You’ve got an old bike in the basement and, after years of moving it around folding tables, the dehumidifier and all those boxes of family photos, high school yearbooks and Christmas decorations, you’re ready to move it upstairs and outside—so you can ride it again.
The paint looks good, no rust to speak of, but it needs a lot of work. The tires are crusty, the derailleurs are hard to move, the cranks are loose, the chain skips and the brake shoes are hard as rocks.
Should you bring it into Bushwhacker to be evaluated? Yes. Absolutely. It costs you nothing to have us look at it.
Two Questions For You
But should you have us fix it? After all, this isn’t just fixing a flat or replacing a couple of cables--this could be expensive. That’s where we’ll ask you at least two questions:
1) Are you comfortable on the bike?
2) Are you willing to spend what it will take to make the bike safe and reliable?
First, let’s talk about comfort. Did you put the bike aside to take care of the triplets? Because you moved out of the country? Or did you park it because the seat was killing your butt and the handlebars were way too low?
If your body hurts from thinking about it, think twice before spending the money. A new bike may fit you better. When we see handlebars and seats at weird angles, that’s an indicator that something isn’t right.
If you weren’t comfortable on the old bike in the past, chances are good you won’t be comfortable tomorrow, and the repaired bike will go right back into the basement.
Second: Are you willing to spend the money it will take to fix the bike? If we say it’ll take $250 to bring the bike up to snuff, will you immediately ask what we can do for $25?
If so, reconsider the repair. Spending less than it takes to make it right is worse than spending at all. A halfway job guarantees you won’t be happy.
Ask Your Advocate
If you’re comfortable on the bike and you have the money to fix everything, it's decision time. Still have concerns? Be ready to ask us--the people who want you to be happy with your bike--a very important question:
What would we do?
Look, we ride and work on our own bikes. We’re not rich. We’re careful with our money and our machines. Use our experience. When we make a recommendation, we recommend what’s best for you.
After all, we don’t want someone leaving the shop with something that’s going to be a problem. We want to deliver a safe and reliable bike. And sometimes that involves a bit more than fixing a flat tire or lubing a chain.
The question isn’t whether your bike can be fixed—it’s whether an extensive repair is a good use of your money. As Marie Kondo < http://tidyingup.com> might say, will your restored bike spark joy? Or would an all-new, totally up-to-date bicycle put a bigger smile on your face?
Between a Hardrock and a Good Place
From an economic standpoint there aren’t a lot of unused 25-year-old bikes that are worth resurrecting. Let’s take a look at one of the exceptions.
John’s Specialized Hardrock started life in the early 90s and cost between $320 and $350 back. (Similar quality today might run closer to $700.) The frame was straight, the paint was in great shape, and John was comfortable on the bike. (The adjustable stem was added a few years ago, giving John the more upright position he wanted.)
Still, it had its problems. The axle cones were damaged. The spokes were corroded. The tires weren't suited to commuting. Plus, the push-push shift levers were broken and the brakes needed new shoes.
The estimate, including all parts, labor and new SKS fenders, was just under $500. John gave me a lot of leeway to complete the job correctly.
Why? He didn’t like the idea of throwing away something that still had value, and he knew the Hardrock would make a great commuter bike.
We pulled everything off the frame and sprayed the inside of the tubes with rust inhibitor. We rebuilt the cup-and-ball bottom bracket with grade 25 bearings to give it a longer life. The machine-built wheels, featuring stainless-steel spokes, are stronger than the originals, and the Specialized Hemisphere tires are commuter smooth. We also installed a complete set of powerful linear-pull brakes--for just a bit more than the price of brake shoes alone.
What Would Woo Do?
Some people have a lot of attachment to their bicycles.
I have a Bridgestone RB-1 with over 100,000 miles on it. I’ll never get rid of it. I was lucky enough to have coworker Dave Atkinson refinish my RB-T. I’m not getting rid of that, either--not as long as I can still find parts for it. I love my old Bridgestones.
Today, John’s Specialized Hardrock is a great bike again. But its resurrection took more than hard-nosed economics. It took a generous dollop of sentimentality, too. After all, while this was a $500 repair, it is not, not even after the repair, a $500 bike.
This bike is worth more to John than to anyone else.
And that’s a good thing.
Robert Woo is a collector of many things. Old bikes should be treasured as much as old jokes. You may hear the same one over and over, but laugh every time. That's how we feel about many of the classic rides that never get old and some, like Robert's favorite whisky, get better with age.