Picking Up Bikes at Garage Sales
-courtesy of maxicon
It's getting a little late in the season for decent bikes at the garage
sales, I'm finding (not having found one for weeks now). There are a
cuppla options, depending on if you care about riding it after the event:
- - Ultra cheap garage sale/flea market/want ads bike; old basic 10 speeds.
$10-30, make sure the tires are good and all the cables pull their
gizmos. New tires and tubes add $10-15 extra; best bet is to buy
ones that need no work at all, 'cuz the costs add up.
- - Bottom end, more modern bikes from the same sources; cheapo mountain
bikes like Huffy, Magna, and other K-mart/Sears/etc brands. $25-75,
depending; new ones can be had for as little as $80. Not very good,
many of the cheap older 10speeds are better, but they will get yer
butt around the playa ruggedly, if not stylishly.
- - Low end quality bikes from the want ads or (sometimes) fleamarket
or garage sale. Specialized HardRock is common for $75-125; other
starter models from good brand names. A good deal is about 1/3 of
the new selling price, if it's in decent shape. These are a better
bet if you want cheap but might want to keep it for later. SanFran
area has these at garage sales sometimes; not so common down here...
- - It goes up from there; you want advice from someone who knows about
bikes if you want to spend more than $50 or so. Pedal Revolution in
SFO gets good talk, but I've never been there.
If yer not much into bikes, I've got a quickie checklist on how to make
sure flea market bikes are basically functional; it's down the page a little.
You can buy a K-Mart bike rack for about $25 that works fine, or look for
them at garage sales and flea markets. Just make sure they have all the
fittings'n'stuff, and make sure everything is firmly strapped and bungeed
down before driving off. It would be a drag to drop yer bike on the
max (heck's angels) icon
>I got a bike, but my bride has none.
>Riding on the playa will be much more fun.
>Anyone know where we can get another cheap bike?
>And how to strap them to our Geo Metro for the hike?
Garage Sale Bike Guide - Max Icon de Nada
What you want:
A bike that is safe to ride, comfortable, and reasonably reliable.
Where to look for $10-30 bikes:
Garage sales: Spotty, but best place for well-preserved cheapies. Be
sure to bargain; point out that new tires and tubes will cost $20.
Flea markets: Lots of bikes, better selection, but condition is often
poor for the cheap ones. More risk of stolen bikes, particularly
in the higher price ranges.
Want ads: A crap shoot; get good at finding out details on the phone.
Police auctions: Schedules are flaky, competition can be stiff.
What to look for:
Typically, you'll find old 10 speeds and city cruisers in this
price range, though low-end mountain bikes show up sometimes. For
a freebie bike, you want something that will require the least
amount of money and work to make it usable, and quality isn't too
important. If you're gonna use it yourself, it might be worth
getting a better bike (see below) and putting more money into it.
There is a big difference in ride quality between a newer, low-end
Huffy and an older, better Peugot or Raleigh, if you put a little
loving care into the older bike.
The best bet is to find a well preserved 10 speed that someone has
kept in their garage for the last 8 years. This will sometimes need
tubes, rim liners, and tires, but everything else works, nothing is
rusty, and it's ready to ride after 1 hour and $10-20. Some of
these were originally quite good bikes that no one cares about any
more. Generally, you should avoid bikes that have been out in the
rain for years, as they need lots more work to make decent. In
SF, check Pedal Revolution (415-641-1264) in the Mission for cheap
used parts, good advice, etc.
5 minute check out for a cheapie bike:
- - Look it over and make sure there's no rust caked on the chain,
gears, cables, etc. There should be no major rust on the frame,
though small bits of surface rust are OK.
- - Check the tires, which will usually be flat. Bend the sidewalls
and check for cracks, rot, etc. Small cracks are not too bad, but
obvious rot or cracks all the way through the wall are bad. See
if the tread is all worn out. Cheap new tires run $5 to $10 each.
Assume new tubes and tube liners will be needed ($4 per wheel).
Many $10-20 bikes need all this, though many are ready to inflate
- - Squeeze both brake levers a few times. Check that the calipers
move in and release smoothly. Rusty cables/housings are about $2
each to replace. Adjustments are easy if they move freely but
don't grip the tire (assuming you're handy with tools). Brake
pads are a few dollars.
- - Check if the seat is beat up, ripped, really hard, etc. Good
seats start at about $15, and cheap ones are $6. Comfortable
seats are important for much riding, like on the playa. Wide
seats are often more comfortable than skinny ones, depending on
the build of your butt.
- - Are the handlebar grips comfortable? Tape sucks. Foam grips
are about $5. Same as for seats for long or multiple rides.
- - Carefully flip the bike over and rest it on the handlebars and
seat. Spin the wheels and make sure they're not wobbling side-to-
side. Take a quick look at the spokes, make sure none are bent or
broken, and that they all appear to be there (no empty holes in
the rims). New wheels can be expensive if you can't get them
- - Use the pedals to spin the rear wheel. While one person pedals,
move the shift levers (front and back) and make sure the bike
shifts across most (if not all) of the gears. Adjustments are
easy if the mechanisms work. Derailleurs or gearsets can be
expensive and troublesome to replace.
- - While the rear wheel is spinning, give the front wheel a good
spin. They should both keep spinning long enough that you get
bored and stop them. There shouldn't be any visible slowing over
30 seconds or so, and no squeaking or grinding, only the clicking
of the rear freewheel.
- - There are a bunch of indications of better bikes, if you care.
- * Quick release levers instead of nuts and bolts - the more
the better. Front wheel is most common, then rear wheel,
then seatpost. These need to be tight to avoid the bike
- * Alloy rims and wheel hubs, rather than steel. Alloy
brakes much better than steel when wet, which is really
important if you're gonna ride it in the city.
- * Other alloy parts: handlebar posts, seatposts, handlebars,
pedal cranks, gears, etc. Really good bikes have very
little steel. Not sure how to tell? Alloy looks matte
silvery-white (like aluminum), while steel is shiny and
chromey. Steel gets flecks or bubbles of rust, and alloy
can't rust, plus it's much lighter, though less sturdy.
- * Other extras that are nice (depending on if you care) are
pumps on the frame, bottle cages, storage bags, fenders (for
mud/rain riding), baskets, racks, blah, blah.
Must Haves for the playa (or anywhere):
- Brakes that work
- Wheels in true and undamaged
- Tires, tubes, and rim liners in good shape.
- Pedals that work
- Hardware all tight
Nice to haves (* is a must have for the city):
- Gear shifts that work (at least the rear)*
- Comfortable seat and handlebar covers*
- Pump and tire repair kit
- Quick releases on wheels
- Basket and/or rack
- Fenders for mud riding
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