New bike or upgrade the frame with old components?
August 12, 2013 2:26 PM   Subscribe

I ride a single speed (flip flop hub) here in NYC and am at a bit of a crossroads - my bike is at the shop and the diagnosis is grim - the worn out seat post is corroded into the frame. If it doesn't come out easy the repairs might be more than the original cost of the bike. Should I strip the components off the bike and get a new frame? Or a new bike entirely? Bike fiends I'd love some tips/pointers on this one. Specific details inside...

There are three local shops I frequent - Bicycle Station was the first to help me figure out that the seat post was stuck and that it may take more work than the bike was worth. It's at NYC Velo right now with the bottom bracket out and lube up in the frame... sitting for several hours while they see if they can loosen it up. This will probably cost $100 already and they're going to call if it's not repairable beyond that, because it's $60/hr and could take many hours to get it out. Not worth it after that point. A friend recommended Red Lantern if I wanted to give up on repairing my current bike, strip it down and go in with all my components and try to puzzle together these pieces onto a new frame. I am a bit impatient to do this as I don't like being off the road for too long, but I do have another geared road bike as home that will serve until I can pull this together.

My current bike, the love of my life - (bikes direct Motobecane Messenger) was a cheap purchase made several years ago that was only a secondary track bike that gradually took over the place of being my main ride. The fit is wonderful - I have a short torso and long legs so getting the right reach can be tricky in both directions. Usually I get the shortest handlebar stem and jack the seat way up to get enough leg extension. The geometry on my current bike is 515mm on the top tube, and 49cm on the seat tube.

Over time I've replaced a lot of things that suit me better - different brake lever system, changed to bullhorn handlebars, nice tape, new handlebar stem (shorter), clipless pedals, gatorskin tires, new chain ring, new chain. The rest is from the original purchase and I'm aware is probably some bottom level stuff. I have a new set of wheels with a flip flop hub on standby. I also have the rest of what's on the Motobecane itself, with the exception of the stuck seat post!

So on the one hand I feel like I have a lot of parts at my disposal.. but on the other I worry that these parts may or may not fit onto a new frame? How much would a decent frame run? What should I look for when frame shopping besides the desired geometry? Should I go through the hassle of trying to piece it together myself, or trust a shop to do it for me relatively cheap? (I try to do as much repair as I can with the tools/knowledge I have, but sometimes I get in over my head...) What are some other websites to look at for brands or ideas for frames or whole bikes for sale?
posted by cristinacristinacristina to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd take this frame home and soak the eff out of it with penetrating oil for a week, or go at it with a heat gun to make the frame around the seatpost expand. Yeah, a shop won't do this because they could be working on other bikes more profitably, but it's something you could try for not too much expense.
posted by zippy at 2:32 PM on August 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

More details on how to remove a frozen seatpost from Sheldon Brown (and friends).
posted by zippy at 2:59 PM on August 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Former shop wrench here, and I also share your short torso/long leg issue so I sympathize at the difficulty of finding frames.

If I were you, I'd strip the components you can and look for a new (or new to you) steel frame that fits your preferred geometry. This might even be another Messenger/Kilo TT from BD, or an 80s Bianchi, Trek, etc in the era when road bikes were built taller vs. longer, with clearance for bigger tires, and generally horizontal or semi-horizontal dropouts.

Things to look for: lugged construction, double-butted tubing, either 4130 or better. Look out for a sticker near the bottom bracket (BB) that identifies the tubeset, like 'Reynolds 631', 'True Temper OX', 'Columbus Aelle' etc— bikes with nicer tubes will ride better. Check for cracks in the paint, ripples on top of the downtube or the underside of the top tube near the head lugs as that can indicate a crash.

You may have better value finding a complete bike on Craigslist and swapping the best parts between what you have and what comes built, then selling what you don't need anymore. That way you'll have something to ride right away.

Most of the parts will transfer to another frame, with the exception of the seatpost you don't have anyway, and the headset that may already be in the new-used frame. Good news is the stuff you've upgraded you're already happy with.
posted by a halcyon day at 3:03 PM on August 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Honestly i'd use this as an excuse to upgrade, especially if you can afford it. Throw this frame on craigslist for cheap(like $50) and someone will buy it. Throw the stock wheels up for like $75 too. Then go out on the hunt.

For a while i had a pretty nice italian track frame. A friend of mine scored the same frameset, with a brand new custom powdercoat job for like $150 on craigslist. It included a really nice campagnolo headset and bottom bracket as well. I was completely floored.

I've seen even better deals pop up. While i was working my way up to having the tweaked bike i'll likely own for the rest of my life, I bought full bikes for $200 and sold the parts for almost the same amount and kept the frame, or vice versa.

You're also fairly lucky that you're not say, a dude who rides a 56-58cm frame where there's a lot of competition in the market. You'll likely be able to score something cheaper because there's not a lot of demand for that size comparatively. One of the bikes i flipped for instance was about your size and had full campagnolo record, and was a nice carbon trek. it cost me $200. Small framed bikes can be cheap.

Alternatively, just go back on bikesdirect and buy a kilo TT(there's also several cool looking variations, and an upgraded model i'd go for honestly) after selling your current frame+wheelset. Then sell the wheelset on the new one for another $75 when it shows up. Looking at the geo chart the 47cm looks like it would work for you with the top tube length. Don't be alarmed by how small that sounds, just look at the chart. Their geometry can be... odd.

Several friends have owned those, and beat them to hell. They're made out of quality tubing and really last. The wheelset is what gives out on them though(although the pro one looks decent) so it's good that you have a better one handy if you choose to go that route.

I'd be torn, personally. I'd probably lean towards just craigslisting a higher-end frame though especially if i was in a large craigslist market like NYC, unless track frame price inflation is still ridiculous there.
posted by emptythought at 4:04 PM on August 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have gotten a seemingly permanently stuck seatpost out of a frame before now, but it SUCKS.

When penetrating oil, and putting the seat in a vice and twisting the frame and all that jazz didn't work, I resorted to caustic soda, which will dissolve aluminum but leave steel intact. If that isn't the case here, stop reading.

Well, it worked, over about a week, but I DO NOT RECOMMEND IT. Caustic soda turns flesh to soap, and burning out the aluminum caused heat and spouts of volcanic alkali. It was NASTY and I'm glad I did it in the garden.

As an absolute last resort, it worked. But don't do it. I got burns and was lucky not to suffer worse.
posted by sweet mister at 4:06 PM on August 12, 2013

New (used) frame. Your next stop should be Craigslist.
posted by Doohickie at 6:31 PM on August 12, 2013

Response by poster: UPDATE: got the bike back from the shop, no dice. it's really stuck. they are thinking maybe a dent halfway down the seat tube (never noticed that before!) is what is holding the post in there. i skimmed through the sheldon brown link but to be honest i'm so busy right now i don't have time (or space) to try all of that stuff - and if indeed the dent is holding the post in i'll never get it out. don't think it'll resell with that dent and all my other scratches and dings so... i think i give up :(

i've started checking out the bikes direct kilo TTs as suggested above and also on bike island for frames/deals. if i find more time i'll scour craigslist and ebay. i definitely want to upgrade now that this is my main bike, so i may just have to put in the effort to find it.

thanks everyone for your feedback! much appreciated.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 9:13 PM on August 12, 2013

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