Thats why I almost always steer them towards 80's-90's (and early 00's) mountain bikes. Why? Several reasons:
1. they are typically abundant on craigslist
2. often undervalued
3. very versatile
I like this era of mountain bikes because with a few small modifications, you can get nearly all of the bells and whistles that you find on today's hybrid and touring bicycles but often for much less than you'd spend on a brand new bike.
One project that I've been particularly jazzed about lately is my wife's bike. With the help of Planet Bike and Amazon I have turned this forgotten old garage find into a sturdy, capable city cruiser and family tourer.
I originally bought this bike for $80! Considering how reliable and versatile it's been I consider that the steal of a century. In my earlier, less-experienced bike years I bought some really crappy bikes for my wife and finally the little experience I've gained has paid off.
Take a walk with me and I'll walk you through some of the features and upgrades I've made.
First off - handlebars. Originally they were your garden-variety flat bar which is fine for singular uses, but can be limiting in that it it forces the rider forward on the hands - a slightly more aggressive riding position. I swapped those out for some North Road touring type handlebars which allows the rider to sit more upright which is more comfortable (typically), especially when you aren't racing anywhere and time is not of the essence. I also outfitted the cockpit with a few creature comforts including the otterbox mount for her phone as well as a Planet Bike Lunch Box for wallet, keys, phone, sunscreen, snacks, etc. The Lunch Box is really roomy and could easily fit a small jacket as well. Love it.
Every bike needs a basket - or rather - you don't realize how handy having a front basket is until you have one on your bike. This is a wald basket mounted to a Sunlite front rack. This whole solution will set you back about $30 bucks and immediately turns your bike into a capable city bike. Throw a back pack in there or a sack of groceries and you are living like the Dutch already!
One thing that needed improvement was my wife's kickstand situation. She had the classic one-legged variety so we upped the ante with a double kickstand. It's definitely heavier and slightly bulky, but it's so easy to use and makes your bike really stable. This variety was pretty economical found on amazon here.
The pedals that came with the bike were plastic, and sorta narrow. This makes for a smaller area to place your foot and does give way to some flexing. For short trips it's not that big of a deal, but over the course of several days or with a heavy load the flexing can lead to expedited foot-fatigue. We opted for some wider pedals that give better support and would work with our favorite summer bike touring footwear.
One item of intriuge is this fun little number called a wheel stabilizer. Sort of an odd looking item, but with very nice benefits. It does two things:
- Stabilizes your steering when riding your bike with a load in the front (on a basket or rack).
- Stops your handlebars from swinging side to side when you dismount your bike.
Can you live with out this? Absolutely - but for $13 it's not going to break the bank and it is sort of fun to enhance your riding experience ever so subtly.
The caboose. Just a few things to note here. Added a lady specific saddle, rack, and fenders. All of the aforementioned items came from Planet Bike who I cannot endorse enough. They are right at the exact nexus of affordability and quality, and their customer service is second to none. Fenders are nice, year round and for such a simple rack it has performed even under the most formidable loads.
Here's the whole bike. It's nothing fancy and wouldn't win any second glances amongst bike snobs - but it was super afordable, is comfortable, and is incredibly capable of nearly any task my wife uses it for. I love this bike.