I am looking for a substitute for my commuting bike. It is a cheap second hand general store bike. It do the job but just don't worth keep maintaining. But at same time I have to keep my bike outside for 10 hours a day in place where several bikes where already stolen (attached with cheap bike locks but still a fact). So I am afraid of leaving a decent bike there.

I checked second hand bikes pages and looks like there is a lot classic second hand old road bikes for sale really cheap and from big brands.

But I am not sure how much work a bike from 90s need and what I should check if I am buying one or even if it is a good idea.

  • 1
    Bike thief doesn't really care if you have a grotty BSO or a nicer old bike. If he wants it, he gets it. Can you do anything to enhance your security? If its at work, can you bring your bikes inside?
    – Criggie
    Commented May 17, 2016 at 11:12
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    @Criggie In my case it is not an option. Maybe in a future. But I am working in huge company the entire building it is starting to become small. I don't feel like it is ok to ask for space for my bike when we are low on space for people.
    – kifli
    Commented May 17, 2016 at 11:28
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    @Criggie: How nice your bike is does matter, but it's relative: All else being equal, make sure you lock up your bike next to one(s) which look(s) nicer. Commented May 17, 2016 at 13:18
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    What do you mean by a road bike? For commuting you really want to have a bike with fenders, luggage racks, etc.
    – gerrit
    Commented May 17, 2016 at 13:43
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    Some steel bike with 90's shimano 105 or shimano 600 is what Id recommend.
    – gaurwraith
    Commented May 17, 2016 at 13:43

3 Answers 3


A (decent) bike from the '90s would not be significantly different from (a decent) one only a few years old except for a small weight difference and possibly lacking brifters, which are de facto standard on road bikes these days. This statement is of course excepting top-of-the-line superbikes made of carbon fiber and dragon's blood.

  • Check it for stuff like rust in hard-to-see places (small bolts etc.): This is a good sign of how well (or rather poorly) the bike was taken care of. If there is no or minimal rust, it's probably been taken care of well enough.
  • Look over the frame for any signs of crashes: Big dents, cracks, fissures, etc.
  • Check if the headset wobbles or not: It shouldn't, and if it does, it might need to be replaced, which would be very expensive.
  • Check how worn the chain is: If it looks horrible and probably has never been changed, that's a warning sign.
  • Check the teeth on the front chainring(s): If they are starting to look like shark fins, the chainring will need to be replaced.
  • And of course, just ride the thing and see how it feels.

"Significantly different" means from a mechanical/engineering perspective: IMHO, some of the ugliest bikes I've ever seen were from the '90s.

  • Rust: Even my 2009 aluminium bicycle has superficial rust on the bolts. I’d still consider it in very good condition. Chain: If only the chain is worn it’s a <15€ maintenance cost. If it’s the first chain the rest can still be in good condition. Headset: Could just need tightening and grease. I’d look at the usual wear&tear components: Cables, brake pads, saddle, bar tape, tires, chain … if several or all of these need replacement it can get expensive and work intensive.
    – Michael
    Commented May 17, 2016 at 12:48
  • Okay, I guess I went overboard with the "no rust" condition; Amending. Commented May 17, 2016 at 12:53
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    Some 90s bikes also have different wheel spacing in the rear. 126 mm road was still available in the 90s.
    – Batman
    Commented May 17, 2016 at 13:12
  • Also, Shimano/Microshift do make 7 speed+ brifters now, so its not too bad to add them on afterwards if you want to.
    – Batman
    Commented May 17, 2016 at 18:11
  • @Batman: Good points, but they don't actually count against buying a '90s bike as long as the obsolete parts are still in good working order (it's another matter if they need replacing, of course). Disclaimer: This is coming from someone who laments the disappearance of 10-speed down-tube shifters. Commented May 17, 2016 at 18:22

@errantlinguist gives some excellent points, but I have a couple to add.

  • Make sure you have 700C wheels not 27" wheels. I have only been able to find a single tire in my LBS to fit 27" wheels.

  • As @errantlinguist mentioned, biffers. This is a huge regression. To the extent, that it changes the way the entire bike feels. I have switched to flat bars (at great expense) to avoid bad 80s/90s biffers.

In addition to the purchase price, plan on spending $20 - $200 to fix things that need tweaking.

  • Brake pads in particular, don't stand the test of time. Over 10 years, even unused pads will harden and become less sticky. Replace these right away.
  • Adding new bar tape is a great way to freshen up a new bike.
  • If you ride clipless, you will probably want to add the same kind of pedals you have on your main bike. This makes switching less of a mental jump. I run crankbros eggbeaters on all of my bikes. enter image description here
  • 4
    It's not clear why you added the big photo of the pedal since that seems like such a minor point of your answer. I don't think it's that important to run the same pedals on road and commute bikes, I run SPD's on my commute bike (for walkability and "normal" looking shoes), and Looks on my road bike and have no problem at all switching -- the biggest mental leap for me is switching from the commute bike with extra cross levers for braking and the road bike with only STI levers.
    – Johnny
    Commented May 17, 2016 at 19:36
  • I don't know where you live, but here, the 2 LBS's and even Wal-Mart have good-enough-for-commuting 27" tires for my road bike, in stock. The selection and prices aren't as good as 26" or 700mm, but not so bad.
    – Jeffiekins
    Commented May 17, 2016 at 22:31

It will need much work and VERY hard to find parts, been there done that after my nice bike was stolen with a crap lock. Just get a UBERKILL LOCK. The thief will not want to mess with your bike and just go to the next lock he sees.

  • 3
    You do realize that a crazy uberkill lock will cost almost as much as a used bike, and weigh a lot, besides? I like the "park next to a more expensive bike" technique. It works for cars, too.
    – Jeffiekins
    Commented May 17, 2016 at 22:33
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    Welcome to Bicycles! Do not use profanity on the site, we are alerted to it in Charcoal HQ and have to clean it up.
    – user24892
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 6:10
  • @Jeffiekins yes but you only have to buy it once and it is provably will last through several bikes. Also a cheap lock potentially can make you spend double (triple for a friend of mine until he learned the lesson)
    – kifli
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 8:09
  • What does "uberkill lock" mean? Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 6:48

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