I have had several people ask me how I find these bikes. It can be a mix of Craigslist, garage sales and Bike Forums contacts (obtained two bikes via this latter route). So, I figured it was time to document the lucky process of obtaining my latest ride. I am always looking at bikes, but not usually with the intent to buy. I like to see what is on the market and what the market prices are. Frankly, I've got enough bikes ... well, sort of.
In August, 2010 I noticed a road bike with a Selle San Marco Concor saddle sitting outside a pawn shop in Yakima, WA. I've always wanted to try that saddle out on one of my bikes and the original versions on Ebay easily sell for over $50 if in good shape. I pulled into the parking lot to take a further look.
It turns out the bike was a Trek, and an old one at that. The metallic gray paint was something used prior to 1984. The thing was a true "Frankenbike" with a mix of Shimano, Suntour, Rigida and Campagnolo parts - Japan, France and Italy represented. Both tires were flat and in poor condition. The nice Sakae Road Champion handlebars had been cut and flipped to make pseudo bullhorn bars by someone who thought they were kind of hipster. The chain was obviously too short for the 14-32 mega range 6 speed freewheel. But, no matter - it was still an interesting bike.
I walked back to my car with the serial number from the bottom bracket and pulled up the Vintage Trek website. The serial number decoded to a 1981 Trek 510 22"/56 cm frame. A little tall for my height but still a decent, light bike. The tubing was Ishiwata 022 which is comparable to Columbus SL or Tange #2: decent and lightweight.
The price listed on the bike was $89.99. I walked away. Heck, I didn't need a new bike.
Six weeks later the bike was still sitting outside the pawn shop so I stopped again. Now the price was down to $70. Shoot, this was getting a little more interesting. The bike had sat out in a few rainstorms and the nasty look to the saddle had cleaned up quite a bit. I talked to a clerk inside about trading a .22 revolver for the bike but they didn't want the revolver. The clerk said she'd let the bike go for $60 plus tax. I walked away.
In the meantime, I sold a re-issued version of the Selle Italia saddle to a guy in the Seattle area via Craigslist. I had only had the saddle for 6 months but never got comfortable on it versus the original ones that I have on two bikes so it was expendable.
After selling the saddle I decided to go by the pawn shop again. If the bike was still there I had the $60 in hand to buy it since I was obviously meant to have it. I pulled into the lot and scanned all the bikes. Sure enough, it was still there but there was a white piece of paper hanging on the bikes. I sauntered over to take a look - 50% off all bikes. Ok, I really was meant to have this bike.
I promptly walked inside and found a clerk who came out, unlocked the bike from the others and then we went back inside so I could pay. Total with tax was a little over $37. I couldn't be more happy because that was less than what I sold the reissued Turbo saddle for. I essentially sold a bike seat and bought a complete bike!!!
Now time for some photos:
This is how I first saw the bike at the pawn shop - not very pretty
After getting it home and cleaning it up a little
(with donor wheels)
The bike was picked up on a Friday and by Sunday afternoon I had installed a set of drop handlebars, aero brake levers (used from the bike shop for $20) and new brake cable. Courtesy of another rider here in the valley I put a set of Mavic GP4 tubular wheels with brand new Servizio Course sew up tires from YellowJersey.org on it. Further clean up, degreasing and setting up the fit and it was ready for some minor riding on the road to ensure the tires were centered on the rim.
Here's the bike - cleaned up and just needing clipless pedals and bar tape
Notice the very long chainstays and wheelbase = comfy ride
Cleaned and polished brake calipers
The Concor saddle - it's actually quite comfortable
The classic early 80's Trek headbadge
After a couple of days I couldn't wait any longer and I installed some clipless Shimano SPD pedals on the bike and road it with my mountain bike shoes. On Saturday the black Look Delta pedals I had purchased from another BikeForums member showed up and they immediately went on the bike.
I have had it out twice now and really like the smooth ride. The bike was sold as a sport tourer. It's got a long wheelbase so it goes over bumps more smoothly but doesn't necessarily handle corners as quickly as my three other race oriented frames. I'll train on it next year but also plan on doing some light touring with the bike for overnight camping trips. Trek provided a lot of flexibility with this frame.
Does it always work out this successfully - absolutely not. But, the thrill of the hunt for a good, reasonably priced (preferrably cheap) bike is what makes it all so much fun. I guess I now understand the thrill my wife has in shopping clearance racks for good deals.