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I have a 2016 or 2017 Trek FX2 (if critical I'll look up exact year). Ride it daily for shopping, going to the gym and such. Store it outside, unprotected from rain. Took it to the store I bought it at to have new pedals and break pads installed. Guy at the shop noticed that the headset was loose. After opening it up (lots of rust inside) he's basically saying it's toast and he wouldn't recommend repairing it. Why? Because combined with the other things that need to be done, the total bill will come to about half the price of a new bike. Better to go with a new bike because this old one will just cause exponentially increasing maintenance and replacement costs going forward. I don't know the first thing about any of this and there is also a language barrier. I speak the local language where I live reasonably well but for technical discussions like this one it leaves a lot to be desired. (Thus it's also possible that I might have misunderstood parts of what he told me.)

My question here is first whether this sounds plausible, or whether the guy is possibly trying to pull the wool over my eyes.

And secondly if it does sound plausible, is there a better option than simply going for a new bike? How about replacing the frame and headset with a new one?

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    Hard to say without seeing the bike and evaluating it's problems. If the bike has routinely been stored outside in the weather then the rusty headset, while not "normal" for such a new bike, is not totally out of the question, and there would likely be other bearings rusted as well. If the rust is due to pressure washing then it all depends on how hard different parts of the bike were washed. – Daniel R Hicks Sep 2 at 2:14
  • Thanks. It was stored outdoors all the time, with no cover. – Axel Lieber Sep 2 at 2:36
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    If you do the math, it probably makes sense to repair, even if half of new bike price feels harsh. If you buy a new bike and keep storing it outdoors, it will cost double the price of repair and be in similar shape in two years. – ojs Sep 2 at 7:29
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    How's your competency with tools? And are you able to store the bike in a more protected place? Even under a porch roof/carport is better than in the rain all day and night. – Criggie Sep 2 at 10:51
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    This might be an opportunity to learn basic bearing maintenance. Buy the minimal number of necessary tools, disassemble the headset, clean the bearing cartridges as best you can. If they are only a little rusty, flush them with kerosene and re-grease, otherwise "pull" them and replace. Grease every interior surface you can reach, to protect from further rust. Replace the chain (learn to use a "chain tool") and get a "chain washer" which allows you to clean the chain without removing it. Clean and oil the chain at least once a month, and weekly in wet weather. – Daniel R Hicks Sep 2 at 12:26
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The fact that you've left the bike out in the rain the whole time and that the chain is rusty suggest that you've not been looking after it. It doesn't surprise me that it would now be damaged beyond economic repair.

I used to have a Trek 721, which I think is a predecessor model to the FX2. Mine was kept under a roof and lasted longer than yours but, after several years of use, it too hit the point where enough stuff needed replacing that it wasn't worth doing so. From the way it's been treated, it sounds plausible that your bike would now be at that point, too.

I suggest that you take it to another bike shop for a second opinion and then decide how to proceed. Assuming that they say essentially the same thing, you have two options: either pay half the cost of a new bike and have a bike that will work for maybe another six to 18 months, or pay the whole cost of a new bike and get a new bike.

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    Yeah, it should be noted that a properly-maintained bike should not have a rusty chain, even if normally left exposed to the weather. And though it's a bit crude and messy you can delay the effects of rain on bearings by regularly oiling the "crack" between the turning surfaces outside a bearing. (Just keep the oil off your brake surfaces.) – Daniel R Hicks Sep 2 at 12:21
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    In any case, lesson learned. The next bike will be shielded from the elements. – Axel Lieber Sep 2 at 13:05
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    @DanielRHicks depending on the environment where you live it can be almost impossible to keep all rust off a chain. So much so that I gave up trying and now my winter bike is a singlespeed with 'rustproof' chain. – Andy P Sep 4 at 12:13
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    @AndyP - Regular oiling with "wet" lube should prevent rust in most circumstances. – Daniel R Hicks Sep 4 at 12:29
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Cheap wearing parts like brake pads, bottom bracket bearings, headset bearings, pedals, chains etc. are basically all 10€ items which are easy to install.

You could do it yourself if you get the right tools. The hardest part is buying the correct stuff.

We’d need more information about which parts are installed and what their current state is to give an estimation of the cost and effort.

Worst case in addition to the brake pads and pedals you also need a new chain, cassette, chainrings, cables, tires, handle bar grips, saddle etc. Maybe some small parts as well. This can easily amount to >120€ just for the replacement parts. In the very worst case your hub bearings are worn (due to lack of maintenance) which would basically require new wheels.

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Water is the enemy of bikes. Trek fx series are not that difficult to work on, and I simply cannot afford to have lbs mechanics work on my bikes. I am self taught, using the how to videos on YouTube as I have no mechanical skills. If you do not have an area to work on a bike, best to buy a yum cha bike from a department store for the amount of riding you do. When it breaks throw it away and get another one. But make sure you keep the drive train well oiled. You will get a few years out of it. And it will earn lot cheaper.

  • Hi, welcome to bicycles! Your answer would be better if it were focused on answering the question; more about doing maintenance oneself, preferably addressing the required tasks, and leave out the recommendation for a new bike. You might also talk about how to determine what maintenance tasks are required/urgent. – DavidW Sep 4 at 10:58
  • @DavidW I disagree. For a daily runaround, a cheap 'throw away' bike is a very valid strategy. Ride until it dies with only minimal essential maintenance, then when something more major needs doing replace the bike. – Andy P Sep 4 at 12:10
  • @AndyP I didn't say it wasn't a reasonable strategy, but it doesn't answer the question. – DavidW Sep 4 at 12:15
  • @DavidW is right that the answer as written doesn't answer the question, but it does hint at why the bike is very likely not economical to repair. Basically, riding in the rain a few times is OK, but leaving the bike outside means that water gets into all the bearings and the chain. It also stays there a lot longer. That causes rust in lots of places: headset, bottom bracket, cables, etc. Wal, this site is aimed more at answering questions than at general discussion. You could improve your answer by explaining why leaving the bike outside led to its condition. – Weiwen Ng Sep 4 at 15:19
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I feel it's always better for the "greater good" to fix a bike, rather than dispose it. However, maybe it's in good enough shape to be sold second hand.

I would ask the bike shop if they are willing to do a trade in. Then it's likely they will repair your old bike (a headset replacement is a non-issue) and sell it to someone looking for a used bike.

Everyone wins: the bike shop sells a new bike, you don't have to feel like wool is being pulled over your eyes and someone else gets to enjoy your old bike.

  • Obviously don't expect much for trade in value, but at least make sure you won't be paying full price for the new bike. – Superman.Lopez Sep 6 at 6:22
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The FX2 looks to be about a $US400 bike meaning repair costs could easily exceed its value. It may be the bike now fits into the "Not worth fixing, but not worth not fixing" - i.e. as is, its unride-able so practically worthless, fix it and you have a ride-able bike, but fixing it will cost as much as it will be worth.

You do not say where you live, but in much of the Western world the bike shop is possibly right, as the labor cost of maintaining the bike can easily double or triple the parts cost for a bike in this price bracket.

However, a bike that's 2 or 3 years old should not be in the condition that its uneconomical to repair. How has it been stored and how much has it been ridden? If the pedals and brake pads need replacing, there is a good chance the chain and cassette are also significantly worn. If so, then the bike shops advice is starting to sound more correct.

If you are prepared to do work yourself, and have some basic tools, the cost of maintaining a bike can be very small. For instance a cleanup, grease of the headset is a simple 15 minute job (maybe 30 minutes first time). If the bearing races are past there best, you can reassemble it and put up with a slightly rough headset that you can redo every few months. A bike shop has a reputation to maintain and the cost of a new headset added to the labor makes more sense.

  • Thanks. It was outside all the time, unprotected from the elements. One of the pedals is completely broken, the other one getting there. The chain is a bit rusty but not horrible. Tires still OK. I ride it pretty much every day. Nothing athletic, just daily use around town for shopping, going to the gym etc. On average maybe 2 kilometers a day, plus the very occasional 30km workout. The bike shop is reputable. They're a chain, lots of semi-pros and serious amateur competitors frequent them so I tend to believe the guy. I'm just surprised that after only 2-3 years this should happen. – Axel Lieber Sep 2 at 2:35
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    @AxelLieber - "They're a chain, lots of semi-pros and serious amateur competitors frequent them" Sounds expensive, but you can find better rates if you shop around. At the nonprofit bike shop I go to, all of the repairs so far have been $10 for labor plus parts. The idea of labor costing 3x the cost of parts seems a bit extreme. – SurpriseDog Sep 2 at 5:52
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    I live in Tokyo. Everything's expensive.... – Axel Lieber Sep 2 at 7:10

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