Restoring a Classic MTB Part 03: Buying Vintage Parts


Restoring a Classic MTB Part 03: Buying Vintage Parts

Last week, we looked at my tutorial on polishing vintage bicycle components. But how do I find my components in the first place? Over the years, I’ve developed a bit of a knack for finding period-correct pieces for my builds, using various sources. Today, I’ll be using my 1991 Yo Eddy as an example to walk y’all through my process for finding the appropriate parts. Let’s check it out below…

Period Correct or RestoMod?

Before diving into this topic, I must address the two main differences in frame restoration we host here on The Radavist. Most of our vintage posts are either period-correct, catalog spec builds, or RestoMod; I have a hunch that most readers are into RestoMods rather than catalog spec builds. A RestoMod means you take a majority of vintage parts and mix them in with modern parts in lieu of a few crucial components. Say you have a Yo Eddy and want to convert it to a 1x drivetrain. That’s a RestoMod. A good example of this is Jacob’s Yo Eddy I shot back in 2015, while the Yo Eddy Grello we posted last year illustrates a period-correct build spec.

Obviously, it is usually cheaper to RestoMod a vintage bike, as vintage components can get pricey, especially if they’re in good condition. But sometimes the original setup is what feels most appropriate for some bikes. So, how do you find the correct build spec to begin with?

Finding the Correct Spec

Here’s where it gets nerdy. My 1991 Yo Eddy is an early bike in the Yo timeline. Luckily, for Fat City Cycles fans, there are a number of resources you can use to figure out your proper spec. MOMBAT is one such resource and is a site with a full list of Fat catalogs. Alternately, if you know your frame’s date, based on its serial number, a simple Google query will usually turn up some resources. For instance a search of “1991 Yo Eddy Build Spec” results in The Vintage MTB Workshop‘s profile on the Grello Yo we featured. For Yo owners, the Fat Cogs forum has a number of threads discussing this as well. There are also lots of German collector sites with PDF catalog scans like MTB Kataloge.

One thing to keep in mind is that Fat City Cycles built each of its customer’s builds to their preference; there were no “stock builds.” After lots of searching, it’s easy to see that a 1991 Yo Eddy was commonly built with Suntour XC Pro components. Other options are Shimano XT Deore or Campagnolo Euclid. I decided on XC Pro not only for its looks but it’s been years since I’ve ridden it, so I was eager to give it another go but first… I had to find a full kit!

It’s Time to Look For Parts

Here’s where the time and money suck comes in. There are many sources I lean on for finding such components. I typically start by visiting bike shops and asking if they have backstock  of any of the items I’m looking for, or if I can peruse their parts bins. Sometimes you can score big time by simply asking. Bike swaps are another great resource. Many of the parts I’ll use on this build—like the Turbo saddle, pedals, and shifters—came from swap meets. I also make it a point to check various Facebook groups like Classic MTB Trading Center; some of these groups are private, but admission is easy, just be sure to follow the group’s rules.

For this Yo Build, I scored some parts from swaps, bike co-ops, and from the Facebook groups, but unfortunately, I still had to pay the eBay premium to complete the build. eBay is an excellent last-ditch place to find parts, but you can expect to shell out 30-40% more coin than the aforementioned sources. In this case, the only parts I bought from eBay were my Ringle Holey Stix QRs and the XC Pro wheels. I set up a “saved search” on eBay for both of these products, which made sure that I’d get notified when postings within my budget appeared.

On that note, piecing together a catalog-specced restoration project can get pricey in a hurry, so it’s important to have a clear budget before you go buying up a complete vintage parts kit.

The Cost?

Vintage parts can sometimes be as expensive as modern components. If you’re after a proper restoration, where you’re respraying the frame, then you probably want parts that show little to no wear. NOS, or new-old-stock, is ideal, but you’ll pay for it. Yet if you keep the original paint, parts with wear or patina will be better suited and much cheaper.

Looking at my parts, here’s what I paid:

  • $100 for a like-new Suntour XC Pro crankset
  • $80 for the Ringle Holey Stix
  • $30 for the bottom bracket
  • $200 for vintage PAUL levers and calipers (I actually needed short pull levers and cantis in the end)
  • $20 for shifters
  • $50 for the rear derailleur
  • $15 for the front
  • $75 for the Syncros post
  • $80 for the titanium bars
  • $120 for the wheels

For tires, I don’t believe in riding vintage rubber, so any 26″ tire that fits the spec look will be fine. For the Yo, with its 2.6″ clearance, I’ll either run Schwalbe Nobby Nic 26×2.4″ or Ultradynamico Mars 26×2.22″ tires.

If you add all this up, plus the cost of the frame ($600-$1400) and the respray ($600-$1200), you’re looking at at least $2200 and at most, $3000+. Which, for a bike that will be a blast to ride, isn’t all that bad. Think about it this way: this was a top-of-the-line 1991 mountain bike. If you were to spend $2200 on a modern bike, you’re going to get mostly low-end parts and a heavy frame. When it comes to keeping my local XC trails fun and enjoyable, I will usually opt for a vintage bike over a contemporary build.

Another thing to consider is the resale value of this build. If you can keep it around $2200, you can expect a decent profit if you end up selling it. If you spend closer to $3000, that will be a harder price point to nail down a profit with.

What about you? What’s your preference? RestoMod or catalog spec? Drop your thoughts in the comments!