1. The most important thing about buying a new bike is to make sure it fits. The only way you'll know if the bike is right for you is to size up the bike and make sure that the bike's geometry matches your body's geometry. Ask questions and do some research.
mtn. biking 101
2. If possible, try to find a shop that will let you demo the bike on real dirt. Five minutes in a parking lot won't cut it. You wouldn't buy a car without a real world test drive, and a bike should be no different.
3. Don't belive the hype. Just because your favorite rider or best friend rides a certain bike, that doesn't mean that's the best one for you. Have an open mind and be realistic about your needs and ability.
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  1. #1
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    Advice: 93 Nishiki Alien

    Hello, I'm looking to buy an inexpensive used bike off of craigs list. I used to go trail riding when I was a teen but haven't gotten back into mountain biking since. The girlfriend wants to go bike riding so I got a little excited but don't have the money to shell out for a newer bike. I'd probably get a 29'er with disk brakes and a hard tail if I could. A friend turned me on to bikesdirect.com but I can't spend $500 on a bike right now.

    Anyways, I found a 93 Nishiki Alien for $95 that looks like it's in decent condition. The owner claims the tires and front suspension are trail ready. This will be somewhat of a temporary bike to last me a summer or two of moderate riding.

    So what do you think? I've read all the posts here about this bike and other e-stay bikes. Please don't tell me that it's lame unless I have the newest and latest technology. Front shocks are a new luxury for me so I think I will be alright in that dept.

    If you could please help me with your experience and expertise, what do you think about this bike? Should I plan on changing components? Should I not bother and buy something else? How much would you offer the guy for this bike?

    Thanks so much for your help!

    Nishiki Alien Mountain Bike

    Advice: 93 Nishiki Alien-3gd3j93hc5nf5i85m5d4kf32a51fc840f1eb3.jpg
    Rockin' purple Nishiki Alien mountain bike - aluminum frame, Shimano Deore LX gear, 21- speed, BelAir SDG seat, Zoom Competition head set, alloy wheels, knobby tires. $95 Obo.

  2. #2
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    It's a pretty fantastic piece of mountain bike history which is generally incompatible with modern upgrades.

    The fork is likely to be 65mm of travel, possibly a 1" steerer tube, and will require canti brake mounts. Don't expect to replace it; you could probably find some rebuild parts and get it functioning pretty well though. The rest of the bike, assuming the frame size is the proper one for you, is hard to assess. If the thing is in good shape then it's probably worth the money but if it's beat then pass it by.
    Don't you hate it when a sentence doesn't end the way you think it octopus?

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by zebrahum View Post
    If the thing is in good shape then it's probably worth the money but if it's beat then pass it by.
    Easily 95% of the aluminum Aliens I've seen are cracked. Look very carefully for hairline cracks on the head tube near the headset cups, and cracks in the welds closest to the seat. The fact that it has a front shock may well have prevented any cracks from forming. If you do get it, check for cracks periodically; riding hard on a cracked frame could have disastrous results. Cracks can be repaired, but you'll spend more $ on the repair than you did on the bike to begin with.

    .
    I wouldn't sell my bike for all the money in the world. Not for a hundred million, trillion, billion dollars!

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by captaincaffeine View Post
    Easily 95% of the aluminum Aliens I've seen are cracked.

    95%? Easily??


    Like zebrehum said it's a pretty cool piece of history and a bling bike in it's day. It would still be plenty fun now and worth the $95 if all was OK, but I'm guessing at minimum that the fork is cooked.

  5. #5
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    Thanks guys, I appreciate the comments. I didn't think about a cracked frame. I guess I was a little Nostalgic since my mountain biking days was on an 88 Nishiki Colorado.

    So I can bump it up $60 for a Schwinn Moab or this REI Novara bike...

    Schwinn: Schwinn Moab Mountain Bike
    Novara: Novara Aspen mtn bike 18"

    If you could please, give me your opinions. I'm not too worried about upgrades. I just want a bike that won't fall apart or force me to spend alot of money to make rideable. I understand you can't vouch for the condition the gears are in and such, but I don't know if this Schwinn is a dept store bike and have heard mixed reviews about the Novara.

    Thank you!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Honalua View Post
    Thanks guys, I appreciate the comments. I didn't think about a cracked frame. I guess I was a little Nostalgic since my mountain biking days was on an 88 Nishiki Colorado.

    So I can bump it up $60 for a Schwinn Moab or this REI Novara bike...

    Schwinn: Schwinn Moab Mountain Bike
    Novara: Novara Aspen mtn bike 18"

    If you could please, give me your opinions. I'm not too worried about upgrades. I just want a bike that won't fall apart or force me to spend alot of money to make rideable. I understand you can't vouch for the condition the gears are in and such, but I don't know if this Schwinn is a dept store bike and have heard mixed reviews about the Novara.

    Thank you!
    Assuming all these options actually fit you (you do know if they do or don't right?) then both of the options in your second post are better options than the alien. I'd get test riding and let that guide you. Used bikes are a minefield of potentially broken or worn parts so tread lightly.
    Don't you hate it when a sentence doesn't end the way you think it octopus?

  7. #7
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    Thanks, I'm looking for an 18" frame, but 19" would be fine. The Schwinn is my #1 choice, but I do like that I can put disk brakes on the Novara.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by J.B. Weld View Post
    95%? Easily??
    For real. I've been looking for these frames for about 3 or 4 years now, both the all-aluminum Aliens and the Alien ACXs, and it's rare that I find one that's not cracked. When I see them for sale on CL or eBay, I contact the seller and ask if they see any cracks in those areas, and almost every one has replied to me that they never noticed them before, and they pulled their ad or ended their auction early because of it. I've driven for hours to buy some of these frames only to be disappointed when I get there and point the cracks out to the seller. I can't help but think that some of them are unscrupulous sellers that were hoping that I wouldn't notice the cracks that they knew were there. In my personal experience, 95% is a reasonable number. Easily.

    If they're NOS frames, then obviously they've never been ridden and are fine, but I've seen frames that were cracked early in their life, so they look NOS otherwise. The story that I've "gathered" from many online forums (and I'm paraphrasing from memory, here) is that the framebuilder that was outsourced by Nishiki used a not-so-clean welding or curing process, so the welds are the weak link here, and these frames typically hold up to the average "abuse" that a young man (btwn 20 & 30) can give it during average off-road conditions for about 2 or 3 years before the cracks are noticed. After 20 years, in my humble opinion (and in my personal experience), it's almost a sure thing that it's cracked.

    One way to find out if 95% is a resonable number is for anyone who sees one for sale to post here after they see it or get it, and report what they find. I haven't kept records of all of the ones that I've seen over the years, but perhaps I should start doing that for the benefit of the community.

    I'd be very interested to see how this one works out. Caveat Emptor.
    I wouldn't sell my bike for all the money in the world. Not for a hundred million, trillion, billion dollars!

  9. #9
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    That's good to know. I would be sad if there was an unseen weakened area that I cracked having fun. Just curious, why do you search for these frames? Belt drive?

    I was looking forward to the lack of chain suck and curious to see what difference I could feel by the rear tire being more under me. I was also considering looking for those oblong cranks I had on my 88 or 89 Nishiki Colorado. Guess I'll just go have fun on a "normal" bike.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Honalua View Post
    That's good to know. I would be sad if there was an unseen weakened area that I cracked having fun. Just curious, why do you search for these frames? Belt drive?

    I was looking forward to the lack of chain suck and curious to see what difference I could feel by the rear tire being more under me. I was also considering looking for those oblong cranks I had on my 88 or 89 Nishiki Colorado. Guess I'll just go have fun on a "normal" bike.
    Why do I search for these frames? My first and only ride for many years was an 89 steel Alien, and I remember the ACXs when they came out, but I never saw them on the trails, and I thought I'd never see them again. I remember BITD with my Alien I could climb hills other guys couldn't, and ride some epic wheelies, and I was sure it was the frame geometry, along with my biopace chainset (is that what you mean by oblong cranks?), that enabled me to do that.

    Fast forward 20 years or so, and I began looking for a replacement frame (and biopace rings) in case mine broke. That's when I found out about the all-aluminum Aliens, and in fact, that a lot of other manufacturers made elevated chainstay designs, so I started buying them when I could find them. My reasoning was that my Alien had become such a part of me, an extension of me if you will, and since they're not making them anymore, I figure I'll get them when I can. Belt drive capability was an afterthought, and I'm sure one day I'll be looking into that as well.

    You mentioned chainsuck, and the rear tire being more "under" you (the rear wheel is about a half-inch or so closer to the BB than a conventional bike, which makes it a slightly shorter wheelbase, but it's enough that you'll notice a difference in handling), but another benefit of that design is that it enables a lot of clearance near the bottom bracket and front mech for wider tires, or to mitigate mud buildup in that area while riding.

    The downside to an elevated chainstay design (so I've heard) is that the frame tends to flex when you're really hammering such that the bottom bracket will sway from side to side, although I never noticed that problem in many years of riding, but then again, I was never a pro racer, so I'm willing to accept that possibility. The aluminum frames (vice steel frames) were supposed to alleviate that flex because they're very stiff when compared to steel, but their stiffness is what causes the brittle parts (the welds, in this case) to take the brunt of the stress and to eventually break.

    A front suspension fork on one of those aluminum frames may well reduce the amount of stress to the frame such that it might not crack if not ridden too hard. The steel frames, on the other hand, are bulletproof in my experience; if they bend or break, they can be bent back and/or welded without any major structural issues, whereas the aluminum frames were produced using some special, fussy procedure of welding, then heating up, and then cooling down, and so repairs on aluminum frames are more involved, and I understand the frame can become even weaker where the new weld is applied. That said, if you don't mind spending money on repairs, or care about the visual impact of adding a gusset or 2 and maybe a headset collar to increase the frame's strength (but which makes it obvious that it's not original - a big deal if you're into restoration to original spec), then I'd say go for it.

    Best of luck whatever you decide to do.
    I wouldn't sell my bike for all the money in the world. Not for a hundred million, trillion, billion dollars!

  11. #11
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    You make me want to go for it again... Yeah the biopace cranks is what I was talking about. The idea made so much sense to me, I'm surprised they aren't still used but I don't know the whole story. I don't think my riding would be much of an issue for the flex I've read about. I weigh around 170 don't get too crazy on the trails. Definitely not jumping like I did with bmx bikes as a kid. Just want to get on the trails with my gf this summer and not have to sink too much money into a bike. Thanks for the story even if you made my decision tougher.

  12. #12
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    There are a new type of biopace chain rings ,they are called rotorrings ,kind of pricey.

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