Monday, July 11, 2016

Where do I find a project bike?

I was having this conversation with my friend Joe and he mentioned it would make a good blog post, so here goes.  Lets say you want to find a project 10 speed to rebuild, or maybe just an old bike to fix up to ride on errands, and you are wondering where to look?  Here are some places I have found some success in descending order.
The local bike kitchen.

I am fortunate to live in a city with a "bike kitchen" and even more fortunate that its less than 7 miles away.  Its a non profit that does great things in the community so I know what I spend there is benefiting my community.  I can usually find a complete bike for around $40 or less, frame-sets  for a little as $5, and many of the projects on this blog have started life as something I picked up at bike works.  Here are few finished bikes that came from there...
Raleigh Grand Prix -$35 spent
Peugeot U-O8 - $35 spent

Motobecane Nomade - Frame set for $5

Another popular place to look is C-List but you need to exercise some caution as there are bikes at a whole range of prices and conditions, and of course you want to be careful your not buying a stolen bike.  Over the years I have come across a few terms to be aware of:
  • "rare" a tactic to make the high price seem reasonable except these bikes are "rarely" rare they are usually bikes built by the tens of thousands.  Like rare 1971 VW beetle....
  • "All original" usually code for "nothing has been done to this bike for 40 years" so expect dry rotted tires, tubes that won't hold air, dry rusty chains and hard brittle cables and housing and brake pads, i.e. they need a lot of TLC and at least the $60 worth of parts.
  • "might" as in "might need a tune up", " might need new tires" translation is "Definitely"
  • Minor Frame damage, or "small" crack in frame. Run don't walk away! you don't want to deal with that.
  • Record Du Monde for sale, there is no such bike model -its a sticker on a Peugeot frame to commemorate that one of their bikes set a World Record in some discipline.  This is most likely a Peugeot UO-8 which they made a couple Million of during the bike boom.  It a great riding frame and I have rebuilt quite a few,  just beware of some of the issues you may encounter with older French bikes.
I usually look for the "I just want to get rid of this bike" type of post but I tend to run across a lot of people thinking they have the crown jewel of vintage bikes and want a corresponding price for it. 

Here's an example- the above bike, a Univega nuovo sport, was listed for $159 and was noted to be in "Excellent" Condition, hmm.  A review of the pictures, they were nice enough to provide 8, showed me:
  • Dry rotted tires
  • Dried up patched together bar tape
  • Surface rust on some of the chrome and oxidation on the alloy parts indicating to me that the bike was stored outside at some point or just someplace moist...wonder how those bearing are doing?
IMHO this bike would be "excellent" at about $50, its going to need $60 in new parts (cables and housing, brake pads, tires tubes rim strip, chain, bar wrap etc.) and a lot of TLC.

All that said I have found bikes on Craigslist ...

Free bike that became a single speed

Peugeot Course- bought for myself originally $75

Motobecane Grand Touring - bought for myself keeper! $75 after sale of saddle and tires

Motobecane Mirage - in the queue $35 spent
Garage Sales

Again I am fortunate to live in a Neighborhood that holds a garage sale day every May so I can hit a ton of them in one fell swoop in a small area.  You never know what you are going to find and like C-List people often have an inflated idea of what things are worth but I try to remember, like C-List, its in the garage sale because they want it gone.

And if you see an old bike at a garage sale and its not marked- Ask! that is how the Miyata below, one of the nicest bikes I have ever found came into my hands for $25. It was hanging in the Garage and wasn't marked, I asked the nice lady running the sale and she said "oh that was the bike my husband commuted on, he said it was ok for me to sell it".  Randy at My Ten Speeds advises asking if they have any old 10 speeds even if you don't see any bikes at all, they might have forgotten it or didn't think it was worth putting out.   Here are few project bikes that started life in garage sales...

Takara Sport $10 spent
Takara $25 spent

Lovely Miyata 912- Sorry to let it go -$25 spent

I have only done this once and it was Good Will express, I have seen some bikes in Good Will I thought were way over priced but as always you can sometimes find a gem.

"Free Spirit" or in this case broken spirit...$9.95 spent
Police Auction

Again this was a one time deal and it was a campus police auction but for $5 I got a pretty good starter project.  It would have been worth that for the parts..

The $5 ride - Raleigh Reliant
On the side of the Road

As I mentioned in a previous post,  I see plenty of bikes in the neighborhood put out for free but mostly they are kids bikes or cheapo mountain bikes, but every once in a while...I have had two old 10 speed scores, one I got home to discover frame damage so it became a parts bike and the other is in the queue.

Just parts- front crash for frame
awaiting its turn...and a wheel
So there are lots of places to look and probably a few I failed to mention but be patient and use a critical eye and you'll find a project to turn into something lovely and useful.

Until next time...Ride. Bargain hunt.Smile.Repeat.


  1. Some time ago I saw a line up of bikes at the Pawn store as I drove by so I stopped in just out of curiosity. They were certainly proud of their collection of beat up department store MTB's. They did have a mid-70's Raleigh International but the guy would not come off the $120 asking price. I offered him $50 figuring I would pay up to $75 because it was a tall frame (my size!!)It has been a few months, I should go by again and see if it is still there.

    1. You should definitely go back Jim as frames in larger sizes don't move as fast because its a more niche market (not as many guys and gals over 6' 2" as under)- good news for you. A friend of mine who is 6' 8" picked up his first road bike, a 27" framed Panasonic, for a song because it had been languishing in the shop so long (years). When you go back Jim point out the work you will need to do to make it ride-able; dry rotted tires, old cables and housing, rusty chain etc. What's the worst they can say? "no" Good luck - I hope to see a Raleigh International project come up on your blog ;-)

  2. Good post, Ryan. I'll come back to it. Starting to look. That's a few bikes you've been thru!

    1. A couple other methods that have been mentioned; little nickel (do they still do that?), Pawn shop/thrift shop, just looking- this works especially well if you have alleys you can ride down you might see a old bike in a back yard somewhere getting no love that you could inquire about, or just putting the word out with friends - I am looking for an old bike to fix up "Hey Aunt Millie has one in her basement" They are out there.

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  4. Dangit! I just wrote a thousand word comment and pushed "preview" and it went away! $#@(*&^%$!!!

    I'll get you for this, Roadie! Now I'll just summarize:

    Little Miss
    Long Tour, unachieved
    New Bike, Origin 8 saddle
    Thousands of dollars
    Frequent need to pee
    Jim Bangs

    There was more but now I can't remember. And I gotta pee.

    1. It wasn't me it was Blogger! that said your response is too funny kind of a Haiku. I hope you post pictures over at the TPC because I am intrigued by the tour, the REI mention, NEW BIKE!!!! ??? But take care of that other business first man. ;-)