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How to Revamp Your Old Bike for Dirt Cheap

By Christopher Ashley

Hands up if you’ve got a bike you can’t bring yourself to part with. You may have even taken pictures of it, ready to slap it on eBay but ‘something’ stays your hand and you end up wheeling the bike back into the garage.

Like an old friend, taking an old bike out can make you feel young again. And you don’t need to spend a fortune reigniting an old relationship.

New saddle

Shopping for saddles is a lot of fun. Even the most expensive saddles are a fraction of the cost of a new bike and can drastically alter the quality and comfort of a ride. I loved the leather Brooks Saddle on my Brompton so much that I bought one for my (fair-weather) Norco mountain bike.

Find a bike shop like High Gear Bikes – they know all about saddles.

My Norco is my local-errand cruiser bike, and I learned that leather doesn’t pinch natural fibres the way synthetic saddles do, so my jeans and chinos last a lot longer. Consequently, I reach for my Norco a lot more often than I used to, and that alone adds value to my original purchase.

Brake pads, chain, and new a cassette

These are the things that wear out the quickest. It’s amazing how late people leave it to swap out inexpensive brake pads, especially given that old and worn brake pads could start damaging your disc brake or wheel rims. A new chain will help reduce the rate of wear on your rear cassette.

Even the most expensive chains are less than £30, and you know what? A new rear cassette isn’t that expensive either. Each of these new parts will breath new life into your bike’s performance, for a minimal cost – and reduce more expensive costs further down the line.

Buy a bike stand

You take your bike out to the garden to wash it. You turn it upside down and set about hosing down the drive chain and bottom bracket – you pat yourself on the back for not using a pressure washer. You turn your bike right side up to discover you’ve scuffed the saddle and bar tape. Go buy a bike stand.

A decent stand needn’t break the bank.

A deep clean is so cheap it’s almost free – and getting your bike showroom-clean is a zen-like experience – and gets you intimate with the deeper workings of your ride. A bike stand lets you clean properly, without damaging your bike, and giving you access to everything you need all at once. Repeat after me – a clean bike is a new bike. A clean bike is a new bike.

Old frame, new components

There are plenty of people willing to offer advice on fitting modern components to old frames. That TI-Raleigh Pro Team bike probably cost your dad a small fortune in the early ‘80s – but the truth is that modern budget components will match the high-quality performance of a vintage pro-groupset.

Renovation done right, on a budget.

For a start, cleats hadn’t even been invented yet, and aluminium wasn’t commonplace. And let’s be honest – did your dad buy the fully-optioned race version made famous by Joop Zoetemelk? Or did he forego the Campagnolo Record for a more forgiving Gruppo? Have fun doing your homework and remember, the more time you put into your bike, the more fun it will be when you finally get to ride it.