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Vintage bike inspection

Old 03-27-18, 06:09 PM
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Hatchet
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Vintage bike inspection

When doing an inspection of a vintage/used bike you are considering purchasing, do you have a system for checking the bike? Do you start at the front and move to the back? Do you ďchunkĒ items together and inspect each in turn, like the bearings, wheels, fork, frame, etc.? Do you use a mental checklist?
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Old 03-27-18, 06:54 PM
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Depends on the price. Iíll sometimes inspect a part or two and once I am up to the asking price, the inspection is over. If I see a $100 part on a $50 bike Iíll buy it. No need to check further.

I do always check the seatpost and stem to see if they are stuck. Even then, at the right price Iíll buy those too.

The higher the price the more I check.

I watched a guy run a $40 Cannondale through endless checks at a garage sale. He spun the wheels, wiggled them side to side, ran it through the gears, used the brakes, and so on. He eventually walked away and I grabbed it. Sold it after servicing it for $325.

Donít over analyze a deal!


A lot of problems you canít see and you canít check without taking the bike apart. I just buy right so a surprise or two wonít make me lose $$.
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Old 03-27-18, 06:58 PM
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A big one for me is whether or not the machine appears "stock."

If it does not then it must receive a greater degree of scrutiny...

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Old 03-27-18, 07:09 PM
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I don't think about it much any more......

...but it is a great question.

Front to rear, wheels last. I pull the wheels off to look at the frame better, then check out the wheels. Also, I always ask to check the seat post and stem.

Most of the time, I am only interested in the frame and wheels.
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Old 03-27-18, 08:06 PM
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I always check the back sides of the brake calipers first. If they're super clean, I know the seller has worked hard to either keep the bike nice or prep it for selling. If they're dirty, I assume the bike will require a total teardown and examine it appropriately.
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Old 03-27-18, 09:02 PM
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First thing I check is the underside of the down tube, just behind the head tube. If there's a bump, meaning that the frame has buckled in a head-on collision, then I'm not interested.
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Old 03-27-18, 09:13 PM
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Originally Posted by davester View Post
First thing I check is the underside of the down tube, just behind the head tube. If there's a bump, meaning that the frame has buckled in a head-on collision, then I'm not interested.
That's the first thing I look for. I've found a surprising number of bikes that have had this issue.
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Old 03-28-18, 11:10 AM
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A machine which exhibits that "worked on look" it tends to put me off. So much work done on cycles is ill-informed.

When the price is low enough I may consider it for parts.

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Old 03-28-18, 11:16 AM
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Acquiring A Vintage Bicycle might be a good place to look. Or, perhaps some of the links on Vintage Bicycle Quality will add even more to helping a person understand what to look and LOOK-OUT for.
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Old 03-28-18, 11:35 AM
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An old man showed me this on buying a vintage car one day.
Same technique I also used as an EMT

View the scene... looks safe
Can your wife see you... nope Check again...
is the scene safe to enter and exit.
out of the corner of your eye look for any detail that could cause you to not make it out safely.
When you see the Bike, do not gasp but breath in slowly let your eyes focus
SEE (SAFE EXIT ENTRY)

as you approach the bike scan for parts and paint and leaks Air in the tires Brown rust Chrome flaking (ABC)
then when you touch the bike move the headset to make sure it is okay(EMT's just the opposite)
move the levers to shift rotate the crank
calculate N+1-$=happiness
if all looks good prepare the bike for transport
As an EMT I carried special tools that I have on me at all times

For bike tools I have two triple Y wrenches Metric and SAE
A small tape measure I can do the math so it is in inches
nitral Gloves in my pocket just in case
AIR in the car (a pump with Schrader and presta) for tires after transport for immediate resuscitation
small 2oz plastic container of grease and a can of cheap oven cleaner and a bottle of water (hub field revival...)

Arrive home and N=1
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Old 03-28-18, 01:09 PM
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Similar to wrk101 for me. If I have interest I already Identified why. If value is there I don't overdo.

On the other hand for a bike that is something I want complete I always check for dents, dings, cracks. Also originality as Juvela mentioned. If it is older and has sat some time I will have allen wrenches on hand to test seat post and stem to make sure not stuck. And flip over to inspect as well. Nothing wrong when doing this when you are paying a fair price. It helps with negotiation as well if there is an issue you can live with. Again, if a steal you can slack a bit and do a once over.

As for specific purchase reason, say wheels, you want on another project but are buying the parts bike. Then yes, spin them to make sure not grinding or issues, review for true, look for cracks at the eyelets or spoke pullinng through, quick hand check tension and look at hub hole condition.

Sucks when you think got something then find a major issue.
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Old 03-28-18, 01:55 PM
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The cheapest, dirtiest, dried out, cobweb wearing bikes always turn out to be the best producers for me. For instance, the Univega I paid $30 for was so dirty you couldn't tell what color it was. After I cleaned it up & installed upright stem, bars, & levers on it & new tires I traded it for a $375 Centurion Ironman.
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Old 03-28-18, 02:58 PM
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Interested in correct size frame, decent components, paint and metal finish in nice condition, extra accessories. I then check wheels to see if they are badly out of alignment and have hops. Then I look for frame damage, which I have luckily found to be rare. Then check to see if anything is seized. I don't care if the tires are dried and rotted, and tubes have holes or defective valves. I replace them. The nastier it looks with dust and grime the better, since the price will be adjusted accordingly. It doesn't matter what is on the surface, since it all gets taken apart, cleaned, regreased, replaced, etc. "Donor" bikes are a different story. Just looking for the parts and accessories I need. They are all that needs to be in top condition. Purchase prices need to be very low for me, since the time spent on overhauling and cost the for replacement parts and materials adds up quickly to the point where it isn't worth it... unless it is a really special high-end bike that I like, and it needs to be the corrrect size. If they think their rusty old "vintage" department store bike is worth a fortune I leave quickly. Otherwise, ten minutes is more than enough time for me to do a complete inspection for a purchase decision.
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Old 03-28-18, 05:03 PM
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The Capo Modell Campagnolo was only $20 at a yard sale. Having owned one previously, I knew what they were. It lacked the original Record hubs and cottered cranks, and the Gran Sport front derailleur had worn out, but it had a nice set of Nervar Star cranks and original gear levers and brakes. Since the frame was undamaged, it was a no-brainer at that price.

Capo Sieger -- this was a lot more of a splurge, but it was almost 100% original, and I knew it was the rare top-of-the-line model. I have since seen two in crummier and less complete condition sell for $2K and up on eBay, so no regrets on that one, either.
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Old 03-28-18, 07:12 PM
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Originally Posted by wrk101 View Post

Donít over analyze a deal!
A lot of problems you canít see and you canít check without taking the bike apart. I just buy right so a surprise or two wonít make me lose $$.
Words to live by.

Top
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Old 03-28-18, 07:21 PM
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egad.....

Knowledge is power.
Originally Posted by ramzilla View Post
The cheapest, dirtiest, dried out, cobweb wearing bikes always turn out to be the best producers for me. For instance, the Univega I paid $30 for was so dirty you couldn't tell what color it was. After I cleaned it up & installed upright stem, bars, & levers on it & new tires I traded it for a $375 Centurion Ironman.
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Old 03-28-18, 08:43 PM
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For me, there are a few important things to check to avoid buying a money pit:
Stem/post... bring an Allen wrench to make sure they are not stuck.
Wheels... quick spin to see they’re true enough w/no broken spokes
Drivetrain... a chain-checker is a great way to gauge the health of the whole system
As with any hobby, you can “educate your eye” over time with lots of practice and it will get to be very easy spot a good deal.
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