Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Freecycle Bicycle

Introducing my latest folly (number 3, if you’re keeping count). This one was the cheapest yet – totally free – but has the potential to end up costing more than the other two, which would qualify it as a true folly. I have no intention of letting that happen, however (fear not, dear husband).

I've been looking for an inexpensive secondhand bike for my daughter to keep at the summer house we share with my family, and I finally found something suitable. The bike is a kid’s (24-inch wheels) Diamondback Recoil DS of unknown age. It was acquired from a member of my local Freecycle group a few weeks ago. (Freecycle is a network of people whose common goal is to keep usable items out of landfills by offering them free of charge to others in their local area. Find a group near you on the Freecycle website.) I had replied to an offer of a “Girls 24-inch Mountain Bike”, and when I arrived to pick it up, I had no idea what to expect, as I hadn’t asked any questions about it. I was pleased to see the Diamondback brand and the simple style of the bike, but not so thrilled to see some rust and mud. Still, it was free, and I could always Freecycle it again if it needed more work than I could handle.

My daughter had a lukewarm reaction to the bike’s appearance, but was still excited that she had just received a “new” bike. When we took the bike out to start cleaning it last weekend, she had already devised a plan of action to improve its appearance. The faded neon pink decals just had to go, she said, so she plans to peel them off and replace them with white tropical flower decals from the automotive aisle in Target. However, we both agreed that this guy should stay:

Before we put any time or money into the bike, I tried to do a quick assessment of what needed to be done and whether it was worth keeping. Two things were obviously needed – new grips on the handlebars (the current ones are worn through the ends) and at least one new tube (the back tire is about halfway deflated, but we were unable to get any air into it because the valve is damaged). Although my daughter would prefer to get rid of the knobby tires, they seem to be in good condition and will stay for now. The frame is steel and quite heavy, but I saw no signs of rust there (only on the wheel rims and hardware such as screws and bolts). The saddle is faded and has a small tear, but is still in good shape. I was relieved to find that the seatpost was not stuck in its current position. I adjusted the saddle height and then asked my daughter to take a very slow ride around our house on the grass to test the gears and brakes. She reported that the gears worked fine, but the brakes were “grabby”. I’ll have to consult my Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair to learn how to adjust the cantilever brakes, but at least we know the rear derailleur is working (we’ll test the front one after we replace the tube). I’m hoping the cables will just need lubrication, but I might attempt to replace them myself with more help from the book. I will also have to do some research on the suspension fork, since I know nothing about them. Hopefully, it won’t be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. So far, the bike seems worth keeping. At the very least, it will give me a lesson in evaluating used bikes. At the very most, it will become a safe, comfortable bike for my daughter at very little expense. Like any fixer-upper, though, it may have a few surprises in store for us.


  1. I like the Freecycle idea, I should try to find something like that here too. Should get a bike repair book myself (and more tools). Have fun pimping up your daughter's new bike.

  2. I actually made a commitment to freecycle a bicycle about an hour ago. One of my wife's friends was over and she said she wanted to start riding again. I have two or three ladies bikes I've picked up cheap or free, and I brought the one out that is in the best shape. It just needs a little cleanup. So in the next week or two I'll take it over to her.

  3. @anna - My bike repair book is really helpful with our modern bikes, but I think I need to find a vintage repair book to help me with my vintage Raleigh. And yes, more tools, too - my adjustable wrench can't do everything!

    @Doohickie - Now that's how to promote bike riding! Two more bikes were offered on Freecycle this morning (with very little info), and I was wishing I knew someone who would use them. But our garage is already too full for me to hold them till I find a taker.

  4. eny 1 gt a free bikes dat day dnt wnt eny more in b'ham plz contat me plz at

    and can deliva plz im in need ov a free bmx bike

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