I found myself in need of a bike, but buying a new one is out of the question. So two possibilities remain:

  1. buy a used one for a low price;
  2. fix one of my old bikes.

But here comes another problem (and my question): how old is too old? I mean, apart from comparing the price, how do I know that fixing a bike is just a waste of time and money because it's simply too old?

What should I consider for changing my choice from "fix it" to "buy it"? Rust? Other things?

  • Since this is my first question on here, feel free to improve my tags, I don't know them too well. :)
    – Alenanno
    Jun 2, 2012 at 9:41
  • 2
    Welcome to bicycles.sx! :)
    – Reid
    Jun 2, 2012 at 17:48
  • I liked the "How to decide if an old bike is worth refurbishing?" title better. I'm not quite sure what a "Point of No Return" really is.
    – amcnabb
    Jun 4, 2012 at 21:53
  • @amcnabb The past title missed the point of my question but mine wasn't good either, so I fixed it. By the way, Point of No Return.
    – Alenanno
    Jun 4, 2012 at 22:13
  • It's not that I have no familiarity with the phrase "point of no return" but rather that it's a little too figurative to have a clear meaning. Anyway, I like your new edit.
    – amcnabb
    Jun 4, 2012 at 22:22

4 Answers 4


I volunteer at a community bike shop. We take old donated bikes and fix them up for sale, so I have a lot of experience with this exact dilemma. Here are a few reasons why I will stop working on a bike I am refurbishing:

  1. Frame has worse than just surface rust: i.e. extensive pitting and / or holes.
  2. Seized parts, especially if they need replacing. Sometimes a seized seatpost isn't so bad, as long as the bike is sold along with that information. However if the bottom bracket needs service and can't be removed, the frame is scrap. The same goes for quill stems that can't be removed, locking the fork into the frame.
  3. Damaged threads. If it's not possible to rethread an interface that has been wrecked (e.g. cross threaded), scrap the frame.
  4. Bent or cracked tubing. The odd dent is fine, but if a bike has obviously been bent in an accident I scrap the frame. Same goes for tubes with any cracks in them, even if it's fixable. Obviously any carbon frame with cracks is worthless.

I'd also add that the original quality of the bike plays into these determinations as well. I will spend a lot less time working on the seized seatpost of an old BSO.

I'll also point out that a lot of these issues can be solved with extreme effort, e.g. replacing tubes in the frame. It just isn't worth it in this context and I suspect the same guideline applies for most folks tinkering at home.


There is, unfortunately, a degree of "planned obsolescence" with bikes. For better or for worse (I haven't figured out which yet), bike technology (which used to move at glacial speed) now turns over every 5 years or so, and once you get about 3 generations back (ca 15 years) parts become much harder to find.

In terms of condition, it somewhat depends on your skill level for making repairs -- a full cycle shop rehab will cost you several hundred dollars, making a "bargain" much less so.

The ideal bike to find is a reasonably good quality one (that fits you!) that was ridden twice and then stored in a dry garage or basement for 10 years. You'll need new tires and some lube on the chain and cables, but otherwise you're in good shape.

  • Thanks... :) This one is rusted here and there... I think that with some fixes it could still live, at least for a while... :P
    – Alenanno
    Jun 2, 2012 at 12:46
  • 3
    Note that I can still easily find parts for a 20 y.o. bike...it's the ones in the middle that can be difficult.
    – Ken Hiatt
    Jun 2, 2012 at 12:47
  • I agree with Ken -- English thread bottom brackets have been common for decades, along with square taper spindles. Similarly, chainrings that use a five bolt pattern... Brakes are a different matter, if you find one of the U/under chainstays frames -- otherwise disc/rim mounts are consistent. Headsets are generally threadless, for ~15 years -- diameter is a different matter though.
    – OMG Ponies
    Jun 2, 2012 at 15:29
  • So I found an ideal bike?
    – Kalamane
    Jun 5, 2012 at 21:56
  • @Kalamane -- Yeah, that's a fairly nice bike you have. I wouldn't spend a lot of money on it if something breaks, but with care it should last a long time and be quite serviceable. Jun 6, 2012 at 0:35

There is no such thing as "too old" technically speaking -- however 2 things worth considering:

  • too old because out of fashion

  • too old and hard to get compatible components (for example I have 14-years old bike, and I cannot get a clamp for seatpost -- nowadays the diameter is bigger)

Now, since we solved "too old" thing -- there is only one issue -- it is simply damaged bicycle. For example if you are looking for a frame only, broken handlebar is OK, but if there is corrosion on the frame it is no-go deal.

So you have to "simply" to look at all signs of damage at those parts which are important for you. Or take a risk, and simply assume "3-years old bike cannot be damaged too much" (which does not have to be the truth).

If you don't want to change your bicycle entirely, like from 26" to 29", I would fix my own one. But that's just me.

  • I don't mind the bike being "out of fashion"... I'm more concerned about the security side. :D Should I upload a pic?
    – Alenanno
    Jun 2, 2012 at 12:46
  • I doubt I will see a crack in the picture, if you don't see it with your own eyes. So again, if you are not thinking about "revolution" and your bike is not damaged, I will keep fixing this or that. Btw. you didn't write WHY you need a "new" bike, it might be helpful to know the reason. Jun 2, 2012 at 13:19
  • Because I'm without one... :P
    – Alenanno
    Jun 2, 2012 at 14:17
  • I am completely lost -- if you don't have a bike you don't have a choice, you have to buy one. However you previously wrote "fix one of my old bikes." How do intend to fix old bike while not having one? Assuming there is some misunderstanding here, and in fact you have a bike I rephrase -- what is wrong with your bike? Jun 2, 2012 at 14:37
  • Sorry, poor choice of words... By "not having one" I mean I don't have a proper one. I have 3 bikes but all of them have problems: one is very old (unfixable), the other one has problems, and the "best" one just lost a pedal which cannot be inserted back because the grooves are gone and I cannot screw it in.
    – Alenanno
    Jun 2, 2012 at 14:41

I have just restored my bike and have a few tips:

  • If there is rust on the frame, don't worry -- just look around in shops such as B&Q for wet and dry sandpaper which you can use to get rid of the rust.

  • If it is chrome, don't use the sandpaper because it will get rid of the chrome. Just use metal polish and this will get rid of the rust but not all of it.

All the other things don't worry about you would be able to get them cheap enough.

  • Rust typically isn't structural. As for other things, you still do need to think about it -- the costs can add up, and some upkeep has to be done for safety reasons.
    – Batman
    Jul 17, 2017 at 20:18
  • Useful products for reducing rust spots on chrome are "Barkeeper's Friend" scouring powder and "wood bleach" products containing "oxalic acid" (sold in liquid form at paint stores). Jul 18, 2017 at 3:01

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