Bicycle, Bike Camping, Commuting, Ride Your Bike, Seattle, Vintage, Washington

On the Cheap

The Seattle metro area is one of the priciest areas in the nation to call home, and while cycling has been called many things by many people, “cheap” is not one of them.

For those of us who live in and around Seattle and like to ride and race bikes, but don’t make anywhere near a six figure income, something’s gotta give.

This usually means that you find yourself sharing a $2000 a month 300 sq. ft. studio apartment with your 2 cats, a dog named Freewheel because you had one too many PBR’s one night and thought it was a good idea to name him “Freewheel,” your road bike, fixed gear bike, fat bike, SS hardtail, full suspension long travel trail bike (to show off your prowess at Duthie Hill), full suspension short travel trail bike (‘cuz it’s faster, goddammit), CX race bike, commuter bike and, since it’s Seattle, your full fendered rain bike.

You eat ramen noodles because your Safeway card gets you 10 for $1 and you’re saving up for that sweet new cargo bike so you can go car-free and  the “N+1” rule of bike ownership mathematically dictates that you need another bike or else the universe may collapse in on itself.

For those not familiar with the “N+1” rule, it states that the number of bicycles you should own is one more than you currently own (N). The same rule applies to snowboards, but that’s another blog.

Algebra’s fun!

…and expensive…..

Even though rent may be expensive in Seattle, with so many great shops in the area, building a bike doesn’t have to be.

I stumbled upon a 1993 RockHopper Comp on the local craigslist for $75. I was looking for a commuter/light touring rig on the cheap and I thought that with some creativity, this old machine may fit the bill.

While I’m not a fan of Specialized and their business practices as of late, their old frames always fit me well (short legs, short arms, round torso) and were pretty reliable pieces of steel, so I thought I’d check it out.


The Comp model was outfitted with a full LX drivetrain and SIS shifters that could be run in friction mode to simulate that touring bike shifting experience….and it allowed me to run a MegaRange cassette without having to adjust the indexing.

I’m lazy like that.


After disassembling the bike down to the frame, I paid a visit to 2020 Cycle where Alex set me up with a set of Wellgo platform pedals and a set of cream colored Rubena CityHopper tires complete with reflective sidewalls to mellow out the ’90’s era orange frame with purple     graphics.  He also hooked me up with a sweet set of Trick Topz  dice valve stem caps and a silver Planet Bike Eco rack to handle the cargo as well as a new chain.

While I purchased all of these wares from 2020’s new stock, they also have a wall full of used parts bins that are worth scouring through if you don’t mind doing a little dirty work.

My trip home took me through Columbia City where I had to pay a visit to the almighty Bike Works. The many, many, many used parts bins at Bike Works always yield nice, vintage stuff for low budget prices.

In this case, I snagged a  Girvin Flexstem ($5) and a SanMarco Pirelli suspension saddle (another $5)–both mid ’90’s era to match the bike. While the Girvin stem gained the reputation as an off-road death wish, it’s elastomer bumpers and 1″ of travel are great for soaking up Seattle potholes as long as you keep both wheels on the ground. My last stop on the tour was the now defunct Peterson Bicycle  in Renton…which makes sense since I live in Renton, where they hooked me up with set of Planet Bike Cascadia full coverage fenders, a set of brake cables, a set of shifter cables and 6 feet of obnoxiously bright neon green cable housing to complete the build.

I added a set of white waterproof Banjo Brothers panniers I picked up on sale from Portland’s for $39 each, as well as replacing the big ring with a bashguard so my old man baggy jeans wouldn’t get greasy while riding.

When all was said and done, I had a reliable light touring, all weather commuter bike for less than $400, including the $75 I spent on the initial purchase. Fully laden with a weekend’s worth of camping provisions, it tips the scale at 75 lbs.



It’s cheap.

It’s slow.

It’s ugly.

But it gets you there….every….damn….time.

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