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Vintage road bikes as first “real” bike? Light Commuting etc.

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Vintage road bikes as first “real” bike? Light Commuting etc.

Old 02-17-19, 08:12 PM
  #1  
Bladejmh2000
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Vintage road bikes as first “real” bike? Light Commuting etc.

Basically title! I’m new here so I don’t know a single thing about bikes. I’m looking for something cheap, and goodlooking to get the job done in a reliable way... so with my research so far is: vintage. But I also may be wrong. I’m eyeing a Nishiki Sebring at the moment and I’m getting excited to starts so I’m really tempted just to buy something soon. What do you guys think? Are there any bikes I should keep my eye out for?

Edit: Im located in the Los Angeles area so there should never be a lack of bikes, I just have no idea where to look

Last edited by Bladejmh2000; 02-18-19 at 01:18 PM.
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Old 02-17-19, 08:43 PM
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Welcome!
There is a whole forum here devoted to Classic and Vintage bikes. Full of friendly and helpful members.
An old steel bike is a great starting point. There are reasons why so many people still ride them. They last. They're cost effective. The ride is comfortable. Nishiki is generally a quality bike but like any manufacturer they have too end stuff and bottom end stuff. I'm not immediately familiar with the Sebring. If you don't get lots of info here the C&V forum will be a wealth of knowledge on whether you're buying a good bike at a good price.
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Old 02-17-19, 11:10 PM
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Sure there are, ... but you have to find them ,


post a picture, then opinions may be offered...


Overhauling re greasing, and inspection of moving parts condition is assumed ..

that cannot be done online, for you, either..
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Old 02-18-19, 01:17 AM
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I started with a bike like a Nishiki Sebring, an Araya sport. The Sebring is a simple, very well made bike which can be used for commuting or touring. The frame is high quality chrome-moly steel, the original components are rock-solid reliable, all they need is regular lubrication and an occasional adjustment. I upgraded to a Nishiki (the Araya was burned up in a house fire), and put many a mile on it.
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Old 02-18-19, 11:18 AM
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Yes, with a pile of caveat:

1) You must do some research and learn what components, tubing, etc is good and bad, and not fixiate on one particular bike. It is rather difficult to find a specific bike in your size in your location when you are talking about something that stopped being manufactured 30+ years ago. Knowing about such things will allow you to easily evaluate a bike you know nothing about and determine if it is suitable for your needs.

2) As implied above, you must be flexible in what you buy. It is ok to have a general idea of what you want (say, an Italian lugged 531 bike with Campy drivetrain), it is another to focus on one specific model or year (say, a 1973 Peugeot UO8)

3) You must do the rebuild/maintenance yourself. Shop labor will quickly price you out of reasonability, and when you start talking especially about some of the old metric bikes that few have tools/knowledge to work on anymore, it becomes even more so.

4) Some of the old stuff, while durable and suitable until it wears out, is no longer available and will result in costly modernization or scouring eBay and swap shows when it goes, e.g. the Helicomatic casettes used on a lot of French and some early Treks.

5) Make sure when you buy, the stem and seatpost aren't stuck. Unless it is a particularly rare bike or free, just walk away from that, there will be something along soon enough that is just as good a deal without the headache.

6) If it is a good deal, you are competing with flippers, who always seem to have endless cash on hand and time to go pick up a bike within minutes of posting. I once watched a nice black PH10 list for $100, sell, and be listed again in the exact same condition for $400 a few hours later one afternoon at work. If there is something you want, be ready to show up with cash in hand.

7) If you buy from said flippers, know they are not equal. Some do great work and take pride in what they sell, some will tell you it has new brakes and mean they tossed a set of 99 cent pads on and moved the cable housing to hide a rust hole under a mounting braze-on. As always, buyer beware and thoroughly inspect it. Don;t take the sellers word for anything.

FWIW, I started out on vintage, and while I still have two I somewhat regularly ride, I have moved on to more modern. It really all depends on what you really want to do with the bike at the end of the day. I would never disparage daily riding or commuting on a vintage bike, I did it for a few years, but much like owning a muscle car from the 70s versus a lease turn-in used late model Ford Focus, there are some nice things about modern and newer for something being used and relied on daily.

Last edited by jefnvk; 02-18-19 at 11:26 AM.
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Old 02-18-19, 11:24 AM
  #6  
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I did not see a location.
Are there any bike shops nearby?
Every bike shop has customers that have too many bikes sitting around that will possibly be freely given to someone new to riding.
I gave away a Giant Talon 27.5 to a friend who needed one as well as my first Schwinn Circuit to another coworker who wanted to start riding..
Look up "Bike Karma". It sometimes comes back around in a very good way.
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Old 02-18-19, 12:34 PM
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I'm gunna repeat what I say about buying old bikes: if you are asking the question then the answer is NO. Vintage bikes require way too much bike knowledge for a beginner to just dive in as there are way too many variables to just hand someone a list and say "just look for this and this". Sure, many of us here have gotten screaming deals on Craigslist, lawn sales or just bikes that are tossed out but knowing what to get and how to fix it takes knowledge which can only be gotten through practical experience. Paying a professional to work on a vintage bike quickly eats up big $ and they will generally just replace your classic old parts for cheap modern equivalents rather than try and get your old stuff working again. I suggest for a first bike buy new -if you don't have a lot of money, scour the internet dealers for scratch and dent or old models. Later, when you learn some basic maintenance and get a feel for bikes, look out for vintage bikes and decide what you like and don't like about particular styles and eras (old English bike, 60's French, classic Italian, 80's Japanese etc etc) and then keep an eye out for deals.
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Old 02-18-19, 12:45 PM
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If you can buy an old bike for cheap that looks good and doesn't need anything done to it then go for it. Cheap for me is a $200 to $0.00 bike. Maybe $300 if everything is excellent about it and I'm drawn to it.

However if vintage is bikes of the 20th century or very early 21st century, then realize that you won't have a lot of gear selection. The more speeds you have on the rear, the better, IMO. But depending on your style of riding, maybe not a big deal.
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Old 02-18-19, 01:20 PM
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Originally Posted by jefnvk View Post
Yes, with a pile of caveat:

1) You must do some research and learn what components, tubing, etc is good and bad, and not fixiate on one particular bike. It is rather difficult to find a specific bike in your size in your location when you are talking about something that stopped being manufactured 30+ years ago. Knowing about such things will allow you to easily evaluate a bike you know nothing about and determine if it is suitable for your needs.

2) As implied above, you must be flexible in what you buy. It is ok to have a general idea of what you want (say, an Italian lugged 531 bike with Campy drivetrain), it is another to focus on one specific model or year (say, a 1973 Peugeot UO8)

3) You must do the rebuild/maintenance yourself. Shop labor will quickly price you out of reasonability, and when you start talking especially about some of the old metric bikes that few have tools/knowledge to work on anymore, it becomes even more so.

4) Some of the old stuff, while durable and suitable until it wears out, is no longer available and will result in costly modernization or scouring eBay and swap shows when it goes, e.g. the Helicomatic casettes used on a lot of French and some early Treks.

5) Make sure when you buy, the stem and seatpost aren't stuck. Unless it is a particularly rare bike or free, just walk away from that, there will be something along soon enough that is just as good a deal without the headache.

6) If it is a good deal, you are competing with flippers, who always seem to have endless cash on hand and time to go pick up a bike within minutes of posting. I once watched a nice black PH10 list for $100, sell, and be listed again in the exact same condition for $400 a few hours later one afternoon at work. If there is something you want, be ready to show up with cash in hand.

7) If you buy from said flippers, know they are not equal. Some do great work and take pride in what they sell, some will tell you it has new brakes and mean they tossed a set of 99 cent pads on and moved the cable housing to hide a rust hole under a mounting braze-on. As always, buyer beware and thoroughly inspect it. Don;t take the sellers word for anything.

FWIW, I started out on vintage, and while I still have two I somewhat regularly ride, I have moved on to more modern. It really all depends on what you really want to do with the bike at the end of the day. I would never disparage daily riding or commuting on a vintage bike, I did it for a few years, but much like owning a muscle car from the 70s versus a lease turn-in used late model Ford Focus, there are some nice things about modern and newer for something being used and relied on daily.
Thanks! I really appreciate the info at the moment I know that for the price I plan to invest in the bike I should be able to afford replacement parts. I'm just as excited to start working on a bike as I am to get one. Would you happen to have any resources to guide me in the repair process?
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Old 02-18-19, 02:10 PM
  #10  
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The park tools website and sheldon brown are the two go-to spots for me for bike maintenance. The specialty tools you need to do your own work are available reasonably on amazon, or MEC in Canada (don't know for elsewhere), usually for the same or less than getting the job done once at a bike shop - pretty much a freewheel tool, cone wrenches, crank puller and whatever bottom bracket style you've got. Good luck - the difference between what every cyclist should know to fix on the road and what you need to completely replace a drivetrain isn't actually that much, so you might as well start learning!

I bought an 88 Bianchi Strada (strada was entry level drop bar at the time) in 2005 for $40 at a bike swap. It's still my primary commuter when the roads are ice-free. I've replaced everything but the frame and fork, headset, handlebars, stem, and brake calipers in that time - I think that keeps me out of George Washington's axe territory, but if you use things, parts wear out. Plus a little upgrade-itis. I do find I like downtube shifting as much as I like STI or bar-end.
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Old 02-18-19, 02:37 PM
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Vintage Nishiki bikes were made in Japan. Unlike French and Italian bike manufacturers, the Japanese used standard English threaded parts so finding replacement parts is not as difficult. Most of the French parts companies are long out of business. I owned a Nishiki American Eagle Semi-Pro from the 1970s and up until the time I gave it to a young kid I was able to find any part I needed for it. If you wanted to keep it "authentic" with all original parts, that would be different but simply replacing a component with one that fits and works isn't difficult.
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Old 02-18-19, 07:29 PM
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I still don't understand the hatred toward the Helicomatic system. My one and only ride is an '84 Peugeot PH10 that I bought new and the Helicomatic system is still as good as the day it was new. Some one care to enlighten me, please?
Jon
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Old 02-18-19, 08:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Bladejmh2000 View Post
Basically title! I’m new here so I don’t know a single thing about bikes. I’m looking for something cheap, and goodlooking to get the job done in a reliable way... so with my research so far is: vintage. But I also may be wrong. I’m eyeing a Nishiki Sebring at the moment and I’m getting excited to starts so I’m really tempted just to buy something soon. What do you guys think? Are there any bikes I should keep my eye out for?

Edit: Im located in the Los Angeles area so there should never be a lack of bikes, I just have no idea where to look



I've bought quite a few used bikes. You show an interest in tips, so here goes:

Craigslist, flea markets, yard or garage sales, estate sales, thrift stores and pawn shops are places to try. You can also post on bulletin boards at some bike shops, among other places. People in wealthier neighborhoods tend to have better quality everything, including bikes.

Some bikes I have bought have hardly been ridden. There are many bikes like this out there. People plan to ride something, but like a New Year's resolution, the plans often do not actualize.

There are some very good reasons for preferring a little-used bike that has been stored inside. Among other things, the components still have a lot of miles left on them. Most of the parts on a bike, including the bearings and cogs, chains and chain rings, rims and tires, wear out with miles. Replacing them can easily cost more than the bike. So it's best to find something with very little usage and wear.

Another very important point is to learn to recognize quality componentry or parts. They will function better and last longer. And they will give you fewer problems.

Learn to recognize quality brands and their quality models, and quality steels. Each brand has lower end bikes and higher end bikes. Definitely go for the higher end models.

Don't settle for a size that is a little off.

Find something you really enjoy riding. Some bikes fit like a glove and are a joy to ride.

Don't rush. Don't settle for less than excellence.

Another source for bike mechanical instruction is youtube.com.

Watch for signs of rust, including bolts.

Test to see that the seatpost can be adjusted (moved up and down). Frozen seatposts are a common problem, and are often a royal PITA to deal with.

Find something that has been well cared for and properly stored. Such bikes are out there, and aren't that hard to find.
​​​​

Last edited by Bikesplendor; 02-18-19 at 10:33 PM.
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Old 02-18-19, 09:13 PM
  #14  
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Originally Posted by Bladejmh2000 View Post
Would you happen to have any resources to guide me in the repair process?
Originally Posted by Viich View Post
The park tools website and sheldon brown are the two go-to spots for me for bike maintenance. The specialty tools you need to do your own work are available reasonably on amazon, or MEC in Canada (don't know for elsewhere), usually for the same or less than getting the job done once at a bike shop - pretty much a freewheel tool, cone wrenches, crank puller and whatever bottom bracket style you've got.
+1 to all of that. REI in America is a great place to get bike tools at a decent price. Otherwise any local bike shop should have all those basic items.

Originally Posted by Jon T View Post
I still don't understand the hatred toward the Helicomatic system. My one and only ride is an '84 Peugeot PH10 that I bought new and the Helicomatic system is still as good as the day it was new. Some one care to enlighten me, please?
Jon
Not hatred, simply acknowledging the reality of the situation. It was a system only made for a few years, not adapted by many, and which has been out of production for 30+ years now. I actually think it was a brilliant idea, but its been surpassed by casettes and no one has looked back. If you want to change your gearing or replace worn casettes, your options are limited to whatever you can find secondhand. If I wanted to replace the casette on my 78 Schwinn, I could walk into any bike shop in America and walk out with something that'll thread right on. Not to mention, if you need a shop to work on it, scant few have the tools anymore, even if theyre easily available on eBay (and make sweet bottle openers!)

Last edited by jefnvk; 02-18-19 at 09:17 PM.
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Old 02-18-19, 09:18 PM
  #15  
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Old 02-18-19, 10:20 PM
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Check out RJ The Bike Guy at youtube.com.

For tools, if you want to save money, it's often more cost effective to buy a kit rather than individual tools. Avoid the super cheap Chinese stuff — poor quality, not durable. Usually the quality is better from Taiwan. Some Chinese stuff is okay. Read the reviews at amazon.com and be wary of bad quality stuff and fake reviews.

An excellent source for some bike tools is Harbor Freight. There should be stores in your area. Their Pittsburgh brand hand tools carry a lifetime warranty. The quality on the higher end of their lines can be very good. Prices are excellent. They honor the lifetime warranties. You can find 20% off coupons online. Also free items with any purchase.

Useful for bike work: (metric) Pittsburgh Allen wrench sets, including ball end. Floor pump wiith pressure gauge. Sets of Pittsburgh wrenches, wide selection and variety. Get the good ones (Pittsburgh Pro). They're worth a little extra. You're already saving plenty. Pittsburgh socket sets and ratchets. Pittsburgh torque wrenches. I haven't tried their cable cutters, but you might have a look. You can return within 30 days if not satisfied. Sets of small files can be useful. Adjustable wrenches. Vice grips. Diagonal cutters (good cable cutters are much better for cables). Screwdrivers and Phillips-head screwdrivers, in various sizes (many options at HF). Free microfiber towels. And a number of other tools. Also lubricants.

Lucas polyurea-based grease is excellent for bearings and cables. PTFE lubricants are excellent for chains. You can find both at WM.

Last edited by Bikesplendor; 02-20-19 at 04:49 PM.
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Old 02-18-19, 10:35 PM
  #17  
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In my view, an older bike that is fully functioning can be quite enjoyable to ride. And if the aesthetics or vintage appeal help motivate you to get more use out of your bike, so much the better!

With that said, it's pretty rare for anybody who gets hooked on cycling to stick with their first bike forever, so a purpose of a first bike is to help you clarify what you want in your second bike. And then your third bike...

I enjoy tinkering with mechanics, so I've taken in older bikes in relatively poor condition, typically intending to do single- or three-speed conversions. @jefnvk mentions some useful considerations. The bike either has to be well maintained, or at least, maintainable. I tend to look for a couple additional things. Bikes have improved or changed since the 80s, in ways that are worth considering:

1. Decent 27 inch tires are getting harder to find.

2. Steel rims are completely obsolete.

3. Many riders now prefer wider tires, making frame clearance an issue for older bikes.

As you refine your interests, I suggest at least taking a look at the less expensive new bikes, as a sanity check, to make sure you're not pursuing a false economy.
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Old 02-18-19, 11:35 PM
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Also check bikesdirect if you're considering new. And new old stock at bike shops is sometimes priced much lower than current-year models.

The most outrageous deals I've found are on very high end older bikes that have barely been ridden. Basically in new condition, but sold by private parties at a fraction of their original cost. These can be very solid and enjoyable bikes that can serve well for a lifetime of use.

I find many of the higher quality older bikes very appealing. Less plastic than most of today's models. Less plastic, more metal.

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Old 02-18-19, 11:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Bladejmh2000 View Post
Basically title! I’m new here so I don’t know a single thing about bikes. I’m looking for something cheap, and goodlooking to get the job done in a reliable way... so with my research so far is: vintage. But I also may be wrong. I’m eyeing a Nishiki Sebring at the moment and I’m getting excited to starts so I’m really tempted just to buy something soon. What do you guys think? Are there any bikes I should keep my eye out for?

Edit: Im located in the Los Angeles area so there should never be a lack of bikes, I just have no idea where to look
you start with a budget first , how much cash are you going to spend , you can find full carbon race bike cheaper than some of the vintage steel bikes sometimes , so you have to know what you really want to be on .
id suggest going to the local recycle a bike program in your area , they have lots of bike nerds that can get you the hands on you need to ID the right choice .
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Old 02-19-19, 12:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Teamprovicycle View Post
you start with a budget first , how much cash are you going to spend , you can find full carbon race bike cheaper than some of the vintage steel bikes sometimes , so you have to know what you really want to be on .
id suggest going to the local recycle a bike program in your area , they have lots of bike nerds that can get you the hands on you need to ID the right choice .
Honestly never knew that organizations like this existed, workshops like those sound like a great time. Too bad the nearest one to me is a 20 mile trip downtown. Is there region specific resources on this forum to point me in the direction of "deals", I found the craigslist thread but it seems to be a mess of different locations.
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Old 02-19-19, 12:52 AM
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Great! I live very close to a harbor freight so I'll keep these in mind in case I don't go for a kit
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Old 02-19-19, 12:54 AM
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Hmm seems like I may have to spend a little bit more time on research before breaking out my wallet, I appreciate the advice
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Old 02-19-19, 11:45 AM
  #23  
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I'd skip the socket set, especially from Harbor Freight. Not really needed, and I've never had luck with their ratchets. You can often buy a set from Stanley at WalMart or Masterforce at Menards cheaper anyhow if you find a need. Skip them for the screwdrivers too, unless you get them for free. Even then, don;t use them on anything stuck. Their wrench sets are actually a pretty decent value, their torque wrenches are good enough for your needs (although I really wouldn't bother with one on an old steel bike, you'll never find proper torque values anyhow). Their hex keys are just so-so, they'll get the job done but I quickly moved on from them to a set of Elkinds.

As to 27" tires, yes there are a lot fewer choices, but the ones left are some pretty good all-around options. I wouldn't suggest them for racing, offroading seriously, CX, and such, but with Paselas, Schwalbe Marathons, a handful of Contis available, general use is pretty well covered. And, 27x1-1/4 is the original oversized, at 32mm
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Old 02-19-19, 12:57 PM
  #24  
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One thing already mentioned, but that must be stressed...

... is that the bike MUST FIT YOU PROPERLY. So, I'd recommend that your first research be into the proper fit for a road bike. Follow that with becoming familiar with how to make measurements of yourself, and how to enter these measurements into a bicycle fit calculator. There are several fit calculators available for free use on-line.

Learn the discipline of having your own measurements and the requisite bicycle frame size in your back pocket at all times.

Now you'd be ready to look at bicycles. Bring a metric measuring tape, and learn to measure the subject bicycle's key dimensions. That way, you'll develop your "eye" as to what will fit, and what can be avoided. This skill saves you time and frustration.

Don't buy a "great deal" bike that doesn't fit you. That won't be a great deal in the end.
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Old 02-19-19, 01:19 PM
  #25  
Bikesplendor
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Originally Posted by jefnvk View Post
I'd skip the socket set, especially from Harbor Freight. Not really needed, and I've never had luck with their ratchets. You can often buy a set from Stanley at WalMart or Masterforce at Menards cheaper anyhow if you find a need. Skip them for the screwdrivers too, unless you get them for free. Even then, don;t use them on anything stuck. Their wrench sets are actually a pretty decent value, their torque wrenches are good enough for your needs (although I really wouldn't bother with one on an old steel bike, you'll never find proper torque values anyhow). Their hex keys are just so-so, they'll get the job done but I quickly moved on from them to a set of Elkinds.

As to 27" tires, yes there are a lot fewer choices, but the ones left are some pretty good all-around options. I wouldn't suggest them for racing, offroading seriously, CX, and such, but with Paselas, Schwalbe Marathons, a handful of Contis available, general use is pretty well covered. And, 27x1-1/4 is the original oversized, at 32mm
Not very good on HF. They have a lot of options you haven't tried. There's a wide range of screwdrivers, and some are excellent. Applies to many of their other tools as well.
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