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What to look for in a used bike?

Old 04-08-08, 07:24 PM
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What to look for in a used bike?

I'm considering going the used bike route. Although I don't have much mechanical skills, time is on my side (not graduating anytime soon...).

I've tried to search for threads that summarize what to look for when buying a used MTB for touring conversion. Any thread recommendation or websites?

Also,
-Should bikes with no eyelets be ruled out if they'll be used for unsupported touring?
-Is it possible to swap front suspension with a rigid fork?
-What's a reasonable price for a mid 80s to mid 90s MTB?

Thanks all!
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Old 04-08-08, 08:04 PM
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Generally speaking, and unless you have parts at hand and the tools and expertise to install them, I think you're better off trying to buy good quality initially. Cheaper bikes may have cheaper components, but even so, usually the frames are decent enough. The problem is probably going to be with cheaper components tend to not be as durable (excluding really high end lightweight componentry which is not supposed to be durable -wouldn't know, never can afford it!)

Research, read and get familiar with component levels and their older counterparts. Sometimes, you can make reasonable guesses (e.g. cheap cranks usually have riveted chain rings rather than bolted chainrings that may be removable). Of course, things might get more complicated if you find a higher quality bike with a worn drivechain versus a cheaper quality bike with a newer drivechain. Also research how much it costs to replace parts, and their availability. Be educated.

To answer you questions:
-Even if a bike has no eyelets, you can still tour; you can use p-clamps. However, a reasonable quality bike *should* have eyelets.
-Yes, but there's work involved and possible complications and new components required if you change forks from threaded to threadless or vice versa. Plus you have to get a replacement fork. You are going to be better off buying a bike with a rigid fork (fortunately, mtb bikes tend to be more expensive with front suspension forks!)
-hard to say. You shouldn't be suprized if you pay $100-$300 depending on the quality of bike and components, and luck of the draw. Usually if you are patient, Craigslist is a great resource.

Obviously, a bike is only worthwhile if it fits you. I'm sure other posters will have loads of good advice and ideas.

Originally Posted by resu
I'm considering going the used bike route. Although I don't have much
mechanical skills, time is on my side (not graduating anytime soon...).

I've tried to search for threads that summarize what to look for when buying a used MTB for touring conversion. Any thread recommendation or websites?

Also,
-Should bikes with no eyelets be ruled out if they'll be used for unsupported touring?
-Is it possible to swap front suspension with a rigid fork?
-What's a reasonable price for a mid 80s to mid 90s MTB?

Thanks all!
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Old 04-08-08, 08:07 PM
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It is possible to exchange suspension for rigid. There are suspension corrected rigid forks in order to ensure you don't adversely inpact the bike's handling. I have converted two, one with a Tange fork, and one with a Nashbar.

My opinions on other issues, as someone who has never toured. Most of them will be obvious, more about condition than whether the bike is tour worthy.

Avoid obvious corrosion especially of the frame. Components can be replaced if all else is wonderful.

Avoid a frame with significant dents.

Look for forks that are pushed in, and also the top tube and down tube where they intersect with the head tube for any buckling. This would indicate a frame that has been crashed.

Since you have time to look, don't bother with frames that don't have the braze ons...

One thing to check on any used bike is whether the stem (if it is a quill stem) and seat post can both move. If anything is frozen into the frame it can be trouble. The BB is harder to check, so you usually have to accept that risk, but avoid frozen elements that are easy to check...
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Old 04-09-08, 05:29 AM
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Oh, good post! I forgot about all those little things you tend to take for granted.

Originally Posted by Little Darwin
It is possible to exchange suspension for rigid. There are suspension corrected rigid forks in order to ensure you don't adversely inpact the bike's handling. I have converted two, one with a Tange fork, and one with a Nashbar.

My opinions on other issues, as someone who has never toured. Most of them will be obvious, more about condition than whether the bike is tour worthy.

Avoid obvious corrosion especially of the frame. Components can be replaced if all else is wonderful.

Avoid a frame with significant dents.

Look for forks that are pushed in, and also the top tube and down tube where they intersect with the head tube for any buckling. This would indicate a frame that has been crashed.

Since you have time to look, don't bother with frames that don't have the braze ons...

One thing to check on any used bike is whether the stem (if it is a quill stem) and seat post can both move. If anything is frozen into the frame it can be trouble. The BB is harder to check, so you usually have to accept that risk, but avoid frozen elements that are easy to check...
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Old 04-09-08, 06:01 AM
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Old MTBs shold be darn near free. Look at Craigs List for something that doesn't look like it's been ridden much. Fake dissipointment about a bike having a soild fork and only 7 gears. Pay no more than $100.

p.s.-- if you live in Bay Area, NYC or Seattle, you'll have very little luck.

good hunting,

tacomee
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Old 04-09-08, 07:08 AM
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Aside from previous good advice you should measure the chain with a measuring tape or ruler.

Scroll down to the "Measuring Chain Wear" section in this page:
https://sheldonbrown.com/chains.html

If the chain is worn beyond the 1/16" inch tolerance you know you will have to replace not only chain but also casette and at least one or all chainwheels. Parts for a complete drive train replace will run you over US$100, plus labor if you don't do it yourself, so you need to make sure that this is discounted from the price.

I recently bought a Specialized Stumpjumper MTB with XT components, 2001 or so, in almost new condition and paid $400 in the Bay area. Your total budget should run you at least around this figure, plus accessories, and fork replacement. Replacing a suspension fork is not absulutely necessary for touring, you can mount a front rack on a suspension fork, and might actually want to do so if your touring involves gravel roads, and the suspension fork is good enough (lots of really lousy suspension forks, best if you can lock out the suspension). You might buy a $300 bike budget $100 for repairs. A $200 bike might not be good enough to upgrade unless you get a good deal. If you need to spend much over 400 you are starting to get to the price of decent new bikes, and if you don't have the desire or skills to work on the bike, parts plus labor will very quickly get you up there.
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Old 04-09-08, 08:32 AM
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I bought an old Rockhopper for my son on Ebay (Fly Bike Shop). With shipping the cost was $238.50. It needed new brakes and pedals. I also put water bottle cages, bar ends, and a rack on it and bought some new tires. The total cost was $344.97. It's a sweet bike. Rigid forks, threaded headset, steel frame, 21-speed, cantilever brakes. It's not new or top-of-the-line, but for the price I think it was a good deal, and it's a solid ride that will last for many more years. He can tour on it, ride it around town, and even do some off-road riding (though he'll wish it had suspension.) It was a fun project.
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Old 04-09-08, 09:38 AM
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FWIW, if you are not mechanically adept yet you will probably not save any money by getting a used bike. Even if the inital bike only costs you $50, the components and required tools could easily equal the same cost as a low-end hybrid bike (which is essentially the same as an "80s MTB"). I have learned this the hard way, although I had some mechanical skills & bike know-how when I bought a used road bike.

Let's assume you want used anyway. Say you pick up an 80s MTB that is in good shape, fits well, and was lightly used. Chances are you will still have (or want) to do the following before taking it on tour:

- replace the tires and tubes
- replace the chain
- possibly replace the cassette / freewheel and/or front chainrings
- grease the hubs
- overhaul the headset
- replace the brake pads
- overhaul the bottom bracket
- true the wheels
- adjust the derailleurs and brakes

(Did I miss anything? )

So if I were in your position, and looking to learn bike mechanics, one option is to take classes somewhere before you perform major surgery on your bike. The other is to get two highly similar used bikes, so if you mess something up, you have a whole second set of parts.
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