There was a time when you were riding your bike every day. Then life hit you, you got married, kids started to run around the house, and a bike got stuck in the basement behind a pile of boxes.
Kids are now growing up, and you have more time for yourself. You started wondering what happened to your bike. Is it still in the basement? You move all the boxes, and there it is – your first true love.
After a few emotional minutes, you figure out that its condition is not the best. The tires are full of cracks, the chain is rusted, and the gears don’t work as they should. A thought shoots into your head: should I fix it or buy a new bike?
Fixing an old bike makes sense if it has sentimental value for you or offers you above-average comfort when riding. Financially speaking, repairing an old bike is not worth it, as it can cost as much as buying a new bike.
For many, fixing an old bike is a tempting job, but commonly we misjudge the amount of time and money it will take to bring it back to its former glory. Below I will present you the pros and cons of fixing an old bike, which can help you decide whether this is a project for you.
If you want to repair your old bike, you’ll need a Bike Tool Kit. You can get it by clicking here.
How much does it cost to fix an old bike?
The cost of fixing an old bike is the main factor when deciding whether to do it or not. If it were cheap, everybody would be doing it. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
On average, fixing an old bike that wasn’t used for ten or more years will cost you between $150 and $600, depending on the number of parts that need to be replaced. If the frame is rusty and needs to be repainted, the cost can double.
I wrote an article about the cost of painting a bike, so definitely check it out if your old bike needs a new paint job.
It’s important to know that the price of fixing a bike can skyrocket if you leave it to the professional. The $150-$600 estimate is based on the assumption you’ll do all the work yourself.
There is another cost that I need to mention – tools. If you decided to fix a bike and don’t own any bike-specific tools, taking it to the bike shop might be a better solution.
Many people don’t get why you would want to fix an old bicycle if so many newer models are on the market. While that is true, it’s good to know that fixing an old bike is more than just fixing an old bike. It’s an experience.
The enjoyment you get from fixing a bike
Bicycle repairs will only be undertaken by those who enjoy the process. Sure, from time to time, you’ll swear and think to yourself, ‘why did I have to do this,’ but a few minutes later, you will enjoy it again. I promise.
Making something yourself is one of the best feelings you can have. You will be proud of what you achieved when you finish, even if someone else says they could do it better. But they didn’t, you did it!
I have that feeling when writing this blog. It’s not the best, and I’m sure many people could do it better, but they didn’t make the initial step, and I did. I admit I sometimes swear, even right now, but I only remember the beautiful things when looking back, and I’m so proud of what I achieved. You can do the same with your bike.
You’ll learn a lot about bikes
Nobody in history learned to fix bikes from books. A hands-on approach is the only way you can learn about the mechanical features of a bike. The more extensive the repairing will be, the more aspects of bike mechanics you’ll learn.
Once you repair your first bike, there won’t be a problem you don’t know how to fix. You will quickly fix every little problem, as you will know exactly how the bike works. Even more, you’ll hear a weird noise, and you’ll know what to fix.
Older bikes are easier to fix
Modern technology provides many advantages, but the more complex it gets, the harder it is to repair even minor problems yourself. With the introduction of internal cable routing and electronic shifting, the bar is set even higher, and repairs are done almost exclusively by professionals.
Older bikes are easy. Cables are external, shifting is mechanical, and every problem is straightforward. If the bike doesn’t shift, the cable is loose. You don’t have to figure out if the battery is dead or if you didn’t charge it. One problem, one solution.
Cheap spare parts
Spare parts become much cheaper once the bike becomes old (about ten years). Manufacturers always develop new and better parts and downgrade their already existing models. They become more available to the general public, which reflects in their prices.
The price of older bike parts starts rising once the bike becomes vintage. In the last few years, vintage bikes have begun gaining popularity. More and more of them are being restored, which drives the prices up.
Even though most bikes will never be viewed as vintage, the whole fuss around older bikes raises the price of parts. So even if you’re fixing a non-vintage bike, you might pay a vintage price for spare parts.
Most of the time, when you’ll restore a non-vintage bike, you will be able to find affordable older parts that will work just fine. It might take some time to find them, but they are out there somewhere.
Older bikes are more robust
Do you remember your first bike that weighed almost as much as you? It was the heaviest bike you have ever ridden, but no matter what you put him through, it survived.
Nowadays, bike manufacturers want to make the lightest and fastest bicycle possible. Consequentially they are not very durable and have to be ridden only on surfaces without too many bumps that could hurt them.
Older bikes were made to be durable, and durable they are. Even after several years, they can withstand much more than newer models. If you’re planning on racing with them, then a new bike might be a better option, but nothing can beat a robust old bike for a commute through the city center.
The sentimental value is something you can’t put a price on. What seems like a worthless piece of steel to one seems like the best bike in the world to another.
There aren’t many logical arguments to justify repairing some older bikes, but the sentimental value can blur your mind. And I don’t blame you. Together you created everlasting memories, and you are not prepared to erase them.
You need to know, though, that sentimental value can be expensive. Some parts might cost more, repairing can be more time-consuming, but it will all be worth it once your love is back at its former glory.
The relatively high overall cost of fixing an old bike is the main reason people don’t want to do it.
Spending $500 on bike repair won’t make it a $500 bike. It might be worth just a quarter of that, so it’s not a good investment. It’s the value it has for you that makes it worth spending a ridiculous amount of money on it.
The problem with justifying a high cost is that you can get a fairly decent new bike for that price. If you’re lucky, you can even get some used higher-end models for $500.
Financially speaking, fixing a bike doesn’t make any sense, but as mentioned above, it’s the sentimental value that makes us do crazy things.
Spare parts are hard to find
Finding spare parts for an older bike is a nightmare. The older it is, the harder it gets.
Manufacturers always develop new bike parts, and often the standards change in just a few years. Almost every bike had 26″ wheels not too long ago, but nowadays, they’re practically non-existing.
27.5″ and 29″ wheels have become a standard. You can only find 26″ wheels on older bike models.
While wheels are still easy to find, you won’t be so lucky with other parts. Manufacturers remove older models from production, so you’re stuck with the secondary market. If you need a specific, uncommon part, you might never find it.
Once you get serious about repairing bikes, it’s not that uncommon to buy a whole bike just to get one spare part. That makes sense if you’re repairing bikes as a hobby and you can use other parts elsewhere, but if you’re repairing only your bike, buying a whole bike is not an option.
Lack of features of modern bikes
Modern bikes are superior to their predecessors. Technology is better, the frame is lighter, the bike is faster, etc. You’re consciously giving up on all modern features by restoring an older bike.
I’ll admit that some of them are not worth your money, especially if you use your bike only for a commute. But for instance, if I had to give up indexed shifters, I would seriously think if repairing an old bike is even worth it. I would probably buy a new one.
Don’t expect to repair a bike in one afternoon. Or five of them, for that matter. Fixing an old bicycle is a lengthy project that will bother you for a few weeks at least.
Doing it all by yourself is the best way to save some money, but you need to invest your time. A lot of it.
How long it will take depends on multiple factors. The bike condition is obviously the main one, but a worse condition does not always mean longer repairing time.
Once the bike parts’ condition drops below a certain level, you’ll have to replace them. Replacing them is much quicker than fixing them. Therefore replacing parts on an extremely old bike can be quicker than fixing a few years old bike.
The biggest time consumer is the frame. If it is rusty, you’ll need to sand it and prepare it for repainting. Sanding is a pain in the ass, and at this point, I would advise you to take the bike to the paint shop, where they will fix the frame for you.
Old bikes don’t look as ‘cool’ as modern bikes
That statement is the one that will spark the most debate. There are many vintage bike lovers out there that will come after me. But before you start kicking me, let me explain.
Vintage bikes do have a cool factor, but most old bikes are not vintage. It’s the same as with cars. A 1969 Mustang is cool, but not many people will put a cool mark on the 1969 Honda 1300.
The bike you’ll be restoring will be about 10-15 years old. There is no way you can hide its age, and that’s OK, but don’t expect people stopping you on the street to admire your bike.
If you care about having a good-looking bike, buy a new one. But if you just want to get from point A to point B, then having an old-looking bike is not a problem.
Fixing an old bike and bringing it back to life can be a rewarding experience. But it’s important to look at it like that – an experience. Once you start counting dollars, you’ll soon realize that repairs are not worth it.
For the amount of money you’ll invest in repairing an old bike, you can get a decent new bike. It will have modern features and a modern look, but the connection you had with your old bike will not be there. At least not just yet.