Author Topic: Fix my bike vs. Replace my bike  (Read 10266 times)

onehappypanda

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Fix my bike vs. Replace my bike
« on: March 03, 2012, 01:02:59 PM »
I'm wondering if any of you bike aficionados could spare some advice for someone who has been biking semi-regularly for awhile but doesn't have a lot of mechanical bike knowledge.

I currently have a 1970 Raleigh 3-speed lady's bike, which I bought super cheap off Craigslist last spring because I wanted to start biking but didn't have a clue what to look for and didn't want to spend a lot of money. She's a pretty good, functional bike. But she has a few issues:
She's steel and weighs about a thousand pounds.
She's an upright, which sounded awesome at first until I realized that my city gets pretty windy and it's like being a giant sail.
The combination of the above issues + fairly big tires means she's slow as molasses on the roads, and not so good going up inclines.
She's rusting. There were a few little rust spots on it when I bought it, but that's before I knew the whole "bikes can rust from the inside out" thing so I thought it was just surface rust. Nope, there's definitely rust inside some of the posts. I've been pretty good about drying it off when I've been out in the rain, and I store it inside. I'm guessing the rust probably started before I bought it?

The frugal part of my brain says to give the bike a spring tune-up and get over issues 1-3. The other part of my brain says it might not be wise to put money into a steel bike that's slowly rusting away.

So, my questions:

Can I do anything about the rust on the Raleigh? Is it possible to keep rust from spreading if it's on the inside? If so, maybe it's worth just fixing it up even to keep as a cargo bike. But then again, maybe it'd be throwing good money after bad.

If I do decide to replace the old Raleigh, what should I be looking for? Other than lack of rust ;) I've visited some of the used bike stores around me, and there's a wide variation in frame materials, tire sizes, weights, etc. and it's all kind of mind-boggling. The prices are anywhere from $200 to $600, and I don't have a clue what separates the different price levels. Common brands in the area seem to be Schwinn, Bianchi, Raleigh, Peugeot, and on the cheaper end there are a ton of 80's-era Huffy's. If I'm basically looking for something to haul me and my stuff (textbooks, computer, smallish loads of groceries) around town, and I want something faster but still practical, what price range/features should I have my eye out for? As for tires, what's a decent size for city riding? I'd like something faster, and I know skinny tires = faster, but I also don't want to risk blowing a tire every time I hit a bump in the road.

Wow I just rambled on a lot. Thanks to anyone who takes the time to read this and help me out a little!

Bakari

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Re: Fix my bike vs. Replace my bike
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2012, 02:15:13 PM »
I used to have that same bike, and I loved it.
Then again, it was one of 3 or 4 bikes at the time. 
It is nice to have something light and with gears if you actually need to get somewhere.

Depending how bad the rust already is, you can at least slow it down with something called "frame saver" which is specifically designed for that, or at least some WD-40, either one sprayed directly into the tube (after removing the seatpost and handlebars).

As to buying a good quality used bike as someone who doesn't know bikes too well, I wrote a blog post on that exact topic at the request of another MMM reader just last month!

http://biodieselhauling.blogspot.com/2012/01/buying-bikes-from-craigslist.html

Matt K

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Re: Fix my bike vs. Replace my bike
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2012, 06:51:03 AM »
Unfortunately, I can't read Bakari's link (firewall at work blocks all of blogspot), so if this repeats everything he says, sorry. If it is totally against what he says, well, then at least your getting different opinions right?

Things you can do to keep the bike on the road and make it better:
-Put narrower tires on it. A lot of those old Hybrid used big huge balloon tires for comfort. If the wheels are 26", look for something like a 26x1.25" tire. If the wheels are 700c, go with a 700x32 or 700x35. If the wheels are 27" give a lot more consideration to replacing the bike (27" tires are largely discontinued. Your choice for new tires is very limited, and will only get worse). The narrower tires will reduce drag (making the bike faster) and reduce the effects of head winds (a very little bit).

If you take it a shop they can replace the handle bars with drop bars (what most road bikes have). The fact it can be done does not always mean it should be done. It will change how the bike fits, and it may make the bike less comfortable.

Those three speed internal gears are great if you ride in the wet all the time, but they definitely limit your ability to ride into the wind or up hills (when you just want to keep droping down gears). You cannot replace it with an external gear system, but you could replace it with a modern interal gear hub with 7 gears. I do not recommend this, as those things cost a fortune and you'd be better off buying a whole new bike.

You can have the frame sand blasted (inside & out) to remove all current rust, and then have it sealed. Unless this bike is a resotration project of love, it really isn't worth the money.

You can ask all the local used bike shops if they have a similar frame you can swap out. It'll be cheaper than buying a full bike.

So, while those are all options, I'm not really sold on them being great options. Bike technology made some good strides in the 15 years after your bike was made, and I'd be much more interested in looking into a steel* road bike (with 700c tires) from the mid 80s. Most the names you listed are good bikes. Bianchi in particular always made really good bikes. Raleigh and Schwinn I'm less fo a fan of (though there were much better than they are now). Peugot is supposed to be good, but I've never ridden one.

*From your perspective there are actually two types of steel, High tensile (often just called Hi-Ten) and The Good Stuff. The Good Stuff can be cromoly, it can be 4000 series, it can be easton or reynolds tubing. Really, it is anything they use to make steel frames that is not Hi Ten. Hi Ten is cheap, heavy, rusts easily, and really isn't a material of choice. I'm going to also suggest avoiding Aluminum frames. They don't rust in the same way, but they transfer a lot of shock (bumps and pot holes). Unless your city has pristine roads, I'd take a steel frame given the choice.

If you can find a bike that was intended as a touring bike (Trek 520, Rocky Mountain Sherpa) you'll be set. These bikes are very strong and reliable, comfortable, and can carry a lot of stuff on proper racks.

Depending on your budget, and how long you plan on keeping the bike, you should consider buying new as well. But not a 2012. Check with your local bike shops and see what inventory they have from 2011 or better 2010. Any 2010 left overs should be seeing a huge discount. If you ask nicely, they can also check their suppliers warehouses to see what old stock the suppliers still have on huge discount.

For example, my current commuter is an aluminum flat bar road bike (also called a performance hybrid). Its a nice bike, but the roads are just too rough for it, so I've been looking for a steel framed light duty touring bike. None have come up used in the last 9 months I've been watching. So, I started calling around the bike shops. I can get a lasts years Brodie Romulus http://brodiebikes.com/2011/bikes/romulus.php for $580, instead of the $900 new. I also found hiding in the back of another shop a 2010 Norco Fraser http://www.norco.com/archives/2010/?id=fraser for 50% off of the $985 MSRP. I bought that one. After tax it was only slightly more than $500, it'll last me forever, and if I ever decide to bike across Canada, it'll do it in comfort.


Back to your original question: Fix or replace? I'd say a lot of it comes down to love. Do you like the bike. Does it do what you want and do you enjoy riding it? If so, keep it. Trying putting narrower tires on it, and do something about the rust. If the bike isn't that great, start keeping an eye out for a replacement. Go to a bunch of bike shops when the weather is nice and trying riding a bunch of different styles. If the upright hybrid isn't for you, try a flat bar road bike and a drop-bar road bike. Look for an 80s steel bike, and ask all the local shops about old inventory.

A bike you love is a bike that will get ridden often. If riding it is a joy, you'll make excuses to ride it. If you don't love it, if riding it is a chore, it doesn't matter how little you spent on it. You can have a bike you love and be frugal. Just make sure you remember that sometimes being frugal means paying a bit more up front than being cheap (being cheap always costs more in the end though).

Bakari

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Re: Fix my bike vs. Replace my bike
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2012, 11:09:04 AM »
Mostly different information, but nothing conflicting :)

That bike does have 27" wheels, but 27" tires are not that hard to come by.  Even so, given the weight and position of the frame, I don't think the upgrade would be dramatic enough to justify the cost until the existing ones are worn out.
Aside from that I agree with everything you said.

The link is just about how to choose an appropriate used bike if she(?) decides to go that route

Matt K

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Re: Fix my bike vs. Replace my bike
« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2012, 11:58:43 AM »
Quote
If I do decide to replace the old Raleigh, what should I be looking for? Other than lack of rust ;) I've visited some of the used bike stores around me, and there's a wide variation in frame materials, tire sizes, weights, etc. and it's all kind of mind-boggling. The prices are anywhere from $200 to $600, and I don't have a clue what separates the different price levels. Common brands in the area seem to be Schwinn, Bianchi, Raleigh, Peugeot, and on the cheaper end there are a ton of 80's-era Huffy's. If I'm basically looking for something to haul me and my stuff (textbooks, computer, smallish loads of groceries) around town, and I want something faster but still practical, what price range/features should I have my eye out for? As for tires, what's a decent size for city riding? I'd like something faster, and I know skinny tires = faster, but I also don't want to risk blowing a tire every time I hit a bump in the road.

More Rambling, to try and better answer these specific questions:

As stated before, get a steel frame, just not High Tensile.
Unless you are short (5'3") I'd go with 700c wheels. If you are short, go with 26". Do not buy a 27" wheeled bike as your choice in tires is getting limited and will get worse in the future.

On a road bike, I've found 28mm-32mm widths to be an ideal balance of speed and comfort. On a Hybrid I'd go up to 35mm. Anything wider than that is too much on the comfort side of the equation for me.

Puncture resitance is a two part affair. One is the tire and the other is the inner-tube used. There are three basic variety of inner tubes for road bikes: Light, Strong, and Cheap. The good news is that while you only get to chose one of the three, even an expensive inner tube is less than $10. I usually spend $7 on really reliable tubes, and I'm probably over paying. Just make sure you get them from a LBS (local bike shop) and make sure you aren't getting race tubes, and you'll be set. In all fairness, if you stick with the tires sizes listed, you'll have a hard time finding race tubes anyways.

On the tire side of the affair, look for something with a puncture resistant lining. Lots of tires use aramid (kevlar) or similar. They cost anywhere from $25-$45 but will save you having to change your tire in the middle of your commute.



There are a number of things that set the price of a used bike, and when talking about something almost three decades old Nostalgia and "Retro" feature prominently. Supercycle, Schwinn, and Raleigh are all names that are worth more for no practical reason. Old Bianchis, Norcos, Nishikis, and Treks are all good bikes. That is in now way an exhaustive list, just the only ones I have experience with.

Another thing that sets the price of the bike is the brake/drive-train components included. If I were you, I'd aim for a Shimano drive train because they are easy to repair and replace with modern parts if they ever fail. A 2x5 (two gears up front, five in the back, also called a 10 speed) is in my mind, the point of entry. They are reliable and give you a range of gears to use on hills and into head winds. If you can get a more modern Shimano gear set of 2x8 or 3x8 (24 speed) you're in good hands. The Shimano 8 speed rear cog and chain are incredibly robust (They now have 3x10s, but many touring bikes still keep the old 3x8 for strength and ease of repair anywhere in the world). Campy, Sun, and a bunch of other brands made good parts back then, but I like Shimanos because they can almost always be upgraded to a modern unit without any headache if they fail.

Another thing to look for is rack eyelets on the rear triangle. These will let you easily mount a quality rack that can hold over 100 pounds of groceries and text books. http://www.axiomgear.com/products/gear/racks/wide-rear/journey/ & http://www.axiomgear.com/products/gear/bags/shoppers/hunter-shopper/

Also, look for eyelets and room around the wheels for fenders. Fenders make a real difference when riding in the rain. There are always ways around both lack of eyelets and clearance, but the best and easiest is if the bike has the eyelets.

Lastly, having purchased one 80s road bike from a used bike shop, I'd skip the middleman and keep on eye on your local classifieds instead. Craiglist is usually mentioned, but around here Kijiji is a much more active market for used bikes. If you do your homework (especailly if you have a friend who knows how to fix bikes inspect the bike with you) you can easily save $100 over the store price. And of course, if you are willing to commit $500 to it, I'd definitely call every LBS and ask about old inventory.

As for price range, I'd expect a good condition 80s or 90s steel road bike with a shimano drive train and eyelets to go for no more than $300 in my area. Plenty show up on kijiji for $150. We got my fiancees bike for $80. It was an 8 year old Specialized (brand) steel hybrid that had seen more than 15000kms of commuting. We ended up paying $200 to have a shop completely rebuild and replace the drive train. But for $280 she has a bike that rides like new and is ready for its next 15000kms, we could have saved $80 if we'd rebuilt it ourselves, but I'm not than handy.

Quote
That bike does have 27" wheels, but 27" tires are not that hard to come by.  Even so, given the weight and position of the frame, I don't think the upgrade would be dramatic enough to justify the cost until the existing ones are worn out.
Aside from that I agree with everything you said.
Yea, I didn't mean to suggest replacing the wheels, but rather going with 700c wheels on her next bike. As I said, many companies are or have discontinued the 27" size, so tire and tube choice is limited, and finding replacements in a pinch could be hard (you can't by a 27" tube at any of my local big box stores for example).
« Last Edit: March 05, 2012, 03:43:06 PM by Matt K »

slugsworth

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Re: Fix my bike vs. Replace my bike
« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2012, 12:01:17 PM »
I wanted to just put a plug in for bike coops, there is at least one in your area. http://thirdhand.org

I think that this place, (or at least similar places I've used) can be good resources for parts if you choose to upgrade your bike, tools and expertise if you are interested in working on it (and learning skills) . . .and cheap bikes if you decide to replace your bike.

Usually bike coops are all volunteer operations and you get none of the 'racer' attitudes that some bike shops excude. 

The other responses are very good, I would add to Bakari's last post that if the bike has 27" tires, you can still get passella TG tires for them and 700c tubes work fine.

Matt K

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Re: Fix my bike vs. Replace my bike
« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2012, 12:20:27 PM »
I wanted to just put a plug in for bike coops, there is at least one in your area. http://thirdhand.org

For a fixing your own bike, absolutely +1000. For buying a used bike, I was less impressed with my local coop. The bikes that were cheaper than craigslist/kijiji were assemblages of whatever doanted parts they had on hand. The bikes really lacked a good coherent feel, and the geometry was often off because they had to use whatever bar, stem & fork was available. I'd say that buying a bike from my coop was more about supporting the coop than getting the best bike for the money. Now, for fixing up a craiglist find, definitely a good way to save some money and learn valuable skills.

onehappypanda

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Re: Fix my bike vs. Replace my bike
« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2012, 02:18:45 PM »
Thanks for all the tips folks! My brain is still reeling a little from all the info but now I actually have something to go off of.

I'm leaning more and more towards replacing the bike. I like my bike in the sense that it's functional (aka the wheels roll and it gets me from A to B). But reading through this I think there's a lot of be desired in terms of speed and comfort, and I don't love it enough to spend any major money on an upgrade. So that's where I'm at right now.

I actually HAVE checked out Third Hand Bike Co-op. They helped me fix my first bike (crappy old Huffy that I dragged out of my dad's garage) and it was definitely cheaper than have someone else fix it, plus it was fun to see how everything worked. At least last time I checked, they didn't have a lot of bikes for purchase. Plenty of used parts, tools, and assistance for fixing bikes though. So I'll be going back to get more help fixing/maintaining the bike but I'll probably keep looking around for buying a bike. And now I have some idea of what I'm looking for, though it looks like I might have to write it down or I'll never remember it all ;)

bicycle

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Re: Fix my bike vs. Replace my bike
« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2012, 02:24:30 PM »
I don't know if you are a lady or not, but this is the bike I purchased for commuting last year:
http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/gt/gt_traffic_2.htm

Internal Shimano Nexus 8 speed (low maintenance!)
Mounting brackets for fenders and rack and whatnot
Awesome reflectivity
Good price

Bikes Direct was a link given to me by an avid biking friend of mine when I was hunting for a bike.  I was satisfied with their service and love my bike!

Matt K

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Re: Fix my bike vs. Replace my bike
« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2012, 03:54:50 PM »
Thanks Bicycle! That's a pretty solid find. Fair bike at fair price (the MSRP of $750 would be too much if it had a normal drive train, but like I said, those internal gears are expensive). I still prefer a good steel frame, but I'm pleased to see that bike fits every other of my recommendations (even the tire width). What do you know, GT and I (mostly) agree on how to build a good commuter ;)

GT is another brand that has been around a long time and makes solid products.

Just had to look through that website some more. Found this: http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/windsor/tourist.htm A proper touring bike for $600 is a darned good deal. Not necessarily what OneHappyPanda is looking for, but a great price for that type of bike.

Bakari

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Re: Fix my bike vs. Replace my bike
« Reply #10 on: March 05, 2012, 05:50:16 PM »
just a quick side note regarding a comment above:  700c and 27" tires are different, but the tubes are interchangeable.  In fact, they are literally identical.  So big box stores do carry 27" tubes.

I agree, if one is buying a new bike, avoid 27" wheels, but if you already have one, and you get a flat, it may be helpful to know that you can use a 700c

onehappypanda

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Re: Fix my bike vs. Replace my bike
« Reply #11 on: March 05, 2012, 10:26:28 PM »
That's a sweet website, thanks for the suggestion. Not sure I have the cashola to purchase on there right now, but if the whole craigslist/used bike thing doesn't turn up anything good I'll consider saving and going that route. There definitely appear to be some good deals.

Perhaps silly total-bike-newb question but if what frame size should I be looking at? I can't really find anything that gives me an idea and it seems to vary from site to site. Like some sites said I should be looking at 49cm and others said 51cm, and does it differ between men's and women's bikes? Does inseam affect it or is that more of a seat height thing?  And why are they sometimes listed in inches and other times listed in cm?

I'm female (there appears to be some confusion over that, lol), 5'9", 32" inseam. In the past I just guessed unscientifically by standing next to the bike and seeing if it looked big enough ;) Which I could totally do if I buy in person, notsomuch if I buy online.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2012, 08:53:24 AM by onehappypanda »

Matt K

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Re: Fix my bike vs. Replace my bike
« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2012, 06:22:55 AM »
That's a sweet website, thanks for the suggestion. Not sure I have the cashola to purchase on there right now, but if the whole craigslist/used bike thing doesn't turn up anything good I'll consider saving and going that route. There definitely appear to be some good deals.

Perhaps silly total-bike-newb question but if what frame size should I be looking at? I can't really find anything that gives me an idea and it seems to vary from site to site. Like some sites said I should be looking at 49cm and others said 51cm, and does it differ between men's and women's bikes? Does inseam affect it or is that more of a seat height thing?  And why are they sometimes listed in inches and other times listed in cm?

I'm female (there appears to be some confusion over that, lol), 5'9", 33" inseam. In the past I just guessed unscientifically by standing next to the bike and seeing if it looked big enough ;) Which I could totally do if I buy in person, notsomuch if I buy online.
Historically mountain bike frames are measured in inches (the first mountain bikes being made in California) and road bike frames are metric. There are exceptions to these rules, and not every company is even consistent within their own line-up.
Because of the different needs of mountain bikes and road bikes, mountain bikes have lower top-tubes, and thus tend to be "smaller" than road bikes, but are just as long, so a 19" mtb frame fits me as does a 56cm road bike (22").

To make matters worse, not all companies measure frame size the same way. Some measure from the bottom of the bottom bracket (where pedals attach to the frame, pretty much the lowest point of the frame) to the seat collar. Othes from the centre of the BB to the seat collar, still others to where the seat "should" be. Really, the terms "Small Medium Large" are the most appropriate ways to measure bike frames - anything else is false accuracy ;)

I'm not sure how you are measuring inseam (pant size inseam or actual measurement). My pant size inseam is 32" and I usually ride a Large (55cm - 57cm, 18.5" - 20") frame. But since I'm three inches taller than you, I need a longer frame than you. I'm guessing (and it is just a guess) you're probably looking at a compact Large or long Medium frame (54cm would be my first try). Really, you're going to want to try riding a bike before committing to it, or at least trying a range of bikes and seeing what sizes fit. Handily, most companies list the full geometry for thier bikes online. The numbers you are going to want to compare most are Seat-tube length (this is what is normally measured for frame size), and top tube length.
So if you try a bike with a ST size of 54cm and it fits well, and a top tube length of 530mm, then most any other frame with those two will fit close enough (the stem may be longer or shorter putting the handle bar closer or further, but that is a really simple swap).

You should be able to stand flat footed over the frame and not have the top tube touch your tender bits.

Seat Height
90% of the people you see on the road have their seats too low. Your seat should be set so that when you have the ball of your foot on the pedal, and your foot level, when you reach the bottom of the stroke you should just have a slight (15 degree) bend in your knee, and when the pedal is at the top of the stroke your thigh should still be pointing down a bit. If your seat is set properly you should not be able to stand flat footed with both feet on the ground (with a few exceptions, beach cruisers being one). If your seat is too low you'll hurt your knees and over use your thighs and butt. If the seat is too high you risk over extending your knee and hurting your hips. When set properly the motion of your legs will actually help pump blood and reduce the load on your heart (by a good 15% or more!). So getting your seat right is important. If you ever find your knees or hips hurting while biking, stop and adjust your seat height a bit, even a few mm can make a huge difference on your knees and hips.


just a quick side note regarding a comment above:  700c and 27" tires are different, but the tubes are interchangeable.  In fact, they are literally identical.  So big box stores do carry 27" tubes.
I was not aware. That's really good to know.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2012, 06:55:31 AM by Matt K »

onehappypanda

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Re: Fix my bike vs. Replace my bike
« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2012, 07:45:19 AM »
Thanks for the heads' up Matt K! That's really helpful. I couldn't figure out why the whole cm/inches thing never seemed to match up but it makes sense now. Well it doesn't make sense but at least I know why it doesn't make sense ;)

PS I typo-d my inseam, it's 32" not 33". Which I know is still long for my height, but I'm an oddly proportioned person. Looks like bike shopping in person might be my best bet after all.

I knew seat height was important, but I never knew exactly where to set it. Looks like mine is too low right now, haha.

You've all been super helpful, I feel more confident to pick out a decent bike now that I have some layman's terms info on it. Wish I'd had all this info when I bought my current bike but oh well, live and learn.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2012, 07:47:09 AM by onehappypanda »

bicycle

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Re: Fix my bike vs. Replace my bike
« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2012, 10:32:21 AM »
onehappypanda - I'm about the same height as you are, coincidentally (maybe just a half inch or so taller, sameish inseam).  I ended up buying the large size frame of the bike I mentioned earlier.  Here's the sizing chart for that particular bike: http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/gt/images/traffic_womens_geo.gif

It seems to fit me pretty well!

foodguy

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Re: Fix my bike vs. Replace my bike
« Reply #15 on: March 06, 2012, 05:08:36 PM »
Thanks for the bike info.  I, too, am looking for a reliable bike to perhaps start commuting with.  So many different styles, brands, sizes, etc. and some really are crap from what I can tell.  Don't want to get burned and this has helped quite a bit.

Thanks!

Mike Key

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Re: Fix my bike vs. Replace my bike
« Reply #16 on: March 07, 2012, 05:34:59 AM »
Don't buy a bike from a big box store and you'll be fine. Especially if the brand name is Huffy. =^)

onehappypanda

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Re: Fix my bike vs. Replace my bike
« Reply #17 on: March 07, 2012, 08:50:12 AM »
Don't buy a bike from a big box store and you'll be fine. Especially if the brand name is Huffy. =^)

Word.

I made that mistake once, stupid crappy bike didn't even last a month before things started busting. Never again.