Is this bike worth fixing?
June 6, 2015 1:00 PM   Subscribe

Someone was taking this bike to the dump, but it looked like it had a nice frame still. It also looked a bit older, maybe something vintage. It needs a new front tire and a new cable and seat. Is this worth fixing? I don't know anything about the brand so I don't know what they go for new, and couldn't find one like it. All I know about it are the words "Alpine c/moly 3t". Thanks in advance. Here's the bike.
posted by DriftingLotus to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I honestly can't tell what brand is your bike. This is the only one I can find that comes close, same sort of lettering

And it's ANCIENT... 1976ish Look here:

Yours looks relatively recent, so I don't know what to tell you. I'd suggest checking with a local bike shop.
posted by kschang at 1:26 PM on June 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This looks like a case of department store bike reusing a defunct brands name to try and look more legit. The cheesy grips, style of reflectors/brackets for them, and other somewhat cheesy looking parts really sell that. Those aren't name brand shifters, for example. The quick release front, but bolt on rear hub is another good tell of this.

I really wouldn't bother with it. Junky bikes like this are heavy and miserable to ride and just sap your effort you put in to moving them.
posted by emptythought at 1:39 PM on June 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

That looks like a 1980s hardtail mountain bike. I don't recognize the brand, and I can't find anything about it on Sheldon Brown's website. A little bit of sleuthing turns up the information that Alpine Cycles was a house brand for Georgetown Cycle Sport in DC, and that their frames were made by a number of different builders.

I would guess that the quality of the frames varied. Some of their bikes were apparently built by reputable British, French, and American builders, while others were, I would guess, not so great. Without a closer look at the frame, it's hard to say.

On preview: I think emptythought might be right, given that the components do look pretty cheesy. Anyone building up a decent frame would use better components.
posted by brianogilvie at 1:51 PM on June 6, 2015

It's not worth fixing. It is worth taking if you have a boneyard of old bikes from which you draw from to make rideable bikes, or as a source of spare parts. A junk mike like this might make a good source of small, odd parts that are sometimes a pain in the neck to find from a retailer. And the frame itself might make a good base for a rideable bike with other parts provided. But I wouldn't spend a penny to make these remains into a whole bike.
posted by 2N2222 at 2:55 PM on June 6, 2015

If (VERY BIG IF) you just want a bike to tool around a small town on or leave out in the rain--not something for serious riding or any real distance--and if (again very big IF) it really just needs a tire, seat, and cable, I would fix it with the junkiest parts available (like, the $7 saddles from Hong Kong, or something grabbed for $3 at a bike swap) and lube everything up, and you'll have a perfectly serviceable bike for less than a craigslist junker goes for around here.

However, I would be absolutely amazed if that's really all it needs, and labor on repairs can add up pretty quick if you're paying somebody else to do them for you. If you can't do the work yourself and diagnose whether anything else is wrong with it, move on.

(side note: apparently whoever did the cables had a lot of extra housing that needed to get out of the shop that very minute, and throwing it away wasn't an option)
posted by Dr.Enormous at 3:48 PM on June 6, 2015

I would fix it up and use it as a guest bike unless I already had something better for guests.
posted by aniola at 4:31 PM on June 6, 2015

Department store bike reusing a defunct brands name

It's not worth fixing

I strongly disagree with these assessments, and I think brianogilvie sounds like he knows what he's talking about. The photo is thin evidence, but I also think this looks like a low- to mid-range late 1980s-early 1990s mountain bike sold by a bike shop, which is a whole world away, quality-wise, from department store bikes, Huffys (Huffies?), Magnas, etc.

Sure, this bike isn't exactly a diamond in the rough, but from what I can see it's probably perfectly rideable even if you only spend a little money on it. It is doubly worth it if 1) it fits you or someone you might lend a bike to 2) you already have some tools and generic parts (lube, cables, cable housing, brake pads, tires and so on).

Furthermore, bikes like this convert easily into comfortable, useful around-town bikes with a slightly larger investment in a rear rack (I can see the eyelets it would attach to in your photo), fenders, slick tires and upright handlebars. I'd take this bike over all but the very nicest 70s-era Schwinns or other bike boom models with 27" wheels, and there are plenty of these still on the road (and selling for $150+++ on Craigslist).

In the bike's favor:

Eyelets for rear rack and fenders. I can't tell if there are eyelets for a front fender--the fork is at the wrong angle in your photo.
Quick release skewer holding on the front wheel. Note while this generally indicates a higher quality component it's also a theft risk.
The rims look like they're probably alloy, which is lighter and offers better braking performance than steel, especially in wet conditions.
The seatpost is not rusted into the frame.
The frame in general does not appear rusty.
The dropouts look forged (vs. stamped steel), which indicates a fairly high quality frame. If it seems light for what it is, this is a confirmation of this. "c/moly" is also a possible indicator of quality--it refers to the chromium and molybdenum content of the steel used in the frame tubes--but without the addition of a tubset/manufacturer, I'm fairly sure it's more marketing jargon than any useful description of the tube quality (think: describing food as "natural"). If nothing else it isn't made of gas pipe.

Things that make it look less than awesome:

As noted above, nutted rear wheel.
The front derailler clamp looks like stamped steel. Nicer models are cast and anodized (aluminum) alloy.
The seatpost is the cheaper steel variety with a separate clamp. Better, lighter seatposts are alloy with a "microadjust" clamp.
Tires look like they could have serious dry rot. It's likely the rear will need to be replaced as well.
The brake levers look like they might be plastic. At this point, 25 year old plastic brake levers are...well, not dangerous, but the plastic is often no longer particularly durable.
Similarly, pedals look like the platform may be plastic.
posted by pullayup at 7:17 PM on June 6, 2015

"Is this bike worth fixing?"
I looked at a LOT of bikes akin to yours recently while shopping for a "cool bike" vintage rigid mountain bike. The following is a pretty simple rundown of what I was thinking about for the few months I looked.

In general, there are a few basic questions to ask the bike before you even decide whether or not to fix it:
- How is the frame? Inspect the welds, look at all the tubes for cracks and dents and holes. Turn the bike over and look at the bottom, is there rust on the cylinder between the cranks? On the tubes between the 'bottom bracket' and the hub of the rear wheel? Is there rust anywhere on it? If it's bent or dented badly or rusty or cracked at all you just earned yourself a trip to the dump (or the recycling center).

If the frame's true, next check the moving parts. Does it bike? (Roll, drive, turn, stop?) OK, good. Standing next to the bike, hold down on the front brake and try to rock the bike forward. Does the part between the handlebars and the front wheel feel loose or clunky? Hold the bike on your shoulder and let the handlebars swing back and forth. Do they rock gently into a straight-ahead position, or are they lopsided? Does adjusting the headset fix any of these problems if they exist?

Again standing beside the bike, move the pedal on your side to the bottom position closest to the ground and stand on it. Do the cranks feel firm or loose? Does the bottom bracket creak a bunch or bend overtly? Do any parts of the frame creak when you do any of this? If yes, look closely for cracks in the frame.

Ok so it's not going to go to the dump after all. How much fixing is fixed for you?

- Fix to ride or fix and flip? If the former, how much are you willing to spend? Are you near a Bike Kitchen or DIY collective with a huge parts bin? How much work would you like to do yourself? Do you have any tools? With these questions in mind you can determine if it's worth fixing for yourself. If the latter, does it roll? Does it change gears with minimal fuss? Does it roll true? Sell it on Craigslist in under a week for $80, time and price may vary depending on your location. Maybe check to see if it's stolen. Don't put much more effort into it; getting that shop tune is part of the price of buying a used bike.
posted by carsonb at 10:20 PM on June 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'd consider going to a local bike recycling coop and getting a nice used bike cheap.
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:04 AM on June 7, 2015

Even if you don't fix it yourself, see if there is a bike workshop/collective, preferably a free one, and drop it off. Good karma at least, and you might be able to do the repairs there.
posted by Elysum at 4:46 AM on June 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Alpine was one of the house brands in the late 80s / early 90s for the World Cycle / Cycle Spectrum chain based in Texas. This bike is from around 1990 and sold for ~$350. I think it had Shimano Exage 300LX brifters and derailleurs. The wheels are probably Araya alloy rims with generic hubs, maybe Joytech. Alloy frame but probably a steel front fork. I wouldn't put a ton of money in it, but it could still be an OK city bike.

Two things to look out for:
The early low-end Shimano push button shifters are prone to failure. SRAM has some inexpensive grip shifters made for Shimano 7 speed derailleurs.
The left cranks need to be tightened periodically, or they strip and fall off.
posted by sardonista at 6:29 AM on June 7, 2015

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