The Dos and Don’ts of Crappy Bike Projects

My recent crappy 10-speed revitalization project has gotten me thinking about the many ways old bike projects (speeded and fixed) can go wrong. In an attempt to clear the air, in my own head if nowhere else, I would like to lay down a few dos and don’ts for these projects.

  1. Do use your existing parts inventory.

  2. I am guilty as sin, but I am also sorry for my transgressions. It is important to keep in mind, one of the reasons you are building an old bike is to demonstrate it value and usability after most would have discarded it. If you take an old crappy frame and put all new components on it, then your missing the point of the exercise.

  3. Don’t remove it’s identity.

  4. I see this so often, and I am not sure the motivation behind it. People for some reason always have to strip every indication of origin off the frame when they’re doing a build (fix conversions seem to be the worst offender). If you have an old Peugeot or Schwinn or Takara or Ross, or even Murray for that matter, do not go scrapping off all the decals in some feeble attempt to make it look “stealth” or to disguise it’s crappiness or to fight corporate greed. It’s just a bike and somebody had to build it, so they should be allowed to put their name on it – leave it there.

  5. Don’t repaint it.

  6. Why waste so much time stripping a frame that is 98% covered with a decent coat of hardened paint. The paint, if original, has lasted 10-40 years already! I doubt your ozone depleting, brain cell killing, makeshift, rattle can paint booth in your garage or basement will produce results as durable as what is already on the bike. If your paint is badly chipped, opt for some automotive touch up paint or Testors model paint and be done with it. If you still feel the urge to repaint the bike – FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, PAINT IT A COLOR! You’ve gone too far already, don’t wuss out and paint it WHITE!
    By disobeying Rule 3 you will also disobey Rule 2 – Not good!

  7. Do Accessories, Accessories, Accessories!

  8. I know the current bike fashion climate scrutinizes riders for pointless accessories(except spoke cards and toptube pads), but I say if you have to think twice about an accessory for your bike – than you had better just go with it. I mean the bike weighs forty pounds already, do not worry about the extra five to ten pounds of reflectors, handlebar mirrors, analog speedometers and chrome headlights! I can think of no better way to dive deeper into you existing parts inventory than to load up your new old ten-speed with every reflector and pie plate you have taken off your countless previous project bikes.

  9. Do be original.

  10. I know there is nothing new under the sun, but at least make an effort. Give us something to look at, don’t just do a fixie cause you want to experience that zen thing you’ve heard so much about. Do something you think is ridiculous and then go one step beyond it. It’s like my album rule, if you hate it at first you will love it longer.

  11. Don’t chop the drops

  12. Above all, do not chop and flop your drops! I love ugly bikes, but this is not the kind of ugly with which I(you) want to be associated.

I know most of you will dismiss my list as meaningless blather, but just try to bear these rules in mind on your next project. I look forward to hearing how much better you feel after heeding them.

  • Harv

    I agree with pretty much all of your points. However I would like to comment on two of them. Accessories – sure, period correct pieces really look good and remind the observer that this is an old bike. But if you are actually going to ride the thing, use the latest lamp technology and be safe and conspicuous. Touch-up paint? Nah – if its chipped, leave it chipped. I rub out the paint along with the bare steel spots, if any. Apply a good coat of wax and let those chips be badges of honor, earned in the heat of battle. Those touch-up spots look like an outbreak of measles on your bike. Unless you have the exact color (not easy) and feather the edges so as not to show a lump of paint.

  • The Ten-Speed Dreamer

    I only advocate the touch up paint to keep people from debadging and stripping their bike because of a few chips.