Now it's summer again, and warmer weather brings out a wave of old ten-speed bikes and fair-weather riders. Pulled out of garages, storage rooms and balconies where they've been sitting for months or even decades, the old bikes re-appear in numbers increasing to match the sunny days. I find it interesting to note how many cyclists, spurred on by the recent bike movement, are riding bicycles produced during the last great bike boom.
|Sekine spotting; late model RM30 converted to flat bars.|
Flat handle bars are a common sight on many old ten-speeds; a modification that helps make these racer-style frames (with long top-tubes) more comfortable. Only a few Sekine models came from the factory with an upright cruiser bar; these so-called "touring-style" bikes were the cheaper 5-speeds (SHL 276 & SHC 276, SIA 053 & SIA 853, MTL-35F & TM-35F).
Most of the Sekine bicycles that are actively used display more than a few modifications- years of wear take their toll, parts wear out and get replaced. Unfortunately, when it comes time to replace worn-out parts, many owners balk at repair costs and instead go shopping for a shiny new bike. Sekines are old technology, and while they're still useful, it's often true that they simply aren't good as newer bicycles.
Compared to a new bicycle, most old ten-speeds suffer from cumbersome shifting, poor braking, and are on the heavy side of the scale. But the old steel parts and frames do have a couple inherent advantages- they were simple, easily serviced, and built to last (and currently have a reto-cool appeal).
So used-bike classifieds are full of old ten-speeds; items ranging from mint to mangled. It's a real circus out there, and every summer it amazes me how much sellers are asking for used bikes (especially in Vancouver). That old Sekine might have cost $250 new, but now it's used- and over 30 years old. A mint condition model is worth more for its nostalgia than its usefulness.
Here are some general, quick tips on buying a used Sekine:
- Check out the forks; if they look bent or pushed back, the bike has been crashed. It won't steer properly, and may break.
- If the forks don't have chrome tips, it's the cheapest model.
- If it has a "Jewel" headbadge, it's an older or cheaper model.
- If the wheel rims are shiny chrome steel, the brakes will suck.
- If some amateur mechanic has put the bike together, beware.
- Almost no Sekine is worth more than $300, and for more than $150 it better have new tires and parts.
Buying a used, 'vintage' bicycle is a real buyer-beware situation. Used bikes are initially a cheaper purchase but often have hidden problems; and usually they still need work or replacement parts. If you're not familiar with the mechanics of bicycles, you're almost better off buying a new cycle from a bike shop that will take care of you and provide support and advice.
But if you love that old Sekine cycle- fix it up properly and ride it like it's 1979!