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I found an old Favorit racing bike. I didn't weigh it without all the parts but I find it pretty light, and it has a nice classic look. It is however really rusty (superficial damage only). Right now it's been rebuilt, and except for the very old and damaged crankset (which I'm going to change), it rides fine.

My question is: is it worth it to repaint the bike and slowly rebuild it with higher quality parts? I'm not looking for the lightest bike, just a strong, comfortable and durable bike. Also, I like the fact that the bike would be unique and customized. Would I be better off buying a bike, or getting a better quality steel frame?

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You should specify the parts you have on that bike (type of bottom bracket, wheel size etc), or put some pictures. –  Mladen Jablanović Apr 24 '13 at 14:55
Is it worth it? It's fun to me, and it might be to you. You probably wouldn't be asking this if it wouldn't be. For pure bang-for-the-buck in terms of performance, buying a 1997-era road bike from Craigslist or a new bike from Bikesdirect or the like would be your best bet. –  Alan Gerber Apr 25 '13 at 19:05

4 Answers 4

up vote 1 down vote accepted

You would undoubtedly end up with a "better bike" if you bought something new off the rack. That might be a controversial viewpoint but it shouldn't be. There are a few basic reasons:

  • Frame technology is better now. Better materials (debatable, some swear by steel) and better designs (less debatable).
  • Restoring a frame is both time consuming and expensive. Less than but comparable to buying a new one.
  • Bike manufacturers (and assemblers) get their parts at an extreme discount. A discount you won't be able to achieve without buying older second-hand parts.
  • A last-season bike will be the cheapest new-parts option. Plus you get a modern frame.

But none of this amounts to the sentimental value of building your own bike. That is a value that we cannot quantify on here.

  • If cost and uber-performance aren't really factors for you and you think you'll enjoy the process of restoring and building your bike, go for it. It'll be fun and you will have a unique bike.

  • If money is the main concern you can probably do this cheapest by restoring some of the components. As soon as you need to replace the groupset or chainset, it's probably going to be cheaper to have a new bike.

  • If you want the best bike, you'll get more bang for your buck with a new bike.

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You will need to treat this like a hobby. I took an old bike from a wasteyard one year ago to see if I can make it being able to ride it again. I repaired a lot, replaced parts and tuned it. From an objective view, it is not worth it:

  • It will cost more in the end than buying a new or used bike
  • You will have to spend lot of time
  • Don't be surprised if anything is broken again

So you really need to enjoy the process, otherwise it is just annoying.

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As Alex suggests, it's cheaper to just buy a new (or "lightly used") bike than to buy all new parts for an old bike.

As to the practicality (cost aside), the main question is what parts will fit. If the bike is designed for caliper brakes or has odd threading on the BB or some such then it will be frustrating trying to find new parts and your choices will be exceedingly limited.

(This is partly why the big bike parts makers like to change schemes regularly -- to obsolete old bikes and force you to buy new. Lots of the supposed "improvements" aren't.)

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+1 For concerns about compatibility and the "conspiracy theory" deserves another. –  mattnz Apr 23 '13 at 3:15

Buying parts alone is sadly a rather expensive way to get a bike and I doubt anyone would be able to tell you if it's worth it to you. That said, I'd be very tempted.

I like old bikes and it's better they get rebuilt and used than end up in landfill.

You should spec up the components you want/need and compare the price with a new one of similar quality and see which you prefer.

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