You Said You Wouldn't Let go 'Til I Was Ready!!!
April 20, 2006 10:15 AM   Subscribe

Gots me a bike, and now I gots me some questions(Repair cost estimates and what kind of freakin' bike it is, to be precise).

I got the bike over 5 years ago, and have ridden it a handful of times. I'd like to change that, but it needs some work. Unfortunately, any inquiries I've made have been complicated by my general ignorance of all thing velo-related and local bike shops' lack of patience with n00bs(Understandable, but still frustrating).

The Bike: I have no idea what this monstrosity is. It looks like a mountain bike, but is fairly heavy. Googling the various decals and brand names hasn't helped: Rialto Peak, 3354, Hi-Ten, MTB Series. I got the thing as a gift, which I think may have been Frankensteined or refurbished before I got it. Knowing what it is, or at least how to classify it would probably help make it easieri to deal with the cycle store people.

The Repairs: The three most pressing issues are the tires, both of which are fried(Tires[26 x 2.10] and tubes), a loose chain, and the left-side crank and pedal need to be replaced.
I have no idea what a fair price for material and work would be, and my past encounters have made me wary of getting ripped off.

My price range is somewhere in the middle; eventually I intend to ride the bike to work(Via bike paths, not in traffic, 14 miles round trip), so I want it to be safe and reliable. However, I'm not planning on doing any off-roading or Le Tour anytime soon, so I'd like to keep things simple and economical.
Also, if anyone can reccomend a good, professional bike shop in Winnipeg, it would be much appreciated.
posted by Alvy Ampersand to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
if you're mechanically inclined, and have the investment for a small set of specilized tools (like bottom bracket pullers, etc.), I highly recommend and learning to do it yourself. Much cheaper than having the LBS do it, especially if you get parts online.

That said, it's very likely a POS and you'd be in it for the value of learning rather than salvaging what little is good on the bike from my quick look. Pedals, chains, and tubes are the simple things you should know how to do yourself anyway. :)
posted by kcm at 10:27 AM on April 20, 2006

huh, it stripped my link.

Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance (Paperback)
posted by kcm at 10:28 AM on April 20, 2006

They don't really care what brand it is. If you have to tell someone over the phone what it is just say it's a generic rigid fork mountain bike. Tubes are cheap (maybe $5 per) and tires can be pretty cheap ($10-15) and those easy to replace yourself, using the tire levers and pump you'll be buying. If you don't feel like going to the store and picking them off the rack you can order from a place like Performancebike, who are quite good. The chain is pretty easy to replace and a good one will run you $20 - $30. But you do have to know enough to select the width of the chain - which depends, mostly, on how many gears there are at the rear; and you'll probably need a tool to break the old chain so that might be a task you leave to the shop guys (it's trivial for them). I'm assuming the components are mostly low-end Shimano stuff, and that's probably a 7- or 8-speed rear cassette.

You do need a specialized tool to get the crank out; cranks usually come as a complete set, with the chainrings and both cranks. It might be possible to scare up just a left crank, but that's something you'd have to depend on the shop for.

Browse around a little at the online shops like performance (not trying to shill for them, but they're pretty representative) and expect parts to cost a bit more at the shop; plus probably for your jobs a certain minimum fee for the service - nothing you're talking about should take them very long, once they get around to it.
posted by Wolfdog at 10:29 AM on April 20, 2006

That's a department-store grade bike. "Hi-ten" here is the giveaway: it means "high-tensile steel," which is pretty much the cheapest material for bike frames. That's also part of why it's heavy. With that it mind, you may not want to throw too much money at it: you could easily double its retail price with this project.

You can replace the tires and tubes yourself. Get tires that are slick or semi-slick and narrower; all you need is tire levers to pry off the old ones. You can replace the chain yourself too; a chain tool costs maybe $10. These are pretty basic bike-maintenance operations, and shouldn't scare you off. Pedals are also easy to replace, and just require a crescent wrench (but note that the left-hand pedal is reverse-threaded).

Replacing the crank is a little more involved: you could do it yourself, but there's no shame in not wanting to, or not wanting to invest in the tools. If you find a decent shop (sorry, can't help on that), you might ask them if they have any usable cast-off cranks in their junk bin to replace the one you've got. The price of labor at shops can be wildly variable, so I'm not going to guess on that.
posted by adamrice at 10:31 AM on April 20, 2006

The other problem with parts at the LBS is that you end up having to order things a lot of the time, so you end up taking longer and paying more than ordering it yourself. They are a nice resource to have when you need advice, though, if you're a serious biker so it does pay to buy some of your parts there that you know have better margins and are in stock.
posted by kcm at 10:32 AM on April 20, 2006

replace the tires with something narrower--1.75 or so. You should learn how to replace and/or repair tires and tubes yourself, as flat tires are common. make sure you get some tire levers for this task--screwdrivers are nortoriously hard on tubes.

petals are cheap--from $15us and up. You should replace both.

Is the sproket on the crank bent? Or just the arm? If it's just the arm, then that's easy to replace. If the sproket is also bent, then a new one will cost, but I don't know how much. since you're asking here, you don't know enough to repair or replace on your own. have the bike shop do it.

the loose chain could indicate a problem with the rear derailer. as with the crank/sproket above, this is really hard to repair if you don't know what you're doing. But you can try to tighten up the chain by moving the rear wheel (which you have to take off anyway to replace the tire and tube)
posted by lester at 10:33 AM on April 20, 2006

fyi: you can't tighten chains on MTBs that have the typical vertical dropout by moving the wheel. that's more for track/fixed-gear bike setups. and since it's a junker, the worst case is that he buys a book and parts, can't/doesn't want to do it, and takes it all there to the shop to have them do it for the cost of labor. :)
posted by kcm at 10:36 AM on April 20, 2006

What it is:

What you've got there, if I don't miss my guess, is your basic straight-gauge (read: heavy) steel department-store "mountain bike." It appears to have very, very basic componentry on it, including a bottom-of-the line Shimano drivetrain and cheapo thumbshifters, which haven't graced most bikes sold by independent bike shops since around 1992. Those generic cantilever brakes will stop you reasonably quickly, which is good.

New, I'm guessing it would have cost around $200-$300.

Let me make a bold suggestion: don't bother fixing this up. instead, go to your friendly local bike shop. Purchase a new entry-level mountain bike for incrementally more than it'd cost you in parts and labor to make this thing rideable as a commuting beast.

Repair costs on the bike you've got would be:

Tires: $40 for two
Chain: $20
Crankset: say $50-70 for a basic generic crankset with chainrings
Pedals: $30 or so.

This is before fixing anything else that may or may not be wrong with it, and before labor, which should run you around $50-$100 depending on how much of an overhaul and tuneup you have performed.
posted by killdevil at 10:37 AM on April 20, 2006

I'm a very hands-off bike owner; I can change a tire, I can adjust my brakes, that's about it. I find that if I go into a bike shop with that attitude (I don't know anything, you're good at bikes, I need your help), the people at the shop are really pretty cool. It's when you act like you know stuff, or feign ignorance ("broken rim? I have no idea, I was just riding along and it snapped!) that bike people get annoyed.

But, on to your question: most of what you describe can be done fairly simply yourself, if you get the tools.'s forums can be a good resource for finding out the whats and the hows, and as mentioned by others, the tools you'll need are relatively cheap.

Three things to remember if you decide to do your own maintenance:

1. Get a repair stand. They can be had for cheap, but they're invaluable. You only have two hands, and keeping your bike upright with one of them makes repairs really tricky.
2. Don't force it. I don't care what "it" is, brute force will kill bike parts.
3. Use the right tool. Pliers are very rarely the right tool.

Good luck!
posted by pdb at 10:39 AM on April 20, 2006

Also, a loose chain on a non-singlespeed bike could indicate larger drivetrain issues. The is (part of) the job of the rear derailleur to maintain chain tension. If you push the little cog on the derailleur towards the front of the bike, it should spring back when you let go, pulling the chain taught. If it isn't doing that, you may well need a new one of those too.

If you do go into a bike shop, get them to help you adjust the seat to fit you. It doesn't look like it would be comfortable, unless you have really strange proportions.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 10:42 AM on April 20, 2006

sorry, I should have said the worst case is that you put money into this bike. I tend to assume people understand what they're doing when they make projects out of frames like this, so instead, I recommend you make an art project out of it and check craigslist for a nice commuter bike - I'd recommend a single-speed/fixed-gear if you can hack it on your terrain, they're much easier to maintenenceize and keep in shape, plus more fun and appropriate for road riding :). semi-slicks on a mountain bike is kind of the worst of both worlds if your goal is efficient riding rather than doing interesting things with bikes.
posted by kcm at 10:44 AM on April 20, 2006

A bicycle shop that looks down on "noobs" is one that is setting itself up to go out of business. They should be encouraging folks to become cyclists. Find another bike shop, and take the time to learn bike repair yourself- its generally pretty easy.
That said, I second killdevil's post that you should not invest much of anything in this bike. Perhaps the shop staff recognize this too, and so are very reluctant to take on the repair work, knowing that it is a poor investment. They should be upfront & tell you, disregard you.
Really, they shoud sell you a new bike, not only for their profit, but for your benefit: it will fit you better, be better made, come with a repair warranty, and you will actually enjoy cycling enough to continue riding regularly.
posted by pgoes at 10:54 AM on April 20, 2006

A loose chain means most likely a warn chain (replace) or possibly a warn spring the the rear derailer (in which case, also replace). Neither is a very expensive fix.

It's entirely possible to buy single cankarms: I bought a left last summer for $10 because a friend had a crack near the pedal eye. The other posters are right though: crank installation is easy to screw up, you can damage yourself or the bike permanently if it's done wrong, and you need some fancy tools. Better to leave it to a bike shop unless you want to get into bike maintenance.

Other things to check if you have the time, money or patience: brakes and wheel bearings. Zinn's book is excellent if you want to do your own maintenance. You can save quite a lot of money if you do the simple stuff yourself (like wheel bearings, chain, shifters and brakes) and you won't need a lot of expensive tools.

If the brakes squeal loudly, try scrubbing the rims clean with a tooth brush and a bit of cleanser. Rinse well after finishing. If that doesn't work, you may need to replace the brake pads. I really recommend the orange rubber type, they work much better than the black ones. I use Kool Stop/Eagle pads on all my bikes.

Wheel bearings are fairly easy to do yourself. All you need are a pair of wrenches and a bit of grease. Worn axle parts (called "cones") are one of the common problems on department store bikes of a particular age. Do replace the ball-bearings every time you change; don't rescue the old ones. Any bike store should be able to sell you replacements. Many won't even bother charging for them.
posted by bonehead at 10:56 AM on April 20, 2006

They should be upfront & tell you, NOT just disregard you.
posted by pgoes at 10:57 AM on April 20, 2006

It's a generic early to mid-90s cheap 'mountainbike' of the type that was sold in catalogues, dept. stores and cheaper bike shops, by the looks of things. Brand doesn't matter, really. They were made by the bazillion and all used bottom end Shimano or Shimano copy parts that all work pretty much the same.

Without seeing it, it's tricky to make specific recommendations, but I'll have a go.

First, see if you can find a local bike shop that isn't so unpleasant to deal with. Shops that are user-friendly for those new to cycling do exist and are very worth starting a relationship with. Unfortunately, the kind you describe are all too common. Alternatively, maybe there's someone you know or can get to know who's into bikes? Most adult cyclists, if they're not racing snobs, are genuinely happy to help out/show off their knowledge/encourage a newcomer. Notice how many answers questions about bikes and cycling usually get on AskMe? Cyclists are generally a pretty convivial and helpful bunch.

To be more specific to your questions and these are rough guesses (in US$ and a lot depends on whether you buy online or from a local shop and taxes, etc.).
Tires: $25-$40 for a pair, for nothing special but ok and usable jobs. You might want to consider something narrower, less nobbly and higher pressure (1.5-1.75" width) if most of your daily route is surfaced.
Tubes: $8-$12/pair.
LH crank: A decent shop should be able to sell you only one. As long as they're the same length, it doesn't matter if it's not the same brand as the right-hand one. A damaged or broken left-hand crank is a bit of a worry. Has the bike been in a crash? This might be symptomatic of other damage and is a good reason to find someone who knows what they're looking at to give the bike the once-over before you sink much money into it.
Pedals: Unless you get lucky from a shop's parts-bin, chances are you'll have to buy a pair. $20-$30 for something that isn't going to fall apart in a couple of weeks.
The loose chain also worries me because there's so much that it might be caused by, from the expensive to the trivial. It might be that the bike is sitting still out of gear and everything snaps back into place when you ride it and change gear, or maybe after some minor adjustment. At the other extreme, the rear derailleur is damaged and needs replacement, which is a pricey job not necessarily for a beginner. A new chain won't do any harm ($15-$20), but might not solve the problem. This is where you need to find local help.
If you're uncomfortable with fixing all this yourself having got the right parts, you'll need to pay for professional labor and advice and that's where the economics of bike repair gets dodgy.

As others have said, with this sort of bike it doesn't take much work for even relatively minor repairs to start to get ugly, relative to the value of the bike. If things start looking expensive, you have a couple of choices. Either start getting educated about bike maintenance and repair so you can be more self-sufficient, or write-off the old bike and get something new. A sound and solid new bike for daily use - nothing special, but will work and be pleasant enough to ride and reasonably reliable - starts at about $300-$400 these days. You might also want to budget for lights, a lock, some kind of bag or rack, maybe a helmet. Whatever you do, the minimum you need to know is how to repair a flat, and to carry a spare tube and the tools to fit it.

The other good thing about a new bike is that you can adjust it, learn basic repairs and maintenance and get to know it while everything works how it should, so your learning curve can be longer if you want to start doing your own work on it. It's very rewarding to know you're relatively self-sufficient in transport and basic bike maintenance is pretty easy - lots of good websites and books out there.
posted by normy at 12:50 PM on April 20, 2006

Shimano drivetrain and cheapo thumbshifters, which haven't graced most bikes sold by independent bike shops since around 1992.

Hey, my above the bar Suntour shifters are the best ATB shifters I've ever used.

Beats that crappy Shimano rapidfire crap.

Now back to you regular programming.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 1:31 PM on April 20, 2006

I'll just add two things:
1. As normy said (and adding to it), it's easy for seemingly "insignificant" repairs to add up to more than the cost of the bike. Add to that - sometimes when you fix a couple of things on a low-end bike, other items then break or cease to work as well (or at all), then you have to fix nauseam, ad infinitum.
2. As a former bike shop employee, I'll (barely) defend the shop's attitude thusly: I learned the hard way that telling someone their bike "wasn't worth repairing" is the way to get someone *really* pi__ed off - usually because it was their first bike, or grandma gave it to them, etc. We (and me) learned to be vague and unwilling when we saw this sort of stuff come in. In a weak moment, sometimes we'd actually fix the bloody thing - it inevitably took 2-3 times longer than estimated, the parts were unavailable or a hack, and at least 60% of the time when the customer got the bill they wouldn't come in to pick it up for a looonnng time (if ever).
Okay, I'll stop rambling.
posted by dbmcd at 2:33 PM on April 20, 2006

Thank you all so much for the responses.
I'll probably stick with the bike I have. Moneypit, I know, but I think the larger expenses will be paying for kit that would be needed regardless. I'm somewhat handy, and would rather fuck up a craptastic bike learning proper maitenance than screw up a new one 'cause I misread something :)

RE: The Cycling shop thing. Most of my problems stemmed from my inability to articulate... well, any of the issues, and the shop folk probably pegged me as a chunky guy who watched a bio of Lance Armstrong and decided he wanted to ride teh bicyckle, you know?

Again, thank you all.
If marking all responses as best answers wasn't gauche, I would!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:56 PM on April 20, 2006

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