1993 Bridgestone XO-1

There’s a time-honored tradition of hunting down old, but good quality bicycles and re-purposing them for commuting and utility use. Japanese-made, lugged-steel touring and mountain bikes from the late 1980s and early ‘90s seem to be particularly popular candidates for resurrection, probably because of their high quality frames and relatively low prices. This activity seems to be growing in popularity, most likely driven by the SS/fixie craze as well as our poor economy. As you’d expect, these old bikes are starting to fetch higher prices as the demand has increased and the finite supply has inevitably dwindled.

There’s a time-honored tradition of hunting down old, but good quality bicycles and re-purposing them for commuting and utility use.

Of course, refurbs aren’t limited to bikes from a particular era or of a particular quality. A friend who works at a bike kitchen does a ton of rebuilds based upon no-name frames from various countries and eras. He also happens to have an interest in old Schwinns and he’s restored a number of nice ones to near original condition. Then there’s the cult of the Raleigh 3-speed, which is a whole world unto itself.

Probably because I cut my biking teeth during that era, the lugged steel bikes mentioned above hold a particular fascination for me. I’ve yet to do a refurb, but if I did, I’d probably be looking at a lugged-steel Trek touring bike, a Specialized Stumpjumper, or perhaps even a Bridgestone XO-1, though it’s my understanding that the Bridgestone and the Treks (particularly the 720) have been fetching high prices for some time now.

I’d be curious to hear from those who are riding refurbed bikes that are at least 20 years old. What are you riding and what type of modifications were required? What was your motivation for refurbing an old bike: cost savings, the vintage vibe, the green aspect, or something else?

87 Responses to “Refurbs”

  • Archergal says:

    Heh. One of my regular rides is a 20 year old Trek that still has most of its original equipment. So I don’t qualify for the refub group.

    20 years old may not be THAT old where bikes are concerned.

  • Adam Booth says:

    I ride a refurbed Miyata MTB that I converted from bullhorn to Nitto Noodles (48) and Nitto dirt drop stem from Riv.

    After having the bike for a year. I’m now a single bike owner. I’ve had as many as 7, now I have one, but I keep looking for old ones to fix up…

  • Mark Rainey says:

    Just a couple of links to “Refurbs” done by the Groody Bros. Bicycle Restoration Project.

  • Zach says:

    I’ve done quite a few “refurbs”. It seems people buy bikes and never really ride them. I just wait around and eventually they turn up. After people in your neighborhood realize you are a little nuts about cycling, your garage turns into Grandma’s attic.

    As far as what it takes, usually time, patience, and a few tools. Over time your parts bin gets pretty eclectic and makes it easier. Most of the bikes I’ve refurbed just need cleaning and a few wear items, cables, bar tape, brake pads, tires, and occasionally a saddle. People buy bikes and never ride them, what gives…get out there people!

    It’s a great way to keep busy and meet people in your town. It keeps people riding too because they realize that it doesn’t take a $2,000+ bike to get out there. Its also neat to ride an older bike, be it green, vintage, or cost. I suspect all three, and maybe one more. I do it because i like bikes; all bikes tell a story and I want to hear what they have to say.

  • Frank says:

    I saved an old 1987 Cannondale from ‘garage death’ and put it on my trainer for almost nothing. It was in perfect condition, only ridden a few times and then put up for years. Even the chainrings and seat looked brand new. After I cleaned it up I think that it was one of the best deals I have ever seen. Judging by the number of bike sales, yet curious lack of riders, I am sure that there has to be a huge number of bikes slowly rotting away somewhere.

  • Steve A. says:

    Hi Alan,

    I’ve been reading for a while, but this is my first post.

    I ride a 1991 Miyata Alumicross. A guy that I worked with had it hanging in his garage for 16 or 17 years when I bought it. It’s an early cyclocross lugged/bonded aluminum frame. I bought it because it fit me, and because I wanted something more suitable for commuting than my “alumocarbon” road bike. I replaced the wheels (Rich-built from Rivendell – amazing), saddle (Brooks B-17), and stem/handlebars (Nitto Dirt Drop 80/Moustache bars). The bike is suitable (read: comfortable) for commuting, road riding, and, as of last weekend fire road riding (with a nice new pair of Grifo cyclocross tires). Maybe I’ll submit some pics for the gallery in the future. Thanks for all the work you do on the blog.

  • Kyle says:

    It’s not exactly a refurb, but my daily commuter is built on a 1984 Miyata frame that was NOS. It’s got quite a mix of components, but the end result is a near-perfect fit for my 25-mile round-trip commute. My reasons for the bike were several:
    I do like a good steel frame for its durability (as well as fixability if it ever breaks).
    It was inexpensive compared to comparable options.
    The owner of the shop where I bought it was much more helpful than anyone at the other LBSs that I went to while looking for a new ride.
    And yes, the “vintage vibe” is at least slightly appealing to me.

  • Bryan says:

    My two bikes are both refurbs from the late 1980s. One is a 1988 Trek 400, now with a new wheelset, Brooks saddle, moustache bars and fenders. The other is a 1989 Stumpjumper Comp that I’m riding pretty much stock (all Deore XT!), except for fenders and touring tires. I’m going to put Albatross bars on it soon. I found both on Craigslist, which, here in the Midwest, still holds a few gems. The Trek is great because it’s a 25.5″ frame. You can’t find a new bike that big unless you want to spend tons of money. Other than liking old things (which I do), money has been the primary consideration in doing refurbs. I don’t have an extra grand or two laying around to buy a new ride, so I can find something cool on Craigslist for cheap and then improve it slowly over time.

  • Sam Joslin says:

    I’ve had a few refurbished bikes over the years: an ex-Peace Corps coaster brake bike with a curiously out-of-phase one-piece crank, some Schwinn two-speeds, a Raleigh International that I converted to a three-speed with cantilever brakes (and painted orange). But some of my old bikes were just that: old bikes. They weren’t refurbished so much as brought back out into the sunlight, aired up and oiled. Minimal invasiveness worked as long as I was careful to monitor questionable tires and cables.

    I used the No-Wrench-Been-Applied strategy to my early 80s college transportation: a four-speed Peugeot that was never imported into the United States yet ended up in Columbia, Missouri, anyway. The only thing I did to it was replace the Mafac cantilever brake shoes almost monthly. Not that it improved braking when applied to a ridged steel rim in the wet…

  • Dan says:

    I’ve got a few “refurbs” at home. My daily ride is an ’84 Schwinn Passage (Columbus tubed loaded touring frame). I bought it as a frameset and fixed it up with some pretty standard SS/Fixed commuting parts, swept back bars, and a porteur rack. At one point I had it set up as a 1×6 light touring bike with drop bars, but my Surly does a much better job of that.

    I built two refurb-ish bikes for my girlfriend as well. The first is an 80’s Schwinn Tempo (also Columbus tenax, but a much much higher build quality than my passage. Curved seatstay caps, stainless dropout faces, pearl paint, etc). It’s set up as a classy single speed with drop bars. She loves it. The other is a ’93 Bridgestone MB-2 in red with the Ritchey biplane fork. The MB2 has a mix of new and old shimano LX and XT parts and is set up with racks, fenders and soma sparrow bars. It’s quite a beauty if I do say so myself.

    IMO, the hardest part about working with older frames is finding parts in sizes that are no longer standard. I’ve also never been lucky enough to find a used steel frame with a straight derailleur hanger. Other than the occasional minor frustration, I really enjoy bringing old frames back to life.

  • Tom in Iowa says:

    Just finished a restoration of a 1971 Schwinn Super Sport. Stripped it to the frame, cleaned, polished and relubed. Period style tires and new cables and bar tape. Found the bike on e-bay and with purchase, shipping and parts I’ve got about $425 in it. It’s heavy, but a very smooth ride – not lugged, but fillit brazed cro-mo steel. Definitely the vintage vibe here!

  • Mark Kirschner says:

    The last refurb in our house was my wife’s ’80’s vintage Peuogeot Mixte. New bars, saddle, brakes and cables. She has a Campy triple crank to put on, but hasn’t gotten around to it yet.

    My first refurb was a ’70s Campagna (I think that was it) that I bought of my then girlfriend’s father. Changed out brakes and tires, all new cables and a new paint job. Ended up giving it to a friend when I graduated HS. I didn’t need four bikes going off to college.

    Two refurbs I’d like to do:
    1) a vintage three or five-speed (IGH) with upright bars, fenders and font basket. Purely a round-town/bike path bike.

    2) a mid-80’s Univega Viva Touring (wine color, preferably). This would be for pure nostalgia purposes (and to end the kicking myself for letting mine go at a garage sale years ago). This was the bike that took me through France, Germany, Czeckslovakia and the Netherlands in 1986. I miss it. :-(

  • John Burnham says:

    My 1987 Cannondale ST400, built from the frame up in 2009, has been my main commuting / errand-running / touring bike for two years now, preferring it over my mid 90s Cannondale hardtail and mid 00s crit bike. It took a bit of research, which was a joy, but over the build the only trouble shooting required was for the 27″ to 700c conversion (long reach brakes, which was great for fenders anyways), also whether or not a 126mm spaced frame would accept a 130mm space hub, which it would reasonably well, and ultimately if 25 year-old aluminum was risky and knowing that the frame was not heavily used in its former life (and that these touring frames were so overbuilt in the first place), it doesn’t seem to be a limiting factor. There is also the beauty of modern componentry on a classic frame.

  • Gooseneck says:

    My main bicycle is a 1997 Diamondback Outlook. I bought it for $20, changed to some old Raleigh Northroads, swapped to a friction thumb shifter, and put on some cheap tires with a smooth inverted tread. (all stuff I had in my workshop).

    First it was my lock-outside beater, but then it worked its way in as my main bicycle. I took a month long tour on it in 2008, and plan on a cross country adventure via the Adventure Cycling Trans-Am route this summer.

    The only original part is the “Shimano 7 SIS” rear derailer. The parts that have spent time on this frame and then been removed and replaced form an astonishing list – But I rode it nearly stock for the first couple years.

    Refurbishing bicycles is nearly all I do. I find it interesting and enjoyable that what most would consider a hi-tensile beast has become my favorite of all the hundreds of bicycles that I’ve repaired and ridden and dozens that I’ve owned.

  • CedarWood says:

    It’s a combination of things: I like the supple ride of steel; my bum hip requires a mixte or low top tube, and nearly all good-sized modern bikes are diamond frames; it’s easier to buy parts piecemeal than pony up a big chunk of change for a whole bike; nothing spins like a properly adjusted and greased loose-ball hub or BB bearing — even the cheap ones can be excellent.

    Besides, one can’t walk into a bike shop and buy a steel mixte MTB with an IGH, dynamo lighting, rack eyelets and bullmoose bars. Or a 3-speed fixed gear mixte scorcher, a light road mixte with Lauterwasser bars, or a low-trail city bike perfect for shopping. One must build them, and while it’s certainly more expensive, one can have exactly what one wants.

  • Joshua says:

    Two of my bikes are refurbs:

    My primary commuter is a mid-80’s Bianchi Volpe (Superset I tubing). I bought it in great condition from the original owner about 5 years ago. Since then I have added various commuter necessities for daily use including: generator hub and light, rear and front racks, fenders, platform/clip pedals, and bell. I have also added a few upgrades as parts wore out or to increase comfort/fit, including a brooks saddle, cross levers, and nitto noodle handlebars and longer stem. The drivetrain is mostly original: crankset, bar end shifters, front and rear deraillers still kicking. I’ve had to replace the rear cassette a few times and the bb too. It is a gem and my favorite for commuting, although I have a winter commuter with an internal geared hub and disc brakes and stands up better to the PacNW winters (self-built, not refurb).

    One of my ‘extras’ is my Dad’s 1984 Trek 510 which is the sport version to the popular touring 520. It doesn’t have rack braze-ons, so I keep it as a lender and joy ride bike. It has nearly 100% original parts, including a full campy groupset. My refurb was mostly cleaning and replacement of cables, housing, tires, and brake pads.

  • Phillip says:

    Ive got an old Trek 950 Single Track that I bought new in ’88. It’s old skool with it’s level top tube, lack of suspension and Mountain LX components. I believe the 950 was 2nd from the top that year, the 970 was the same basic bike but with Deore components. It’s been gathering dust in the basement for years because I lost the mtb bug back in the 90’s. The proliferation of high-tech in mountain biking left me cold. But lately I’ve been a little nostalgic for the old girl and have considered a rebuild. It needs a new wheelset. I was looking at Jaquie Phelan’s old Cunningham the other day and would like set my bike in a similar fashion. I think dirt drops,1.5 in knobbies and a more modern 1×9 drivetrain would be just the ticket for bombing local hardpack fire roads.

  • Ben says:

    I ride a mid 80’s Panasonic Touring Deluxe that I found at Bikeworks in Seattle. I recently changed out the biopace chain rings for a Sugino AT crank with round chainrings. The Shimano cantilever brakes are still original as they have some vertical adjustability and allowed me to switch from 27″ to 700c wheels. Everything else has been changed out over the last five years of ownership. I have no compunction about updating and mixing components – I want this bike to ride and fit well, bottom line. Other highlights: a B-17 saddle, Nitto noodle bars, a Velo Orange front rack supporting and Acorn Rando bag, Gilles Berthoud stainless steel fenders, and Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tires.

    This summer I’m taking my Panasonic on a cross country bike tour! I love the feel of the standard diameter, 20+ year-old steel.

  • Mona says:

    A lady’s Raleigh Sprite five-speed from the 70s’. It says 27 on the frame but it now has new 700c alloy wheels with Alfine 8-speed rear hub and Shimano generator front hub. Other updates are front and rear lights, Brooks sprung saddle, rear Wald basket zip-tied to original rack, brass bell, coffee holder, and the MKS Lambda pedals are going on tonight. The frame and all other components are original. Still weighs a ton, but it is my daily commuter and I love it.

  • Mr Nouveau says:

    I like old bikes. Partly because I’m a cheapskate, and think you can get good value for the money. And partly because I just like the vintage look. Oh, and I hate threadless stems…

    I’m riding an early 80’s Bridgestone Antaries LDT. Picked it up because I wanted a bike for club rides, and that had a touring frame. Upgrades were mustache bars, dirt drop stem, bar end shifters, SKS fenders, new saddle, rack and lights. Major component groups could stand rebuilding still, but it’s been a pleasant ride. So far, I’ve done rides up to 50 K on it with no problem.

    I’m currently building up a ’74 Carlton frame (Nottingham), and a late 80’s Raleigh USA sport touring frame – as a 3 speed. Two of my wife’s bikes are also vintage: An early ’80s Raleigh Raleigh USA mixte town bike, and a mid ’80s Miyata 200 touring mixte. She speced out all of the upgrades on them, and did some of the work.

    In general, I’d say that it helps if you like to work on mechanical things. If not, look for an LBS or specialist that sells refurbished bikes. My Bridgestone was a bit of an education in what kind of problems can crop up if you buy another hobbyists unfinished project. But it all worked out in the end.

  • awaveritt says:

    I recently had a “perfect showroom” 1987 Trek 520 stolen out of my garage! The scoundrels left my tired old Schwinn Voyageur 11.8 (made by Panasonic/Japan in January 1980)….so. . . I dusted it off, upgraded to 700c wheels/tires, new 7 speed cassette, new VO crankset, chain, BB, Brooks B17, and am just having a blast! Ironically, the 58cm frame fits me better than the 60cm Trek did. So while I dearly miss the old Trek, I’ve managed to find/create some silver linings thru it all.

  • dave says:

    I was a summer seasonal mechanic for 5 yrs in the mid-late 80s as mtbs hit the scene. I assembled many fine bikes in that era which I could never afford on my meager wages. Bought a used Ross Mt Whitney in 90 which I still have, and other chrome Ross rigid atbs since then. I use one as my winter singlespeed commuter now, with studs. The bullmoose nitto bars are great and everyone remarks how deceptively light the bike actually is. I put a new external bearing bb and crank (truvativ GXP) to reduce maintenance and lighten it. Added fenders and cork grips. New aztec brake pads! It can be hard to find seatposts in the old sizes… the original vento propizio saddle is holding up great. I like upgrading some of my old bikes’ headsets to alloy cup types.
    I also have fixed up a miyata alumicross with flat bar as a 1×8 with downtube friction shifter. Indexed shifting can be problematic and spendy so I try to keep it simpler. I converted my brother’s old Gitane to a singlespeed and rode 500 miles of commutes on it last summer. Swapped out crank and wheels, bars and new narrow tires, it rides very well now. The old cottered crank was shot, and so heavy… Still need to upgrade from old rat trap pedals though, lol.
    I have an old Fuji Sagres rescued from someone’s trash, and am singlespeed converting it too (possibly to just sell). It’s nice to simplify these steel bikes with fewer cables… having just one brake has not been a problem either on the urban singlespeeds.
    My first roadbike was a 75 Raleigh SuperCourse. I still have it, and its still a bit tall especially if I change it to 700c wheels. Hoping to pass it to a friend who will dig it as much. The reynolds 531 steel, chrome lower fork and stays, and the decorative lugs, and the paint are some of its best attributes.
    I ride some newish bikes from the last 5 years as well sometimes. A Big Dummy and a Raleigh Super Course, Bianchi San Jose and 01 Schwinn Panther cruiser. I have a Jamis Eclipse but almost never ride it (carbon and cro-mo) because most of my miles are local transport. Each has a purpose and optimal riding conditions, be it fetching milk, taking kid to school, riding a century, or navigating ugly wet commutes. Yes I have too many bikes but riding older classics lets me avoid the big depreciation hit of a new model. I can afford to experiment more…

    Lots of nice older Miyatas, Bridgestones, Lotus, Panasonic, Univega as well as some of the Schwinn, Bianchi, etc. I don’t do the older italian frames, too spendy…

  • Ryan says:

    Alan what a timely article I recently sold my go fast bike upon coming to the conclusion, after 10 years, that it was just too small. I am on the lookout for a nice semi lightish Japanese lugged steel frame tp turn into a go fast. I have a nice modern CroMo as my all around bike but light it is not. My motivation is mostly to save some $$ over getting a Riv or VO or Soma modern lugged frame but the repurposing and green aspects are nice side benefits. Mostly though i have come to love the look of classic steel lugged frames.

    I found a “for free” rusty Schwinn step-through hybrid from the 80’s that I “refurbed” for my wife as a 40th birthday present. That was a satisfying and rewarding experience and my wife loves being able to ride to the farmers market in a skirt and put goodies in her QR wicker basket.

  • Willis says:

    I’ve done about 10 refurbs now but my favorites are my current rides (which is why they stay in the stable even though the wife is constantly on top of the number of frames around the house). I guess there are the purists and the rest of us who are willing to put anything on an old frame, I fall into the later category, and motivators to do this were as you said, save money, quality frames, etc. Also, I have bought most of my refurbs as frame and fork (sometimes a headset) so they necessitated other components anyway. Also, I don’t feel so bad about taking an 1980’s Nashbar Touring frame and fork and having it repainted (powder coated) as I would a vinatge Trek 720 if the paint was in at least decent condition. Also, for my Nashbar, it started following NAHBS last year and I had some ideas I wanted to put into a bike without spending $4-5k. I got the frame, fork, racks, brake parts, and stem powder coated to all the same color for $125….a custom with all that could be pretty pricey. Then I added the drivetrain setup I wanted and a wicker basket from the thrift store that cost $1.49. With so many savings in some areas I was free to splurge in others (I went ahead and got the cane creek levers with tan hoods to match my bar tape/ Honey Brooks).

    One thing I have found about re-furbs is that finding the “right” frame is actually way harder than you would think…maybe thats why I have done about 10 re-furbs and only have kept 3 for myself. An old frame that met all of my specs has been hard (i.e. my size first of all, 700c wheels, canti brakes, braze-ons for racks, fenders, etc, and a frame that can take a 28c tire at least as my ride to work involves a gravel river tow path) to find but is possible.

    Here is the rundown and a couple of links to current stable steeds…I don’t know that I have saved a whole lot of money over a new bike but I definately have exactly what I want in these three bikes for the three main purposes they serve:

    1.Primary Commuter- Lotus Eclair Touring ~59-60cm

    Mangaloy tubing
    Triple Shimano Bio-Pace Crank (just wearing the rings out till I need new ones)
    36 spoke no name wheels I picked up around here and there
    Chris King Headset I got on the cheap at Nahbs 2010
    Velo-Orange hammered fenders (wish I had gotten fluted now, oh well)
    Brooks B-17
    Nitto Albatross Bars
    Dia Compe Silver Shifters
    Cork Grips
    Specialized Dirt Drop Stem from the parts bin at the cycle shop
    XT Canti Brakes
    8 speed rear with Deore Mech
    Axiom Streamliner Rear Rack (very nice, recommended)

    2. Primary Randonneur/Cyclocross- 1980’s Nashbar Toure XC-

    Tange 2 tubing
    All “Celeste” powder coat paint (actually just a stock color they had at the shop to keep costs down but I’ll call it celeste)
    Nashbar Rack powder coated
    $1.49 thrift wicker basket
    Shimano old school canti-brakes
    Ruffy Tuffy Tires (thinking of going with some Jack Browns and throwing these on the next bike down but they are awesome)
    Chris King cheap NAHBS 2010 headset
    Sugino RD2 crank with Salsa 36-46 ring combo
    Dia-Compe Silver Shifters
    Brooks B-17 Honey
    1st Gen Dura-Ace front hub
    Shimano 105 9 speed rear XT 11-32 cassette
    36 spoke Mavic A119 rims
    Cane Creek Tan Hood Aero Brake levers and inline brake levers
    Nitto Technomic Stem 50mm (I went through two of these till I found my size with this frame, trial and error)
    Kool Stop Salmon Pads
    Deore Mech rear, 105 front

    3. Road Machine/ The nicest Frame I own/future short Brevet bike- Katakura Silk 63cm

    Just built up last weekend!!!!
    Tange 1 Tubing according to frame builder (a gentleman in Japan who is resotring a Silk went to see him before the earthquake and confirmed this based off my seatpost diameter)
    Salsa Stem
    Performance Bike Bladed Spoke wheelset (I’m 6’4″ and weigh 230, they hold me, trust these wheels)
    FSA gossamer compact crank (34t-50t) and Mega Exo BB
    XT Shadow Rear Mech
    vintage Shimano 600 front
    SRAM 11-34t 9 speed cassette
    Nitto Randonneur Bars (something about the bar Brifter combo is bothering my shoulder…..possible swap here)
    AER Modolo rear brake, Shimano Front
    Ultegra Chain
    Selle Italia Flite Titanium saddle (meh….well see)
    Shimano 105 Brifters
    Ritchey SPD pedals

    Finally, I know this is a horribly long comment but @Alan, if you like the old Trek’s I was in Austin last week for work and at Mellow Johnny’s bike store they have this one on display that has been a complete refurb….pretty sick bike.

  • Don Genovese says:

    I ride the following:

    1982 Miyata 1000 refurbished.
    1974 Malagnini (Italian – Columbus SL) refurbished.
    Circa 1970’s Bertin refurbished.
    1998 Rivendell Longlow original.

    I get huge enjoyment from riding and restoring. I intend to ride these four for the remainder of my life (I’m 71).

  • Doug Robertson says:

    In 1991, my brother owned a bike shop in Indiana. He gave me a used 1988 Specialized Rockhopper Comp for free that he couldn’t sell in his shop. In 1992 I started commuting on it when I lived in the Twin Cities. During the nineties it was my only working bicycle. Later, after moving further north, it became my winter commuter up until 2007. At that time it received a complete refurbish. All new components and a fresh powdercoat paint job along with an Xtracycle conversion. It is now my utility bicycle. Of my five bikes, I think it would be the hardest to let go if I had to sell them all off. It’s like an old friend…..always there for me.

  • Nathan says:

    My road bike is a 1978 Colnago Super. I originally had a modern aluminum/carbon bike, but the geometry and size just didn’t fit. So I bought this 63cm (c-c) frame, which had been completely refinished and chromed, and moved all the parts from the modern bike over. More like “renaissanced” than refurbished. I’ll have to get a picture together. It’s an unusual, but wonderful, combination of modern drivetrain and carbon handlebar with a classic frame and a B-17.

    It looks fantastic, and rides even better. The old school geometry gives me a much more comfortable riding position, and the steel makes everything nice and smooth.

  • Buck says:

    I ride a Japanese-made, lugged steel Univega road frame from about 1983, with a full Dura-Ace 7800 gruppo. The only modification to the frame that was necessary was to the brake bridge (resolved by just adding a second, lower brake bridge). It’s currently the only bike I own and I love it.

  • Eric says:

    The main reason I bought my first vintage bike was cost. I spent more money purchasing a new bike for my wife, so that she could ride it immediately and so it would be reliable while I was learning to maintain my vintage one. I often prefer vintage and greener options when they are available, so buying myself an old Raleigh 3 speed was comfortable all around.

    The main reason I bought my second old bike was that I wanted to build up a bike on my own, and using a vintage frame and components would be cheaper. I looked around for a vintage frame with lots of braze-ons to maximize my options, and ended up with a 1984 Univega Gran Turismo. In the end I liked it too much to change it around a lot, so I just changed the seat and stem for fit, switched to bar end shifters and platform pedals, and eventually added a rack and fenders.

    The main reason I bought the next 4 vintage bikes was because by then I was hooked, and just really like riding and working on them. Some of these are for me, some for my wife, and they are all different. So this way we get a stable of different types of rides for cheaper than new, and I get another hobby/obsession. Both of us love the vintage and green aspects too, so it’s a pretty sweet deal to get more stuff that you like better for less money than the alternatives.

  • Don says:

    In 1991 I sold my car and bought a Bianchi Advantage, which was an early “hybrid” but now would be considered an all’rounder. I immediately scraped off all the stickers, which were particularly ugly that year, and upgraded the seat and bars. It’s a great lugged frame, a lot like the Bridgestone, and the paint job looks lived-in to be sure. I commuted with it in 3 states and all kinds of weather. I managed to break the original crankset. I’ve ridden it with 28s and 38s, with swept-back bars and aggressive straight bars, with fenders and racks and pulling a trailer and stripped down. When the old Suntour components began to wear and cables got scarce, I got budget replacement wheels and put on an Alivio and a GripShift. I’m now in the process of stripping it down again and making it be my dirt rider so I can try to keep up with my 5-year-old, who has just graduated to his big brother’s sweet 20-in Gary Fisher alu-ss and rides with abandon. I can’t imagine not having that frame around to transform yet again. My current commuter may be more comfortable and quick for the long haul, but the Bianchi is just plain fun. At some point I may powdercoat it and give it to my other son, who just keeps growing.

  • Tom Howard says:

    My addiction started when I refurbished my wife’s 70s Raleigh Sprite 10-speed.
    New alloy 700c wheels/hubs from Harris Cyclery; Kool-Stop Continental brake pads; Panaracer Pasela tires, Velo-Orange saddle; Tektro brake levers; NOS Huret front derailer cage, my best-ever purchase on ebay; resprayed coffee brown fenders with custom-mixed automotive paint.
    Embarrassed to say I once suggested we should trash the Raleigh!
    It was so much fun that I refurbished an 80s Nishiki mixte, a garage sale find, for a friend; A Peugeot folding bike from Craigslist; a 1983 Stumpjumper, destined to become a super commuter; gathering parts for two Raleigh Twenties; Plans to rehab my 1980 Raleigh Super Course as a fixie; Oh, yeah. Rebuilt a 1980s SR Alpine frame, a $20 CL buy, for my nephew.

  • david p. says:

    my daily commuter is a 1984 trek 520 (

    i found it on craigslist in philadelphia, at the time i lived in LA. I hunted for a while for this guy. My motivations for getting it was that I like the aesthetics of the rivendell, VO types but can certainly not afford them at the time. by comparison, this frame cost only $125 and I had many of the components already (you can see the specs on flick). plus it has that nice vintage, hard to come by vibe that i find particularly charming. love it.

    maybe one day i’ll be able to afford a riv, but until then… refurbo is the way to go.

  • Gaff says:

    My main summer bike is a 1985 Schwinn Traveler (a 4130 lugged Greenville frame). Got it last year for $100. Put new tires on and rode it until winter. The rear derailleur is bent, so it’s about to go on the stand for a refurb before the weather settles into Spring.

    Another one in the collection is a 1974 Concord (Japan made nervex lugged). It’s kinda small for me, but it might become a commuter. It was $5 at a yard sale.

    Garbage picked a 1987 Panasonic 500 Sport. It’s tiny and will probably get sold.

    Last is my wife’s “old” 2000 Cannondale C400 which is about to get an Xtracycle thrown on for grocery trips. She never like the diamond frame or the riding position, so it’s really low on miles. It’s already converted to a 1 x 9 with a rapid shift to replace the grip type.

    Thanks for the great reading, Alan.

  • HowardBollixter says:

    For a couple of years I salvaged a number of cheap bikes that interested me and refurbished them to sell, cleverly losing 20 or 30 bucks each time. One I kept for me, a 1990 Trek 950, repainted and set up as a 1×7 which is, just, adequate for old legs and the semi-hilly terrain here. Lovely lugged steel, and I have an aesthetic preference for the old-style level top tube. Rugged, tough little bike, it shines on the 6 months or so a year here when winter trashes the roads with pot-holey chunky frost-crack buppity-buppitiness, not to mention the insane amounts of sand the road department blesses us with.

  • lee says:

    I love building up older bikes because it’s a really rewarding process. In my opinion you also get much more bang for your buck then you would with a new bike.

    I refurbished an older Univega mixte for my wife because it was relatively easy to find and for the price it was the best way to go. I added a nitto periscopa stem, nitto albatross bars, cork grips, cheap thumb shifters, and new tires.

    Recently, a 1989 Bridgestone MB-1 was literally dropped on to my lap and I couldn’t help building this one up!

    I initially built it up as a geared townie, do-it-all bike:

    More recently I’ve made it a really fun ss townie with jitensha flat bars and a VO porteur rack. A ENO eccentric hub was required because of the vertical rear dropouts. Other parts were transferred from an 80’s era rockhopper that a neighbor was throwing out.

  • Fergie says:

    I bought a ’91 Bridgestone X0-1 used from a guy who wanted a racier machine and immediately set it up for touring. I packed it and myself on a Greyhound bus and rode the pooch to Ft. Collins CO, then spent a week riding down the front range to Colorado Springs, where I took a 2 week bike mechanics course at Barnett’s and then packed my gear onto my newly tuned up tourer and rode to Seattle via Steamboat Springs, Cheyenne, Yellowstone, Helena, Glacier and Sandpoint Idaho. It was the last time I’ve had the opportunity to be out on the open road, and I still think about those couple of months as some of the most free and fun times I’ve had. I unfortunately crashed the X0-1 while commuting around S.F. and bent the fork. I never could figure out how to get a reasonably priced replacement fork, so I let it go. Memories..

  • Jonathan Raspa says:

    My latest bike is a stripped-down ’86 Stumpjumper, with a “Touring” tubeset. Dunno about that. Pared down to a singlespeed, with some creme Fat Franks from Schwalbe, pumped up to 20psi. A nice Technomic stem to raise up some Nitto All-Rounder bars, some leather grips, and a Brooks Flyer to rest my rump on. All of the other parts are completely original: headset, BB, crankset, brakeset, wheels, and using the original derailleur as a chain tensioner.

    Cost me less than $300, and I just wanted a simple bike for the very short commute to the shop that I wrench at. It gets lots of appreciative looks, and does its job well. I could have gone crazy and ordered a fancy-pants commuter at cost from my shop, but this was so much simpler, and I didn’t have to wait. I’m about to slap on a chainguard just to class it up a notch.

    Only change? Switch out to some Schwalbe Big Apples, so that I can fit some fenders to it. The Fat Franks barely fit in the frame!

  • Sharper says:

    My favorite bike is an ’83 Raleigh Competition I picked up off of Craigslist. It had seen a bit more rain than road (though not much of either), but other than a new chain, saddle and some handlebars that fit my big hands better, it’s pretty much stock. As a few people have already mentioned, there’s little point in refurbishing something that never really got “unfurbished”, and the only change I’m thinking about is switching down to 700c wheels to make room for fenders and more easily procured tires.

  • Kyle Brooks says:

    I’ve done a lot of refurbishments. Some were basically restorations, bringing classic bikes up to “showroom” condition. But I’ve also done a few to give nice old vintage bikes a new lease on life — making them in some ways better than new, or at least more versatile and useable — using a mix of old and new parts.

    I recently refurbished a 1984 Nishiki Mixte for a friend. It had a nice lugged chrom-moly frame, which made it a good candidate for the project. I had the frame powdercoated in a nice celeste color. I updated the wheels from near-obsolete 27″ to current 700c, which not only opened up a much wider choice of tires, but also helped gain a bit more fender clearance. I put on some new bars from Velo Orange onto a cool vintage stem, added fenders and a rack (also from Velo Orange), and a new Brooks saddle. Pictures are available on my Flickr page

    I also refurbished a late-80s Paramount-designed, Japanese-built, Schwinn Tandem — built with a chrom-moly frame and fully lugged construction (very rare in tandems). I had it powdercoated in a classy olive green. Like the Nishiki, I also updated the wheels, added fenders, and put on new Brooks saddles. Pics available:

    I enjoy your blog — nice photos!

    Kyle Brooks

  • Alan says:

    Wow, what a fantastic response. Thanks for all of the interesting stories. I’m slammed at work today, but I hope to go through and respond to some of your comments later this evening and tomorrow. Keep ‘em coming… :-)


  • Jammy says:

    My main ride is a circa 1990 Giant RS 930, I don’t see many old Giants out there. It’s decent standard diameter chromo and feels nice and lively. The previous owner put on flat bars. I gave it some love with a Nitto Dirt Drop Stem, moustache bars with Dia-Comp levers, and a dose of cotton bar tape twine and shellac.

    I’ve also got a 1984 Fuji Touring Series IV, a steal for $100, quad butted tubing and hand built in Japan. I converted it from 27″ to 700c and got some VO fenders. It feels very unique to ride thanks to it’s really low trail. I’m having a local builder move the canti mounts, add low-rider mounts, and probably replace the top tube cable guides. The finish is pretty well loved and needs some help, definately worth it to me.

  • Luke Wilson says:

    I did one refurb on my wife’s Schwinn, a pic here:
    I turned an old Raleigh Record into a fixed-gear here:
    and my daily commuter for under $500 from an old Free Spirit Greenbriar (the frame is perfect for me) here:
    When you refurbish or renew a bike you can go at your own pace, wallet-wise and other.
    I happened on the Schwinn for free, rode it, then changed it for my wife.
    The Raleigh was $10 how could I refuse?
    The Free Spirit my wife paid $25 for and I rediscovered all of the things I don’t like about derailers. So now it’s a 3speed

  • voyage says:

    My wife, who used to professionally race track and road for Miyata in the late 80’s/early 90’s, in Japan and Europe, loves the Miyata mixte I restored for her. She uses it when we do fill-in grocery runs. We don’t use locks or bike racks. She watches over the bikes while I do the hard part: the shopping. Don’t mess with her.

  • Jim says:

    Another Xtracycle refurboconversion here.

  • Danny says:

    1989 Trek 420. Miscellaneous mid-level components from the last owner, plus upgraded bars and saddle (Nitto Albatross, VO Model 3). Just wanted something cheap (paid $225 at a LBS) that I don’t have to worry about on my short bus/bike commute. I’m young, so I couldn’t justify spending $1000+ on something that I may use less or more depending on my work and school schedules. But if I ever start riding long distance, I’d probably be looking for a new bike with more comfortable geometry and modern niceties.

    And yes, the “green” aspect of buying used always appeals to me.

  • tim says:

    I rode a Trek 714 from 81 or 82 through 1989. Hung it up and started mountain biking etc until 4 years ago when I took the noodles off and made it a more upright and comfortable commuter with 28s for wheels and 1 by 8. Able to squeeze some fenders on and an old blackburn rack for panniers. I love that bike.

  • Ashley Utskot says:

    I’m riding an old Takara mixte that I really love! I’ve converted it from 27″ wheels to 650b and powdercoated the frame. It’s now got a dynamo hub and porteur rack to serve my commuting needs. With the big, cushy tires it’s so much fun to ride! Just looking at it makes me smile. I’ll send in pictures some time :)

  • Ethan says:

    I am riding a 1992 Bridgestone RB-1 which I purchased new for when I want to go fast and a approx 1993 Bridgestone RB-T for around town. I purchased the RB-T on Craigslist for cheap and have put on the Nitto parts and Velocity wheels with Panaracer tires. Moustache Bars, Nitto stem, Brooks saddle. I dream about a Sam Hilborne but for now this is the next best thing on the cheap.

  • Dave says:

    I have a 1976 Kobe Cobra that I still use as my main warm weather commuter bike. I bought it new when I was in college. It went through periods of garage sitting but has been in active use for several years now. Most of the components are original and I still have the owners manual.

  • Cal Mukumoto says:

    My refurbished bike is a 1980 motobecane supreme mirage touring bike. I bought it new and a few years ago I converted it into a SS with a nitto mustache bar. it is a fun town bike.

  • Alan says:

    @Mark Rainey

    “Just a couple of links to “Refurbs” done by the Groody Bros. Bicycle Restoration Project.”


  • Alan says:


    “I do it because i like bikes; all bikes tell a story and I want to hear what they have to say.”

    I agree! Thanks for sharing..

  • Annie says:

    I didn’t so much refurbish my old Miyata 610 as rediscover how much I love the comfort and quickness of this touring bike. I only needed to replace the handlebars with a mustache version for a more upright ride. Go to my blog and search for Miyata.

  • Alan says:

    @Steve A.

    Welcome, and thanks for posting! Your Miyata sounds amazing; please do send pics for the Gallery if you have an opportunity.


  • Alan says:

    @Sam Joslin

    “They weren’t refurbished so much as brought back out into the sunlight, aired up and oiled.”

    Love that idea, Sam. Your Peugeot sounds cool but I had to chuckle about the Mafac pads… :-)

  • Rob Halligan says:

    I answer pretty much every question the post asks in this write-up my re-furb:

    I’ve been buffing out Bertha, a bicycle, I bought on craigslist out in Virginia in late October of 2009. The seller, Doug, (who I never met, but who was great to deal with) bought her at a yard sale and fixed her up some – greased up bearings, changed the seat, adjusted the gears, and I don’t know what else. I didn’t really need another bike, but I just loved her lines and get a huge kick out riding her. Despite posting here and asking all around, I still haven’t figured out who made her.

    Even with all the tweaking I’ve done, I’ve spent about half what a new bike of similar quality and weight would cost and have something that no one else has. Getting stuff and services at a good price is important to me – especially stuff used repetitively. You may be thinking, “But what about all the time you put into it?” Working with my hands seems to be good for me, and I enjoy dealing with people who do specialty work. That time is not work to me. It was a wonderful winter project.

    The rest and photos at the link.

  • Bob Bryant says:

    Here are some of the bike we’ve refurbed at our local bike coop. Our specialty is old 10-speeds which we convert to single speeds, fixies and 1×5/6/7s. We also do a fair number of old Chicago Schwinns where we usually install upright bars and leave the steel rims intact (they last forever). We go thru a lot of Wald 8095 bars and 27″ tires.

    Here is my 70s Astra fixie:

    Here is a Schwinn 10-speed converted to IGH 3-speed.

    A Free Spirit lugged frame single speed:

    Takara Tall Boy converted to 5-speed:

    72 Varsity converted to 5-speed: and another Varsity 5-speed conversion:

  • Steve Butcher says:

    I was somewhat into cycling in college in the mid to late 70’s but got out of it after med-school and starting a family. A few years ago I spied a Schwinn Super LeTour 12.2 at a local flea market. I remembered it as a pretty decent bike back in the day. It had the front and rear Schwinn approved touring racks. It was in pretty good shape so I bought it and cleaned it up. I’ve always like tinkering and altering things and found the old bikes with which I was at one time familiar made a great and economical platform for trying different ideas and learning more about various types of bikes. I found various web sites such as Cyclofiend and Ecovelo which inspired me to try different builds. I became attracted to bike commuting, so the Super Letour became the platform for building up a commuter. I gave it the Ecovelo, Rivendell, Velo Orange touch. Since then I’ve used vintage bikes to make up a cargo/camping bike, a single-speed/fixie, a rigid mountain bike turned loaded tourer, and a sport tourer/randonneur bike. (by the way, the Groody Brothers did the powder coat on my cargo/camping bike and it turned out beautifully). I enjoy them all and have improved my health and feeling of well-being by cycling. There’s one problem, though. I’ve run out of room in the garage for any more bikes! Maybe a “bike barn” should be in my future plans.

  • Jeff says:

    Refurbs are definitely a labor of love. My motivation is my 7 year old son. He loves bicycles and is getting the concept of “one less car” on the road. Going “green” is a main factor, but most of all having fun and time spent together in the garage, on websites, flea markets and bike shops keeps us pumped. Here are a few work in progress projects:

    Bridgestone 450 that will be set up as an all arounder –
    Univega single speed that will be converted to a very tall porteur –

  • Damian says:

    70 something Raleigh basket case. Bruised and battered, but comfy to ride. I just like the classic, eloquent look and feel of it. New brake levers and grips is the only mods.

  • Alan says:


    “I’ve also never been lucky enough to find a used steel frame with a straight derailleur hanger.”

    LOL. Bent derailleur hangers seem to be universal on bikes older than a few years.

    Thanks for sharing – you have some nice bikes..


  • Alan says:


    “My main bicycle is a 1997 Diamondback Outlook. I bought it for $20…”

    That must be a record! Sounds like a cool bike..

  • Alan says:


    “I recently had a “perfect showroom” 1987 Trek 520 stolen out of my garage!”

    Ouch! I’m glad to hear you were able to find a bit of a silver lining in that.


  • Michael McMahon says:

    Ha! We have a conflict in our bike fleet. I bought my girlfriend a 70’s era Peugot mixte. It is all pretty much stock. We cleaned and replaced anything that needed it and everything works great. Here’s the rub, she loves it the way it is and I see it as this really cool project bike, ripe for upgrades. I just look at it and it looks like a blank canvas. Alas, it’s her bike and she’s happy. Can’t ask for more then that, right?

    I guess that means I get to buy myself an old project bike :)

  • RI Swamp Yankee says:

    Well, I started with a skinny bike, a ’70’s era Raleigh Record Ace with Suntour GT hardware, but it’s lack of a granny gear killed me dead on the ski-jumps they call roads ’round here. So I’m taking my time refurbing it – got NOS 27″ wheels with Gatorskins tires, an IRD 12-32 freewheel and a new chain, new sealed-bearing BMX platform pedals, new Nitto riser stem and Albatross bars. Next on the agenda is a full teardown and repaint of the frame, new sealed-bearing headset from either Campy or Velo-Orange, IRD retro-style triple crankset, new RivBike Silver shifters on Paul thumbies ($200 for a 5-speed, non-indexed shifter setup? Yikes! That’s as much as the crank is going to be… worth it, tho), retro-style Tektro levers, new Paul centerpulls, and a Brooks B67.

    My daily ride is a big, fat Electra Townie 21D that’s also a rolling project – So far, I’ve swapped the threaded headset and cheapo suspension fork for a threadless sealed-bearing headset and fixed fork with a riser stem, replaced the brake lever/shifter abominations for separate 7-speed Shimano indexed thumb shifters and matching levers (even the front-d shifter is indexed! Slick!), sealed-bearing alloy BMX platform pedals, V.O. stainless fenders and a Brooks B33 saddle. I’ve got plans to convert it to disc brakes, and add a double-leg kickstand and a chainboard.

  • Tom says:

    I have 6 refurbs in my “stable” from 1972 to 1986, all lugged classics.
    Total value probably $4,000+
    Maybe $2,500 invested?
    6 unique rideable classics, all going UP in value for the price of one new bike,
    that I presume would be going down in value.
    This works for me, a self-sustaining & greener hobby/ obsession.

  • Jack Bulkley says:

    I have owned a 1987 Cannondale Touring bike since it was new. I didn’t ride it for a years, but now it is my main road bike. I wrote lots about it earlier this month.

  • Stephen D. says:

    I recently did a minor refurb on by 1985 Trek 720 that was just sitting in the garage. My aluminum, IGH, belt drive commuter wasn’t cutting it for my need because of it’s weight and lack of low range gearing for the hills I have to contend with.

    New tires, tubes, new cables, new chain, new 6-speed freewheel (moved up to 28 from 24), total disassembly to clean, added new silver shifters and matched the original fabric handlebar wrap, thanks to Rivendell. Replaced the stock Brooks Team Pro with a new Brooks B-17.

    Likes – silky smooth ride compared to aluminum, drop handlebars, ultra low gearing with triple chainring. More straightline stable than the commuter. I don’t miss fenders at all.

    Dislikes – all me all sorts of names, but I really wish it had index shifting and a 9-speed cassette. Rear spacing is about 125-126mm. I might be able to convert to index, but as with all my cars and bikes, I always leave them in the original factory configuration.

    Thinking about upgrading to a Rivendell Atlantis or Hilsen, but worried about the 650B or 26″ tires required in my frame size, 54-55.

  • Jon Grinder says:

    I can’t begin to count the number of refurbs I’ve done over the past 25 years. Currently, I have a 1989 Specialized RockCombo commuter, bought as a frame and fork and now sporting full Shimano Deore (circa late 80s). 7-speed Ultegra bar-end shifters reside in the mustache bars. 1.5″ knobbies work well around town, and leave gravel rideing open as an option. Rack, bags and fenders, of course.

    I also have a 1992 Bridgestone XO-2, also bought as a frame and fork (but with a headset). It, too, is built up with Deore and Deore DX parts. This one had Deore 7-speed thumb shifters on a first-gen Gary Bar, and 26×1.3″ Schwalbe CX Pro tires. Rack, no fenders (sporty rides, not commuting).

    I recently had a 1988 StumpJumper Sport, powdercoated orange, with 650b wheels and knobbies, v-brakes and 8-speed drivetrain with Silver bar-ends on a mustache bar, but I sold it on (with 26″ wheel).

    One of my favorite tricks is to convert the old mtb frames to 700c wheels, and built monstercross-style bikes from them. Those old frames are magic, with cross tires!

  • Jon Grinder says:

    Oh, and I forgot to say that I build these old bikes up because I generally don’t like the new ones. So, I guess that puts me in the “vintage vibe” camp.

  • Alan says:


    Nice work on your refurbs. Those are cool bikes and I like how they serve different purposes while also showing your personal touch.

    You’re right – that bike at Mellow Johnny’s is something else. Do you have any idea if it is for sale and what they’re asking (just curious)?


  • Alan says:

    @Jonathan Raspa

    That sounds like a super bike. I owned a Stumpjumper back in the 80s. They’re great bikes. I’d love to stumble upon an 80s Stumpjumper in that price range.


  • Zlatan Ibrahimovic says:

    I finished my mid-80s Specialized Expedition a few months ago. I absolutely love it. It is the most comfortable bike I own. It is one of 6 steel bikes I own and refurbished. I love tinkering with these bikes. I find it very therapeutic. I think the fact that I grew up during the 80s draws me to the steel bikes. I have saved thousands on what a new, comparable touring bike would have cost, plus I like the fact that I am reusing a bike.

  • Jeff says:

    91 Trek 790 (top hybrid) with Alba/Technomic/Barcons/SKS fenders – a real beauty. It’s dirty little brother is a 91 Trek 950 with Northroads/stock stem (for canti stop)/one Shimano and one Suntour barcon/Mt Zefal fenders…mostly LX.

    I have a Gamoh rack (from Riv) and a PDW rear rack, both of which have nice wood finishes. I move the racks around to keep things interesting – but still practical.

    And I like them because they are old, classy, lugged bikes and someone didn’t love them enough, hence my ability to afford them.

    Great site, Alan, thx.

  • Liz says:

    I have a beautiful condition all-original red 1989 Terry 12-speed road bike. It’s gorgeous and I’m lucky to have found one locally in my size for sale. I’ve decided to ride it as it is for now. I’ve also refurbished some mixte’s – a 1983 Centurion LeMans 12 speed, a 1979 Schwinn LeTour 10 speed and a 1974 Raleigh sprite 5 speed. All have the beautiful Japanese lugs. I love riding these bikes as well if not more than the two new bikes I own.

  • Steve Fuller says:

    No refurbs (yet). I have a 1989-1990 era Schwinn Super Sport that my son rides. 12 speed Shimano 600. Original except for the seat and the chain rings off of my LeTour from around that time (ditched the biopace).

    I bought a 1990 Schwinn Paramount because I’ve always wanted a Waterford Paramount. A friend did most of the work. It runs 9 speed Shimano DA with Campy brifters.

    I do have a Raleigh Racing Grand Prix frame sitting in my basement waiting for me to do something with it. Not sure what that will be, but definitely not a fixie or SS conversion.

  • Andy Moss says:

    Three of my four bikes (each with a purpose) are refurbs, although one of the three I purchased new. The two used refurbs are an ’83 Panasonic Sport 500 and an ’85 Cannondale ST-500. I found the Sport 500 on CL for essentially pocket change. Although it was an entry level bike in its day, I refurbed it for train station duty in an urban area. It’s components were shot; I stripped it completely with the exception of the crank and converted it to single speed (freewheel). Got a set of new 27″ Sun wheels from Harris, some VO Porteur bars, a Forte classic saddle that was on sale, an inexpensive Axiom rack and Wald folding baskets. The frame is heavy but lugged and super smooth–a very comfortable commuter/transpo bike for around town that looks just rough enough so as not to attracted attention. The ST-500 was a custom build that was ridden twice in 1985 and then tossed in a basement. The original owner passed away, and I bought the bike from her daughter. It was essentially NOS with the exception of a damaged RD (from leaning against something for years) and some uncomfortable upright bars. A new set of tires/tubes, moustache bars and new brake levers, along with a late 80s Shimano 600 RD for $15 off of eBay, make it my winter ride (virtually nothing to rust). My MTB is a ’93 Trek 930, the last year with a lugged frame. It has countless miles on it. I updgraded all the components: 90s Deore XT RD NOS on ebay for $25; vintage NOS Deore thumb shifters; high profile Tektro canti brakes, and some brand new (really) Panaracer Timbuk II skinwalls. It now looks older than it is. Number 4 is my new ride — a grey market ’10 Panasonic OSD Tour with full Deore, Nitto bars, stem and racks, Brooks saddle, fluted fenders and Riv bags (imported by Yellow Jersey of Madison WI–my photo is on their website with the bike). It is my rando and downtown commuter (20 miles R/T)–where I have secure indoor parking!

  • Dan says:

    My commuter and general-purpose bike is a 1990 Trek 970 I have owned since new that undergoes periodic refurbishment as required, i.e., the frame and fork are original.

    @ Phillip

    IIRC, the 950 / 970 / 990 of that era was the same frame equipped with Deore LX / DX / XT components.

  • Sally Hinchcliffe (aka townmouse) says:

    I bought mine refurbished by Common Wheel, a charity in Glasgow that takes donated bikes and does them up as a rehabilitation programme for people with mental illness. (Mine is here, the site as a whole is worth a look if you’re interested in bikes). Basically only the frame (a 1980s Saracen lugged steel frame with Reynolds 501 tubing) was retained – new wheels, components, handlebars, the lot. I bought it because I wanted a bike that looked like the bicycles I remembered in my youth and because Common Wheel listened to what I wanted and built the bike around what I needed, rather than their own preconception of what I should have. It took a fair while and cost a fair bit for a secondhand bike (but it’s earned that back in petrol costs alone) but I love it and it suits me down to the ground and you can’t say fairer than that.

  • EcoVelo » Blog Archive » How Old is Your Commuter? says:

    […] great response to our “Refurbs” post from the other day has me wondering how many of our readers are riding older bikes as […]

  • Everett Keyser says:

    The only bike I’ve ever bought new was a late 80s Schwinn Woodlands (all-rounder), which I deeply wish I still had. I used it pretty heavily during middle and high school, but then didn’t really touch it again until after college. I really took horrible care and really abused it, eventually just getting rid of the bike.

    Most of our family bikes are all used:
    -1983 SCHWINN WORLD TOURIST (loop-frame)
    This is my wife’s bike which I got for $30. There was quite a bit of surface rust and grime, but overall it was in decent shape. I tore it down to the bearings this winter, gave it a deep clean, and clear-lacquered the rust spots. Now it’s got new tires, tubes, cables, housing, brake pads, seat post, Brooks Flyer S, QR basket, SKS fenders and a Bobike seat. What it really needs is a bead blast, powder coat, new wheels and new crank. For all that though, I think we will replace it with a Ticino Mixte instead.
    I was buying a mag trainer from someone and he threw this in for an extra $10. I added a rack and it is now my commuter. It’s in great shape and is mostly original. I just put a Brooks B17 on it this year and will be adding fenders soon. I am still going to try to tear this one down and give it a deep clean before it gets really nice this spring.
    -1970/71-ish RALEIGH FRANKEN-BIKE (possibly an International)
    This is my father’s old tourer that he brought over from the Netherlands. He rattle-canned it when he got it used in the early 70s and it saw a lot of wear and tear by the time he gave it to me. I stripped it down with a bead blast and powder coated it. It’s a complete mish-mash: Campy hubs and ders., Weinmann brakes, Schwinn barcons, SR stem, Berelli bars. I replaced the Weinmann brake levers with Tektro Aero’s, the worn Cinelli saddle with a Bontrager, and the stripped Sugino cranks with Campy Veloce. Pics are here:

    The two new bikes that we have are used rarely or not at all:
    2008 Huffy Mountain Bike w/ iBert Seat for the little one
    1990s Giant Acapulco Mountain Bike

  • Maddie says:

    I’ve refurbished a Trek lugged steel touring frame (Lexie is her name :). Wonderful ride!

    I’ve had to add a down tube clamp for the friction shifters, as I prefer to shift from there, but the heart braze was in place so it wasn’t a big worry.

    I used a decent shimano rear derailleur (salvaged from my old schwinn) and a used front derailleur from my neighborhood shop.

    I have had no problems with the frame at all. It rides straight and smooth. This was my first refurb and it really taught me a lot about bikes and about my bike, I highly recommend doing this sort of thing, it only took about a month total time – that’s because I have a crappy job and only got to spend a few nights a week working on it.

    I rebuilt this bike for a few reasons. 1) to learn how, when in doubt, just dive right in and figure it out. 2) because I love bicycles and want to know everything I can about mine. 3) it is a lot cheaper, I’m in the military, and while I am paid enough to go out and just buy a brand new bike that’s fully stocked with everything i want on it, providing for my family takes a bit more precedence. 4) I try to be very green. Why go out and buy brand new when there is a perfectly wonderful (and probably much better) frame right there?

    Older frames (in my opinion) are much prettier. They have beautiful slim lines and more often cut out the non-necessities, while still being able to toss in those small details (like decorative lugs). If you have the time and about $10-400 you can refurbish an old bike to augment your own fleet of bikes, or start one. Doing this has taught me everything I know about cables, cant brakes, a lot more. I highly recommend this.

  • dave smith says:

    Not really a refurb, but I continue to ride my 1974 Raleigh international. Rebuilt wheels with rims for clincher tires and replaced the B-17 saddle with a Champion Flyer. Hubs cones and BB a little pitted, but it still rides very well.

  • tbymrtn says:

    Im curious mostly about the Bridgetone X0-1 illustration above and what those horns on the handlebars near the stem are, they look like broken brake levers. Anyone know?

  • Alan says:


    Those are tandem stoker “dummy” levers to provide extra hand positions:


  • Jae says:

    I mainly ride 1985 Schwinn World. Took couple of months to restore it. It was a good learning experience.

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