I’ve been swamped these last two weeks. Young people keep coming here wanting good cheap ($120-$160) bikes for their campus commuting needs. I’m scrambling to catch this wave. Earlier in the summer, I noticed that I had 3 road bikes ready to go. I was very heavy on Schwinn Suburbans, hybrids and mountain bikes. So I tried to correct course, but I oversteered. Now, I’ve got almost only road bikes available.
College kids need easy hop-on and hop-off bikes. They also need bikes that are in good shape, but don’t look like they’re worth anything. Bike theft on college campuses is very common, so I’m looking for low end mountain bikes and hybrids that were originally sold in bike stores. They’re heavy, and they get ridden hard and put away wet. But the low end bike store bikes of the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s hold up extremely well to abuse. They’re easy to work on, too. You have to replace the cantilever brakes on them because of weathered spring bushings, but apart from that, it’s the normal tear down, clean, lube, build up, replace wear items, and done! Parts are easy to find, too, and almost everything is universal. I suspect that’s because most of them were made by the same factories in Taiwan, no matter what the decals say.
The Fuji above is a great example. It was gifted to me by a client who had given up on it. I had to replace the shifters and saddle, but at the end, my investment was low and I was able to sell low. Happy customer, happy me.
Next year I’ll plan better for this. More hybrids and mountain bikes. The only problem is that I don’t get too excited about anything that is not a road bike. Since about 1994, I’ve ridden almost exclusively the road variety.
Here’s another back-to-school bike that I finished yesterday. Notice that I’m not trying to hit a home run here. The saddle is still functional, but ugly. It’s not a lure to thieves, and that’s my plan with this bike. Also, I’m not paying $20 for a new saddle. This bike has true wheels, good bottom bracket and headset. It shifts and brakes well. I expect this one to sell quick. It’s even got fenders. I remember showing up to class at IU with mud stains only face and back. It made me look tough, but I didn’t get any dates looking like that.
Here’s the Schwinn Ridge I finished this morning. The headset was pretty rough, so I found smoother-rolling parts from my boneyard. This bike rides like new, but notice how I didn’t bother replacing the seat. Sometimes Gorilla Glue and black shoe polish can do well enough. This keeps the price down, and I still make enough for my time. Also, the previous owner put some sweet new Bontrager tires on it–right before donating it to Goodwill! Yay! This one has the new cantilever brakes I was talking about, too. So I can show a potential buyer that I’ve not been a total slouch on my end.
Also, the Golden Rule of bike flipping is this: Clean everything! A bike is only as clean as its dirtiest part. No one wants to look at the dirt that someone else splashed up on a down tube, or the dried up worm that a previous owner ran over, which is still sticking to the tire. It’s like smelling someone else’s farts, which begs the question–should I have replaced those saddles?