Craigslist: Not Just for NSA hookups anymore

After completing my first (metric) century, I’ve feel like I’ve been bitten by the road bike bug. It’s been five years since I bought a new bike, and that seems like a reasonable amount of time to wait. Besides, think of all the money I’m saving by not owning a car, right? So, what kind of bike to get? Well, I spent an entire post on that a while ago, and now Project Cignal is sitting down in the bike rack at Recycle-a-Bike, waiting to be dismantled.

In the meantime, I’ve got bike fever. I’m always checking out other people’s rides to see what else is out there. I probably look like I’m leering at cyclists that I pass on the street, or I look like I’m scoping out bike racks for something to steal, but I’ve just got the craving for a new ride. I’ve even taken a few test rides at a few different LBSs. I’ve kept the test rides pretty short so I don’t feel like I’m leading the LBS on. Then I remembered that there’s this thing called Craigslist where people sell all of the crap they don’t want anymore.  If they live in a big city, they may even write an entertaining ad with carefully composed pictures. We’re not so lucky here in RI. I’ve found some interesting things including a Surly Pacer frameset. I kind of like the idea of Surly bikes, but I’m not sure if it would be the right bike for me. Basically, they make their bikes out of steel and put basic, no-nonsense parts on them. They’re not made for racing, they are made for people to enjoy riding. They also seem to have a very loyal following, almost like one of the hand-built American bikeframe makers (except Surlys are made in Taiwan like 75% of the bikes of the world, thus they cost a fraction of a US made bike) and I saw tons of them in Portland, each one looked like it was well taken care of and well loved (I’m totally not projecting here, right?) Since my Portland trip, I’ve seen a few of them around town. My small LBS carries them, but they basically only order one when someone wants one because they are kind of a specialty item.

I dropped by the small LBS to see if I was crazy to buy a frameset and then hire them to put together a bike. (In bike parlance, this is known as “building” or “building up a bike.” It sounds way cooler than “assembling” which is more or less what it is.) Basically, I want a road bike or a sport bike or possibly a touring bike (still not sure of the difference there), something with drop handlebars, but not a super-aggressive racing bike. I want this next bike to be significantly better than my current Roadmaster. But what the hell do I mean by that? What will I get from spending $1,500 on components that I wouldn’t get from spending $1,000? How about just spending $1,000 on a complete bike? You always get a better deal when you buy a complete bike from a shop, because the manufacturer has done so much of the work (and buys the components at a volume discount). But it may not be exactly how I want it (I know I’d have to get a different saddle, for example). Would I notice the difference between a Shimano 105 and my current Shimano Tiagra? Hell if I know. And then there’s bike geometry! So many thousands of little differences: this bike has a longer head tube, but the bottom bracket is higher, while the other bike has a sloping top tube and no toe clearance. I think I’m running into the paradox of choice: i.e. too many choices leave the consumer feeling unsatisfied no matter the choice made.

Speaking of unsatisfied, back to our old friend: Craigslist. Frankly, I’m a little surprised at the quality of bike that I’ve seen in just a a couple weeks of keeping an eye on the postings. Sure there’s tons of crap BMX bikes, shitty full-suspension mountain bikes, and more big-box store BSOs than I’d care to admit exist in this world; but within that, there’s a few gems. Or at least, bikes that sold new for $1,500 or more.

Like this Specialized Roubaix, a full carbon fiber frame & fork with Shimano Ultegra & 105 components. I’m guessing it retailed anywhere from $2,000 to $2,500 plus an extra $150 for the pedals. Here’s my favorite part of the posting, “LOW MILES!!! Only been riden [sic] in a few group rides, approx. 100-120 miles and has never been riden hard.” This guy dropped maybe $2,500 on a bike so he could ride it in group rides. Now, in all fairness, maybe he has another bike that he rides on a regular basis or something. But really, why would you do that? I’d read about people who decide they want to start biking, so they drop a ton of cash in order to get the fanciest bike they can, only to let it sit and collect dust in the garage. But I didn’t think there would be so many of them!

How about this post. I’ll save you the link, here’s the full text: “2008 cervelo P2C – $2200 Bike barely used with Dura Ace components. Bottle cages and aero cages included. 51cm.” What the hell? How do you buy a bike with one of the most high-end component groups available – and then never ride it?

I’m tired of linking, so here’s a few select quotes from my perusal of the bike listing:

This bike has only 15miles on it [on a Fuji road bike]

Custume Bike4 sale

i have a 2009 stolen pattywagon frame no parts i only rode this frame twice lookin for 250 also have a 07 fit trail 2 its not in the best condition i thought i had parts to fix it but i dont sellin it 100 bucks

this bike used to be my everyday bike but since ive got a car i have no use for it i gave up bmx and into dirtbiking so any reasonable offer wont be denied 200 obo

Girls first bike Very nice. Shwinn Helmut included

Okay, enough with making fun of peoples’ spelling errors. Here’s one more. “It only has about 250 miles on it. The bike has Shimano 105 front derailer, 105 crank set, and 105 shifters. The rear derailleur is Shimano Ultegra sl and the brakes are Tektro R520 Dual Pivot.” $750.  Hmmm…. I wonder if I could take the components from this bike and put them on a different frame….

Shit. Now I’m just talking crazy. What sort of rabbit hole have I fallen through?

I’m also starting to think: There sure are a lot of semi-expensive, barely ridden road bikes for sale on the craigslist. Are there that many idiots out there, or is there just something inherently uncomfortable about these bikes?

You know what I don’t see? Basic steel touring and sport bikes. Maybe I’m onto something here. Or maybe there are just a lot of idiots in the world.


Update: I drafted this post almost two weeks ago, and since then I emailed about a few of the bikes mentioned above. None of the road bike owners got back to me – probably sold by now. I did have a brief correspondence with the Surly Pacer owner, we even went so far as to arrange a day (but not a time or place) for me to check out the frame. Then he flaked out on me – not sure what is up with that. So, no frameset build-up for me… at least not yet.


One more gem from the “Bicycles” section of Craigslist:


14 responses to “Craigslist: Not Just for NSA hookups anymore

  1. I think you’re on to something.

    Steel Touring Frame.

    A Surly Long Haul Trucker loves the open road, is willing to haul goods and is practical enough to ride daily. I took mine on your metric century today (minus a few km, only 90) and we both had a lot of fun. You may find it worth considering.

    I think the big part quality/$ ratio = weight. You’ll pay a lot more for a few less grams.

    As far as geometry/bike fit goes, if you tri-anglulate between Sheldon Brown, Rivendell and Peter White you’ll hear enough about geometry to know where further to look. Or at least what to look further for. ‘Least that’s what I did.

    As for a new bike, I’d say let find a frame that fits your needs and pay Recycle a Bike to teach you turn it into your bike(build, I beleive is the word). They’ll be constructive with your money and you’ll love having the expertise.

    But checking the bikes on craigslist is an addiction, if you find a cure for that, PLEASE let me know.

    • The more I think about it, the more I’m giving up on the weight issue (at least for this next bike). There’s still that question of quality, however. As I said in my response to Noah’s comment: what do I get from a step-up in components? Although it would be tempting to pick up a $2000 road bike for $800, it sounds like most of those are not the right bike for me. I’m starting to think that there are some reasons we don’t see many late-model touring bikes for sale on CL. 1. There’s not that many sold in the first place? 2. It sounds like people like them and hold onto them!
      I’m not sure if I’m ready to buy a new frame and new components have Recycle-A-Bike put them together. I hope to have a “beater” bike in time for winter and I’m hoping to work with RAB on that. I’d love something with a 3-speed hub shifter, but it doesn’t look like they get many of those. I’ll keep watching CL for one!
      I’m glad to hear that you took the same route as my metric century. There’s a real feeling of accomplishment when you see that “Welcome to Connecticut” sign!

  2. Generally, “road bike” means “drop bars”, and they’re roughly categorized into: Track, Racing, Cyclocross and Touring.

    Track bikes are very light fixed gear bikes. Racing bikes are usually light and unforgiving, usually with a double/compact crank and 10 gears in the back.

    Cyclocross bikes are usually heavier and often built on a touring-worthy frame. They still have an aggressive geometry. The short wheelbase is great for technical terrain, and they often keep the sportier components on board. They often use cantilever brakes and always have more clearance for wider knobby tires. Basically, a Cyclocross bike is a good all-season/cross-country bike with drop bars and no suspension. They’re popular for commuters who want just one bike. Put slick tires on, and they’re pretty quick. Put knobbies on and ride through the winter or hit the trails. Examples: Redline Conquest, Specialized Tricross, Kona Jake.

    I really like touring bikes. They are heavier and more robust, but aren’t built to be as fast as road racing bikes. They’re not “slow” by my standards at least. Touring bikes usually have:
    * Drop bars for multiple hand positions
    * A more relaxed geometry for comfort. Longer wheelbase, higher handlebars and a shorter top tube.
    * Ample eyelets for racks and fenders
    * Clearance for wide tires
    * More gears. A triple crank, generally 3×8 or 3×9 is common.

    Trek 520, Surly Long Haul Trucker, Jamis Aurora, and Kona Sutra have been popular for quite a while.

    • Thanks Noah. I think I need to take more test rides and not be shy about taking a bike for a longer period of time. It sounds like a touring bike will be the way I want to go. I should just give up caring about weight issues. The main reason I’m concerned about weight is that I want to go for longer distances with as little fatigue as possible. I’d also like to take a hill at something faster than 8 mph. Maybe I should worry about my training more than my bike, right? I’ll check out the cyclocross bikes as well, just to see if I like how they feel. If only the bike shops were open today or tomorrow! Any thoughts on the component level question? What would I get from a 105 group that I wouldn’t get from a Tiagra? It seems like many of the touring bikes choose what Shimano classifies as their “mountain bike” components instead of a “road” group. In that case, what do I get from Deore XT instead of Deore? BTW: it’s good to see that you are back on the saddle after your encounter with the deer. [For those of you who don’t follow Noah’s blog, you should check out his post for a thrilling account of what happens when a cyclist and a deer meet on the road.]

  3. My Trek 1200 came with a lot of tiagra stuff: STI Levers, Brakes, and front derailleur. RD is 105 (no clue why). For some stuff, the difference is substantial. The tiagra brake calipers bent and got all torn up pretty quickly. I replaced them with 105s, which look and feel much beefier. The STI Levers, though, have been just fine for 12,000+ miles. Deraillurs, particularly rear ones, are much nicer at the 105 level than tiagra. I suggest going to a bike shop and seeing if you can look over parts to compare the different levels.

    Touring bikes often go for some MTB components. A lot of these are entry-level from Shimano, but they’re plenty durable.

    • I have 4 LBSs to chose from, 2 big and 2 small. I’d prefer to buy from the one that is closest to me because I can walk home from there when I need to leave my bike at the shop. I think it might be worth it to at least spend a day testing bikes at the two larger LBSs just to see what I like/dislike about their selection.

      When you say that rear derailleurs are much nicer at the 105 level, what do exactly is “nicer” about them?

      A slight issue I have with touring bikes is that they all come with cantilever brakes and I really like the look of side-pulls, but that’s just a silly visual aesthetic choice. I know that the cantilever brakes allow for much more clearance.

  4. When I killed my OEM rear derailleur, I had the option to go with the long-cage Tiagra or 105. I had to go with a long-cage because of the triple crank although Compact double cranks need them too.

    The 105 felt substantially more rigid and durable in my hands than the Tiagra, and it was lighter (not like I care) and better looking (by design, of course)

    • Cool. It looks like this will be a summer full of test rides for me. Then I hope to scoop up “last year’s” model of something (or somebody else’s “last year” model from Craig’s List). In looking at the Trek 1200 from 2006, it looks like the Trek 1.2 is the current iteration(?) It’s interesting to note that the 2006 1200 came with Tiagra + 105, while the 2010 1.2 comes with Sora components.

      Thanks for sharing your experience. I feel like I’m gaining some knowledge, little by little.

  5. They’re not remotely in the same class. If anything, the 1.2 is a little bit like the 2006 Trek 1000. Stay away from Sora. Don’t waste your money. The shift levers, for example, can only be effectively used from over-the-hoods, not in the drop bars. Note the lack of inner STI paddles on the new Trek 1.2. To shift “in” on Sora Brifters, there’s a little tab you have to hit with your thumb. Big PITA.

    I’d say the Trek Pilot 2.0 is probably closer to what my Trek 1200 was when it was new. IIRC, Mine was $999 retail. Pilot 2.0 is $1149. Triple crank. Eyelets for racks and fenders, decent component group. Aluminum frame. I’m still kind of baffled by the carbon fork on both my 1200 and the Pilot series. Aluminum rides a little rough so maybe carbon is what they do to smooth it out a bit. I’m looking at swapping out for a steel fork on my Trek.

    • Somehow I missed this comment from a couple days ago. Thanks for the update. I didn’t know about the quirky Sora shifter (haven’t taken a test on one yet). Large LBS #2 carries Trek, so I’ll see what models they have. Their website doesn’t seem to show the Pilot. I’ll just have to bike over and see what’s up. If I go the “road” route instead of the touring route, it will definitely be Tiagra or 105 (or what the hell, maybe SRAM). The touring bikes all seem to be MTB components, so we’ll see how that goes.

      On second thought, SRAM seem unlikely. I’m guessing Shimano parts would be waaaay easier to find.

  6. New bike, how exciting!

    Some thoughts on the matter:

    . A touring bike is a road bike with slightly slacker geometry, so as to be more comfortable to ride long distance. (And BTW I cannot agree with Noah’s comment above that a track bike is also a type of road bike. A track bike is designed specifically for the track [velodrome], and not at all for the road.)

    . I recommend steel, without question, unless you are a professional racer and are required by your team to ride something else.

    . The component group is not so important in comparison to the frame material and geometry.

    . Last time I checked, the Mass/RI C-List was full of Motobecane, Peugeot, Raleigh, and Nishiki road/touring frames from the late 70’s – early 80s. Buying one of those and updating some key components is probably the best course of action, especially if you are unsure of what you like. That will set you back <$500 even after you add all the fancy saddle/fender/thingies to it your heart desires. Then save up and buy a Rivendell : )

    Good luck and enjoy the search!

    • Since I started reading Ecovelo, I’ve developed a lust for Rivendell. That’s pretty much inevitable seeing as how he well he photographs his. Maybe someday. I don’t have car payments, so really $2,000 + isn’t such a crazy amount of money, right?

      I’m keeping an eye on CL and I’ll start testing some bikes out. I’m a little limited in range by my bike. I certainly don’t mind biking out 20 miles, but that can basically only be done on the weekend. Hopefully, there will be enough decent bikes within a 10 mile radius for me to find one. It should be a fun shopping season!

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