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Wow this is an ugly dumpster rescue frame. But beggars can’t be choosers.

The build

In the end the total cost of this build came to $297CAD (about $210 in US dollars). The fact that I could come in this low for a semi-decent bike came as much of a surprise to me as it was to Sharon (my wife) who wonders exactly when this thing will break, where it will break, and how much skin I will leave on the dirt when it does break.

In summary this was the result of bit of work, a bit of time, a lot of dumpster-diving, a bunch of accumulating spare parts in bins, and inspiration from cheapskates the world over. Spare parts came from local bike shops, Facebook Marketplace, Pinkbike, Craigslist, and Ebay. A special shout out of course to Obsession Bikes of North Vancouver (Matt, Topher, John and Lou), BicycleHub (Dave and Stoyan), MaguraUSA (Jude and Ken), and everyone else who helped me express my need to save money and be cheap!

Here’s a run down of the key Dumpster Bike build parts, along with some notes.

  • The heart of the frame was a 2014 Trek Remedy 9.8 frame rescued from the Obsession Bikes dumpster. The main pivot was ovalized. I fixed the pivot by wrapping the pivot in old copper tubing and ramming the pivot back into the frame.
  • I rescued a 2017 RockShox Pike non-Boost 27.5, 140mm travel fork with an annoyingly creaky crown-steerer unit (CSU) from the Bicycle Hub dumpster. I bought some green Loctite and fixed it by dripping the Loctite onto the press-fit interface between the CSU and the steerer tube then letting the Loctite sit for a day or so. Green Loctite: $ 18
  • Alex Volar non-Boost front wheel. A gift from Mike!
  • Dirty Dog fire-breathing dragon 180mm rotor from the bin of junk.
  • Magura Storm 180mm rear rotor from the bin of junk.
  • Schwalbe Magic Mary 2.35-inch tire from the Bicycle Hub dumpster/
  • Maxxis Forekaster 2.25-inch tire from the Bicycle Hub dumpster. The Remedy wheels didn’t hold tubeless at first until I fixed a hole with a tube patch and Gorilla tape.
  • Magura MT7 front and rear brake from MaguraUSA. While I’m not sponsored or affiliated with them in any way I’ve been “Magura4life” for over two decades and I’m one of the charter members of the Magura Cult of North America aka MCM.
  • RaceFace Turbine bar, cut to 770mm, plus a 50mm stem from the spare parts bin.
  • FSA Orbit headset:  $ 28
  • FSA spacers from the bin of junk.
  • Chromag grips were Sharon cast-offs and were found in the bin of junk.
  • The bike started with a RockShox Reverb internal 125mm dropper post cobbled together from BC Bike Race cast-offs and by cannibalizing three non-functional Reverbs which were destined for the Obsession Bikes dumpster. This has now has been replaced by a Bontrager internal 150mm seatpost which I bought for $100 after selling the Reverb for $100.

The build, continued.

  • RaceFace Turbine cranks with OneUp 32t ring: $50
  • Shimano SPD pedals: $15
  • Rear Fox shock came with the frame.
  • The seatpost collar also came with the frame.
  • A Chromag Trailmaster leather saddle with some shoe-gooe’ed cuts was a Sharon cast off and found in the good old bin of junk.
  • A generic PF bottom bracket came with the frame
  • Obsolete XO1 11-speed shifter: $50
  • Obsolete XO1 11-speed rear derailleur: $50
  • XT 11-speed, 11-46 cassette from the Obsession dumpster
  • DT Swiss M1700 Boost rear wheel with a massively dented rim was a Sharon cast-off and destined for the bin of junk. I repaired the caved in rim sidewall with pliers and sharpied it black so it looks new. Miraculously it still holds air. Although it is a Boost wheel in a non-Boost frame, I managed to wedge the wheel in there. Turns out that 6mm of extra spacing can be persuaded to fit.
  • Magura rear brake spacer from the bin of junk. Somehow it spaced the rear brake over enough so that the caliper worked with this non-Boost rear wheel in rear Boost frame gong-show.
  • Trek rear QR skewer from the Obsession Bikes dumpster (thanks Matt Smith for that rare find!)
  • New derailleur cable: $2.50
  • Pieced together an 11 speed chain from 3 years of bits and ends of replacing older chains.
  • Re-used cable housing
  • One can of flat black spraybomb from Canadian Tire: $20
  • Two 50 packs of Timbits for Obsession Bikes: $20
  • Two Honeys Donuts for Bicycle Hub: $5.50
  • Two flats of good beer (Red Racer) for Obsession Bikes: $38
  • Spacers for Turbine crank (from Comor Whistler, thanks Tom Pietrowski!)

Matt came to help and to demonstrate how I gently used hammers to persuade the copper-plumbing-wrapped main pivot back into the Remedy frame.

The Ride

First test ride down some steeps on Fromme. I forgot to put spacers on the Turbine cranks so those came loose.

This dumpster bike rides fine. I’m 178cm (5-foot,10.5-inches tall) and the frame is a large with a 67.5 deg HTA and 74.5 deg STA. It’s not long, low, or slack like a modern mountain bike, and yet somehow I’m having fun on it.

Sick 1000m enduro to the Pemberton valley.

The most satisfying part of this process has been putting all these potentially dumpstered “things,” (frame, parts, accessories) to good use once again. It’s always struck me as abysmally hypocritical how the mountain-bike industry greenwashes itself as being environmentally conscious, yet through planned obsolescence, a lack of spare parts, and poor design have made it pretty hard to go through an exercise like this. And by “exercise like this,” I mean buying a frame, getting some parts together, and putting together a functional bike.

12th ride down McKenzie Cruise in Pemberton and the kinks are ironed out. The bodged-together chain hasn’t snapped, either.

Not everyone will have the access to the dumpsters that I had or a massive Box O’Junk. But if you have the inclination and the time (I don’t watch much TV, which frees up a lot of it), maybe you can do something about the high cost of bikes.

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# Comments

  • Oldandrolling

    Nice work! I have built my last two bikes from parts. I would not have a bike any other way.

    • Lee Lau

      Oldandrolling

      My previous 2 “dumpster” builds were

      Rocky Mountain Element put together from warrantied RM Slayer frame and parts then given to an OG ski touring guru

      Rocky Mountain Slayer rescued from neighbour with some forks rebuilt, new brakes, new handlebar and stem then given to a broke trailbuilder.

      This Remedy will be ridden then probably also passed on to someone deserving

  • vapidoscar

    Inspirational. Yesterday my wife asked if we wanted to get a cheap bike to work on and I said no. Changed my mind because of this. Hopefully it is still available and my dad will have a better bike to ride soon.

    I am all about repair not replace. Just had by rear wheel repaired rather than replace, when my derailleur attempted murder-suicide. Sadly the derailleur was beyond hope, but I did save the jockey wheels. It is frustrating to pay $45 to have spokes replaced and wheel trued but I don’t have those tools yet and didn’t even know spoke length. I suppose the wheel is worth more but to me it is worth $50 because I bought the set for $100 when Performance Bicycle went under.

    • Lee Lau

      vapidoscar – do it. It surely can’t hurt to try

  • Zoso

    “Obsolete XO1 11-speed…”

    C’mon! Most of us still run 11 speed and honestly it’s enough range.

    • Lee Lau

      Zoso – that should have been “obsolete”. I could have worked a bit cheaper and scavenged some “obsolete” 10 speed as I later found some free 10 speed XT derailleurs and 10 speed One Up component 42 tooth rings

  • adaycj

    As long time mountain bikers, my Wife and I wanted to try gravel bikes. After a bit of soul and wallet searching I built one out of an old hybrid bike frame from the 1990s. It is interesting how far we have come, and how far we haven’t. As it turns out there just isn’t much wrong with a properly assembled steel gravel bike made from old bike parts. I bought a new gravel bike at a business closing sale and we have set now for less than $500. I’m willing to admit that part of the enjoyment of mountain biking for me is the shiny new things new technology. I also enjoy being frugal sometimes, and I enjoy my crusty bike too.

  • Brad Beadles

    would love to see how many miles you can get out of frankenstein’s bike! shred till ur dead! haha my guess is that A) the swing-arm will fail at some point due to the rammed copper insert at the pivot or the boosted wheel in a non-boost frame or B) the rear wheel is going to get trashed. would love to see an update later!

  • Chris Albert

    This isn’t directly related to the build, but I have to ask: What shorts/ knickers are you wearing in the shot overlooking Pemberton? (the tan shorts)

    • Lee Lau

      Chris Albert – they are MEC capris. Fixable with gorilla tape for budget purposes as an added bonus

  • Justin White

    Why is the 11 speed stuff obsolete? 11 speed continues to be made, and nothing new (Boost, pressfit BB, tapered headtube, etc) prevents anyone from using 11 speed on any bike from the last… at least 15 years; and into the foreseeable future, nothing about 12 speed or the oncoming 13 speed prevents someone from “downgrading” to 11 speed…

    • Lee Lau

      Justin White – “Why is the 11 speed stuff obsolete?” Duh – cos industry and Pinkbike comments say as much so it must be true

  • rmap01

    Good 4u Lee! I really admire those that are that resourceful.

  • Malio

    I literally paid 10 times the amount for my used 2017 Trek Fuel (including some upgrades/alterations) and it sports similar geometry to your Remedy and probably performs about as well. This is a very cool ride. I’m also making due with the ‘obsolete’ 11 speed drivetrain… 🙂

  • Lee Lau

    Brad Beadles so far so good. 12 rides locally in the Sea to Sky. 8 rides in Moab/Hurricane area.

    – Cranks came loose but that was me not torquing hard enough. Torque till it strips then back off a 1/4 turn I say

    – Main pivot developed some play. Disassembled further. Jammed a split ring plastic washer onto the metal sleeve that’s press-fit bonded onto carbon frame (that was the play). Mixed up some JBWeld and smeared it into every crevice. Hit the whole gumbo with more black spray paint to keep it looking tight and we’ll see. So far that’s 20 more rides then this thing would’ve had in the dumpster

  • Bryan K Sell

    Been doing this for more than a couple of decades and recently stopped because I can afford new bikes. The drawbacks were mainly 1) regular catastrophic failures, 2) no warranty, and 3) a questionable amount of time sourcing and repairing/modifying/retrofitting quality parts. The failures seem to always come when I was riding hard, like in the occasional race. Or when I was having an epic day of progression. The warranty thing can be nice, but sometimes (looking at you, Trek) the warranty means nothing on new bikes and parts. And I probably could have focused more on making two or three times (or more) the amount of money I saved piecing bikes together. But then I’d be working more, riding less, and a little more fat.

  • Sam James

    Nice work!
    Interestingly I believe this particular frame came through our shop first – when we noticed the problem with the pivot we suggested the customer see if obsession could warranty it for him. Hopefully that worked out!

    Nice hack with the copper tubing. I’d totally be comfortable doing that on my own bike, but it’s not something that we can do as a professional shop in reality (and you understand that I’m sure). It’s for sure an ethical dilemma because as you say, the mtb industry really isn’t as green as it would appear from the outside, but we do our best to recycle all that we can.

    Anyway sweet build, I’ve a couple of similar builds in the works! (FYI I’m on the hunt for a 26″ QR disc rear wheel if you happen to pass by anything nice 😉 )

  • freshairforever

    Love this article!! Wish their are more resources for people wanting to do similar things to share ideas and ask questions. For example, need details on how to fix the an ovalized pivot, rebuild a brake caliper or shock for cheap, etc.

  • Lee Lau

    Bryan K Sell – definitely not something for the fainthearted and totally acknowledge there’s turnkey satisfaction to new bikes. Rebuilding dumpster bikes is just a different kind of satisfaction

  • Lee Lau

    Sam James. Not only would a shop not touch this for the reasons you mentioned it just wouldn’t be cost-effective. The ROI would be valued in pennies on the hours spent. I do have a 12×142 beater 26″ wheel with DT rim and Onyx hub if you need it?

  • rsilvers

    That is great. I would have enjoyed making that. You did get ripped off on the green Locktite though. Should be $7.50.

  • Dr Sweets

    I absolutely love this kinda stuff. It would probably be even easier (cheaper?) to do with a hardtail, but still fucking great work!

  • Sean Gordon

    I’m really surprised that the shop threw out the frame without saving the shock. That’s a valuable part.

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