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How to Recycle Your (Old) Bicycle

By Sam Millers   /  Last updated - September 5, 2022   /  Blog

recycle bicycle

It is a new bike day and you have been enjoying that great new ride. You are faster, cornering like a madman, and stopping faster than ever before. Now you are wondering, what is up with your old bike?

Recently, you may have seen a new story about a large number of rideshare bikes being thrown away, or worse being found in lakes, rivers, and canals.  It may make you wonder, what is the best thing to do with an old bike?

We will discuss the various options available in our communities in regards to making an old bike useful again.

Do You Ride a Single-Speed Drivetrain?

Single-speed riding is more popular than ever.  And, for many, the best way to go single is by adapting an existing bike.

There are quite a few ways to go single.  This doesn’t necessarily mean going fixed gear, but it certainly is an option. The first and easiest option is to find a single-speed conversion kit.

A conversion kit for a derailleur bike consists of a single cog and many spacers for the freehub body. It includes a chain tensioner as well.  You would remove the derailleur system from the bike, shorten the chain, install the cog and tensioner and you now have a single speed.  Please keep the brakes!

If you happen to have a frame with adjustable rear dropouts, going to fixed gear single speed is an option as well.  Fixed gear means that there is no freewheel mechanism, so you can’t coast at all. You have to pedal constantly.

Many people become better riders when switching to a single-speed drivetrain.  On the mountain bike side, you improve because you have to change your riding style.  On a multi-geared bike, you can shift gears to make it up a hill.  You don’t have that benefit when you use a single-speed bike.  You work momentum to your favor, as well as determination to get through technical or steep sections.

On the road, if you ride a fixed gear, you improve from technique and pedaling style.  Since you can’t coast, you are forced to pedal.  You are also forced to pedal more fluidly on a downhill, effectively in smooth circles, otherwise, you bounce wildly around on the saddle. The net effect is controlled, and an ability to put power out through the cranks more evenly.

Consider Donating to a Charity

A bicycle is an awesome form of transportation. The cost savings allowed can not only help someone access a job but save money from owning an automobile.

Check locally, and you will find a variety of charities that you can donate a good used bike.  Some charities specialize in the refurbishment of a bike, for the express purpose of helping an adult get back on their feet. Other charities will just resell and use the money to aid.

At certain times of the year, you may find a charity that is performing a huge bike giveaway, usually to children.  A great thing is to help with the program, whether you assist in bike assembly, or delivery to a needy family, it is a great benefit. Many of these families need other bikes beyond those for their children.  Donating a high-quality bike goes quite far in helping someone access jobs.

One other consideration is that there is a growing movement in schools to have cycling as a sport.  You may check in your area if there is a junior or high school cycling league.  Some riders would appreciate a higher quality bike to make them more competitive.

Campus Cruising

College life can be quite a bit of fun. Moving to campus, learning a new town or city, and living on your own.

For many students, transportation is a big issue. On some campuses, there are restrictions on student vehicles.  That makes bicycles one of the best means of transportation.

Best Bikes for College Students to Ride Around the Campus

Image source: Wingbikes.com Bicycles offer a fast and efficient solution to get around in urban environments, ...

Taking a good used bike and turning it into campus transportation is an excellent way to recycle.  It can also mean a way for a student to live off-campus if need be.

On some college campuses, there are fitness clubs, cycling, and triathlon teams. Starting an expensive sport can be a huge barrier.  Recycling to help an up-and-coming athlete makes a lot of sense.

However, be careful.  Bike theft on college campuses is an epidemic. Buy a good lock, and use it correctly to help prevent your bike from disappearing.

Consignment and Resale

Selling a bike can be a pain.  There is eBay, Craigslist, and others, but having to ship a bike, or worse, meet up with a stranger is just a recipe for disaster for some people.

Check out selling your bike on consignment, or directly to a used bike specialist.  A company like The Pro’s Closet specializes in buying and selling top-quality cycling products.  They pay fair amounts for bikes, so this can be a viable option for you.

You may also check with your local shop or other specialists.  There are bike shops that are local that may consign your bike.  Especially if you have a unique or special bike.  Some shops may even point you toward another customer that is in the market for a bike exactly like yours. This works well if you have an extremely large or small frame size.

Indoor Trainer

 Many riders find themselves pressed for time during the week, making it difficult to get outside to hit the roads and trails. Another issue is the lack of daylight during the winter months in combination with bad weather.

Whatever your reason, using an indoor trainer is a great way to repurpose a bike that you may have.  When you get down to it, using an indoor trainer is a sweaty endeavor, so using an old bike is a good thing.

Ask your local shop, chances are that they have seen a bike or two with significant damage from being on a trainer, and not taking care of the corrosive sweat that ends up on the bike.

So instead of using your great new carbon uber bike, use an old one. Adapt it for specific trainer use.  Some people will mimic a time trial bike position so that they can get used to aero bars. Others will go to the other extreme and raise the bars significantly and sit very upright.

Add in a TV or computer, a big fan, and some bath towels and you have a cardio gym available to you at any time.

Going Vintage

Last years bike becomes vintage, eventually!  Ok, with carbon fiber bikes, and other state of the art pieces, perhaps vintage is further off.  But for some of you, an old bike truly is vintage, and there is a growing group of people that love their old bikes – and ride them!

Check out Eroica California for a special event featuring great old bikes, and some newer ones as well.  Eroica is not the only event, there are small and large groups everywhere that will hold regular rides, and some bigger events that celebrate old bikes.  With Eroica California, part of the challenge is to ride more difficult routes on these bikes.

Converting to Gravel

 Getting dirty has become a way of life for some riders.  Using quiet dirt roads and trails for their riding enjoyment has proven how worthy gravel riding has become.

A potential re-purpose of your old bike is to convert its use to off-road, dirt, and gravel riding.  If the design of your bike lends itself, adding on wider tires, and gearing it down can open up a new world of rides and challenges.

While converting to disc brakes front and rear might not be possible, you can go a long way of making your bike functional.  Some riders find that a fork retrofit can smooth things out, such as with suspension, and also get you a front disc brake in the process. With a bit of planning and wise choices you can easily repurpose your bike into a new category.


Just because you have a new bike doesn’t make your old one any less useful.  Recycling your bike to a friend could be a great way to find a new cycling partner.  You can even recycle to create something fresh to ride on your local trails and roads.  The possibilities are endless.

More importantly, properly addressing what to do with an old bike goes much further than helping others.  Throwing bikes away is not that great for the environment because they don’t decompose.  There is always a use for an old bike, by someone, somewhere.

We hope that you have gained some great ideas of what to do with an old bike.  Recycling your bicycle can go much further than just a decade ago.  Whether you help others or make yourself a better rider, recycling in some way makes great sense.

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2 thoughts on “How to Recycle Your (Old) Bicycle

  1. Margot Fernando says:

    Very nice article, exactly what I needed.

    1. Sam Millers says:

      Thanks, Margot! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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