Sunday, October 12, 2014

Condition is Everything

When it comes to old bicycles, condition is everything

Why am I posting this? Because over the years, I have bought many old bicycles. I overpaid for some bicycles based on their brand name and country of origin. In addition to the price I paid for some of my bicycles, I spent to have them restored, in some instances twice as much as I paid originally. While some restorations have been worth it, others left me with a mediocre and somewhat decent bike at best. That is why when deciding on buying a bicycle, it's a good idea to look at the overall condition of the bike before making a decision.

Case and point, I recently got a late 70's to early 80's(ish) Concord Selecta Freedom Deluxe 12 speed road bike on trade. At the time of production, this was a mid-range bicycle made with Kuwahara tubing instead of the plain gauge, hi tensile steel so commonly found in bikes of that same era. This bike features a really cool, super smooth crankset that is a combination of the press fit and Octalink drive technologies seen today on modern bicycles. This crank also features self-extracting crank bolts which unscrew with a 6mm allen key, no special crank puller tool required. The Shimano Selecta crankset appeared around the same time as positron shifting, which was the first attempt at indexed shifting.

My Concord Selecta "Freedom Deluxe" 12 speed road bike.

The decals on this bike are painted, and the lugs have been ornately pinstriped.

The decals on this bike are in great shape. 

At first glance, there seems to be nothing special about this bicycle. It has a bolted on rear wheel, bolted on saddle, stem shifters, no rear derailleur hanger and no water bottle braze ons. The bike snob "connoisseur" types would quickly pass on this bike, assuming it is a cheap, low end model. What this bike doesn't show on the outside it reveals as soon as I mount on the saddle. 

This is the smoothest, most compliant bike of all my ten speed bike-boom era bicycles. The foam grips and the alloy wheels give it a comfortable and plush ride, and the steel frame does it's job of absorbing the road vibrations. The stem shifters shift effortlessly and I have just the right amount of climbing and sprinting gear ratios. What a climber this bike is! Seriously, I did not have to get off the saddle at all, not even on the steepest climbs of my routes the last time I rode it. The stamped, Selecta crankset spun smoothly up hills and I found myself spinning where I would normally be mashing. The saddle was firm enough but not super stiff in the crotch area, and the steel frame absorbed a lot of the impact to the groin region. Japanese road bikes of the 70's and 80's have a reputation for being well made and having better quality than the Peugeots and Merciers that were being made during the same period. However, the thing that sets this bike apart from my other bikes was the condition that I received it in.

This bike was received in time capsule, almost air-sealed, new-old-stock condition compared to other vintage bicycles that I have restored over the years. This bicycle needs no restoration, therefore there is nothing I have to put into it after making the initial investment. When I say nothing, not even the tires need replacing. The rubber on the tires is still new with the little stubbies sticking out the sides. Sometimes its better to get a lightly used, mass produced Japanese bicycle that is in good condition rather than buying a high end bicycle parts project. A middle of the road, not so prestigious bicycle in good condition will be ridden more, enjoyed more and it will be easier to keep up with in the future. A high end bicycle will be stored and collected after restoration, hardly getting any ride time over fears that if it breaks down it will be expensive to fix. These days, the better the condition and the better the fit, the more valuable a bicycle is to me. The Concord Selecta wins on both counts. I get freedom from riding it, just as the name on the frame suggests. It's a bicycle I can use to go exploring downtown or the trails around my area. I feel comfortable riding it helmet-less and in my regular clothing. A 20 mile ride on this bike wouldn't be out of the question, because I know that I received it in good cosmetic and mechanical condition. So I can't stress this enough. I have paid way too much in the past for bicycles that I never got running off the ground. So condition is everything...CONDITION-CONDITION-CONDITION!!!

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***Here's a checklist to go over when looking over a bicycle for purchase***

  1. Does the frame have cracks, dents, rust or feel off balance when ridden?
  2. Does the fork on the frame look bent?
  3. Does the chain have rust?
  4. Are the tires dry-rotted?
  5. Are there any missing bolts on the bicycle?
  6. Are the cables worn or rusted?
  7. Are the brake pads worn?
  8. Is there any rust pitting on the chrome components?
  9. Are the wheels severely bent or missing spokes?
  10. Does the freewheel or the rear cassette engage when pedaled?


  1. What a joy! I guess you're gonna need a large 'bike shed' :)
    Such scare tactics never worked on me LOL!

    Enjoy the new bike.

    Peace :)

    1. Ha! Just made a 10X4 shed in the yard for all of my garage bikes. Sorry for the late reply.

  2. Your Selectra is in amazing condition - I'm jealous!. I am still riding a Concord Freedom Deluxe I purchased new in 1974 from Boardman Cycles in Boardman, Ohio. The bike is still in great shape and has taken me more than just a few miles. I raced the bike in college and easily averaged over 1000 miles per year the first ten years I had it. At the time, Concord was considerd equivalent to, or upscale from the Schwinn Le Tour bikes depending on whether it was the Freedom model or the Freedom Deluxe.

    The Freedom Deluxe is a 10-speed, but like your Selectra was equipped with Shimano Titlist hardware and a very high-end Dia-Compe handlebar and headset. It featured a hand brazed and pinstripped steel frame that was one of the lightest available in that price range (I paid about $220 in 1974). In addition, you could order custom frame sizes with the appropriately sized headset included. Two items of note were the wide-flange hubs and the wide-range cog set. The hubs made for very strong, reactive wheels (although some thought they were a little too stiff), and the cog gear ratios allowed you to both "climb a wall" or cruise at 30 mph. The first and second sprockets are "skip tooth" style to assist the chain in climbing to the larger diameter.

    The wide ratio gear set has been handy, but I would have liked to have a few more choices between 7th and 10th gear. So I recently found a shop owner in DeSoto, Texas who used to sell Concords and he got a kick out of seeing mine. He thought it might be possible to change the front crank set to a triple, but the rear on mine is stuck at five cogs. Still, even as a ten speed, he jokingly told my wife that my thirty year old "classic" would still be about 3 mph faster than her new 21 speed Giant!

    I believe there was a higher level model that used ultra high pressure tires with sewn in tubes. The Freedom Deluxe was equipped with 1 x 1-1/8 tires using normal schrader valve type tubes. I've always run 100 - 110 psi in them without any trouble and appreciated the ease of changing out the more conventional tubes. I have never had any problems with the bike, only replacing the chain and brake cables over the years..

    1. Thanks for your insight! I got this bike without knowing any of the history behind it, but was surprised at how well made it is and how well it handles. It does ride nicer than my Schwinn Le Tours and climbs very well as you described. I appreciate all of the background information you provided since there isn't a lot of information about this bike online. Enjoy your bike!

  3. know anyone who wants a @ 1975 Schwinn Letour???...or it may end up in the dumpster...I'm in Massachusetts if any one is interested...

  4. As a noob cycler and no knowledge on bikes, in tight budget how can i choose my first cycle? I am going n through your blog for wisdom, still many seems new to me.
    I to add steel heavy cycle back in my country got all in 1 or 2 mile radius. Now I am thinking to go for 8 mile commuting to office in Michigan weather. Any advice would help out.

  5. I just got this bike, paid $25, and put new tires tubes on it. I gotta say, hands down, best ride I've ever been on. Something about just feels amazing, the balance, the weight, the ease of shifting. Brakes are a little stiff. But one amazing bike. I totally agree with your description. I was so amazed with the ride, I looked up articles like this to see if anyone else has had this experience. Simply perfect road bike.

  6. I got my Selecta 12 in 1978 and agree with your opinion. I finally had to replace the bottom bracket, crank set and rear derailleur, since the originals wore out. I still ride it 20-25 miles every week end.

  7. I kust bought that exact bike yesterday for 25 dollars at a thrift store. Its in great condition!

  8. What's the seat post diameter on these bikes? My calculation from measuring the circumference is giving me a diameter of 26.57mm. The byschulz seat posts I am considering are available in 26.4 and 26.6 depending on the model (the model only available in 26.6 is preferred). My circumference measure was 83.5 with the .5 being an estimate.