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bike 101: what to do with old (steel) wheels?

May 6, 2011

1978 Raleigh Grand Prix

Over the past weeks, T. and I have started cleaning out our garage and getting more of the house in order with the idea that baby’s arrival will allow for less sorting and house work in the near future. As we’re going through our bike menagerie, we’ve been pondering what to do with the two sets of vintage steel bike wheels that we have aquired through my Raleighs.

I wrote about the decision and logistics of replacing my steel wheels (and old tires) on my Raleigh Sports commuter and my Raleigh Grand Prix road bike at the end of last summer. Although I can’t imagine changing the wheels back to the steel ones from the new aluminum ones, I do wonder… would it be smart to hold on to these original bike components in case I ever decide to sell one of those bikes? Are there merits to having those original wheels for the bike or should I assume that most sellers would appreciate the upgrade to more efficient aluminum wheels and new tires?

I’d love any tips and advice from those of you more experienced in this department! Should we keep those steel wheels that are just taking up precious storage room and, if so, why might one hold on to them? Thank you in advance for any comments and advice!

~ S.

Update: After writing this post and reading the reader responses, it became clear that there would be no need for me to hold on to the original steel wheels. I then decided to either donate them to my favorite bike shop (if they had use for them) or a bike recycling center (if I found one in town). A brief chat with the owner of said bike shop revealed that the bike shop I had in mind for donation also functions as the local bike recycle place, so there my wheels will go. May someone else find use for them! I’m happy to not add them to our landfills but rather to know that they can hopefully be recycled and reused on some other bike project, thus fulfilling their little purpose in life.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. May 6, 2011 12:06

    I would say the only kind of person who would be interested in having the steel wheels is someone who wants the bike fully restored in original condition – if it’s someone who plans to actually use the bike for transportation, I’m sure they would appreciate the new ones :)

  2. May 6, 2011 12:29

    I was wondering the same thing. I have the old tires to my Raleigh and need to dispose of them. Is there a special (environmentally-friendly) way to get rid of them?

    • May 6, 2011 15:06


      I was planning on asking my favorite local bike shop if they could use them for their spare parts stash. If there’s a need for the wheels and they could make use of them, I was just going to donate them to the bike shop. I love the place, the service is always friendly and they’re always helping me out with tips, advice on bike stuff, etc, and I’ve always been pleased with the work they’ve done on my bikes, so I figured that if they could use the wheels, I would just give them to them.

  3. May 6, 2011 12:42

    Ditch the wheels. As Dave said, the only people that would want the old wheels is if they’re planning some kind of full restore. I’m guessing your bike isn’t a good candidate for a full restore because 1) you’ve already invested money in taking the bike a different direction, and 2) there are probably bikes out there that are in better condition that would be better candidates for a full restore (and cheaper, too, since you’ve added value to the bike by replacing parts).

    To get rid of wheels easily, put them on Craigslist. If you offer them for free, I’ll bet you’ll be rid of them in 24 hours. Unless they’re in really poor condition, in which case they just need to get scrapped. In my neighborhood in MPLS, if I leave anything metal in my alley, it disappears within an hour or two from one of the scrappers picking it up.

    Also, there’s no need to feel guilty about getting rid of the old wheels: Those steel rims you find on older Schwinns and Raleighs weren’t terribly impressive the day they rolled out of the factory brand new. They’ve always been budget wheels.

    • May 6, 2011 15:07

      Thanks, Reuben, I figured that I would see if my local bike shop wants them, if not I will put them up for free on Criagslist. Great idea. I think you’re right in all the points you’re making, so I think I should just ditch them.

  4. May 6, 2011 16:01

    i upgraded my wheels too when i bought my 1969 hercules but we took it to a shop so we don’t have the wheels anymore but other bikes we have bought we have kept the original wheels and have thought about selling them. around here are there are a couple of guys that restore vintage bikes so they look for original parts. would i want to go back to my old wheels…no the bike is heavy enough and i don’t need that little bit extra! hehehe


  5. Damon Brown permalink
    May 7, 2011 09:58

    If you have a local Bike Co-op that can be a great place to take unwanted or “obsolete” parts like steel wheels. Places like this usually provide bicycle mechanics and commuting classes, often discount transportation bikes to those in need and generally add a lot to the community. A big part of their revenue is selling old bikes and parts. is in Chicago (I’m sure there are others). Out west (where I live) these can be found in major cities. My local place is

  6. May 7, 2011 17:27

    In Edmonton I’d drop this stuff off at the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters. They recycle old stuff and other people come and use old parts for their rides!


  7. May 18, 2011 22:35

    Sorry for commenting so late, but I was waiting to see if anybody was going to say it.
    Another thing you could do is make a pot and pan rack out of one. I’ve seen it done leaving the wheel intact (spokes etc.) but I think it looks tacky. With some chain and s-hooks maybe paint, you could make something nice, kind of like the round one on this page and at a bargain price.

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