The Chainlink

Hi everyone,

Thought I'd post this here, first.

I'm letting go of my favorite bike. It's been wall art since I got it a couple years ago, a pleasure to look at, but never ridden. It needs to go to a good home where it will be ridden, TOURED, like it was designed to. I have another identical frame, yet much worse for the wear, and have been too apprehensive to ride this one. My intention was to hold on to it until the other frame died, but I try to be a good minimalist, and can't justify sitting on a bike I may never need.

If you're thinking about buying a new touring bike, please consider this one. In my opinion, echoed by many others, this is the best era for the Trek 520. Between 1990 through 1993, these True Temper 4130 double butted lugged frames were built in Wisconsin USA.  Tire clearance is ample; at the seat stay bridge, and where the widest part of a tire would sit in the chainstays closest to the bottom bracket, it measures 55mm. The fork also mirrors these numbers. The TIG welded versions, starting in 1994, reduced this clearance.

For winter riding, I've run Nokian w240's, at 40mm wide, with full SKS P50 fenders!

No toe clip overlap.

Trek calls this a 19” frame, and indeed the bottom bracket to top tube, c-t, measures that. However, the top tube measures 55.4cm c-c. I normally ride a 54cm, and this bike is a great fit. Standover 30in. I would consider this a 54cm frame with a lowered top tube for standover clearence, much easier to get into when fully loaded.

The bike is in immaculate condition. It appears as if it were ridden for a month and put in storage. The only blemishes the frame shows is one incident of chain suck, aside from a couple really tiny nicks to the paint, and a small scrape on one of the brake hoods. I can't really get a good picture of them with my cell camera. Barely any wear to the components.

All original, with the following exceptions:

Tires/tubes replaced before I got it, I replaced all cables (stainless), bar tape (brand new), and chain(brand new). I have the original chain, which shows no signs whatsoever of stretching. I repacked the bottom bracket (with Phil's grease) and put on a new Sram PC58 which I had laying around, for the convenience of the quick link.

Everything else is original and in perfect working order.

Parts rundown, briefly:

Shimano Deore DX 7 speed front and rear derailleurs. Half step with granny gearing, (50,45,28). Hyperglide 12-28 cassette. Indexed bar end shifters. Deore DX 170mm cranks. Deore DX 36 hole hubs, 135mm. Rear frame spacing measures 132.5mm, for either road or mountain hubs. Shimano BR-MT62 cantilever brakes. Blackburn rack. MKS AR8 pedals (similar to GR9's). Bottom bracket is 68mm wide, English thread.

Link to 1990 Trek catalog, for detailed specs and geometry:

More pictures here:



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That's really a great bike in time capsule-like condition.  Stand your ground on that price.

I have a 19" Trek 790 from 1993-- exact same frame.


you must have read my old post! 

BAM! Ill shoot you an e-mail!

If I hadn't just bought last year's Trek 520 for touring, I would be all over this. The lugs are so beautiful, and sadly missing from my 2011. Hope it goes to a good home and sees the world.

gorgeous condition .. looks like a nice setup

A highly-desirable and increasingly-rare & collectible vintage touring bike with lugged frame in immaculate condition, the right model year for the more-desirable long-chainstay (so that heel-strike issues are avoided,) and finally located in a great bicycle market area at the peak time to sell.  I would love to be in your position!

The price point of $750 is actually a little low for such a bike in that condition IMHO.  A veritable bargain.  I am so very glad it is too small for me!

A few more words from

The 520 touring bike first appeared in 1983 and probably has made more trans-America crossings than any other bike model. It still is offered by Trek in steel (although not lugged), which has helped maintain significant model recognition among bicyclists. This longevity and popularity has raised the value of this bike over similarly-priced vintage Treks of the period.


Interestingly, the chainstay length of the 520 was highly variable over time (as pointed out by Robert Cooke). When the 520 debuted in 1983, the chainstays were 43cm long, and the bike was billed as "a comfortable and stable touring bike". They were extended to 45.5cm in 1984, and was still a touring bike. In 1985 and 1986, the 520 was equipped with shorter, 42.5cm, chainstays, and was billed as as a "sport touring" bike. These 85 and 86 520s were equipped with side-pull brakes rather than cantilevers. During the years 1987 through 91, the chainstays were back to the longer 45.5cm dimension. In 1992 and 93 they became 43cm again, but it stayed a "touring bike". In 1994 the length became 45cm and has stayed that way through 2005. The reason for the changes? - chainstay fashion? micro marketing? turf wars?


Me too! Beautiful specimen!

James BlackHeron said:

... I am so very glad it is too small for me!

Um . . . I'd think it a hair too large for Laura, and probably not too small for James (?)

My current ride is a 58cm square,   My CX bike is a 54" (compact frame -virtual  top tube is more like a 56)  and I've got over 6" of seatpost showing.  I'd need a massively-long seatpost to ride this 520 and it'd be cramped without a ridiculously long and high stem.  

19" I just can't/won't do.  So it does save me from myself.  If it were a few more cm taller I'd really be temped.

Man, you guys are making ME want to buy it!

uh oh! There's that 2 wheeled devil on my shoulder again!

"It is your size!"  "There's always room for one_more_bike!" "mmm, lugs"  

Must    resist  :)

James, I think that article is incorrect about the chainstays.  I have 3 of these frames, 2 1990's and a 1991, and they all have 43mm chainstays.  Maybe h' can confirm that on his as well.  With that said, I've never had a heel strike problem with 43mm chainstays, on this or other frames I've used with panniers, and I'm a size 10 shoe.  I think if I were using extremely large panniers, like the Jandd expeditions, it may be more of an issue, but with a long rear rack and Ortlieb bags, it's never been an issue.

As for the price, I think it's fair.  It's about what I have in it, minus the labor.  I bought it on Ebay a few years ago from a kid that just bought it from the original owner.  I think it was too small for him, and he had his LBS put a bunch of crap parts on it, like a cheap adjustable stem, plastic pedals, etc.  Luckily, the LBS didn't chuck the original parts, and I was able to recover them!  I probably could catch a bit more for it on Ebay, as a few in this condition I've seen sell higher, but I'd like to offer it to the local community first. 

In keeping with good bike Karma, I really just want to pass it on to someone that will love it while it's rolling them down some long winding road to who knows where, and not just have it hanging on a wall!

The article could very well be  incorrect -or the data set incomplete.  But this is a website that specializes in vintage Trek bikes.  As always, it's a good idea to measure anything before buying it and see for yourself.  I've looked at many bikes and bike components that were not exactly as documented -or advertised.  TANSTAAFL.

It's a beautiful bike though.  I was looking for a 520/720 for a long time as I had despaired of ever finding a Raleigh Competition/International frame and had pretty much giving up on that.  Then a Competition frame in my size fell in my lap.  When it comes back from powder coating I can't wait to swap it out with the frame i have now. 

Oh, and James, to be that two wheeled devil on your shoulder, I'm also selling an identical frameset, in much, much more used condition, though.  It's a 23", probably just your size ;)

That one's on the CL.



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