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I found a discarded 'mongoose alta' frame and an 'araya - japan' front wheel. It's missing the rear wheel and the seat (no seat post either)

Looks like the gear change is still in very good shape...

All these missing parts will add up. How do I know if it’s worth fixing this bike back up or not?

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    Your best option is to find a local Bike Co-operative and ask for help. – Criggie Jan 16 '18 at 8:50
  • @RoboKaren But note that 20 reputation is needed to use chat. – David Richerby Jan 16 '18 at 12:56
  • Best bet is to find another similar bike with a "complementary" set of missing parts, and perform an organ transplant. – Daniel R Hicks Jan 16 '18 at 22:30
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    Since you split the question and asked it in different ones, I changed the premise of this original question, @Manuel feel free to revert it back to your original intent. – RoboKaren Jan 17 '18 at 2:24
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Unless the frame is unusually valuable, it is almost never "worth it" to buy new major parts, such as a new rear wheel (with cluster, et al).

A new rear wheel, once you've got the sprockets and tire on it, will cost in excess of $100, and could run $200-300 if you're determined to find "equivalent" parts. Likewise for a bike missing a fork, a crank assembly, etc.

You can, however, get a pretty good deal using salvaged parts, either salvaging them yourself (from other scrapped bikes) or buying them from bike shops that are into this sort of thing.

I spent this afternoon helping to turn 4 broken bikes into 2 good ones, for the local school system.

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It depends what 'worth it' means to you.

Finding an buying replacement parts, and the tools required to install them can add up to more than a comparable used complete bike would cost you. Abandoned low end bikes with major parts missing were abandoned for a reason - it was not worth fixing them.

If however you get a great deal of enjoyment from the process of finding deals on used parts, and learning how to wrench a bike back to working order, then go for it.

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