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I just started college and though it'd be nice to have a bike to get around and was looking at my mom's old road bike, but it definitely needs some work.

It's a Fuji VALite 1769 frame with Suntour aRX derailleurs. I'm not real sure about the rest of it, it's probably about 20-30 years old. It has relatively new cheap Bell tubes and tires and the chain looks a little worn, but mostly rust free. Everything seemed smooth while riding it aside from the problems listed below.

The front wheel either needs fixed or replaced. One of the spokes is broken and it has a pretty evident wobble when you ride it. Also, the front derailleur/gear changer (not sure about terminology here) needs adjusted and fixed. The bolt that holds the cable to the arm piece is broken and, thus, doesn't work. The grip tape on the left handle is also coming off, but that's not a critical repair. The brakes might need adjusted a bit, but it was hard to tell with the front one since the wheel was wobbling so much.

Is it worth it to get it repaired and tuned up? Also, how much, about, would it cost to have everything fixed up so it's road worthy again? There's a couple small bike shops in town and a couple at college as well. This is the first time I've tried it out and won't have time this weekend to bring it to a shop so any input would be great.

EDIT: The wheel's probably my biggest concern then. I'm sure I can figure out how to get the brakes adjusted. The rear ones seemed ok and the front may be too, but I couldn't tell with the tire wobbling so much. The cable kept slipping out of the bolt on the derailleur and I tried to tighten it, but the bolt broke. After I get another bolt, is there something that should be done to keep it from slipping?

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3 Answers 3

Try to do the minimum. It's probably not worth worrying about the front derailleur for example, unless you live in a hilly area. Your local bike shop can hopefully repair the front wheel (replace the broken spoke and true the wheel) and check/adjust the brakes (ideally showing you how so you can do it yourself next time).

As for the bar tape--once you've got the bike in ridable condition, you can replace that yourself for about $10 and an hour of time.

All of the above can hopefully be done for around $60-70 or your local equivalent. If that's still too much, nothing stops you from doing it all yourself if you have the time and patience to learn via online videos and Sheldon Brown's site and so on. Then the monetary cost will be almost nothing, but the time cost will be several hours. Don't attempt this unless you're somewhat handy.

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Sometimes it's also easier to just replace a front wheel than to spend the time truing a badly bent wheel. Especially if you are paying someone else for their time to true it. Also, if you have place that deals in used parts, that might be a good place to find a wheel. –  Kibbee Sep 8 '13 at 15:47

The front wheel needs fixing, and, although it's something you can do yourself on a well-maintained bike, it's harder on an old bike and probably best left to a bike shop.

The bar tape is easily repaired by wrapping with medical adhesive tape or (better) "hockey tape" used to wrap hockey sticks. (Hockey tape is a good all-around repair kit "tool".) You could re-wrap with "real" tape, but that's kind of a fussy job and hard to get right the first time.

Have no idea what the cost for the wheel repair (and maybe a general tuneup) might be, as I do most of my own repairs. However, I recently bought a completely new (inexpensive) front wheel for about $45, so maybe just replacing the wheel is the way to go. And I also, a couple of years back, had my bike completely tuned up (including two new chainrings, new cables, new brake pads, new bar tape, wheel and headset bearings rebuilt) for about $300, so that would be an upper limit on what you might spend (though the guy probably did give me a modest discount on the labor).

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The Fuji VALite 1769 bicycle is a higher-end bike of its time and unless something really bad has happened to it, would definitely be worth getting parts repaired or replaced.

  • front wheel true and spoke replaced ~ $22
  • handlebar tape that you wrap yourself ~ $8
  • tune up:
    • basic w/ cables ~ $75
    • front + rear drivetrain only w/ cables ~ $50

Details:

The front wheel repair (called "truing") should be around $20 plus another dollar or so to replace the broken spoke.

While I haven't used hockey tape, others have had success with similar cloth tape as long as you're not buying extremely cheap stuff. You'll get more padding with standard synthetic handelbar tape (contains a bit of foam or synthetic cork) which starts around $8. By watching various youtube videos, you can wrap these yourself very easily. (Also, cheap cloth tape will be more messy and sticky and won't be as easy to unwrap and start over.)

A reputable, friendly, quality bike shop will help you get your bike in safe, rideable shape for the least amount of money possible. Insist on the bare essentials for a safe ride, but listen to anything that they say is a true hazard.

Technically, you can ride a bike frozen in a single usable gear, but a few affordable tweaks of the drivetrain and replaced cables can mean riding a bike that is much more enjoyable and capable of taking you anywhere you want to go.

Given your bike and needs, a basic $50 tune up will get them to look at and repair the necessities which wouldn't include the wheel repair and handlebar tape mentioned above. Remind them you're on a budget and are going to try to do some improvements (handlebar tape) on your own. Showing this initiative sometimes helps.

Be wary of anyone that steers you toward purchasing an entirely new bike. A good shop will have low-budget options and might even secretly do a few tweaks and fixes out of pride and a sense of responsibility to someone who is giving such a lovely old bike, new wings.

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