Red tags indicate untouched, as-found, in feral state used bicycles that range from recent Giant comfort bikes that need almost nothing to total basket case Follis racing bikes from 1950's France. It is a broad range and are typical of the bikes that one would find on craigslist, at garage sales or in thrift stores.
People ask us what individual red tag bikes need to operate but, usually, we really don't know. To evaluate a used bike requires us to get it in the stand and check everything out. Red tag bikes surprise us daily. Something that looks pretty solid sometimes ends up being total garbage.
One should assume that Coco's red tag bikes will require work. True projects for bicycle mechanics and very ambitious amateurs.
For example, we recently took this Univega on trade-in and ended up parting it out. The individual that sold this on craiglist should be ashamed. Even though we are professionals and do this everyday, we are stung more often than we should admit. In the case of long slumbering mixtes that have been stored in a damp basement, the issues are natural consequences of the elements and neglect. Sometimes, in the case of the Univega, the 'restoration' was deceit. Duro tires, brake levers with the suicide levers removed, chopped drop bars and Endzone saddles are all telling warning signs.
My word of advice to craigslist bike shoppers - don't buy anything 'restored.' With very, very few exceptions, craigslist bicycles that have been restored have been put together for resale not riding. If you are going to venture into the worlds of craigslist sellers, buy bikes that are original and solid. If you can't ride it around the block - "it just needs a tune-up/tube/new chain" - keep looking. Any savings on purchase will evaporate when you bring it to the mechanic.
Examples of red tag bikes: a root beer brown Raleigh, a fire engine red Cannondale, a $100 Italian racing bike or a super nice and cheap $250 Hardrock.
Blue tag bikes are rider ready. This means that we have put the bike in the stand, evaluated current condition, replaced anything that was broken and tuned the bike up. We have ridden the bicycle around the block a couple times at speed and everything works. These are solid used bikes that are ready to ride. They have not been stripped to the frame, so it is possible that some issue is lingering that we don't know about, but with a 30 day warranty, you are protected.
While they are solid riders that we stand behind, they are not going to be finished/polished to the same standard as our green tag bikes. A good example of this, a $250 Schwinn Sierra. A very nice quality bike, but would benefit from a little extra rubbing with steel wool and car wax.
Honestly, these are the typical bikes that bike mechanics personally ride or build for their friends. They intend to do a full build a la the Coco's green tag standard, but like the shoe repairman with holes in his soles, they never quite get to it. It is an economical and sensible build, IF you are willing to tolerate some likelihood of breakdown. If breakdowns are your personal anathema, then we would recommend a green tag or yellow tag bike.
Typical blue tag bikes: a lightly used Redline commuter, a $200 Tange steel Motiv or a Bianchi city bike.
Our lofty green tag standard is known from Barcelona to Burbank. Seriously. We don't know of anybody in Los Angeles that offers a one year warranty on a used bike. We are able to offer such a generous guarantee because we strip the bicycle down to a bare frame and start from scratch. There are no hidden surprises as we have touched every component.
A typical green tag build goes like this:
Bicycle is carefully evaluated that it is worth building. That it is a quality bicycle, there is no rust, the frame is straight, no bulges from crashes, the fork isn't bent, the derailleur hanger can be straightened and a hundred other metrics that figure into a close look. We probably only buy 25% of the bikes that come our way.
Bicycle is stripped to the bare frame. The correct tools are used. The headset cups and bottom bracket are removed. The front and rear dropouts are aligned with the Park alignment gauges. The bottom bracket threads are chased and the bottom bracket housing is refaced. The bike frame is cleaned, errant stickers are removed with acetone and frame is rubbed out and waxed like grandpappy's Lincoln.
If anything is worn out or less than confidence inspiring, we replace it.
Gear and brake cables, gear and brake cable housing, grips or bar tape, chain, tubes and brake pads are always replaced. Tires and saddle are almost always replaced. Derailleurs, shifters, pedals, bottom bracket, wheels and headset are often replaced. On individual bikes ask what has been replaced.
All components are run through our industrial ultrasonic cleaner. Jockey wheels are lubed on derailleurs or replaced, all pivot points are lubricated. Brakes are tuned and lubed. Headset is repacked. Wheels are trued. Suspect spokes are replaced. All new cables and housing are run. Bottom bracket is repacked or replaced. Brake pads are replaced. Brake toe adjusted. New chain sized and installed. Seat post is lubed. Bars are wrapped. All components are tuned.
We use quality components. Jagwire housing, Cane Creek brake pads, Shimano bottom brackets, DT Swiss stainless spokes. It is all money that you don't see, but we are building serious riders - and charging for such. That is why green tag bikes are more expensive than what you saw on eBay or craigslist.
Examples of green tag builds: a KHS single speed conversion, a Bridgestone city bike, a Centurion, a Specialized city bike/mountain bike conversion, a Raleigh with brand new disc brakes and a Italvega.
Yellow tags indicated brand new bikes.
Currently, we sell one brand of new bicycle - Linus of Venice, California by way of Taiwan. Started by a couple of bike loving buddies, Linus has accomplished what lots of other companies have tried and failed at - building reasonably priced, classic city bikes without being pastiche.
I believe that we stock more and sell more Linus bicycles than anybody in Southern California. Check out the Linus website for full details.