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Old 03-18-10, 08:28 AM   #1
Pukeskywalker
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1983 Trek 520 - your thoughts?

I' have the opportunity to buy a 1983 Trek 520 for $300.

At first I was excited, but I have some misgivings. I don't think the bike would be suitable for a long-distance tour for a few reasons:

1. Only one set of eyelets in the rear, none on the fork. Will be a hassle setting up full racks and fenders
1. No canti braze-ons. The '83 model uses caliper brakes.
3. No sure if the geometry is touring specific

What does everybody think about this? I want a serious touring bike, but recently I've been leaning towards buying a fully-equipped bike off the rack.

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Old 03-18-10, 08:45 AM   #2
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You can compare the frame geometry on the Vintage Trek website. The 520 was most definitely a touring bike, but at that time Trek also made a 620 and 720 that were more geared toward heavy loaded touring. The 720 had longer stays. They all had caliper brakes, though; cantilever brakes were just becoming an option around that time. My '82 720 has caliper brakes, and I continually toy with the idea of having cantilever studs put on.

Don't I see a pair of eyelets on the fork? Regardless, with P-clips you can attach racks pretty well, I wouldn't worry about that. You'll have enough room for fenders with 27" wheels, and a little more if you have 700c wheels.

All in all, though... $300 is not an amazingly good deal. I'd distrbute the cash among three pockets in my jeans and go see the bike. Your observations about eyelets, geometry, and brakes are all good talking points; add to that the 27" wheels... and see if you can get it for $200.

At any rate you can certainly tour on it and be proud of it. Though the 520 was not Trek's top-of-the-line touring bike at the time, it was the one that really caught on, and on which the current 520's reputation rests. The 620 and 720, though idolized by some, were soon discontinued and even today have plenty of detractors.
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Old 03-18-10, 08:49 AM   #3
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I say, give it a try. What's the worst that can happen?
Back a long time ago (when the earth's crust was still cooling) people travelled the world on bikes like that.
Even if it doesn't turn out to be the best trans-continental machine, you still have a great every day unit.
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Old 03-18-10, 09:03 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by rhm View Post
You can compare the frame geometry on the Vintage Trek website. The 520 was most definitely a touring bike, but at that time Trek also made a 620 and 720 that were more geared toward heavy loaded touring. The 720 had longer stays. They all had caliper brakes, though; cantilever brakes were just becoming an option around that time. My '82 720 has caliper brakes, and I continually toy with the idea of having cantilever studs put on.

Don't I see a pair of eyelets on the fork? Regardless, with P-clips you can attach racks pretty well, I wouldn't worry about that. You'll have enough room for fenders with 27" wheels, and a little more if you have 700c wheels.

All in all, though... $300 is not an amazingly good deal. I'd distrbute the cash among three pockets in my jeans and go see the bike. Your observations about eyelets, geometry, and brakes are all good talking points; add to that the 27" wheels... and see if you can get it for $200.

At any rate you can certainly tour on it and be proud of it. Though the 520 was not Trek's top-of-the-line touring bike at the time, it was the one that really caught on, and on which the current 520's reputation rests. The 620 and 720, though idolized by some, were soon discontinued and even today have plenty of detractors.

Ah you're right.. I didn't see the fork eyelets the first time.

$300 + $400 for new wheels + $200-ish for racks + $100 for fenders = $1,000 ... which also = 1 brand new touring bike.

I'm starting to think that building a touring bike isn't worth the headache, but i really have a soft spot for lugged steel frames.

Something I'll have to think about.

Thanks for the advice!
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Old 03-18-10, 09:11 AM   #5
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I love older bikes but... like you already mentioned it can get spendy.
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Old 03-18-10, 09:29 AM   #6
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Ah you're right.. I didn't see the fork eyelets the first time.

$300 + $400 for new wheels + $200-ish for racks + $100 for fenders = $1,000 ... which also = 1 brand new touring bike......
Presumably the existing wheels are at least rideable so you can clean them up, straighten & true if necessary and get $100 bucks for them. Decent fenders can be had for $50.

So for around $850 you get the equivalent of a new touring bike. Say $950 if you need new tires/tubes (not sure that you do). You can get a decent used LHT for that price but probably not one with $200 racks, and it might need new tires as well. Finding an equivalent 'brand new' touring bike complete with fenders, hand-laced touring wheels and hi quality racks will be almost impossible.
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Old 03-18-10, 10:07 AM   #7
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My concern would be that if that IS the bike for sale it's a big one and you're probably a big person. It looks like it's at least a 25" frame. Pretty sure all the tubing is regular road size which really
gets kind of whippy when the frames get that big and it's loaded down with lots of mass. Not to say it can't be used, like others have said people have traveled the world on worse bikes. I'd only
consider it if 700x35tires could fit in there and you could find some brakes to fit. It looks like the rear brake pads won't move down enough compared to the front. I think 700x35 and 27x1/4 are close enough in diameter to not be an issue. It's getting the brakes to fit. The other thing is that the rear dropout spacing is probably 126mm and it sure would be nice to not miss out on the most
conventional spacing for replacement touring wheels.

Sure seems like people are asking for top dollar on used bikes and buyers are looking for extreme low prices. I tried selling a 23yr old Bottechia road bike with misc. Shimano 600 and Campy components for $400 and the one offer I got was $200. The frame cost $550 back then.
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Old 03-18-10, 10:52 AM   #8
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I used to tour on a 25" 614 and it felt fine (not whippy) however it might have just felt 'normal' to me because I didn't have anything else to compare it to at the time. As for spacing, 130mm hubs will fit into 126mm of space with no problem at all. 135mm hubs will need cold setting - that's what I eventually did to my 614 when I switched to a set of XT MTB hubs.

Switching from 27" to 700 wheels will mean new long reach brakes. I changed the front and used a home-made drop bolt for the rear. If I were to do it all over again I might have just built new 27" wheels and not messed with the brakes at all.

Bottom line is that old, obsolete bikes can be perfectly serviceable but you really have to love fussing over them.
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Old 03-18-10, 11:07 AM   #9
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to LeeG and rwp:

I've actually just finished building up an '80s shogun touring bike with 126mm drop outs, and it was a headache. I did eventually find cheap cantis that worked (the cheapest Tektro makes), but fitting them has been hellish!

The bike is more of a commuter (12 speed, narrow tires), but it gave me a feel for the work involved

The owner of this 520 says the tires he has on it are 35's, so that's pretty big. No fenders of course, so who knows if compatibility would be an issue.

I do love tinkering with bikes, but the costs associated are proving to be pretty high

edit: and yes, I love "whippy" steel bikes! I'm 6'3, 180lbs, and all I ride are steel road bikes. Of course I've never done so with 60+lbs in the panniers...
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Old 03-18-10, 11:42 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pukeskywalker View Post
$300 + $400 for new wheels + $200-ish for racks + $100 for fenders = $1,000 ... which also = 1 brand new touring bike.

I'm starting to think that building a touring bike isn't worth the headache, but i really have a soft spot for lugged steel frames.
Well... I don't agree with your numbers, but never mind that. The important question is, I think, whether you want a 1983 bike or a 2010 bike. If you would prefer a 1983 bike, I think it's a no-brainer. It will certainly have its quirks, but there's nothing wrong with that. Many of the 1983 components are "obsolete" but perfectly functional; so while you could replace them for extravagant cost and modest improvement, there is no real need to do so.

As for 'whippy,' I've not heard of the 520 as whippy, but what do I know. I do know the 720 has a reputation for being whippy on account of its long stays and thinner tubing; but I (6' and 170 lbs) have never found mine to be whippy.
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Old 03-18-10, 12:24 PM   #11
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Your post sounds like I do when I'm rationalizing a purchase that I'm going to wish I hadn't made later.

I often rue a purchase that I thought was the best I could do, only to find a better deal a little down the road. If there's no pressing reason to leap right now, or if you're planning on touring with a load of more than 35 lbs, I'd say keep looking.
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Old 03-18-10, 12:32 PM   #12
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The owner of this 520 says the tires he has on it are 35's, so that's pretty big. No fenders of course, so who knows if compatibility would be an issue.

I do love tinkering with bikes, but the costs associated are proving to be pretty high

edit: and yes, I love "whippy" steel bikes! I'm 6'3, 180lbs, and all I ride are steel road bikes. Of course I've never done so with 60+lbs in the panniers...

Oh heck you aren't heavy, so it has 700C wheels?
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Old 03-18-10, 02:48 PM   #13
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I have the exact same bike, same year and everything. Bought it last fall in NOS condition. I bought mine for the same price as the one above, but I went into it wanting that specific bike and I knew I was going to put money into it upgrading and replacing some parts. I think it would be fine for fully-loaded touring but a 720 would probably be a bit better. I'm also one of the ultra-lite freaks so I never have too much of a load, so for me it is perfect.

As rhm says, most of the components are old and obsolete but work just fine. I've left stock parts on wherever I could and that helped keep the cost down, but I did replace the wheels and part of the drivetrain, plus new bars and stem combo. With everything I probably have somewhere around $850-950 in it. So if you're into an older frame and older parts and aren't afraid to upgrade and tinker a bit then it can be a really fun purchase. If you want everything new and shiny and like things stock buy a new LHT or something similar.
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Old 03-18-10, 06:07 PM   #14
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pass.

look for an 1984/85 trek _20, if youre looking to invest in a "keeper"

cantilevers and geometry are the reasons...
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Old 03-18-10, 09:31 PM   #15
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pass.

look for an 1984/85 trek _20, if youre looking to invest in a "keeper"

cantilevers and geometry are the reasons...
i have a 1985 520 and it doesn't have cantis, but i agree on pass.

these 520s are "sport tourers", best suited for long single day rides.
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Old 03-20-10, 10:39 PM   #16
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are you about to embark on a long tour? if not you can slowly upgrade parts, changing things out that you notice will need to go...300 is alittle steep but if its in nearly new condition it's a good deal considering what else you can get new these days for that... also look for a late 80s novare (REI brand) they made steel framed touring bikes and they turn up on ebay every once in a while really cheap.

I'm pretty sure a the time of its creation the 520 was considered a full touring bike, but i could be wrong.
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Old 03-22-10, 09:38 PM   #17
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I have the 84 model. I can't say that I have had a single issue with the rack arrangement... nor the geometry. Now that I am thinking of it the brakes haven't been an issue either.

I use it for touring and long distance riding. Great over all. I say go for it but each their own
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Old 03-23-10, 07:12 AM   #18
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I really don't think you'd have to put a whole lot of money in this bike to tour on it. Below is an 80's trek that I toured the katy trail on fully loaded and had a blast. As you can see it's a large frame and I didn't notice it being whippy. Good luck to ya whatever you decide.


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