Sunday, May 03, 2009

Old or New?

Every time I start looking at others' bikes the question arises about the possibility of buying a new bike. The snazzy newer indexed shifters, the lighter frames, the front fork rack attachment points, the multiple water bottle cage braze-ons, all things my high school graduation present lacks. All those things are great, but when it comes down to it, it is difficult to justify paying hundreds or thousands of dollars to buy a new bike. The newer shifters are not necessarily field replaceable or repairable (my current bar end friction shifters are very low tech), I love the geometry of my frame, have worked around the rack attachment points and stow my extra water bottles.

So when do you draw the line? When the bike causes you more headaches than joy. When you avoid long trips because of the bike's limitations. When the bike's frame has been weakened by an accident. None of these apply, so until one of them does, my old is in.

If you are just getting your hands on an older bike, here are some things to consider before you spend a lot of time individualizing it/ fixing it up:
  • if it has an older freewheel, the chain will eventually need to be replaced and some of the freewheels had chains manufactured specifically for them which are no longer available (this necessitates replacing the freewheel with a more modern cassette). It is possible to ignore this, but some minor shifting problems might occur. On my bike, the chain would spin forward without moving the bike in some positions with my friction shifters.
  • if you want to tour on a road bike, you will most likely want to put wider touring tires and possibly fenders on it- this requires a fork/frame and brake levers which will accommodate them
  • if you don't have quick release wheels, you have to get new hubs to work with them (sometimes a whole new wheel is more economical)
  • if the bike is a ten speed, tours are more comfortable with more gears, esp. a "granny gear"- an extra gear or chain ring is most likely going to require the replacement of its associated derailleur and may not be possible if there is not enough room between the rear drop outs (on my bike, adding another chain ring [front] entailed also changing the crank set)