Fixing up an Old Bike: Is it Worth it?

The Bike

I own a 15 year old CCM mountain bike, which I rode as my only bike for about 11 of these years. Until I got new bikes in 2010 and 2011, this bike was mostly ridden for leisure and a bit of commuting to school. I started commuting to work by bike and quickly realized this bike wasn’t going to cut it. It was slow. It was heavy. Older women on cruiser bikes were passing me (no joke, they really did; multiple times).

Now the bike has been sitting in my basement gathering dust. I stole the tires from it to make winter studded tires for my new MTB, so it doesn’t even have tires anymore. I want to fix it up and sell it, but the question is whether it’s worth fixing or not.

RIP the CCM Riptide or Resurrect it? Is it belly-up because it's dead?

RIP the CCM Riptide or Resurrect it? Is it belly-up because it’s dead?

What’s wrong with this bike?

Let’s assume that it is 1999 and technology hasn’t advanced to 2014. That way I don’t have to write about all the old technology and crappy materials used (OK, so even in 1999 there were better materials, but hey, it’s a department-store bike, what do you expect?). So let’s turn off Blue (Da Ba Dee) and inspect the bike for mechanical problems; or maybe crank When World’s Collide?

  1. The frame is in OK shape, it’s heavy as a tank but it’s not bent or rusted. Good.
  2. Rims are both a little wobbly, but they’re round on average. One rim strip crumbled to dust when inspecting.
  3. Rear axle is bent, so you have to rotate it a certain way to line up the wheel with the brakes.
  4. Brake cable frayed to almost no strands, but pads were replaced not too long ago.
  5. Crank hardly turns, it doesn’t spin freely when the chain is off and just binds up in at least two positions.
  6. Large chainring is bent and/or warped and wobbles side-to-side. Some teeth are bent. Possible bent spindle.
  7. Grip Shifter “autoshifts” thru gears 1 to 4 when pedaling. Broken housing and shifter no longer “clicks” to index. Other side grip shift has a broken housing too.
  8. Front and rear derailleurs are OK and they both work.
  9. Handlebars (complete with bull horn bar ends) are straight and steering is OK.

Wow, no wonder old ladies were passing me. With the knobby mountain tires and a crank that doesn’t turn, it’s a wonder I was able to get to work and back the first month of commuting in 2010. BTW, my average speed at that time was 17 km/h (it is now around 28 with the commuter bike).

What’s worth fixing?

This is hard to tell on a bike like this. It was never an expensive bike (I didn’t buy it, but I now know bike quality). It was from Canadian Tire. It’s heavy and it’s a beast. What’s worth fixing depends on how much money you can sell it for, how expensive are the replacement parts, and how much work you can do yourself.

Let’s say I can sell this bike for $75 in good working order. I don’t want to spend more than about $25 on parts, and $0 on labour. That way, with my estimated profit of $50 (my time not withstanding), I can afford half a pair of cycling pants (yay!). Or a quarter of a pair of nice rain-proof ones. Maybe I’ll have to buy my wife a gift instead, just cause she’s so nice to let me have two bikes around (three, including this beater!).

We have a nice little bike shop that sells used parts for cheap, called Natural Cycle. They check them and throw out broken parts, organize them, and let you browse for whatever you want. Most parts can be had for less than ten bucks. For instance, I bought two used tires for $2 ea (shown in the pic above). New tires are at least $15, but more like $25-35 for starters. OK, so a few used parts should be within budget, as long as there aren’t too many.

If you have the know-how and basic tools, you should be able to get an old bike sale-worthy to some degree, without spending too much money. I am not willing to buy any specialty tools (crank pullers, Bottom Bracket or Headset wrenches, freewheel removers) for this bike because none of our three newer, modern bikes have common parts that the older tools would be used for. There are community-run do-it-yourself bike sheds where you can go to fix your bike, if you can find them, and if they’re open when you want to go. Paying for labour on an old bike is a waste of money, so I won’t even bother.

The Plan

The plan is to fix safety issues first (brakes), then do other cheap fixes until the bike can be ridden (i.e. sell-able). By no means am I going to fix everything that’s wrong, or upgrade any older tech to new tech, even though in many cases you can. Some older bikes have nice frames that make it worthwhile to upgrade and keep for yourself, but in this case, the bike is just so-so and not worth upgrading. I want to spend the minimum cash and time to get this bike running.

Brakes, tires and tubes (patched, not new), used grip-shifters (if I can find them), cleaning, oiling, and adjusting will be the extent of work I put into the bike. Let’s see if I can do it!

Replacement Parts Costs

I got a new brake cable for $2 to replace the super-frayed and dangerous finger-poker. Please, don’t ride or sell a bike with bad brake cables, you or someone else is going to grab a handful of brakes in an emergency stop and sail right into a car; they’re $2, just do it. I found the tires for $2 ea, and the two grip-shifters (two different brands, but who cares?) for $3.5 ea. Plus new shifter cables for $1.70 ea. So, total investment so-far is $16.40 plus tax, so $18.50.

Just for comparison, I priced out a new set of 3×7 speed grip shifters and they were $22.50 + tax. Not unreasonable for a newer bike, but too much for this one.

Replacing the Grip Shifters

The biggest job on the bike so far is to replace the grip shifters. Grip shifters were prolific on mountain bikes during the late 90’s but have made a comeback due to the fatbike craze. For that reason, it’s worthwhile learning how to replace/install a grip shifter. Because it is an involved process, I decided to write it up in a separate post, here. A 1250-word post; sorry about that, folks.

Grip Shifter and grip.

Grip Shifter and grip. You can see the cracked shifter housing. OK, the bar-ends in this picture are INSIDE the shifter, but I just did that for fun one day. They were outboard before.

Newly installed Handy Shift grip shifter.

Newly installed Handy Shift grip shifter.


Derailleur Adjustment

With the shifters installed, I went to work adjusting the front and rear derailleurs. My grip-shift post has links to resources for doing this. I had everything working just right, with the new shifters actually staying in the gear I put them in. It was pretty sweet! The bike has never shifted like this for probably 8 years now. Then I went and wrecked it.

I learned about setting the height and angle of the front derailleur and noticed that mine was just a hair off. I broke my own rule: not to spend too much time on the bike. I wanted perfection. On an imperfect bike. After loosening the pinch bolt holding the derailleur on, I adjusted the position to get it just right. I tightened the bolt. And it stripped. The derailleur and the bolt stripped and now it wouldn’t stay on the bike. Aw crap! Why did I go and try to tweak a perfectly good adjustment one more time? I pulled the derailleur off and threw it in the garbage. Now I had to go back and find another used derailleur, adding to the cost and time to fix this bike. I moved on to wheels and tires before I kicked something.

Stripped derailleur pinch bolt and bracket.

Stripped derailleur pinch bolt and bracket.

After I cooled down a bit and thought it through, I realized a stripped derailleur pinch bolt wasn’t the end of the road for the part. I could just drill it out and use a bolt and nut instead. I fished it out of the garbage, drilled an oversize hole, found a bolt and nut and I was back in business. It was back on the bike and adjusted in a matter of a half hour. “Whew! I almost lost my cool there.”

Derailleur bracket drilled oversize.

Derailleur bracket drilled oversize.

New bolt and nut for derailleur mounting.

New bolt and nut for derailleur mounting.

Back in business.

Back in business.


Wheels, Tires, and Brakes

In between fiddling with the front derailleur, I started putting on my toonie tires and patched a tube. I replaced a brake cable and adjusted the front and rear brakes (as much as one can, given the warped and wobbly rims). I had already installed the front tire, but noticed that on the rear rim, the rim strip (the rubber part that covers the spokes) was ripped above many of the spokes. When I pulled it off, it practically disintegrated in my fingers. I decided to use duct tape as a rim strip and just get on with it. Hopefully the front one wasn’t bad and the spokes don’t cause a flat.

Finished Bike

I can’t really test ride it until April when the snow’s gone though, but a few laps around the basement proved that I now have a working bike that shifts and has brakes. I think it’s sell-able. I’ll keep you posted if it sells and for how much. Here are some pics of the final product. In the meantime I’ll try not to touch it anymore. Leave well-enough alone.

CCM Riptide, brought back from the dead.

CCM Riptide, brought back from the dead.

Ready for the open road. Although the "aero" bar ends might prove difficult to handle. I may switch them back in the name of safety.

Ready for the open road. Although the “aero” bar ends might prove difficult to handle. I may switch them back in the name of safety.


Final Thoughts

Remember how I said this bike was a heavy beast? After fixing it up, I decided to weigh it. It comes in at 36.6lb, with no accessories but a kickstand. This doesn’t seem all that bad, but then I weighed my current commuter bike: 25.2lb. That’s 11.4 lb lighter! That’s 31% lighter than the CCM. I’m sure there are track bikes or aero bikes that weigh 11.4lb, the difference between these two bikes. Crazy!

Taking the difference between me+bike and just me, we get the weight of the bike: 36.6lb.

Taking the difference between me+bike and just me, we get the weight of the bike: 36.6lb.

Update: Is it worth it?

Turns out, after a bit more tinkering (I wasn’t happy with the rough pedaling of the crank) I was able to sell the bike for $80. The person who bought it was very happy and was seen later riding up and down the street on it.

The biggest part of fixing up this bike was labor, so if you’re not handy and would have to take it to a shop it would not be worth it. The labor cost alone would be more than $80. As it is, fixing things is like a hobby for me. I enjoy it, so labor does not factor in as a cost.

I spent $18.50 on parts and sold it for $80. I had fun and learned as I went. Yeah, I’d say it was worth it to me.


About Kurt (Lightning) Bredeson

I am a married man, a follower of Jesus, a Mechanical Engineer, and a lover of cars, cycling and music. Things haven't always been easy; things haven't always been hard. I'm just trying my best in this life to enjoy what's been given to me by God and make the most of it.
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9 Responses to Fixing up an Old Bike: Is it Worth it?

  1. Chris Drew says:

    I’m looking to do a similar repair on a CCM riptide. Do you remember what the frame size was? The CCM riptide I’m looking to get is a medium.

    • I’m not sure what frame size it was, but I’m guessing a large because I’m close to 6′ and it fit me perfectly. I think it was a good bike, back in the day, around 2000 when I got it. It just wore out over years of use, abuse, and locking it to a railing all winter, every winter.

  2. chris says:

    My brother peter had a similar bike and his was pure junk and clunky, very poor quality and poor performance, he made out to everyone that his bike was the best. No way. Pffft as if.his bike was far to inferior and quality lacking.he now has a $350 bike with full suspension and all the bling, even worse. And he wants to put a tiny 2 stroke motor on is one try hard,

  3. Update: I sold this bike for $80 in April, so all-in-all not a bad deal. If I hadn’t fixed it up, it would have went to the scrap yard or out on the curb for give-away weekend. The guy I sold it to was happy to have it and I saw him riding up and down the street for a while after he got it.

  4. -yo' mama, says:

    you definitely need to clean that mirror; or how can one check their hair or mustache? just think: could that be the difference between a sale or not? haha.

    • Yeah, I have no idea what’s on that mirror! I’ve cleaned it over the years but it’s never been that good. I’ll definitely be cleaning the bike in spring before trying to sell it. Now if we could just sell our car for a reasonable price…

  5. tuckamoredew says:

    Yes, there isn’t much point in sinking a lot of money in a BSO (bike-shaped-object) like that. Still, bikes of that sort serve a useful purpose for beginning or casual cyclists. I spend my first few years of bike commuting on similar machines.

    • It’s kind of funny; I’ve always biked around, but didn’t really fall head-over-heels for cycling until I got a new bike in 2010. The difference was fantastic! My wife had a similar experience. I wanted to get her to ride, so we could go together, but the Zellers bike we bought her was terribly slow and heavy. She really disliked riding until getting her new bike in 2010 as well. I think slow, heavy, department-store bikes don’t really help much to get people started. Maybe they cause some folks to stop after buying and trying cycling. Problem is, I don’t think a lot of people are willing to spend double for something they’ve never tried before. If they did, it would be a way better experience from the start.


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