New bike, old bike?
May 12, 2008 2:21 PM   Subscribe

Should I get a new bike? Or should I fix my broken one?

I was in a bicycle accident last September, in which I was side-winded by a livery cab. Miraculously, I'm fine, but the bike isn't: the wheels are bent, one bicycle pedal is warped towards the frame and so won't turn, and the force of the impact was strong enough to twist the handlebars and seat. I'm not sure how the frame is doing -- it's a double-butted steel frame (a Miyata 210 from 1984), but I don't know how to check for stress, cracks, or any problems. Due to neglect during the winter (since I couldn't ride it), the chain, gears, and steel wheels have now become rusted.

I now have a chance to buy a nice road bike for $200, that is fully tuned-up, with new tires, tubes, brakes, etc, and with the guarantee of future service.

When I got my old bike, I bought it for $80, and spent an equal amount (or more) on it tuning it, cleaning it up, replacing parts, etc. I'd like to imagine that the hassle and money involved will be similar in this case as well. Is it worth it to get a new bike, or should I spend $100+ on new wheels/tubes, new tires, a tune-up, a new chain, etc. and just fix my old bike with the hope that the frame will be okay?

(additional question: If the cost is the same, should I get brakes with suicide levers, or install interrupter brakes?)

Thank you, AskMe!
posted by suedehead to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total)
Best answer: I would buy the new bike for $200.

Unless there's a bike co-op nearby where you can get parts cheap (chain ring, pedals, etc.), it's not worth replacing the broken parts on the bike. Good wheels alone would cost around $50-100 new.

Also, you say you're not sure how the frame is doing. Even though steel can handle a lot, I would be worried about the crash stressing the frame.

As for the brakes, I would trust the interrupters more than the suicide levers.
posted by nakedsushi at 2:37 PM on May 12, 2008

Take it to a small local bike shop to get a repair estimate. Let them know what happened. They should be able to tell you if the frame is damaged. I'd get the newer bike for $200 only if it fits as well as the old one. Can you test ride it?
posted by thewalrusispaul at 2:40 PM on May 12, 2008

Suicide brakes are called that for a reason. Because they don't move the brake cable directly (they move the primary brake lever, which in turn moves the cable) they're weak and inefficient.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 2:50 PM on May 12, 2008

Get the new bike!

You can go ahead and get the old bike checked, but it sounds like it's served you well, it's seriously damaged and it's time to let it go. If you can't let it go, and want to get it fixed, get the new bike anyway, it sounds like a good deal -- and everybody should have more than one bike.
posted by nnk at 2:55 PM on May 12, 2008

If it was just a bent wheel, then yeah, I'd fix it. But this bike sounds like what an insurance adjuster would refer to as "totalled."
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:10 PM on May 12, 2008

Best answer: Miyata frames of that era are absolute classics-- some of the best factory steel frames ever made. I've been looking for a Miyata 1000 touring frame for years. I'd say buy the new one but hold onto the old frame if it's still 'true.'
posted by jamjam at 3:11 PM on May 12, 2008

It'll almost certainly cost more than $200 to fix the stated damage (unless a bike shop lets you root through its discard bin and you do all the work yourself). If the Miyata frame is still intact, I'd strip it down and stow it away, but yeah, buy the new one.
posted by adamrice at 3:32 PM on May 12, 2008

Get the new one, not that the old one can't be salvaged - just not professionally for the same price. Donate the old one to a co-op, or keep it around for when the new one gets stolen.
posted by jmgorman at 3:39 PM on May 12, 2008

A $200 bike is very unlikely to have as nice a frame as your present one but as others say it's going to be hard to put the rest of the pieces together for $200.

Re the frame, steel is very springy and can take impacts rather well. So long is it is not bent you are probably in luck. Check the welds for cracks, and if you can't see any, again you are probably in luck.

My two cents is to spend a bit more than $200 if you can afford it. $200 is pretty much the minimum it's possible to sell a bike for when you take into account shipping, store overheads and so on, which means that every dollar you pay over $200 gets you quite a lot more bike.

Personally if I was looking for the best low-price new bike I'd take a long hard look at the bikes from Sette is their house brand but the frames and parts are actually from well known manufacturers and are often very good quality (I have Sette stuff on my $2000 bike and it's great). I know several people who built bikes up from Sette frames and are really happy about it. Similarly specced bikes in your local bike shop would be around twice the price I think.

I've bought thousands of dollars of stuff from Pricepoint and never had a problem. Their customer service is excellent.
posted by unSane at 4:05 PM on May 12, 2008

Best answer: I've been buying, selling, trading, riding, and working on bikes similar to your Miyata for several years now. I've never had a 210, but I have owned at least two different 310s.

Your bike sounds seriously damaged. Wheels can be replaced. Your handlebars and seat can be adjusted back into place, but considering there is damage to the crank and now all the parts are rusty (seriously folks, don't leave your bikes outside!) the bike probably has very little salvage value. While steel frames are sturdy and there is the possibility that your frame is fine, there is no way to know without a careful inspection of the type that requires a trained eye.

That said, I would offer the bike as-is on Craig's List either for free or for beer. There are lots of wrench heads out there (like me) who would take the bike.

As for your $200 road bike. Well, without any sort of description it's hard to know if that is a good deal or not. If you're only concerned about basic, reliable transportation then $200 is too much. If what you're looking at is a nicer road bike than your wrecked Miyata then $200 may be a bargain. If you find out more about the bike feel free to MeFi mail me and I'll give you my professional opinion. ;-)
posted by wfrgms at 4:28 PM on May 12, 2008

Get the $200 bike.
posted by fixedgear at 4:29 PM on May 12, 2008

Sad about your old bike -- sounds like a cool one -- but even if the frame's okay it's almost surely going to cost more to fix the bike than replace it. For 200 bucks you should be able to get a nice used bike at least as good -- no, better than -- the 210. I'll be happy to give another (un)professional opinion on what you're looking at; just MFM me the specs too.

Re the brakes: Without getting into the technical details, I'd eschew suicide brakes. In-lines are fine, and easy to add.

Here's another thought: Assuming you want horizontal levers because you ride on the top of the bar a lot, for about the same price as a set of in-line levers you can get a moustache bar like this, which'll offer many more hand positions than drop bars and let you keep your existing levers. The major down side is they don't offer a deep drop position, but unless you're a racer type or do lots of long tours you likely won't miss it. In short, some folks love 'em. Others hate 'em. YMMV (ha!) Also consider trekking bars.

Handlebars for Touring and Commuting.

More about moustache bars.
posted by Opposite George at 5:49 PM on May 12, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, everybody! I've decided to get the new bike -- which, I should clarify, is a used steel-frame road bike from the 80s, I believe. I'll sell the old one as-is on craigslist, and will get interrupter/in-line brakes.

Oh, and Opposite George -- I'll be biking in a city environment, which means that moustache handlebars would be too wide and cumbersome, I think. Thanks for the suggestion, though!
posted by suedehead at 7:35 PM on May 12, 2008

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