikes with crappy components, like a 1979 Trek 714, 531 frameset, Tourney RD, mountain bike crank, etc......

    To me, quality is all about the frame: condition and what it is made out of. I can pretty much address any other shortcomings except a bike with a heavy, bottom end frame, regardless of brand (they all made them back then).

    Not always indicators of low end/bottom end, but often indicators: claw rear derailleur mount, nutted axles, steel rims, steel seat post, steel bars, stamped dropouts, etc. I just pulled a steel seatpost off a Miyata 718A. Go figure.

    +1 I've seen turkey levers on a lot of really good bikes, stem shifters too.

    Get old enough, and a lot of "low end" features showed up on high end bikes.

    +1 I see a lot of kickstands on bikes. About 3/4 of the bikes I pick up have kickstands, and I consider myself a picky buyer. Recreational riders like kickstands, and sometimes, they have really nice bikes. I've picked up five bikes in the last ten days, four had kickstands. I've had several buyers ask me to INSTALL a kickstand.
    Last edited by wrk101; 06-07-12 at 05:50 PM.

  12. #12
    Senior Member zukahn1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SamChevre View Post
    I'd disagree with these three:

    - kickstand on any drop bar bike

    - steel handlebars on any drop bar bike

    My Lotus Odyssey had both, and is definitely a good-quality bike. I think that those may be warning signs for 1990's bikes, but they were pretty common on the early 80's Japanese bikes.

    I'd add "forged dropouts" and "centerpull brakes" to the good quality list, and "stamped brakes" to the run away list.
    I wouldn't put centerpull brakes on the poor quality list there where a lot of fairly good quality and higher end bikes made 60's thorugh early 80's with centerpull brakes. At the time they where sold the better MAFACS and Universal where centerpull and where actualy better than most of the other stuff on the market.

  13. #13
    category ii hoarder orangeology's Avatar
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    regardless the brand marquee, better frames tend to have more chromed parts—stays and fork? (and lugs although chromed lugs usually mean a high-end but not cheap as well. with exceptions of course.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by zukahn1 View Post
    I wouldn't put centerpull brakes on the poor quality list there where a lot of fairly good quality and higher end bikes made 60's thorugh early 80's with centerpull brakes. At the time they where sold the better MAFACS and Universal where centerpull and where actualy better than most of the other stuff on the market.
    Re-read my post: I said centerpull brakes are a sign of good quality.
    I can be emailed at my user name at google's mail.

  15. #15
    Senior Member zukahn1's Avatar
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    Sorry I must have read to qucikly it just seems so a lot people of mistakenly assiociate centerpulls with poor quaility or lesser bikes.

  16. #16
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mercian Rider View Post
    Signs of poor quality:

    - steel cranks on any drop bar bike

    - steel handlebars on any drop bar bike

    - steel stem on any drop bar bike

    - steel rims on any drop bar bike

    - 26" wheels on any drop bar bike
    This one meets quite a few of your "signs of poor quality" criteria save for the fact it does not shift and there are some nicely weathered 531 stickers on the frame.





    The rims are 26 inch EA1 and are Dunlop stainless with stainless spokes... considered to be superior to most of the aluminium rims of the day.

    There is nary a speck of aluminium anywhere on this bicycle save for the pedals and I plan to upgrade those to period correct steel ones.
    Last edited by Sixty Fiver; 06-07-12 at 02:55 PM.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Mercian Rider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver View Post
    This one meets quite a few of your "signs of poor quality" criteria save for the fact it does not shift and there are some nicely weathered 531 stickers on the frame.





    The rims are 26 inch EA1 and are Dunlop stainless with stainless spokes... considered to be superior to most of the aluminium rims of the day.

    There is nary a speck of aluminium anywhere on this bicycle save for the pedals and I plan to upgrade those to period correct steel ones.
    I see those on Craigslist all the time.

    Folks, I see many of you completely miss the point. This advice would be for a complete novice to find a decent bike on the local Craiglist, not an aspiring vintage collector. Duh there's exceptions. It might also help if you look at the other related threads.
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  18. #18
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mercian Rider View Post
    I see those on Craigslist all the time.

    Folks, I see many of you completely miss the point. This advice would be for a complete novice to find a decent bike on the local Craiglist, not an aspiring vintage collector. Duh there's exceptions. It might also help if you look at the other related threads.
    Or... I am just messing with you.

    This one has cottered cranks, drop bars, and a kickstand.


  19. #19
    Elitest Murray Owner Mos6502's Avatar
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    Do we really need dozens of threads started by the same poster on what is essentially one topic that'd be more useful if it was all on one thread?

  20. #20
    Senior Member Mercian Rider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mos6502 View Post
    Do we really need dozens of threads started by the same poster on what is essentially one topic that'd be more useful if it was all on one thread?
    That's a valid criticism. I regret the mutlitple threads. People would have seen the big picture if I'd combined the concepts.
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  21. #21
    Cottered Crank Amesja's Avatar
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    Signs a thread may simplistic and repetitive...
    '74 Raleigh Carlton Competition w/ Ultegra | '97 Trek 720 Singletrack CX-er w/ 105 | '64 Raleigh LTD-3 modernized w/ all alloy components |'69 Raleigh Twenty | '54 Raleigh Sports

  22. #22
    Carpe Velo Yo Spiff's Avatar
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    What are you going to do with all this information once sifted and compiled? Might I suggest a PDF that can be easily emailed to the person needing the buying advice. You could put some plugs for Bikeforums and some member blogs at the bottom of the pages.
    2000 Bianchi Veloce, '88 Schwinn Prologue, '88 Trek 900, '92 Trek T100, 2000 Rans Tailwind

  23. #23
    Senior Member Mercian Rider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yo Spiff View Post
    What are you going to do with all this information once sifted and compiled? Might I suggest a PDF that can be easily emailed to the person needing the buying advice. You could put some plugs for Bikeforums and some member blogs at the bottom of the pages.
    I plan to create a document that I'll give to these people who want me to help them find a bicycle. Even if I end up doing the leg work for them, I hope it will help them be engaged in the process.

    What I should do, I think, since these threads are a mess because I broke up the topics, is take a stab at creating the document, incorporating others' suggestions, and present it in a new thread. If I could close these threads I would. I really goofed by presenting seperate topics in seperate threads.
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  24. #24
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    I would have to disagree with you on a few points:

    Alloy wheels, no matter their size are a sign of quality.

    Shimano and Suntour, as long as it isn't made out of plastic. Steel Suntours work just as well as their alloy cousins, and Shimano didn't start using plastic until the 90s. Alloy European stuff is also acceptable.



    As far as "signs of poor quality", I would have to disagree with you on most points:

    Turkey levers on the main can be removed from the brake levers. 'Suicide levers' mean something different for pre-60s bikes

    Steel cranks on any bike, be it drop bar or casual are to be avoided if they're not Schwinn or Raleigh.

    Plastic derailleurs from any era are to be avoided. Simplex derailers are a particular offender in this respect.

    Steel European (Huret, Simplex, Campy) are less desirable.

    Kickstands, stem shifters, steel handlebars and stems are not necessarily deal killers. The bike will be heavy, but they don't impair funcionality.

    26" wheels with drop bars: I'll have to agree with you there, with the exception of pre-60s bikes, and a few French 60s bikes (PX50s, Rene Herses, Alex Singers) there isn't much to argue in favor of 26" with drop bars. I may add in general Schwinns with 26 X 1 3/8 wheels to that, tires are next to impossible to find, and relacing to a more common rim is beyond the scope of this guide.

    Suspension anything: I'll agree with this also. Unless the bike is something like a Specialized or a Moulton.

    I think you have to add a category for wanted/unwanted bikes: Small wheel bikes. In general Raleighs and Moultons are desirable, and are known for their reliablity and sturdiness. Vintage folding bikes from other manufacturers have weak hinges and are known to break (Not sure about the quality of non-folders/demountables).

  25. #25
    Senior Member Mercian Rider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amesja View Post
    Signs a thread may simplistic and repetitive...
    Simplistic? Possibly. But it needs to be simple and concise, recognizing this is for a NOVICE interested in a decent used bike, not an apiring vintage enthusiast, recognizing fully that there will be many exceptions. That they might pass by a vintage gem is not the point. Many don't seem to grasp that, and are approaching from the standpoint of a vintage collector. That's not the purpose. See the link in the original post.
    No Fun. No ride.

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