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An Open Letter to Dumpster-Diving Noobs

Singlespeed & Fixed Gear "I still feel that variable gears are only for people over forty-five. Isn't it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a derailer? We are getting soft...As for me, give me a fixed gear!"-- Henri Desgrange (31 January 1865 - 16 August 1940)

An Open Letter to Dumpster-Diving Noobs

Old 11-15-07, 11:13 AM
  #1  
carleton
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An Open Letter to Dumpster-Diving Noobs

My dearest Noob,

Stop trolling dumpsters, thrift stores, garage sales, and your friend's and family's basements for "vintage" bikes. Yes, there are gems out there. But, most are turds. And you know what they say about polishing turds.

Hey. All you want is a sweet ride, anyway. Right?

"But, I want something unique to me..."

There is plenty of room to be unique by using bikes made within the last decade or two.

"I don't want to buy new."

No, you don't have to buy a brand new frame and brand new parts to make a sweet ride. But I do strongly suggest starting with a good foundation, especially if you are starting with nothing and have your heart set on "building my first bike" as opposed to supporting corporate greed by buying a bike from a multi-national.

"I'm not starting with nothing. I already have this old bike..."

Yeah, that bike you pulled out of the dumpster pretty much equals nothing...it's actually probably negative-stuff. Now you OWE the universe. Beware of free sh*t.

1: Older does not mean better.
2: Old as sh*t does not mean "Vintage". It just means "Old as sh*t".
3: "Vintage" doesn't necessarily mean great, or even good for that matter.
4: "Vintage" was probably introduced to the fixed-gear crowd as a way of luring suckkas. Like "Digital" batteries and "Ladies" razors (add a 25% premium for both).
5: The "Vintage" bikes that you guys are pulling out of your grandparent's garages, dumpsters, and thrift stores are probably Wal-Mart bikes from 20+ years ago. yaaaaay.
6: It's in the dumpster for a reason.

This is not directed to those that, for some only-god-knows-reason, are in love with some only-a-mother-could-love frame. There is no hope for those guys. Just the dumpster divers and the thrift store regulars who expect to have a good experience with all of this.

The crux of my argument is: If you are building a track/fixed bike from scratch or just a handful of ingredients, start with a good track or fixed specific frame.

"Oh, but I already have a bike with a cranks, BB, and a front wheel from this dumpster bike."

They are probably crap. Most people with nice bikes KNOW they have nice bikes and try to sell them (or unload them for ungodly prices to unwitting noobs) before throwing them into the dumpster.

(I love analogies)

It's sort of like if you are making dinner and you use what you got in the fridge and cabinets to make the best meal you can. Sometimes you wind up substituting one thing for another because for one reason or another you can't get to the supermarket for the proper ingredient. But who in their right mind would go to the supermarket and buy the replacement ingredient and bypass the proper ingredient...especially if it's the MAIN ingredient?

It's one thing if it's not a big-deal dinner. Like, "It's just Wednesday night and I need something in my belly". This would be the equivalent of a spare, Franken-bike, beater made of spare parts. But, not your big annual Thanksgiving/Christmas type dinner (meaning your main or ONLY bike). For that, you want to start with the best turkey you can afford. Not the $5 turkey-esq stuff from 7-11. Be patient and save up for a good Turkey or Ham. It's worth it. Trust me.

Now think about this...if you are going to spend the same amount of money on the other parts of the dinner (veggies, desserts, bread, wine, etc...) (Translation: cranks, wheel set, stem, bars, etc...) and don't forget that it takes the same amount of your precious TIME to prepare the complete meal (bike). Then why skimp on the Turkey?

A little planning goes a long way.

"Aren't conversions supposed to be cheap?"

Well...there's the cheap way then there is right way.

They are supposed to be cheap, but usually aren't. I watched as a friend sunk $800 in parts and labor to convert a not-so-special 80's Bianchi road bike. That's not counting the cost of the frame. She was NOT happy when she got the bill. Even if she did the work herself she still had $600 in parts to pay for.


"But I heard that it's soooo easy..."

Yes, there is this story (that I have dubbed "The Hipster Myth", BTW) about how once, some guy got a bike from a thrift store for $5 and made a conversion in 15 minutes by adding only $50 in parts and he was skidding that night. Yeah. And you can hit a full-court basketball shot, too. But both would be ugly, unreliable, and unlikely.


"But, Carleton, we aren't as rich as you. ".

I know, noob. Don't worry.

If you do need to cut corners then cut corners on the accessories that that can be easily upgraded later.

Here's a little secret:
(Whisper)
Buy a nice to very sweet track frame then buy a crapload of components for super, duper cheap from the Pista, IRO, Fuji, Langster, Capo, etc... owners after they upgrade. Those stock parts from $500 bikes have little to no resale value on the used market.

- If you can't afford the Dura-Ace crankset right now get a used stock set from somebody's Pista for hella cheap.
- Can't afford those Phil Wood/Deep V wheels? Ride some stock Langster wheels for a while.
- Stock steel Deda bars from a Pista are actually decent and can be had for like $15.
- Post an ad on craigslist like, "WANTED: Stock Pista Wheelset - $50". You will have a complete wheelset with tires before the end of the day.
(End Whisper)

"Why not buy nice parts, then upgrade the frame later?"

Well, noob, because many of the nice parts you buy will be designed to fit your non-standard conversion. Then when you finally get your nice frame some parts won't fit and you will have to buy them again.


"But, I want to Lurn."

When it comes to bicycle assembly, care, and maintenance you will learn the same amount from any bike you build from the frame up. The biggest lesson you will learn is that it's a lot easier to build a bike when you have the proper parts.

"How do you know all of this?"
I read the internets, son.

Actually I've:
- Converted 4 or 5 bikes
- Owned 5 or 6 track/fixed specific bikes
- Owned 30+ bikes in my life
- Worked at a few bike shops
- Owned and modified 10+ cars (the same principles of upgrading and modifying apply)


"Why are you telling us this."

I don't want you guys to get so discouraged during your build and give up on cycling. I've noticed several "I was building this conversion but gave up..." for sale ads on CL lately. Yeah, it's a fad right now. But, that fad could attract some lifelong riders that didn't ride before.
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Old 11-15-07, 11:14 AM
  #2  
Zombie Carl
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Woah.
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Old 11-15-07, 11:21 AM
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please tell me you copied and pasted this from somewhere rather then took the time to actually writw all this tripe.

You are about as wrong about conversions as the perv.
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Old 11-15-07, 11:22 AM
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****.
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Old 11-15-07, 11:22 AM
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Agreed.
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Old 11-15-07, 11:23 AM
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bike freeganism.
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Old 11-15-07, 11:24 AM
  #7  
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Carleton, you were a lot more fun when you were on Fresh Prince of Bel Aire. And teasing us with the money you inherited from Uncle Phil is just gauche.
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Old 11-15-07, 11:27 AM
  #8  
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Dude, you're kinda about to step on BSNYC's toes right there, aren't you?
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Old 11-15-07, 11:28 AM
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Yeah, I hate it when someone beats me to the dumpster too...
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Old 11-15-07, 11:34 AM
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do you realize you're trying to explain why a hobby isn't economically efficient? might want to step back and think about the fact that bike building isn't necessarily an economic activity for everyone. its something they do for fun. its exciting and challenging to take old parts and turn them into something new. if you don't like it, don't do it. take on a different hobby... like writing narrow-minded but extremely thorough rants!
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Old 11-15-07, 11:37 AM
  #11  
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nice
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Old 11-15-07, 11:43 AM
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yeah, **** reusing things! just throw that **** away. also **** letting other people enjoy cycling!
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Old 11-15-07, 11:43 AM
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no one will read this and those that do will misinterpret it.

which is too bad because you're making a bunch of good points.
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Old 11-15-07, 11:52 AM
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People, people.

This is clearly directed at those folks you know that are always asking you how much money they'll have to spend to convert their 62cm (they're 5' 8") Schwinn from 1971 that has a one-piece BB shell and an impacted fork.

"I heard all I really need is a rear-wheel, right?!"

I'm all for re-using and recycling, but that's a lost ****ing cause.
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Old 11-15-07, 12:15 PM
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Originally Posted by cc700 View Post
no one will read this and those that do will misinterpret it.

which is too bad because you're making a bunch of good points.
The problem is he is always against conversions and any other DIY. Nearly everytime he posts in a conversion thread it's to tell people many of whom have decent frames that they should just buy a complete. And nearly every time he posts in a how do I fix this thread it's to say "take it to your LBS".

I just think he feels guilty about riding around on a generically blinged out concept.
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Old 11-15-07, 12:16 PM
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Coming from someone who volunteers in a co-op and sees a lot of kids coming with garbage to convert, I agree %100.
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Old 11-15-07, 12:17 PM
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Originally Posted by dutret View Post
The problem is he is always against conversions and any other DIY. Nearly everytime he posts in a conversion thread it's to tell people many of whom have decent frames that they should just buy a complete. And nearly every time he posts in a how do I fix this thread it's to say "take it to your LBS".

I just think he feels guilty about riding around on a generically blinged out concept.
where's your psych degree? because otherwise i don't think that matters, ad hominem D.
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Old 11-15-07, 12:21 PM
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so true.
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Old 11-15-07, 12:28 PM
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cc700 - when has dutret's statements in here been anything but Ad Hominem? I give him an A for consistency. And I will also say that what Carleton wrote is pretty funny.
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Old 11-15-07, 12:38 PM
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I happen to think finding a good quality steel frame from past days and restoring it into a functioning bike is really fun. I don't have any dumpster finds, but my girlfriends mom gave me 1982 Fuji Team that was quite rusty, none of the components worked, and the wheels were beyond repair. I had a grand old time fixing it up, building it some new wheels, and setting it up as a fixed gear. If somebody has a good time finding an old frame somewhere (anywhere) and turning it into a functioning machine, then god bless them because they are havning fun doing it. It also puts another bike on the road, which is good for bikers everywhere.

I also restored a workshop built Raleigh back to its original condition. People like myself into high end vintage bikes also look around when they pass a yard sale or thrift shop, because you never know what you'll find. Peugeot PX-10 can look like UO/UE-10 under thick grime. same said for Schwinn Paramounts.

Fixed gear riding is definately a fad, but it is a fad because it's fun. If your doing it because its "cool" and find out you really like it, good for you. If you end up craigs listing your ride, you've still put another bike on the roads in my mind. go for it.
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Old 11-15-07, 12:39 PM
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errors in the post:

older doesn't mean better. Nope but it does mean better for cheaper. Compare the price of a DB 4130 frameset from the 80's to a new one. "Vintage" doesn't add a premium unless you are looking at certain brands.

There is a cheap way and a right way And usually there is a cheap way that works almost as good as the "right way".


Buy a nice track frame and take off track drops etc.
Most people are better off with a conversion then a track frame and for the price most go for these days you can have a damn nice conversion.

"Why not buy nice parts, then upgrade the frame later?"

Well, noob, because many of the nice parts you buy will be designed to fit your non-standard conversion.
Like what? You're not going to find a nice asstastic crankset so worst case you are out a BB and maybe a seatpost.

but I want to lurn part of learning is making mistakes, those mistakes often result in damage to parts. Better to get that out of the withsomething ancient. Further the kludges that one comes up with to make a conversion on the cheap result in a far better understanding of how a bike works than simply putting together new stuff.

Really I shouldn't expect much from the type of ****up who thinks that horz dropouts are bad.
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Old 11-15-07, 12:45 PM
  #22  
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dumpster diving bikes is for those who know what to look for.

but as far as offering advice to curtail useless behaviors, i'd be more intersted in curtailing Rampant and Contagious Upgrade Fever rather than dumpstering bike boom clunkers.
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Old 11-15-07, 12:51 PM
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yeah upgrade fever is a good way to make a 300 dollar bike into a 1200 dollar bike that doesn't function any better.
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Old 11-15-07, 12:54 PM
  #24  
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Things I've found in the trash:

Bianchi Brava with full Shimano 105.
Old Urago with NOS early 1960's Stronglight French threaded headset, beautiful 1960s French hubs, and Ideale leather saddle
Vintage Normandy Flip flop track hubs (English thread)
Various rack and parts, including front wheel on my beater... I forget them all.
1920's cruisers (pair) with skip-tooth chains and various other cool vintage crap on 'em


And I don't even dumpster dive, I just walk my dog thru RVA's alleys.

Guess I shouldn't start dumpster diving, I won't find anything...
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Old 11-15-07, 12:55 PM
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Wow, Carleton. I guess because no one's ever successfully converted a garbage bike into something useful, we should all be ashamed of trying--oh wait, YOU said you've converted lots of frames. So then only people with less experience than you are barred from converting vintage frames? I guess there's no place for them to learn... it's WAY better to condescend people over the internet and have them ride stock bikes from their LBS for the rest of their lives than have them try something new and maybe make a few mistakes.
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