The Bike That Kept Coming Back…

A couple weeks ago, my friend Davey called me and said that he was bringing a couple bikes down for me to use as projects — a fairly new Trek 4500 mountain bike that had been slightly damaged in a car accident, and my old faithful, a 1984 Trek 460 road bike.

The odd thing about the Trek road bike is that I’ve owned this bike FIVE times before…and it keeps coming back to me! Here’s the story so far:

I moved to Florida in 1992 with $70 in my pocket and my only possessions being a suitcase of clothing, a box of bike tools, a rusted-out International Scout and a 4-year-old Schwinn High Sierra mountain bike (in classic “smoked chrome”). Within the first year, that Schwinn was stolen out of my garage — I lived in a really bad neighborhood in Sarasota, and things had a way of disappearing around here unless they were within eyesight.

A coworker at the health food store I was working at told me he had an old Trek road bike that he’d sell me for $75.00. I really needed a bike to commute to work and to the beaches, so I jumped at the chance.

This is how the bike looked when it was new (from a page scan from the original Trek catalog):
Trek 460

When I got the bike, it was in virtually new condition — the paint was pristine, the decals and headtube badge were intact, and the components were in good shape. The bike had been somewhat clumsily converted into a 1×6 drivetrain when the previous owner lost the shift lever for the front derailleur.

This Trek is a bit unusual because it represents one of Trek’s first forays into foreign production. From 1984 until 1986, a factory in Japan produced several models for Trek. This is one of those Japanese babies…True Temper tubing, clean lugwork and all the bells and whistles one might expect from a midrange road bike.

I rode that bike for most of 1993…numerous trips to the beach, daily commuting to my crappy job, etc. One day at work, I found another bike in the dumpster behind our building, and I converted that one into a commuting machine. Since I didn’t really need that Trek anymore, I sold it to someone for $60. Six months later, that person sold it back to me for $25. Two months later I “leased” it to a friend who had just moved to Sarasota…he gave me $20. Five months later, he decided to move back to NYC so he gave the Trek back to me with $20 and some other incidentals. I sold it to someone else I worked with for $40, and bought it back for $25 about three months later. I just could NOT get this bike out of my life…until a couple years after that, when I cleaned the bike up, rebuilt some components and sold it to my friend Davey for $125.

That was six years ago, give or take a few months. Then the phone call a couple weeks ago…

Here’s how it looks right now:
The frame...

Years of neglect and a poorly-fitting headset locknut allowed sweat and rainwater into the fork, effectively freezing the stem into the steerer tube. The bottom bracket was shot — both bearings and cups were badly pitted. The wheels were shot. The handlebars had a hairline crack in them…and this bike had been repainted a couple times — painted right over the original decals and headtube badge. Ugh.

Don’t look if you’re squeamish:

The stomach-churning news...

I hacksawed the head off the stem and went to work with a 1/2″ drill bit, a hacksaw blade holder and assorted rasps and files to drill out the remainder of the stem’s quill. After literally 6 hours of drilling, cutting and filing, I was tapping out a large piece of aluminum when the steerer tube split right at the keyway, effectively ruining the original fork.

The dead fork:
dead fork

Over the next couple months, I will be rebuilding what’s left of this bike into a fast weekend commuter — stealth-mode all the way with a fixed/free singlespeed drivetrain. Stay tuned for all of that, and remember, if you have a bike with a quill stem, DON’T FORGET TO GREASE THAT QUILL from time to time, or you will be faced with some ugly surgery, too.

By the way, anyone got an old steel Trek fork laying around? You know, one with at least 180mm of steerer and at least 50mm of threads? If so, let me know and I’ll make it worth your while.


  1. Eddie Allen

    I feel your pain! I’ve got a classic lugged steel British tourer frame (Dawes or Claud Butler perhaps) with a similarly bad case of ‘stuckstemitis.’

    Think the only way out now is to saw the stem off, remove the headset and source a new fork. Good to see the someone bothering to keep old stuff running.

  2. Ghost Rider

    Eddie, I learned a trick you might try if your quill isn’t inserted too far. Here’s a link to a photo tutorial:

    It’s certainly worth a try — I didn’t have enough quill to try this…and actually forgot about this technique until I was too far along to go back and give it a whirl.

    Good luck with your project — keeping the old steel running is one of my favorite aspects of bicycling!

  3. Eric

    DUDE, I ride the same bike! It’s one year older than I am. My dad lent it to me when I wrecked my fixie and a few too many parts broke down on my Fuji Touring. Mine has all the original parts, even the anodized looking yellow bar tape, not very comfy but the yellow, blue, black colorscheme is pretty sweet. I think the only things not original are the leather saddle & tires (though the 23mm ones I took off when pops gave it to me might have been). I like it a lot, but really wish it had rack mounts.
    So, yeah I do have a fork, but I’m kinda using it…In any case, I hope I have learned something from this post. Grease…good. Loose headset allowing water in…bad.

  4. Ghost Rider

    Eric, even if the headset is tight and properly adjusted, it can let water down into the steerer…even with locknuts that have a rubber o-ring in them. That’s just one of the flaws of a threaded headset system (and one of many reasons why threadless systems are so popular now). So, grease that quill twice a year and you will never face the problem I had. While you’re at it, grease the seatpost too. Removing a frozen seatpost ain’t no picnic either (and I’ve done that, too)!

    I wound up sourcing a carbon fiber fork to replace the old Trek fork — much cheaper than having the original fixed!

  5. Ghost Rider

    Eric, did I mention that I feel really old now, too? I was a sophomore in high school when your bike was manufactured! Thanks for that, bub 😉

  6. Eric

    No prob, dude. :-p Bikes oughtta keep us all young. The one problem I DO have with my trek are the stuck as hell pedals. I’m gonna have to find a torch I think to heat up the crank arms.

  7. Ghost Rider

    Eric, try to heat the backs of the pedal spindles, not the crankarm…but only after you’ve tried penetrating oil AND ensuring you’re turning the wrench the right way (a common mistake even for pros). Another trick I’ve used before breaking out the torch is to try to tighten the pedals a little bit…sometimes this breaks the corrosion loose and lets you spin them back off.

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  9. Jacob

    What ever happened to this bike?

  10. Ghost Rider

    Jacob — it’s in my garage right now. Outfitted with a beautiful orange-with-gold-glitter powdercoat and a Campagnolo Daytona 9-speed gruppo, it’s my long distance bike for when I feel like exploring the roads.

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