Tuesday, January 21, 2020

when vintage isn't valuable: choosing refugee bikes

So a couple months ago I was given this bike by friends on the west side of town. It had sat in their carport for something like decades, a purchase for a son who grew too fast to ride it very much. It was loaned for several years to the son's friend, who rode it daily for several years until he went away to college.

The bike looked like this, and initially I was excited. It was an early Specialized Rockhopper from the mid-1980s, and it had some nice parts on it.

Upon closer inspection, I noted that there was quite a lot of rust on most of the components, and especially the handlebars. One of the shifters was missing and the other was broken. The grips were trashed. The cables were dark brown with rust all the way through. And the hubs were crunchy, with old, dried grease inside that would have to be removed, the races and bearings cleaned and repacked with fresh grease. In short, what had once been a cool bike had been "rode hard and put away wet," as they say.

It was beyond collectibility, and needed a LOT of work.

That was when I knew I'd just fix it up and make it safely rideable for the Refugee Resettlement Program at Catholic Charities.

I did pull the cranks and sell them, to make some money which I could spend on replacement bits and a decent lock. Everything else had to be repaired or replaced. And I took my magic rust eraser (from Kool-Stop, no longer made and yes, I bought two so I could put one back) to the handlebars and made them look okay. I slapped on another set of cranks, replaced both derailleurs and put some new tubes and better used tires on it.

In the end, this is a bike that would not have been cost-effective for a shop to take on; but for this home mechanic with a small pile of used parts, it was perfectly fine to refurbish and make safe and fun to ride. As with all my Refugee bikes, I added a rack, a small seat bag, a lock and a patch kit, and lights. And to reduce theftability, I covered all the logos with permanent stickers. Obviously, an educated bike thief would know what to look for, but the big bike theft rings are mostly looking for far more modern bikes with disc brakes and very light frames, neither of which a bike of this would offer.

So now, it's ready for someone to ride.
And I'm moving on to the next bike in line.

Your donations of bikes, accessories and parts all help make this possible. Thank you!

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