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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 11-22-04, 07:12 PM   #1
ephemeron
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Fix old road bike, or buy new hybrid?

I haven't ridden a bike since I was a kid, but have been thinking about getting a bike for commuting and running errands around town (Ann Arbor). I live in a co-op, and recently, there was a lottery for abandoned bikes. I ended up with a Kuwahara Carrera UL that had been left out in the rain and snow for a long time. I haven't been able to find any information on Kuwahara road bikes, but it looks to have been made in 1985, with Dia-Compe brakes (not sure what model), Suntour LePree derailleurs, Sugino VT crank, and a Tange Infinity frame.

I haven't actually taken it to a bike shop, but I talked with a guy at Two Wheel Tango a bit, and he said it'll cost close to $200 to get it into rideable shape -- it needs new tires, tubes, chain, cables, and handlebar tape, plus intensive tuning-up. A new Trek 7000 is $240, so I'm wondering whether I should just give up on fixing the Kuwahara and shell out a little more to have a brand-new bike.

What would you recommend? Most of my rides will be 5 miles or less each way, in town. The Kuwahara frame doesn't have obvious attachment points for panniers, so if the Trek is designed to accommodate panniers, that's a plus for it.

I also have a certain concern that the Kuwahara is the wrong size for me, but don't know how much that'll matter. It's 19" center-to-top, with the saddle rather firmly stuck at about 27"; according to the bike-sizing guidelines Google brought up, the saddle is around the right height (though it seems too high to me -- am I just not used to road bikes?), but I should be looking for a 21" or so frame.

Thanks.
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Old 11-22-04, 08:18 PM   #2
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Hey there ephemeron, greetings from way up north in Whitmore Lake. Sounds like you stumbled into one of the coolest shops in town. Given your options, I would say going with the new Trek would probably bre your best bet. That said, when I find 70s & 80s japanese bikes IN GOOD SHAPE, and that's the key, they make great hybrid/townie bikes. I just finnished a project last week, setting up a old C. Itoh (bridgestone built) road bike. Swapped the 27'' wheels for 700c with cyclocross tires, wide bars w/ thumbshifters, plechter rack, lights for the short days & fenders for the wet.
A note on the fit, you comment that the seat hight was about right at 27'' (same as what I ride) and that the frame measured 19" (again about the same as I ride in a road frame) I think a 21" sounds a bit on the large size. What's your inseam measurement? I would trust the guys at TWT to set you up with a good fit.

http://www.kuwaharabicycles.com/kuwahara-history.html

Last edited by cyclodan; 11-22-04 at 08:32 PM.
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Old 11-22-04, 08:21 PM   #3
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Ditch the Kuwahara and buy new. Less trouble in the long run, especially if the seat post is stuck.
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Old 11-22-04, 09:07 PM   #4
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Most of the items you described are cheap to replaces if you do the work yourself. The seatpost may be tough to get out though. The bike could be a good learning project. I would get the new bike to start with and work on the old one in your spare time.
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Old 11-23-04, 01:17 AM   #5
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I have an old road bike, and a hybrid in my garage. I only use the old road bike. You'll eventually want to move up to a road bike anyway, and the old road bike goes much faster, and fun than the hybrid.
What I realised, after upgrading from MTB to Hybrid, is that the advantage is not all too great. Hybrids are comfort bikes, and they go well, but nothing special. The step between hybrid and road, is much bigger.
If its not too late, fix the road bike, but you can do a lot of the stuff yourself. The shop is charging you for labour as well. Oil, grease etc the bike, tighten all the screws, and it might already cut some cost. If you think the bike won't be in good riding condition after being repaired, than I don't recommend fixing it. As long as the finished result of the road bike is a good solid, and efficient machine, than do it.
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Old 11-23-04, 07:35 AM   #6
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The thing is, if that bike has been left out in the elements for a while there might not be anything worth salvaging BUT the frame (which seems like a pretty decent one). Definitely get the new bike just so you can get rolling then if you decide you want to make a project out of the old one, gimme a holla and since I only live about 10 mi. away, maybe I can help you out with some used parts, tips etc. (I have a basement full of old bike stuff and a buddy with even more.)
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Old 11-23-04, 08:19 AM   #7
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if left out in the rain and snow, forget about it. there could be dangerous hidden corrosion.
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Old 11-23-04, 08:32 AM   #8
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The seatpost may be tough to get out though.
If it's stuck you can get it started moving by spraying WD-40 on it (outside and inside) and waiting for a while, then pounding it with a hammer.

I highly recommend you at least use the old road bike as a way of learning to fix bikes. It's great to know how to fix your own brakes and shifters, etc.
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Old 11-23-04, 08:36 AM   #9
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Get the new bike and do complete stripdown and rebuild of the Kuwahara right down to the paint. Clean up any rust, Framesaver it, and give it several new coats of your favorite rattlecan color. Oh yeah, make it a singlespeed. It'll be your favorite ride after you're done.
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Old 11-23-04, 09:55 AM   #10
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The problem I've run into working on older road bikes is finding parts that fit. You have to know quite a bit to figure out what part fits, and find them cheap. However, if you want a project, and have the patience, then that can be fun.

On the other hand, if you want the quickest way to get on the streets, then buy the new bike, or newer used bike. The downside on this route, in my experience, is that the low end hybrids have very cheap components, and if you ride the bike regularly, they will wear out soon. So in the end, you get what you pay for. However, it's easier to find parts for the new bike.
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Old 11-23-04, 10:20 AM   #11
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Normally, I'd go with the used road bike. However, since your
usage is mostly under 10miles as utility/commute bike I'd
go with a new bike that YOU like that fits you. Also, I'm
a firm fan of lugged steel frames but for your stated use it
really doesn't matter just don't overspend. Tell you bike
shop that utility is what you need so they sell you a bike that
worked for that use and not some wanna be road/mountain bike.
Look at cruisers for utility use & comfort because cruisers have
always been about utility and comfort for short town runs.
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Old 11-25-04, 02:15 PM   #12
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Thanks for the input, everyone! I've decided to take on the Kuwahara as a winter project -- the next step will be getting it checked out at Two Wheel Tango, and assuming it doesn't have any major hidden problems, my attention will move to the Bicycle Mechanics forum for a while.
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Old 11-30-04, 11:54 AM   #13
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Hey, cyclodan, nice homepage. I almost got fired for trying to access it just now.
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Old 01-03-05, 12:44 PM   #14
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Hey, cyclodan, nice homepage. I almost got fired for trying to access it just now.
eek! yeah, I see what you mean. I suppose he thinks he's clever.


Anyhoo... Good luck with the project. I've been riding a Kurahara Count (mid 80's tourer) for about 5 years as one of my commuters. Provided the rust isnt bad, its a nice little lugged cromo frame from Osaka

enjoy
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Old 01-03-05, 02:04 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by stumpjumper
Anyhoo... Good luck with the project. I've been riding a Kurahara Count (mid 80's tourer) for about 5 years as one of my commuters. Provided the rust isnt bad, its a nice little lugged cromo frame from Osaka
Sadly, I had to give up on it -- the stem and seatpost were both rusted in place, and I wouldn't be comfortable riding it with the bars and saddle at the height they're stuck at.

Not too long after abandoning that project, though, I found a Bianchi of similar vintage in my size at a garage sale, so I'm happy. The Bianchi is Japanese-made, too; they might be cousins...
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