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Best vintage road bike under $500

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Best vintage road bike under $500

Old 02-13-24, 10:08 AM
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Icemilk: O.P. gave no criteria but price and "vintage". He also stated that he "likes" Italian bikes. You assume too much.
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Old 02-13-24, 10:15 AM
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Check out bikes from Mid 80s to Early 90s from the makes of Schwinn, Raleigh, Centurion, Bianchi, Univega, Trek, Motobecane, Peugeot. Some of the models from these manufacturers were low-end, so be careful what you choose. They will fit within your budget.
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Old 02-13-24, 10:29 AM
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I agree with most, this is a buyers paradise right now. Take your time test a few and get familiar with what YOU want. Around here mid level to higher level classic bikes are just sitting ....even at $150 asking price! I have bought complete bikes just to get parts and wheels because they were cheaper than trying to buy the parts I needed. Enjoy the journey.... Joe
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Old 02-13-24, 10:53 AM
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As mentioned above, determine exactly what you are looking for in terms of Make, Model, Size etc. Start scouring the marketplace such as Craigslist, Ebay etc. regularly and consistently. Be patient and what you're looking for will surface.
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Old 02-13-24, 11:34 AM
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I’ll throw a fly into the ointment.

40 years ago drop bars were part of the experience but knees, back, etc may not be as limber as they once were. As suggested, try bikes out but don’t disregard a more upright riding position.
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Old 02-13-24, 12:41 PM
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IMO, if your total budget is $500, reserve at least $100 of that for potential/probable needs like new tires, cabling, brake pads, etc. Maybe more if you may want a new saddle, or different stem, etc, to get the fit right.
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Old 02-13-24, 01:06 PM
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Originally Posted by ehcoplex
IMO, if your total budget is $500, reserve at least $100 of that for potential/probable needs like new tires, cabling, brake pads, etc. Maybe more if you may want a new saddle, or different stem, etc, to get the fit right.
This is good advice as many bikes, even ones "ready to ride," need a good bit of work. If he was buying from me (and, likely, a number of us here), at $500, that bike would be fully taken care of, overhauled, tested, with consumables either new or with much life left in them. For bikes that are nearly or completely sorted, that extra allocation would be perfect for the fine tuning elements you suggested (saddle, stem, heck even tires).
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Old 02-13-24, 01:10 PM
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Originally Posted by smd4
Is it your size? Do you know what Columbus Formula 2 tubing is? Can you finish a $360 frame for $140 bucks? You've gotten a ton of great advice here, with several advocating patience, which--as is often the case--you seem to have chosen to ignore.

That Wheeler @RiddleOfSteel posted is insane, and you'd never be able to build up the Bianchi with those parts for probably less than a grand.
It's even a 54cm! I agree, it's a lot of nice 7700 on a Prestige frame. One would have to get almost criminally good deals on every single part and frame to break even on that build, IMO. The seller is in it for the love of the game, which we understand. Kudos to him. I'll be building something to sell that's of the same ethos: a lot of performance (and Dura-Ace) for the money on a vintage lugged frame (it may not be Prestige, but it rides well and steers beautifully).
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Old 02-13-24, 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Phaseshift
Any reason why I shouldn’t pull the trigger on this?

https://www.ebay.com/itm/25638918319...mis&media=COPY
That's a decent frame at a "pricey price." You won't build up a bike for 500 bucks with only $150 to invest in parts. So much depends on what you mean by "vintage": what you are used to riding, how much you plan to ride it and where, and any other unstated preferences. My typical recommendation to those who have only ridden modern bikes is to get something from the mid-'80s or later. The key here is indexed shifting and decent brakes. Something with 600/Ultegra or Dura Ace will be a slam-dunk in satisfaction, providing it's not beat or worn out. Shimano indexed downtube shifters are the total bomb, and bikes equipped with 600 typically had butted chromoly tubing and often are Japanese made--it's hard to do better in terms of quality and performance. There is some decent Suntour stuff from that era, but parts availability can be sketchy and it never shifted as well as Shimano. Once you've ridden a bike so equipped for awhile, you can think about whether or not you want to delve further into the past and start messing with some of the more esoteric and challenging components, experiencing the joys of "every shift an adventure", braking that doesn't stop the bike, tires that have to be glued on, and parts that cost so much you have to hide purchases from your romantic partner, beginning a chain of duplicity and deceit that will eventually take you right strait to hell.

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Old 02-13-24, 01:51 PM
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Originally Posted by RustyJames
I’ll throw a fly into the ointment.

40 years ago drop bars were part of the experience but knees, back, etc may not be as limber as they once were. As suggested, try bikes out but don’t disregard a more upright riding position.
Drop bars with turkey/suicide levers will give both an upright riding position and multiple positions on the handle to move your hands and relax your muscles. Turkey levers, if properly set, work great. I also think they are underrated.
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Old 02-13-24, 02:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Eyes Roll
Drop bars with turkey/suicide levers will give both an upright riding position and multiple positions on the handle to move your hands and relax your muscles. Turkey levers, if properly set, work great. I also think they are underrated.
not to argue, but to refine a description-
“Turkey” levers 4 decades ago referred to “dual position”, or “ comfort levers” - a secondary lever that followed the curve of the upper half of the drop bar and pivoted off the same pivot of the primary brake lever.
For those that arrived to cycling 30 years ago, in-line brake levers or cyclocross levers were sometimes referred to as Turkey levers. A bit similar in that braking from the tops of the handlebars could be effected, and actually equal or near equal braking performance in use. The better units with adjustable static reach.

I agree that for bikes with aero brake cable routing, a good way to go for casual use.

as fitted to my son’s road bike.

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Old 02-13-24, 04:25 PM
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^^^^^ Commonly called "interrupter" levers, because they "interrupt" the cable housing.
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Old 02-13-24, 04:44 PM
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Originally Posted by madpogue
^^^^^ Commonly called "interrupter" levers, because they "interrupt" the cable housing.
a decent description.
Turkey levers I think not.
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Old 02-13-24, 06:33 PM
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I just saw that the OP in in Valencia, CA. The world is your oyster, my friend. SO many good bikes for cheap out there. It is ridiculous. There is absolutely no reason not to hold out for an absolute top-tier bike (especially if you might prefer Italian) because one will come along sooner or later (probably sooner). The key is to have cash in your pocket, and be ready to strike as soon as you see a deal.

Make friends w/ SoCaled , he is out in Cali and is an expert at finding amazing deals A finder's fee doesn't hurt either. Did you say what you ideal size is?
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Old 02-13-24, 07:13 PM
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Originally Posted by RustyJames
I’ll throw a fly into the ointment.

40 years ago drop bars were part of the experience but knees, back, etc may not be as limber as they once were. As suggested, try bikes out but don’t disregard a more upright riding position.
It's even more important for those of us who started out with relatively long legs and have done some aging since.

As an example, today I began work on a decent full-suspension bike that I sourced at Goodwill. The frame seems the right 18" or Medium size, but in the old style, the "drop" from saddle to the bars was over 4" using a necessarily-long seatpost for my odd proportions. And on this one, the steer tube was cut clean "slammed" at only the height of the top of the threadless stem, ugghh. Luckily I had a 130X35-degree Ahead-stem to fit on it so I won't have to ride it all "stink-bug".
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Old 02-13-24, 07:49 PM
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Check out your local charity resale shops.

I was donating a few boxes of unwanteds and my eyes kept being drawn to one of their bikes out on the sidewalk about ten yards from me. They always have plenty of low-end bikes I had no interest in, but there was something about this one, so I walked over to take a closer look. Turns out it was a Gitane Interclub, and I bought it for all of $10. Between tires, cables, etc., I may have $200 in it. It has plenty of tire clearance and it rides really nice!


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Old 02-13-24, 08:32 PM
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If you are on the west coast, its packed with bikes out there. Take a week or two doing some research. You have enough stock to reasonably take your pick among brands and even colors honestly.
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Old 02-13-24, 08:54 PM
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Tektro long reach dual-pivot brakes look great:




Their short reach ones look great, too.




Aside from all-Campy road-racing bikes from the '70s, matchy-matchy is overrated, IMO.
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Old 02-13-24, 09:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Brad L
Check out your local charity resale shops.

I was donating a few boxes of unwanteds and my eyes kept being drawn to one of their bikes out on the sidewalk about ten yards from me. They always have plenty of low-end bikes I had no interest in, but there was something about this one, so I walked over to take a closer look. Turns out it was a Gitane Interclub, and I bought it for all of $10. Between tires, cables, etc., I may have $200 in it. It has plenty of tire clearance and it rides really nice!


Hard to believe. Show me the receipt from the charity shop.
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Old 02-13-24, 10:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Eyes Roll
Hard to believe. Show me the receipt from the charity shop.
I would if I could. I bought it before I was into vintage and it hung in the garage for 10 years before I refurbished it, which was 5 years ago.
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Old 02-13-24, 11:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Eyes Roll
Hard to believe. Show me the receipt from the charity shop.
Why is that hard to believe? People have found really nice bikes even set out for the trash. Ask randyjawa or pastorbobnlnh about some of their dump finds.
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Old 02-14-24, 01:19 AM
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Exactly!

The key to finding truly great deals is to know what you like and what might be worth flipping, then go out with an open mind.

The great bike deals can often be on bikes you've never heard of, but the opportunistic (in a good way) side of you can present buying opportunities that are far better than buying anything as "what you want, when you want it".

A local charity thrift store put a donated Miyata 1000 out behind their strip mall store with a "free" sign on it. There were two bikes actually, I've forgotten what the other one was.

And when the local Goodwill store put a weathered Windsor Profesional in their dumpster, I just happened to be riding by and spotted what looked like a Campagnolo Record crankset (it's always the high-end crankset that catches my eye when I find something like a free PX10 or Centurion Pro-Tour in the trash).
Then there was the time that my friend spotted a 1997 Lincoln Town Car with a "free" sign on it; all it needed was a new intake manifold, tires, battery, alternator, a few power window motors and lots of cleaning:
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Old 02-14-24, 01:35 AM
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I do like a good '90s Town Car @dddd and I haven't seen one with those wheels before. They give off Rolls Royce vibes for some reason [ok ok ok, everyone, put down the pitchforks!]
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Old 02-14-24, 01:56 AM
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Originally Posted by RiddleOfSteel
I do like a good '90s Town Car @dddd and I haven't seen one with those wheels before. They give off Rolls Royce vibes for some reason [ok ok ok, everyone, put down the pitchforks!]
Those four matching chromed "Cartier" wheels (a $2k option at the time) with hub caps intact is perhaps the one thing that gave me some faith in the non-running, debris-covered car.

Luckily for me, the Ford engines from this era are extremely tolerant of coolant-loss events. I saved this town car with a coolant-leaking cracked intake manifold, as well as the shown (barely visible, also free) Ford Expedition 5.4 AWD (had electronics issues) that seems none the worse after two overheating events (a broken serpentine belt and a broken firewall heater core fitting).


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Old 02-14-24, 02:26 AM
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OP,
You might want to check out the fine folks at the Ventura Bike Co-op. They might have something that fits. I assume West LA has similar shops/co-ops. (The Bicycle Kitchen?). This page has a list of co-ops in Los Angeles: https://bikinginla.com/bike-shops-co-ops/, or if you want to make a trip out of it you could head over to BiciCentro in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria. Call first to see if they have anything in your size!

Personally, even if you have a pull towards Italian bikes, I'd lean towards something in the sport-touring end if you're getting back into the sport. Lower gears for hills, wider tires for bad roads. Price is a challenge since there are so many variables and you're not looking at something with an MSRP. You could always get lucky and find a Specialized Sequoia for $250 or something wild like that!

Here a search thread on craigslist to get you started locally:
Valencia-area 54cm bikes
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