Recently I’ve become more interested in riding off-road or doing some trail exploring. Buying a new or even used mountain bike seemed cost-prohibitive. I’ve never even been mountain biking, so why waste the money on a whim? My last bike was $1,250. Despite being worth every penny, it’s not an amount I plan to spend again in the near future. An old-school mountain bike looked like the cheapest, most efficient option. Newer “bikepacking” bikes look totally awesome but also don’t normally take front or rear racks so easily. I also don’t need monster tires, even though they look like super fun! Looking for a next step I contacted my friend Richard of Sacramento.
He's a super bike guy having rehabbed bikes, built rigs from scratch, and worked at a bike shops in the Bay area and Seattle. Richard made a few suggestions from Craigslist and I zeroed in on a white, mid-90s 21” Specialized Rock Hopper with a rear u-brake listed for $60. That was a good price for something that might be worth a test-ride. It could clearly take racks and fenders, making for a nice adventure bike to explore those WA forest roads. A day later I was meeting some dude in the parking lot of the Issaquah Public Library. I took it for a spin and it seemed fine, maybe a hair small but I'm also unsure about mountain bike sizing. On the phone earlier, seller-dude told me no rust, but there it was, rust!
Thinking about building a bike-out had me focusing on the quality of the frame rather than the components. In this case, the components worked reasonably well and were free of rust. The rear tire was warped but could still be ridden. The friction shifting was good, the drive train looked pretty clean. For $60 this bike was actually solid but I told him I didn’t want it. While the rust was not structurally damaging it was pervasive with slightly rusted scratches throughout the frame. This bike had been maintained but given too much love from getting banged around!
The seller said to make an offer so I said $40 if he just wanted to get rid of it. Offer accepted! This gentleman had a nice, newer car with bike racks on the rear and roof so clearly he didn’t need the money. I handed him a $50 but he didn’t have correct change, so we split the difference and called it $45. Thanks, then bike small-talk, goodbye! I reluctantly fixed the bike carrier to the back of my Mazda wagon wondering if it was a great deal or one more thing to stuff in the garage. That rust! In the back of my mind I knew that even if I didn’t want it, I could sell it again for a profit or give it to my brother in law so he could get to/from work. I guess as much as people want to get rid of their crap when selling on Craigslist, impulsive purchases wouldn’t roll in for a selling-rendezvous resistant to buy. So what next Mr. Rock Hopper? Fix-you-up or sell-you-off?