This just in:
"Hello Fuji Otaku,
I found your website and it's full of good info. Thanks! I was hoping to pick your brain a bit about a bike I'm looking to buy. It's a Fuji Espree with these details:
FUJI ESPREE, 12 spd road bike, 22' Valite tubing frame, toe clips, quick release wheels, $150.
I think I can get it for $100. Assuming it fits me and runs well, what do you think of this price? Would you have any tips on things to look for during my test ride/inspection? I'm not great with bikes (yet), but I'm fairly mechanical and feel I can do some minor fixing up. The guy on the phone said there's nothing wrong with it, it rides well and looks good.
Thanks for your time,
Thanks for writing and for the compliment!
As far as valuation issues, I generally try to avoid giving that sort of advice for a number of reasons. The first is that if I start doing that, I get tons of email from everybody asking me what their Fuji is worth. The second is that I'd rather not cast myself as a vintage Fuji market guru. The third is that this information is sort of time sensitive, but my old blog postings will be up here 5 years from now and I'll be getting angry emails saying "Whaddya mean my Espree isn't worth 3000 dollars". Finally, the last is that bike markets tend to be very local - what is a screaming good deal in NYC might sit on the market for a good long time in a small town in Iowa.
But I'm going to make an exception in your case because you said nice things about the blog and because your question is easy to answer. At the sort of prices you see today, a Fuji Espree in good used condition for $100 is probably anywhere from a good, fair deal to both parties to a pretty good deal for the buyer depending on you live. Understanding that I haven't seen the bike and am assuming it is in pretty good shape, I can't imagine anyone thinking you got ripped off or that you got the deal of the century. So yes, in my opinion it is worth $100.
As a note to readers, Chris just used up the Q2 quota of valuation advice for this blog, so I won't be available for another such query until Q3. Sorry, but them's the rules...
Your second question is what do I look for when buying a bike. Well, this depends upon what I am buying - the other day I purchased a Fuji America that the seller represented as in minty, original condition. So that's what I look for.
In your case, you are looking for good working condition. So everything should work - gears should shift, wheels true, brakes in adjustment, that sort of thing. Me, I tend not to ride bikes when I'm buying them - frankly, I'm not super crazy about hopping on a bike that I know nothing about. I suppose I could take a slow ride, but that isn't really going to tell me a whole lot that I can't figure out by inspection. So far, this has always worked for me.
But now, here is the one rule. Spend a lot of time looking for frame damage, since this is usually prohibitively expensive to repair. Almost anything else is pretty small money compared to this.
What I do is I ask the owner to hold the bike and I step back several paces and look at the alignment of the head tube and the fork, looking for evidence of a front ender. I look at and feel the undersides of the top and downtubes where they go into the head lugs. What you are looking for is waves or bulges.
Similarly, have the owner hold the front end of the bike vertical so you can inspect the frame from the bottom. Look at all the lug joints for any cracking of paint or the shadow of a butted portion of a tube. This usually means problems and unless the bike is extraordinary rare or valuable, walk away. If you don't, you should at least get a markedly reduced price that is comparable to the worth of the componentry.
Finally, look for frame dings and dents. On a steel bike, these are not usually a big functional or safety concern like the other frame damage I discussed above. However, it is a big economic issue since nobody wants to buy a bike with a dent in the frame, so the value of the frame is reduced dramatically. This is especially true of mass market models like the Fuji Espree, since there are plenty more undented ones out there. So for that bike, I wouldn't buy a dented one. If it was something super high end, rare, and needed a repaint (and was priced accordingly), I would consider it.
Well, that is the end of this long disquisition. To sum it up, yeah, the Espree, if in good used condition, is worth it. The second is to look everything over, make sure it is what it is being sold as, but just get in your car and go home if there is any evidence of frame damage.
Hope it all works out! If it does, send us some pics.