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Advice needed on buying the first vintage mountain bike

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Advice needed on buying the first vintage mountain bike

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Old 02-04-06, 08:53 AM
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Advice needed on buying the first vintage mountain bike

A question for the group: I'm hitting the Westchester, MD swap meet tomorrow (Sunday - 5th) and first priority is to find an old mountain bike (it'll be my first, I've never done anything other than road riding up to this point) - most likely looking for what's being showed here. Anyone care to give any advice? I know absolutely nothing about these things, having been out of cycling between 1977 and 2005.

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Old 02-04-06, 09:49 AM
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Like buying any used bike, fit first then condition. Mtb's often were not cleaned very often, "its going to get dirty again anyway" and as such often have wasted bearings and or drive trains.
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Old 02-04-06, 10:19 AM
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oh...see my response in the other thread...
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Old 02-04-06, 10:31 AM
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Lurker,

Thanks - that's just what I was looking for. All those brand names don't make the slightest bit of sense to me at present. I figure I'm going to be looking for something just to see if I like mountain biking, it wouldn't hurt to have something a bit collectable in the process.

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Old 02-04-06, 12:23 PM
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If you're looking for a well built solid ride, there are lots of brands that will serve the purpose. As was mentioned before, condition and fit above all else. I've had KHS, Miyata, Nishiki, Puegeot, Novara, Cannondale, Trek, Maruishi, Gary Fisher, Specialized, Bianchi and a few others I can't remember pass through my hands. Some are better than others, but all were solid bikes and ran well. Odds are you'll trip over Treks more than anything else - there seems to be a lot of 800 series Antelopes out there (must've been a popular bike). I rode a couple fo Novara's (REI house brand) for a long time that were very nice (if a bit heavy). Rock solid and never broke.

But here are a few brands to stay away from, regardless of how shiny and new they appear. This way lies the path to heartbreak:

Huffy
Magna
Mongoose
Next
Firenze
Motive (maybe - some are fairly decent)

Did I miss any?
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Old 02-04-06, 12:35 PM
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Originally Posted by number6
Like buying any used bike, fit first then condition. Mtb's often were not cleaned very often, "its going to get dirty again anyway" and as such often have wasted bearings and or drive trains.

^^^^^^^ - What he said.

MAKE SURE you shift through all the gears and inspect the brakes. Check closely for rust and corrosion. Grab the cranks an wiggle them side to side to see if the BB is sloppy, and listen/feel for noise/roughness when you spin the BB and wheel hubs.
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Old 02-04-06, 12:52 PM
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I agree with what's been said so far. The thing with mountain bikes, they tend to have a much shorter life span than road bikes, at least if the bike's been ridden as a true mountain bike. What might not really be that "old" in a road bike, say something from the early/mid '90's, is actually quite "old" for a mountain bike.......try to find something in double butted chromoly, with at least genuine entry level mtb components if you want an older bike that will be decent to ride off road. There are a lot of what I call "mountain style" bikes out there, that in all honesty just look like mountain bikes, but if you actually were to take them off road they might not last through the first ride......As for suspension, I think you're better off with a fully rigid bike than the junk that was on the earliest front suspended mountain bikes.........Oh, and I'll add the Gary Fisher brand to the list of '80's bikes that would be considered primo, IMHO..........And one more thing, if you decide you do like mountain biking, it's hard to beat the current crop of new, entry level mtbs for value for the buck. Good luck-
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Old 02-04-06, 04:04 PM
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[QUOTE=But here are a few brands to stay away from, regardless of how shiny and new they appear. This way lies the path to heartbreak:

Huffy
Magna
Mongoose
Next
Firenze
Motive (maybe - some are fairly decent)

Did I miss any?[/QUOTE]

As much as I appreciate the word about the good brands, this missive is probably even more important, especially seeing that I'm about in the same position as I was back in 1970 just before buying my first 10-speed. Thanks for the input: Huffy is easy - they made crap bikes back in 1970 when I took my first job as a bicycle mechanic. It's nice to know somethings are very traditional. I've seen too many Mongooses for sale in big box stores, so that one I had my doubts about. The other three are unknown to me, and what little I'd seen of Next had me thinking it may have been a quality brand. Thanks for the warning.

Will probably stay with a hardtail - I'm going to have enough culture shock being introduced to indexed shifting, and still wonder just how a suspension helps forward motion when it comes to pedaling. Got too many memories of Schwinn Crates, etc. I've already figured out probable frame size and what to look for, as I've had a very helpful young salesman at an LBS trying to sell me a new one (Trek and Raleigh) - this kid's been enough help with my culture shock that he's definitely getting the sale when I finally break down and buy a new bike. He's earned it.

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Old 02-04-06, 04:13 PM
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http://www.firstflightbikes.com/atb.htm Some info\brands to look for.
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Old 02-04-06, 04:14 PM
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I've seriously considered a new bike, but am hesitant to spend the money as how I'm getting into this is probably about as roundabout as you can get:

I'm back on a road bike for the first time in 28 years, and loving every second of it. Never should have stopped in the first place. Shortly before my return to pedals, I was given a '75 Honda 250 trials bike (free - I work for a Honda shop in Richmond, VA and have a few good customers) which I started rebuilding, and at the same time cutting about a mile of trail through the 10 acres of woods that are my yard so I'd have a place to play. 90% of the way through the motorcycle, I realized I'd rather spend my money on a couple of more bicycles (already have seven motorcycles), so I sold it. Now there's this matter of four months spent cutting this trail . . . .

Well, I figured, if this isn't the time to try mountain biking, when will it ever be? Thus the hunt.

Obviously, I don't want to spend much, just in case my love is completely with pavement (I've never had much of an interest in off-road motorcycling, but am on hell of a long distance tourer and camper, as well as a commuter). If the interest is really there, then I start looking new.

By the way, if any of you guys who've helped are within reasonable distance of the Richmond area, stay in touch. You've definitely earned a chance to try out my playground. I'm already mapping out the return loop down the other side of the property.

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Old 02-04-06, 04:49 PM
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Old steels is cool, old AL is suspect as repeated flexing will cause the tubing to shear.
Called catastrophic failure.
My old chromoly is 15 yrs old. Not recommended unless a really high end frame inspected well.

The components on an old frame will need some replacement\repair..
..anybody have a link for inspecting frames?
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Old 02-04-06, 05:30 PM
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Originally Posted by well biked
..........And one more thing, if you decide you do like mountain biking, it's hard to beat the current crop of new, entry level mtbs for value for the buck. Good luck-
You're spot on with this. An entry level bike can be had NEW for $300 and change. Hard to beat that on the "bang-for-buck" meter.
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Old 02-04-06, 05:38 PM
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Originally Posted by bigbossman
Did I miss any?
I'll answer my own question - yes I did:

Roadmaster
Murray

I just saw a Roadmaster at a local thrift, new in box and never assembled. Even at $10, I passed. I'd just strip it for cables and tires, and I have plenty of those already.

The list of what not to buy is shorter than the list of good candidates.
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Old 02-04-06, 05:51 PM
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Originally Posted by bigbossman
You're spot on with this. An entry level bike can be had NEW for $300 and change. Hard to beat that on the "bang-for-buck" meter.
Sure..but no....I ride a 1000$ frame I got for 150$. Cost 600$-7 to refit.
300$ mtb new will be very low end...and not worth upgrades or working on much.
I'd look into a retro steel frame that fits you like a glove, and a few simple cheap upgrades.
Aviod full suspension -go hardtail.
See how the sport grabs you....get to know the sport\bikes\components and what you might need.

If you mech\wrench -the sport is yours. Build ..re-build ect.
The right frame\fit is the most important aspect of the riding.

Eh...do whatever.

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Old 02-04-06, 06:07 PM
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Crap, I find MTBs all the time in RVA... pass on most of 'em... what's your frame size and how picky are you? There's a Trek 800 and a Nishiki, as well as a steel framed and lugged bianchi MTB, in the basement right now... no suspension type MTBs in the house right now, don't like 'em anyhoo...
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Old 02-04-06, 06:11 PM
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I like my Schwinn (see signature), but I use it strictly for multitrack, dirt roads, and street riding, rather than daredevil technical bouldering.
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Old 02-04-06, 06:21 PM
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Originally Posted by jeff williams
sure..but no....I ride a 1000$ frame I got for 150$. Cost 600$ to refit.
Enjoy.
Yeah, but finding an older $1000 mountain bike frame for $150 might not be all that easy to do. Believe me, I'm not criticizing old steel, or old aluminum, or old anything else for tha matter. I'm just saying that for someone like skyerocker, if he decides he might like to get into mountain biking, you get a lot of bike for your money these days on new mountain bikes, particularly at the entry level..........About a year and a half ago, my then ten year old son had outgrown and worn out his Wal-Mart Huffy. I could see that he has a real interest in cycling, so I bought him a Gary Fisher Marlin ($470 retail) that I got for $400 as a model-year closeout. I look at this bike and think, "son, you have no idea how good you've got it." I mean this bike is sweet for $400! 3 x 8 gearing, Deore components with Shimano triggers, bombproof Bontrager cranks and wheels and nice IRC Mythos tires. And he rides the heck out of it, around the neighborhood, to school, on a nice little 35 mile road loop we do together, and yes, even real mountain biking. The bike is capable, obviously not the lightest mountain bike out there, but I see other kids on their $200 (insert one of the brands bigbossman names NOT to buy here), with full suspension (yeah, right) that gets maybe an inch and a half of travel and adds about thirty pounds of weight, and the other kids wonder why my son passes them like they're standing still!........One of the most satisfying things I've seen recently in regard to bicycling was when I was up at a neighborhood park with my youngest son and I saw this rider FLYING across a grass field at a distance, turning what looked to be about 100 RPM and in perfect form. I said to myself, "damn, that dude's fast!" Then I realized it was my son on his Marlin! And there are lots of other entry level models out there in the same price range, I've just been quite fond of GF bikes in recent years, the latest one I built up is so light it almost doesn't exist.
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Old 02-04-06, 07:43 PM
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Originally Posted by well biked
......I've just been quite fond of GF bikes in recent years......
They make nice bikes. I recently picked up a GF Mamba (with front suspension) for $100. Needed a wheel set, but that's it. I just happened to have a set of wheels in the garage.

I had a nice Trek 830 Singletrack for a little while that I paid $80 for. It was a clean little hardtail and had a nice RockShox fork. I rode it for a while, but it was too small for me so went up on CL.

I'm finishing up the final touches on a Bianchi Peregrine rigid right now. A nice, solid little bike. It's too small for me as well, and will go the way of CL (hopefully tonight).

The wife used to have a little Trek 800 Antelope. It was a great bike and a good performer, and even though it was rigid did a good job on the local fire roads.
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Old 02-04-06, 08:03 PM
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Originally Posted by well biked
Yeah, but finding an older $1000 mountain bike frame for $150 might not be all that easy to do. Believe me, I'm not criticizing old steel, or old aluminum, or old anything else for tha matter. I'm just saying that for someone like skyerocker, if he decides he might like to get into mountain biking, you get a lot of bike for your money these days on new mountain bikes, particularly at the entry level..........About a year and a half ago, my then ten year old son had outgrown and worn out his Wal-Mart Huffy. I could see that he has a real interest in cycling, so I bought him a Gary Fisher Marlin ($470 retail) that I got for $400 as a model-year closeout. I look at this bike and think, "son, you have no idea how good you've got it." I mean this bike is sweet for $400! 3 x 8 gearing, Deore components with Shimano triggers, bombproof Bontrager cranks and wheels and nice IRC Mythos tires. And he rides the heck out of it, around the neighborhood, to school, on a nice little 35 mile road loop we do together, and yes, even real mountain biking. The bike is capable, obviously not the lightest mountain bike out there, but I see other kids on their $200 (insert one of the brands bigbossman names NOT to buy here), with full suspension (yeah, right) that gets maybe an inch and a half of travel and adds about thirty pounds of weight, and the other kids wonder why my son passes them like they're standing still!........One of the most satisfying things I've seen recently in regard to bicycling was when I was up at a neighborhood park with my youngest son and I saw this rider FLYING across a grass field at a distance, turning what looked to be about 100 RPM and in perfect form. I said to myself, "damn, that dude's fast!" Then I realized it was my son on his Marlin! And there are lots of other entry level models out there in the same price range, I've just been quite fond of GF bikes in recent years, the latest one I built up is so light it almost doesn't exist.

I have ADD and cannot read that..
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Old 02-04-06, 08:43 PM
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Originally Posted by jeff williams
I have ADD and cannot read that..
Sorry.......Here's the condensed version. I like old steel mountain bikes. But if I were advising someone who has determined they want to get into the sport, I'd have them check into some of the new, entry level mtbs. It's amazing to me how much bike you get for your money these days on such bikes. And I'm very proud of my son, who likes to ride, which is off topic but I thought I'd brag on him anyway.
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Old 02-04-06, 11:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Poguemahone
Crap, I find MTBs all the time in RVA... pass on most of 'em... what's your frame size and how picky are you? There's a Trek 800 and a Nishiki, as well as a steel framed and lugged bianchi MTB, in the basement right now... no suspension type MTBs in the house right now, don't like 'em anyhoo...
Yeah, Trek keeps coming up, I have a feeling that's going to be one of my main targets. Raleigh is another, if only because I reasonably like what I see in the new stuff and really adore the old. I seem to fit a 17 or 18" frame the best, can probably do a 19" but the standover is getting a bit close.

Being new to this, my first gut reaction is to stay with the brands I remember from the old days. From my reading, most of the ones that survived are still putting out good product. Cannondale (boy, I remember them from panniers, not bike frames!) and Trek seem to be the two exceptions that I'm comfortable around.

Definitely keeping it simple on the frame - I still prefer my 70's steel, have yet to ride anything newer than 1982. Suppose I'll adjust one of the days. There's just too much out there available to roll one's own, and I was a damned good mechanic in my day - and have found that it's still all in my fingers. Just need the flexing to get the rust off, and an occasional bit of post-84 technology to start learning the new skills.

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Old 02-05-06, 12:40 AM
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For the record, I had an early '90s Mongoose Rockadile and it was excellent. Full chromoly frame, decent wheels and drivetrain (for the price), and it stood up to just about anything I could think of as a teenager. The frame was just straight chromoly, but the bike wasn't all that heavy for a low-mid priced early '90s mtb. In fact I still have the frame and it would be perfectly useable today if a person wanted to build it up. Back then I never saw a Mongoose in a department store; they were sold in bike shops just like any Trek, Cannondale, or Specialized.
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Old 02-05-06, 07:54 AM
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Buy a beeter.Learn to ride. You wont be careing about the bike as you sail towards that OAK TR.....
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Old 02-05-06, 01:21 PM
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avoid sailing toward anything. doesn't matter what you are riding, the landing always hurts. If you shop for a 'dale, avoid the early 24/26" jobs unless you are just looking for a collector's item. the handling on that particular one was in the ditch (good idea for motocross, but I don't have 70 HP legs...) Trek made a whole slew of good bikes after the Antelope - they are numbered like 7000-8000-8500-8700. Good solid aluminum frames (8700 was carbon fiber), good parts mix, may or may not have front suspension. I think that most of the Specialized bikes are also very good and direct competitors to the Treks.

Good front suspension is nice to have, but would require a small book to get you pointed in the right direction. Avoid Scott forks, they were recalled and never worked very well anyway. I think I'd avoid AMP forks as well, not that they worked poorly, but they had maintenance problems, as did the very first Rock Shox. Manitous or later rockshox should be okay (dripping oil from the top seals = very bad...). Parts for all of the early ones are getting hard to come by, but if you already have a setup for motocross repair, bike forks are a piece of cake.

Most rear suspension that actually works is still pretty expensive technology, as are functional disk brakes. If you run across a setup like this, let us know and someone here will have had experience on it.
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Old 02-05-06, 03:33 PM
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Final report upon getting home: I picked up a rather nice Trek 930 in good condition, everything seems solid, everything works properly. It's definitely been ridden by the previous owner, but it shows signs of also having been cared for. A bit of corrosion on a few plated fasteners, but nothing that the bead blaster at work can't take care of. New brake shoes, new chain, and I should be ready to fly.

Got it out on my trail as soon as I got it home. Discovered three things very quickly: A. MTB riding is a lot different than a road bike, B. There just may be something to this index shifter stuff, and, C. I may have been a bit too enthusiastic in designing a couple of sections of my trail - at least until I learn how to ride the bloody thing.

Syke
Deranged Few M/C
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