Bike Salvage: New Life for a Dumpster Discard, Apr 07 | New Life for a Dumpster Discard


Tyler Smith shows off the perfectly good bike he patched together from mostly old and some new parts.

I found a sports bike in a Dumpster. Now, I had wanted to buy one, but they cost $450 or more new. So I went to AJ’s Bicycle Shop in Fairfield and told him about the bike I’d found. He said I got lucky—the bike happened to be the right size for me and in good enough shape to be worth salvaging. Most of the parts on the bike we could keep, although the fork, chain, all of the cables, the pedals, front brake, and some parts on the steering column needed to be replaced.

Fortunately, the gears were fine, needing only some cleaning. Other than a few dents, the frame was in working order, too. The tires were okay, but I decided to replace them anyway. To match the new fork with the old steering column, AJ had to mix and match some parts from both to get it to work, but it did. He also had to improvise in other ways, like running a cable under the bike frame. It looks funny, but it works.

I also had a cheap rack put on the bike. But once I put it on, the side bags wouldn’t reach down to a point which they could latch. So I took AJ’s advice, went to the hardware store, and got a chain (three lengths turned out to be enough) and some hooks. I put hooks on the chain and bent them with a pair of pliers to make sure they’ll stay. This cost me about $1.

Altogether, the repairs cost me about $250. I think of it as saving $200, since I ended up with the equivalent of a $450 sports bike. And what with the price of gas, it’s easy to see how this bike can pay for itself.

Now I learned in my economics class in college that if you spend a little more money and buy something of higher quality, it will last longer. My rebuilt bike is a better value than a cheap bike at a discount store, which will break down quickly and isn’t designed to be repaired—since they want you to replace it with another one of their cheap bikes.

We live in a country where we’re encouraged to buy everything new. In most of the world, however, fixing something that is broken and getting it to work again is standard operating procedure. That’s an approach that more Americans would be wise to embrace.

For more articles on bikes and biking, see Buying a Bike, Biking in Southeast Iowa, and Commute by Bike.