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I’m a complete noob getting back into cycling after 15 years of not riding. And loving it!

But I bought a bike about 4 years ago and started using it and now it’s got a heap of problems, which I've listed below:

  • The chain seems to slip in anything but high gears
  • It looks like the crank arm is breaking
  • Front brakes are out of alignment
  • Back brakes are screaching loudly
  • There is rust on the brake line
  • Tiny bit of rust on front spokes

I like the idea of fixing it up as I really like the frame and back suspension. I also just like the idea of building it a bit myself and understanding the parts and such.

The problem is I'm worried it will be way more expensive than just forking out $250 on some decent used bike. I'm also worried about it being too complicated for me.

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  • 1
    Is the frame really the right size for you? You have the seatpost all the way in. Either the frame is too small, your seat too low or your legs very short.
    – Michael
    Sep 2 at 13:24
  • 1
    "The problem is I'm worried it will be way more expensive than just forking out $250" Good that you set a price. Then think about how much value has your time. I can see easily 3/4 weekends spent on fixing the bike (getting a part for cheap or even for free, realizing you miss a certain tool, getting the tool, watch yt to understand how the tool works, discovering that the "new" piece does not work/is not compatible... iterate for each point of your list). Later I will add an answer, short hint: get a used bike for 220, buy for 30(or less) a broken, complementary bike to repair this one.
    – EarlGrey
    Sep 2 at 14:00
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    This is definitely an opinion-based question, so you probably won't get anything definitive. I'll just share this from my own experience. There is a HUGE difference between riding a "big box store" bike such as the one you've shown and even an entry level bike from a LBS (local bike store). The build quality and components are going to be much better and the riding experience will be significantly enhanced. In other words, it will be a lot more fun and you'll want to ride it more often. Forget this bike and use the money to get a good one.
    – jwh20
    Sep 2 at 14:12
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    Nothing you describe is particularly fatal. The question is can you get the repair parts at a reasonable price. Sep 2 at 14:18
  • 4
    To counter the valuable comment from @EarlGrey, perhaps repairing the bike actually is a good way to spend your spare time. Often the best way to learn is by doing. Sep 2 at 23:39
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To start off, the crank arm isn't breaking, it's quite definitely already broken.

As to repairs - this bike seems to be what would commonly be called a 'BSO' (Bicycle shaped object). I definitely wouldn't spend anything trying to repair it, and would look to spend the money on a replacement.

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  • Damn, that bad hey? 😂 yeah the closer I look at it now the more I think it might not be worth it.
    – RiCHiE
    Sep 2 at 12:11
  • Sometimes these issues are like whack-a-mole. Not that I like saying it but yeah, she's gone.. Sep 3 at 10:25
  • Finding compatible parts for such an old bike could be difficult. This means that you will have to change not only the defective part but some other parts as well. Square tapered bottom brackets are out of fashion and are replaced by newer designs. Thus you are looking at changing both cranks + the bottom bracket. Sep 3 at 10:43
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Your bike is a low-end entry level bike from the 2000's. If you want to fix it, good-new parts could add up quickly. So look around for one or more donor bikes of similar vintage and see what you can find.

It is becoming common for most cities to have a "recycle station" at their rubbish dump, where usable stuff can be had for cheap. In mine, the bike rack often has a hundred low-end bikes like yours for $5-$20 each.

I'd still recommend a new chain and cassette/freewheel though.

Also remember to budget for tools - there are specific bike tools that you will need, like a crank puller, chain tool, and a freehub or cassette lockring tool. You may have a Bike Cooperative in your area which can assist as well, search and ask around.

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Define "worth it."

If you're wondering if it's financially worth it, the answer is probably not. It'll probably cost you as much or more to replace the parts that need to be replaced as it would to just buy a new bike. .

If you're wondering if it's worth it as a learning exercise, definitely. If you're going to be doing your own regular maintenance, you'll deal with brake, shifting, and chain issues more than anything else. That broken crank arm is a nice learning experience too. They don't break often, but cranks and bottom brackets (the part that the crank is attached to) can come loose, which requires removal, regreasing, and reassembly. Without a good picture, I'd guess that your spokes could be cleaned up rather than replaced, but if you need to replace them that's another good learning exercise.

Whichever route you go, try to support your local bike shop. Your new bike and/or parts will cost a bit more, but that extra bit of cash will get you a ton of advice at no extra charge.

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    Thanks, yeah I’m also thinking of trying to pickup a used giant near by and, try to look after it and maybe some maintenance etc. I’d go to the local bike shop but everything is closed in the Australian prison camp right now. 😭
    – RiCHiE
    Sep 2 at 14:47
  • In addition to advice, a good local bike shop in walking distance is quite essential: You typically need your bike shop most when you can't ride your bike. And if that bike shop is too far away, you may be required to transport your bike to it with a car. That's a lot of hassle that's completely unnecessary when you can simply carry your bike to your LBS. This is especially true if you don't even own a car. Sep 3 at 10:10
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    Just to add... if you do repair it, then you'll know how to repair this, or most other bikes, no matter what the condition (possibly even in the middle of a field when riding with your friends). Fixing squeaky brakes for example - actually not a hard job, maybe a bit fiddly and unless you've done it a few times will take some trial and error - but my word, it makes riding your bike a much more pleasant experience. So yes, you can buy a new bike for $250, but then you'll need another $50, and then another $50 later (and so on) to fix problems you could do yourself for free. Sep 3 at 10:54
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The bike looks quite smart from a distance but the cheapest possible no-name components have been used to get this bike into a price category when it was new.

Some of the replacement parts you might need will be cheap, chains from £5, freewheels from £12 etc, but you may end up replacing alot of the components to get it functioning to a good standard.

A more simple rigid bike built with recognisable name brand components (even if they are bottom tier) will be alot more reliable and easier to work on over time; probably more satisfying/rewarding to ride too.

Of course, it's your choice. You will find there are many bike shops that won't work on bikes of this quality as labour & parts costs can quickly spiral over the value of the bike. If you are doing all the work yourself, the reward is getting use out of the time and money you put in to it so you may find it a rewarding project.

The cranks are steel covered with plastic and it looks like the plastic has shrunk and cracked. It should be ok to ride if still properly attached. The brakes can be balanced wit the little spring adjuster screws or the long-type springs can be bent slightly to increase or decrease the tension.

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  • Thanks. If I got a new one. Is there anything you’d recommend to get on the cheaper end or not extremely expensive. Is the frame on this bike cheap too? I honestly can’t tell anything.
    – RiCHiE
    Sep 2 at 12:27
  • What about this? progearbikes.com.au/collections/mountain/products/…
    – RiCHiE
    Sep 2 at 12:34
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    This site is not really the best place for specific recommendations (the goal is have a knowledge base). But my recommendation would, if you want to save money is to take a simple bike (=no rear suspension) from a known brand. 2 reasons: you might not get the consumables for no-name components (ex a friend had to replace the brakes of his bike because the pads were impossible to find), and simpler also means that you'll have higher quality components for the same price (there are other ways to increase comfort without adding this level of complexity). Better to ask a new question for that ;)
    – Renaud
    Sep 2 at 13:43
  • Thanks man, any recommendations? II’m thinking of a diamondback overdrive. 1. Because I can buy it in AU for reasonable price and 2. Because it’s at least not just some random brand no one has ever heard of 😆 seems rear suspension is either $100 junk or $1100 overpriced. The other option is maybe a Pedal Ranger 3 Mountain Bike.
    – RiCHiE
    Sep 2 at 13:56
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    To respect the format of the site, better to ask a new question for a different question ;) But better to formulate it as "what specs should I pay attention to for this budget?" rather than asking for a particular bike (to keep the question generic and "international")
    – Renaud
    Sep 2 at 14:15
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Don't ride it as is, that left hand crank is broken and dangerous.

You say you enjoy riding. Bike maintenance is an essential skill unless you enjoy spending a fortune at the LBS getting minor and easy bike repairs done.

The state of this bike fits into the minor and easy repairs. Most other questions are focusing on the cost to turn it into a premium bike, rather than a bike that is rideable. I suggest it is easy to get this bike back to safe and ridable for $250. I presume you have basic tools, if not, add $50 for a cheap tool kit with everything you need. $20 for a set of tools if you all ready have things lie screwdriver/spanners/hex keys.

You will need - left hand crank arm for a square taper bottom bracket. Donor bike will do, $20 new.

Brake pads - Avoid cheap one, maybe $10. Brake cables - Inners only a couple of bucks, splash out on new inner and outer $10.

Chain - $10 New Freewheel/cassette $20. Shifter cables - Inners only a couple of bucks, splash out on new inner and outer $10.

Cleaners / oil etc.

As you can see, the cost of bring this up to standard comes in at less than $250 including buying tools. The real cost of this will be your time. Do you have anyone you can call on who is well versed in bike mechanics (helps but not essential)? Are you reasonably DIY capable. There are some very good resources for learning this basic maintance - I suggest start at Park tool, and here (don't hesitate to ask if you cannot find an existing question and answer)

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  • "Most other questions are focusing on the cost to turn it into a premium bike, rather than a bike that is rideable." This is probably a fair assessment, my answer included. I personally don't buy bargain basement parts and forget just how cheap they can be.
    – jimchristie
    Sep 7 at 18:45
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The problem is I'm worried it will be way more expensive than just forking out $250

Good that you set a price. Then think about how much value has your time (either in term of lost time, or in investment towards building certain skills).

Let's start with the negative aspects.

I can see easily 3 to 4 weekends spent on fixing the bike. So much time because usually the learning by doing on bicycle works like that:

  • get the required part for cheap or even for free (Friday);
  • realize you miss a certain tool (Saturday);
  • get the tool (a friend on the other side of the town for free, flea market next saturday, local used stuff for just 5$ ... you know, all the possible sources) (Tuesday);
  • watch yt to understand how the tool works (Tuesday eve, and Wednesday);
  • discovering that the "new" piece does not work/is not compatible (Friday, and Saturday giving a second try after rewatching yt)
  • Repeat for each item on your list ...

I see easily spending 5-10$ per each part, plus 5-10 per ea. tools, buiyng them on the fly (it is very annoying when you discover you miss the hex-key with size 9, while having the complete series from 4 to 32, and when you buy the good quality "9" for 15$ at the convenience store, you suddenly remember where you left the hex-key "9" six months ago)

Plus, there is a big disadvantage in working on a bike with many things and with no experience: usually the bike is not rideable!

On the other hand, I can see easily at least 3 to 4 weekends spent on learning things about the bike (thanks @aaron cicali). But the bike is still not rideable for these weeks !

So let's assume you have enough space in your basement and proceed like this:

  1. Fix the emergency first: buy a decent rigid (no suspended fork, no suspension) bike for X$ (X in the range 150-200). Yes, you can go offroad and do anything with that one. And it is only a temporary bike, so don't worry about being a no-frill bike;
  2. scout the internet for a bicycle in despair/to be fixed, possibly with less rust than yours. Price range: <50, possibly <20, if you are lucky for free;
  3. get ready for the transplant: take off all you need from the scrap bicycle you just bought (if you do not have space in your basement: get rid of the frame, recycling it); 3b. try to remove the fork from the donor bicycle. It can be an interesting experience to see "what is inside" ... 3c. you can use the 150-200$ bike to run all the errands you need to get the tools to perform point 3;
  4. after 3 or 4 weeks of repair, you will have one working bicycle (the one you bought for 150-200$) and maybe another one. But you will have learned a thing or two about bicycle maintenance :) !

P.s.: by getting your hand dirty, you will discover that a bike mechanic asking XY$ to fix a puncture is a lot of money, BUT it is usually not unreasonable.

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    May I suggest you avoid the notation “3/4 weekends”? In this case it's quite clear you don't mean three quarters of a weekend, but in general this can be confusing. Why not just write out “3 to 4 weekends”? Sep 3 at 8:27
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I hear they still make things called "books" that contain a wealth of bike repair information, including step-by-step instructions on how to identify what sort of components you have and how to service and repair them. You can also keep them open by your bike work area, they don't run out of power, and don't stop functioning when you spill oil or beer on them.

In the US, for mountain bikes, I've found "Zinn & the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance" to be a big help and very affordable. I believe the latest edition is from 2018, but the previous 2010 edition may also be useful if you have a 2009 or earlier era bike like I do.

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  • Books get ruined by oil (speaking from personal point of view: don't underestimate how clumsy one can be ... personal as "here I am"!). And working area sometimes is a corner of the shared basement, it is quite an effort to setup a bike work area if you never had one ...
    – EarlGrey
    Sep 3 at 4:11
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    Computers and tablets, on the other hand, are pretty oil resistant. Right?
    – ojs
    Sep 3 at 6:15
  • @ojs in absolute, they have okay-ish resistance, in relative terms to books, yes. And recent expensiv-ish (>300$) smartphones are on par with books, regading functionality after drops of ~1 meters. Don't take me wrong: books are useful. But we are animals, we have mirror neurons or something like that, seeing videos on youtube and 5 minutes later repeating the movements can be easier than seeing static images or reading the steps in a book while doing the movements. There must be a reason if IKEA still makes lot of money with the service "assembling the furnitures" :D !
    – EarlGrey
    Sep 3 at 6:48
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    @EarlGrey There must also be a reason Zinn keeps selling lots of books. I was suggesting the book as an option rather than a prescription. They have other advantages, such as random access and user-determined variable speed of use. I confess I'm quite puzzled about the downvote - perhaps it was the thought of spilling beer? :)
    – Armand
    Sep 3 at 9:52
  • Thanks, yeah I was actually thinking of reading up on some material online on how to repair bikes or videos, but a book is also a good idea as I can carry it downstairs to the garage.
    – RiCHiE
    Sep 3 at 10:17

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