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Buying a good used road bike

Old 05-17-22, 09:27 AM
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Buying a good used road bike

I'm in the process of buying a good used road bike.

I used to travel everywhere with my Univega bicycle; I went up to Canada one summer and worked there; went out to Maine.

I'm in the process of buying a used Fuji bike that the seller said would be big enough for me. 12 speeds, from the late 80s or 90s. Have the improvements been that much better in the last 20 years? My budget does not allow paying $700 or more. I was just determined not to buy a "hot" used bike as I know there are a lot of stolen ones out there.
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Old 05-17-22, 09:41 AM
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If you are relatively satisfied with your cycling so far and don't need to go farther and longer, then no, there isn't anything special about the new stuff.

I can ride my old '78 Raleigh with six speeds on the rear just about as well on a 22 mile ride around here as I can my more modern Tarmac. The difference only appears when I'm trying to get that last fraction of a mph more average speed or ride for much longer periods at a time at a high effort.

But if you like riding relaxed and not so high effort, you probably won't see much except the novelty of more speeds on the rear. And maybe a few pounds less bike.

That being said, I seldom ride the Raleigh. The Tarmac is just so much more fun to ride because the less weight makes hills disappear and not be an issue for me. More speeds on the rear give me more choice for cadence selection to give me the power output I feel like I can maintain longer without tiring.

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Old 05-17-22, 09:41 AM
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Test ride will tell you much.
Where are you located?
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Old 05-17-22, 09:55 AM
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You might want to check the SN on https://bikeindex.org/ and https://project529.com/garage. Though it won't guarantee you're not buying a stolen bike, it could confirm that you are. (Having said that, I've never been able to find a SN on my 1990 Fuji Paliisade which I bought new.. go figure..)

Prices depend on your market area, of course, but to get a decent rideable road bike from that era shouldn't run you more than $100-$200 purchase and $200-$300 for parts (tires, chain, bar wrap, cables, etc.) so you should be able to buy a good amount of beer with what's left over from the $700 budget.

Invite us all over and we'll help you drink it!

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Old 05-17-22, 11:00 AM
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Originally Posted by TLit View Post
Have the improvements been that much better in the last 20 years?
For some (maybe most), absolutely!

For me, no.

And you might not want to let a seller tell you what frame size you need. They may be more interested in just selling a bike than what's in your best interest.
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Old 05-17-22, 11:04 AM
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Originally Posted by TLit View Post
Have the improvements been that much better in the last 20 years?
While a Fuji built in the 80's is totally fine, there are some things I would change out:
1. if it has the type of brakes levers with brake cables coming out the top, I would swap them out in favor of aero brake levers. These have better leverage for riding on the hoods.
2. if it has single pivot brakes, swap them out for dual pivot brakes.
3. if it has the old style drop bar with a simple semi-circle bend, swap out for a more modern bar with ergonomic bends. These allow you to set the top of the bar parallel to the ground- a much more comfortable hand position
4. a modern saddle with center cutout- relieves pressure on the perineum.
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Old 05-17-22, 11:59 AM
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Originally Posted by TLit View Post
Have the improvements been that much better in the last 20 years?
In my opinion, the most groundbreaking innovation since then is integrated brake/shift levers. Taking your hand off the handlebar and reaching down next to your spinning tire to shift versus just flicking your wrist. A lot of things have changed, but I would ride almost anything vintage EXCEPT downtube shifters.

If that appeals to you, you can likely find a late 90's to early 2000's bike with "brifters" within your budget.
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Old 05-17-22, 12:14 PM
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Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
Test ride will tell you much.
Where are you located?
I'm in southern CT.

Here's the bike, I've been looking for a big one as I'm 6 6, he said he is 6 4 and it was a little big for him. Comments would be appreciated: Since I can't post a link since I am new, it was the Fuji Royale road bike 27" frame that recently sold on ebay.
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Old 05-17-22, 12:17 PM
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I echo what Iride says, weight is probably the most consistent change over the years. If you're pretty casual and treat the rides as such, you'll maximize the dollar for bike ratio. I like to refer back to a dollar for bike ratio bc it is different for each rider. If you were to buy an expensive road bike and saw minimal gains, a used bike would probably have fit the bill just fine, and in that scenario a new bike would be a sucky dollar to bike ratio.

Round about way of saying don't buy too much bike, used bikes are still solid and great for consistent recreational rides.
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Old 05-17-22, 12:22 PM
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Weight never used to bother me and the Univega seemed better in that regard than the standard competitors in the 70s and 80s. I checked out a bunch of bikes on Amazon, the ones with the good reviews started around $700. I was thinking of going up to areas where used bikes seemed to be a lot more common than in sw CT, such as Greenfield Mass.

I was able to go from southern Fairfield county to southern VT in a day with fully loaded panniers once.

Last edited by TLit; 05-17-22 at 12:35 PM.
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Old 05-18-22, 08:05 AM
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Originally Posted by TLit View Post
I'm in southern CT.

Here's the bike, I've been looking for a big one as I'm 6 6, he said he is 6 4 and it was a little big for him. Comments would be appreciated: Since I can't post a link since I am new, it was the Fuji Royale road bike 27" frame that recently sold on ebay.
Thats a late 70's, early 80's bike. Its pretty basic low end model. I would keep looking.
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Old 05-18-22, 09:14 AM
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Not to sound like a snob but don't buy a bicycle off Amazon.

I have a few mid 1980s Nishiki bikes which are depending of the model are on a par with Fuji. One of them I use on my indoor trainer, the other is my "gravel" bike. My main road bike is slightly newer it's a 2005 Cannondale. I paid $300 for it no comparison to my Nishiki's which I have had since new.

In my opinion, as solid as these bikes are I wouldn't pay too much because as others have said you will want to do even if over time a bunch of upgrades and replace consumables probably sooner than later. I mean you can put $400 into one of these without a whole lot of effort and that is you doing the work not a bike shop. So again if it was a top end Fuji that is one thing but for a run of the mill bike I personally wouldn't pay over $100-150 if even that and the wheels, cranks and paint should be in good condition. Make sure the stem and seat tube are not stuck. An alloy stem/tube that wasn't greased when assembled into a steel frame will be really stuck into the frame. So unless you want a real challenge avoid this.
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Old 05-18-22, 09:58 AM
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Originally Posted by icemilkcoffee View Post
While a Fuji built in the 80's is totally fine, there are some things I would change out:
3. if it has the old style drop bar with a simple semi-circle bend, swap out for a more modern bar with ergonomic bends. These allow you to set the top of the bar parallel to the ground- a much more comfortable hand position.
I tried "ergo" bars once. They limited the amount of hand positions I could ride in. Went back to my curved, non-ergo Giro d'Italias.
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Old 05-18-22, 10:15 AM
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There has been one major substantive change to bikes since that one was made (relying on big chainring's assessment of the bike's age because I can't see the image). Modern bikes have a 'freehub' style rear hub where the ratchet mechanism is built into the hub, allowing the bearings to be placed further outboard on both sides, while older (and inexpensive modern) bikes have a 'freewheel' rear hub - the ratchet mechanism is a separate part threaded on to a narrower hub body, and the drive-side bearing is located much closer to the middle of the axle, and this makes the drive side of the axle prone to bending and breaking, esp on bikes with more than 6 speeds. If you are lighter and don't ride to hard then this might not be an issue, but from your description of your riding, you might be wise to find a bike with a freehub.

Freehubs started showing up on high-quality bikes at the end of the six-speed age (late 80s) and were on pretty much every good quality bike after 7 speed was the norm (early 90s). Anything from the last ~25 years (since mid 90s), apart from the most inexpensive bikes, will have a freehub. Here's an article on this and how to tell the difference:
https://www.sheldonbrown.com/k7.html

Otherwise, a bike is a bike. Keep the tires pumped up and a bit of oil on the chain and the simpler the bike the less likely it is to go wrong.
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Old 05-18-22, 10:17 AM
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Let’s kind of cut to the chase…

If it is a 12 speed, with a 6 speed freewheel or Uniglde cassette, don’t buy it.

I have older bikes, but that technology will only cause you grief as “most” modern freewheels are poor quality, and Uniglide cassettes are gone. It is a money pit as you’ll scramble to find replacement parts that are now considered rare and collectible.

You really want to buy a used bike with a minimum of 8 speeds, 9 is much better, or rear dropouts of 130mm, (no thru axles in your price range).

9 speed is probably the best group as there is sufficient gear range, new after-market drivetrains, and minimum maintenance.

John
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Old 05-18-22, 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by TLit View Post
I'm in the process of buying a good used road bike.

I used to travel everywhere with my Univega bicycle; I went up to Canada one summer and worked there; went out to Maine.

I'm in the process of buying a used Fuji bike that the seller said would be big enough for me. 12 speeds, from the late 80s or 90s. Have the improvements been that much better in the last 20 years? My budget does not allow paying $700 or more. I was just determined not to buy a "hot" used bike as I know there are a lot of stolen ones out there.
I think one very important improvement was that the shifters got integrated with the brake levers.This provides a very different riding experience in my opinion. Otherwise for me things like carbon frames and parts are not too exciting, I feel the vintage steel parts are still great in my opinion
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Old 05-18-22, 01:01 PM
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Originally Posted by TLit View Post
I'm in the process of buying a used Fuji bike that the seller said would be big enough for me. 12 speeds, from the late 80s or 90s. Have the improvements been that much better in the last 20 years?
Originally Posted by TLit View Post
Here's the bike, I've been looking for a big one as I'm 6 6, he said he is 6 4 and it was a little big for him. Comments would be appreciated: Since I can't post a link since I am new, it was the Fuji Royale road bike 27" frame that recently sold on ebay.
Things have not changed a ton in the last 20 years, with regard to recreational road bike cycling. Things have changed more in the last 30 years(what you said this bike's age is), but still not at all to an insurmountable level. Things have changed a ton in the last 40 years(the age your bike actually appears to be).

A 40 year old bike can still be ridden, it just needs to be greased up and have some new tires.
With that said, a Fuji Royale was very much entry level and I would hesitate to purchase it as there are tons of nicer options even at your size(I am 6'5 and see them).
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Old 05-18-22, 10:17 PM
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You should be able to find a more modern bike, 9 or 10 speed Cassette, brifters, good quality, faster feeling light weight AL or composite frame CF, from around 2005-2010, for around $300 or so on CL or other online outlets or used section of your LBS, unless you like that Fuji bike from the mid 80's of course, but Yes, Carbon fiber frame bikes, a bit wider tires and brifters are so much more fun to ride, crisp dreamlike smooth shifting with a flick of your pinky fingers so much more exhilarating fun 😃

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Old 05-19-22, 12:05 PM
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Thanks for the recommendations.
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Old 05-19-22, 12:09 PM
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So bikes like this are just not worth it? I'm looking for xtra large. I contacted the seller who had gone over it, and it was in great shape: https://www.ebay.com/itm/154913169366

So Motobecane and Cannondale just are not popular anymore?
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Old 05-19-22, 06:09 PM
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Originally Posted by TLit View Post

So Motobecane and Cannondale just are not popular anymore?
Sure they’re popular! Seems like folks are just pushing you toward what’s more current. If you like the bikes you’ve mentioned, you might want to visit us over at the Classic and Vintage section of this site.
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Old 05-19-22, 07:37 PM
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Older bikes are great, but you really need to turn your own wrenches, have a stash of old parts, or have a good co-op close by.

I still have a freewheel bike, but I was fortunate to get a few Sachs Aris freewheels before they went to triple digits. When I see a chainring I can use one day, at a good price, I get it and pack it away.

You can find great parts at co-ops, but you do need to know what you are looking for and at.

If this is what you want, go for it. Old bikes are a lot of fun. Figuring out what will work and mix-n-matching non-spec stuff is really rewarding.

If you have to take a 40/50 year old bike into a shop it can sometimes be frustrating.

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Old 05-20-22, 07:04 AM
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Originally Posted by 70sSanO View Post
Older bikes are great, but you really need to turn your own wrenches, have a stash of old parts, or have a good co-op close by.
Of course, none of this is true. But learning to work on your own bike is fun.
Originally Posted by 70sSanO View Post
If you have to take a 40/50 year old bike into a shop it can sometimes be frustrating.
Well, maybe if the mechanic is 18 years old and has only worked on plastic bikes.
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Old 05-20-22, 07:42 AM
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Originally Posted by TLit View Post
So bikes like this are just not worth it? I'm looking for xtra large. I contacted the seller who had gone over it, and it was in great shape: https://www.ebay.com/itm/154913169366

So Motobecane and Cannondale just are not popular anymore?

Cannondale is alive and well. Motobecane is just a decal that Bikesdirect.com slaps on some of its bicycles.
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Old 05-20-22, 07:46 AM
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Originally Posted by smd4 View Post
Well, maybe if the mechanic is 18 years old and has only worked on plastic bikes.
Young mechanics are the rule, not the exception, in my neck of the woods.
The described bike is probably as old as the bike mechanic's parents.
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