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  1. #1
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    Vintage trek 420, is it worth it?

    Hello. I recently found a trek 420 for $150 on graiglist, its really old like 20 years and that kinda turns me off, i dont know anything about old bikes. originally i was looking for a mountain bike but from what i read abour touring bikes this might be better for what im doing. it is a 50 cm frame, would that be good for someone whos 5'5''? oh and its also made of steel, i hear that steel is heavier, but more comfortable, is this true? is so how does what metal it is affect comfort? should i get it?
    heres the link

    http://denver.craigslist.org/bik/1924581125.html

    I've been scavenging craigslist trying to find a good cheap bike to pretty much do everything in since i dont have a car, are there anybikes that you guys recomend?

  2. #2
    Riding the road to PARADISE...RIP
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    Looks like a good deal to me. Don't let the age concern you (all of my bikes are older than that). Bicycles haven't really changed that much in the last couple of decades, and what changes there have been are not really important outside of competitive racing. This isn't a true touring bike, but what was known as a "sports tourer", which means that it's basically a road bike that can take fenders and a rear rack. These bikes are very well suited as commuters. A full-fledged touring bike is suited to carrying heavier loads, but will be heavier and less responsive.

    For the frame size, what really matters is your inseam length. If you can stand over the top tube and have an inch or two of clearance, you're good. I'm a fair bit taller than you, so I have trouble guessing from the pictures if it would fit.

    For frame material, steel comes in a large number of varieties. A Trek 420 should be made from one of the better types (there should be a sticker near the bottom of the seat tube with a brand name on it), and is probably double-butted (the tubes are thinner in the middle than at the ends). This should make for a nice, light-weight frame. Steel is said to have a smoother ride because it absorbs vibration better than aluminum, but frame material is going to have far less of an effect than tires and frame geometry.

  3. #3
    Born Again Pagan irclean's Avatar
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    $150 seems a little steep, but not outrageous. Unfortunately, a 50 cm frame is probably too big for your 5'5" stature, unless you have a disproportionately short torso and long legs.

    The "comfort" of steel is very subjective, and very passionately defended among these forums. I personally prefer steel bikes - steel does indeed have a tendency to flex. Aluminum, being lighter, requires thicker tubing to maintain structural integrity, thereby increasing its rigidity. That's not to say that aluminum bikes can't be comfortable... there are many things that affect a bike's comfort. First of all, don't get lured into the trap that's all too common with "comfort" bikes; cheap suspension. It's ineffective, heavy, and power-robbing (even a suspension seat post). If you're riding technical trails or planning vertical drops then suspension is needed, but since you're looking at a road bike then you should stick with rigid frames/forks. Tires will make or break a bike's comfort level - skinny tires on a steel bike could make the ride jarring whereas fat tires on an aluminum bike could make it smooth as silk. Carbon fiber forks/seat posts add a level of comfort to an otherwise stiff ride, but are very pricey. Saddles and grips/bar tape can make a world of difference, too. Shy away from cushy saddles and find one that's wide enough to support your sit bones, but narrow enough to not push your thighs outward while pedaling. Ergonomic grips or cork tape (some use gel strips underneath the tape as well) will help with comfort. Don't forget the bars themselves... aluminum bars are light and stiff, steel bars are heavier but more forgiving, and carbon fiber is nice but expensive.

    Try riding as many bikes as you can. Don't limit yourself to road bikes. You will soon learn which you like best. BTW mountain bikes can make great commuters when properly equipped so don't exclude them from your search. Many bike shops have a selection of used bikes that have been inspected, tuned up, and are ready for test rides, so don't limit yourself to Craiglist, either.
    Last edited by irclean; 08-29-10 at 01:19 AM.
    Gettin' my Fred on.

  4. #4
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    Since this is not a true touring bike does that mean its just as fragile as a road bike? and does that mean it will be quicker and better to race with? I want a bike that i can ride pretty rough with without worrying about damaging it, i measured my inseam and its about 28 to 29 inches, what frame should i get for that? Do less speeds on a bike make it slower? because this one only has 7 it seems like. What would be some other good bikes up to a 200 price range?

  5. #5
    Riding the road to PARADISE...RIP
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    A sports tourer is a compromise between a road bike and a full touring bike. It will be lighter and quicker-handling than a touring bike, but a bit less so than a road bike. It should be reasonably sturdy. I wouldn't recommend hopping curbs, but you shouldn't need to baby it either. The weak spot on most bikes are the wheels, and traditional wheels like this are pretty sturdy (more spokes=stronger wheels).

    Having more speeds means that you will be more likely to find just the right gear for the conditions, making you a bit more efficient. This does come at a cost, since cramming more gears in means making the components more expensive and less durable. The gains are pretty negligible for commuting, where a few minutes either way make no real difference (unlike racing, where the difference between winning and losing may be a matter of seconds). I ride a 3-speed most days, and many people here are happy with single speeds.

    Looking at a few sizing charts, 50cm is probably good for you. I'd recommend going and giving the bike a test ride. At 200 dollars, Craigslist is really your best bet. In general, avoid the brands you see sold at Walmart (there are exceptions: Raleigh and Schwinn were once highly respected). Look for mounting points near the wheels, which will allow you to add fenders and a rack. Also look for enough room between the tire and the frame to fit fenders. Remember that a used bike is likely to be in need of a tune-up, so be prepared to learn to do this yourself or budget some money to take it into a bike shop.

  6. #6
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    $150 for a 20 year old Trek road bike isn't bad at all if 1. you are looking for a road bike, 2. it fits you, and 3. it is in decent condition.

    So do you want a road bike? It would be better for riding longer distances, good for paved roads, not so good for dirt, gravel, or even crushed limestone bike paths. In urban areas you could certainly ride a road bike, but for frequent but short trips, a hybrid might be a better choice.

    Does it fit? Can you stand over the top tube and have a little clearance under your crotch? And when riding it, can your hands reach the tops, hoods and drops of the handlebars comfortably?

    Is it ready to ride and free of rust? Do the wheels spin freely without wobbling. Do the brakes stop the bike? Do the gears shift smoothly. Even if the answer is yes, I would still take it to a bike shop and have them give it a tuneup, unless the seller is a bike mechanic willing to give you some kind of warranty.
    Last edited by MRT2; 08-29-10 at 07:15 AM.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darryn View Post
    Hello. I recently found a trek 420 for $150 on graiglist, its really old like 20 years and that kinda turns me off, i dont know anything about old bikes. originally i was looking for a mountain bike but from what i read abour touring bikes this might be better for what im doing. it is a 50 cm frame, would that be good for someone whos 5'5''? oh and its also made of steel, i hear that steel is heavier, but more comfortable, is this true? is so how does what metal it is affect comfort? should i get it?
    May be, may be not. I am 5'7" and ride 54 cm cyclocross, which in roadie-speak is more like 56. You never know till you test-ride.
    I take great pride in my humility.

  8. #8
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    Thanks everyone for all the info.

  9. #9
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    Walmart bikes seem to be in my price range, and theyd be new bikes, but i never hear good things about them, why is that? whats so bad about a walmart bikes anyway?

  10. #10
    Senior Member Grim's Avatar
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    I Flip bikes some.

    7Speed Brifters go for $100+ all day long on EBay.

    that's a "fair" price for a bike without Brifters. THats a excellent price for a bike with brifters if they work correctly. Id be tempted to buy that bike pull the brifters and resell it for the same price.
    You cant have a signature unless it fits in this box

  11. #11
    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darryn View Post
    Walmart bikes seem to be in my price range, and theyd be new bikes, but i never hear good things about them, why is that? whats so bad about a walmart bikes anyway?
    Walmart bikes are a little controversial. Many here think they're pretty much worthless. Others will say they're fine if you don't ride much or if you're comfortable working on bikes.

    One of the reasons they're so much cheaper than a bike you'd get at a bike shop is that Walmart deals in much higher volumes and has much lower labor costs. This doesn't impact the quality of the bike except in assembly where the people putting together the bikes may not be terribly experienced, have much training, or take the time to do it right.

    The other reason that Walmart bikes are cheaper is that they use cheaper parts that may not last as long. For many people in the US, riding a bike is strictly a recreational thing done a few times a year. If that's all you're going to ride, having parts that can last thousands of miles isn't that important.

  12. #12
    Riding the road to PARADISE...RIP
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    Walmart bikes will be heavy and will be made with poor quality components which will wear out quickly, will not hold adjustment, and will never work particularly well. They are poorly assembled, so they often need to be torn down and re-assembled before they are really ready to use. That Trek is a far better bike than anything you will find at Walmart, despite its age.

  13. #13
    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grim View Post
    I Flip bikes some.

    7Speed Brifters go for $100+ all day long on EBay.

    that's a "fair" price for a bike without Brifters. THats a excellent price for a bike with brifters if they work correctly. Id be tempted to buy that bike pull the brifters and resell it for the same price.
    I agree. I'd also say a 50 cm is at least in the ballpark for you in terms of size. Trek 420s used CroMo tubing. They were a quality bike and they didn't come with those shifters originally. Someone cared enough to upgrade the shifters. I believe that Trek came with Suntour stuff too so in order to get the shifters to work right, they probably put on a new derailleur and cassette as well.

    The weak spot based on the description is going to be the paint job. The posting said it was a "re-paint" and I'm guessing from the $150 price tag, they're not too proud of it. Since it was a repaint, I'd also want to make sure it was really a Trek 420 and not something else.

    To answer some of your other questions, the number of gears a bike has is not directly related to how fast it goes. That bike looks to be a triple, which it means it has three gears up front to go with the 7 in back. So it's actually a 21 speed. Many road racing bikes only have 20. Walmart bikes use the number of speeds to trick you into think you're getting a better bike. It really has little to do with the quality of the bike. If you are going to tour or ride in really hilly areas carrying heavy loads then more gears can be very important. They're also more important for offroad bikes, but for riding on the street 21 is more than enough. I'd take my wife's 25 year old 14 speed over any bike Walmart sells.

    From a durability standpoint, I'd say as long you don't plan to spend a lot of time on offroad trails and going over 4 foot drops with it, it'll be fine. Riding off an occasional curb isn't going to hurt it. I take my racing road bike off curbs and have ridden it on gravel and dirt roads. It's not a problem of durability so much as tires. My road bike has 23 mm tires which are pretty skinny. I'm guessing that 420 could take 28's and possible even 32s.
    Last edited by tjspiel; 08-29-10 at 12:25 PM.

  14. #14
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    I tried calling to set up a meet, but someone bought it half an hour earlier he said! I feel like ive been searching on craiglists for hours, but i cam across another bike on craiglist, and it looks pretty good, its a 1986 0r 87 trek elance 400, its looks to be in pretty good shape but i couldnt ask anything because the seller ddint pick up when i called so ill call again tomorow after school. does anyone know anything about this bike? the seller i asking 200.

  15. #15
    SE Wis dedhed's Avatar
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    http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...ghlight=elance

    If you're looking at older "vintage" bikes you need to spend time here;

    http://www.mytenspeeds.com/My_TenSpeeds_1/

    The 86-87 400 Elance is a great bike 400T is a triple 400D is a double up front. Reynolds 531 main tubes, 700 wheels, rack and fender braze ons and room for fenders. Make great commuters. Worth $200, probably depending on market.
    Last edited by dedhed; 08-29-10 at 10:16 PM.
    '68 Raleigh Sprite, '02 Raleigh C500, '84 Raleigh Gran Prix, '91 Trek 400

  16. #16
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    I just called and he said he'd give it to me for 175, im excited, its looks to be in good condition but i still want to test ride it. this is going to be the first bike ive owned since 8th grade i think. heres the link to my soon to be bike, tell me what you guys think of it.

    http://denver.craigslist.org/bik/1856459728.html

  17. #17
    SE Wis dedhed's Avatar
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    Color scheme says most likely 1986. Needs some cleaning and polishing.
    What is it with C/L pictures never being the drive (important) side?

    http://www.vintage-trek.com/model_numbers1.htm
    '68 Raleigh Sprite, '02 Raleigh C500, '84 Raleigh Gran Prix, '91 Trek 400

  18. #18
    Pedal Pedal duckweed's Avatar
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    Looks good from the pictures. Make sure there is no damage to the frame and that it fits okay. If it is a 86 Trek 400 then, according to the seat tube length, it would be a 19' frame size that has a 53.6 top tube length. My commuter is a 86 Trek 400 but it has white/silver decals.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Kojak's Avatar
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    Perhaps check this out.

    http://www.vintage-trek.com/
    Guy K. Browne

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