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What is a vintage bicycle?
aVintage bikes are typically defined as bikes that were produced between the 1920s and the 1990s, although the earlier date is open to debate. Mostly they are bicycles that have been made by hand and constructed with steel. In the past, steel was widely regarded as the best material for bicycle manufacture as it was considered the most responsive, hard-wearing and versatile material that was readily available.
What is the difference between an antique bike and a vintage bike?
There are, of course, bikes that out-date vintage bicycles; often referred to as antique bikes, these will be even older and come from before the 1920s. Some of these antiques can still be ridden, but because of their age, they will serve you far better as being a collectible item that you leave out on display. The difference between a vintage bike and an antique bike is that a vintage bike can still be used frequently, provided they are in good condition on purchase and are cared for once you own them.
So is a retro bike a vintage bike?
Many of the companies that operated between the 1920s and 1990s are still producing bikes today. Lots of modern companies, founded outside of this era, are looking back to the golden age of racing bikes for inspiration for models. These modern reproductions are referred to as retro bikes, they may look like a vintage bike, but they will be kitted out with modern componentry and won’t provide the same level of joy as sharing someone else’s piece of history.
A beautiful example of a retro bike: the Bottecchia Leggendaria. It has the classy style of a vintage bike but has been constructed with modern parts.
Why should I buy a vintage bicycle?
There is nothing quite like the connection between you and the road as you get from riding a steel vintage bike. Steel is such a forgiving material and is not only capable of surviving the test of time, it also provides one of the most comfortable rides you can get.
What makes a steel frame so good?
Bumps or abrasions on road surfaces are met with ease on steel vintage frames, making a steel vintage bike a great choice as a commuter bike or a leisure bike for weekend rides. Vintage bikes with steel frames can weigh as little as 8kg! Although steel is considered a heavy alloy, in bicycle manufacturing it provides a great balance between strength, durability and weight - and if your bike is your prized-possession and you want to display it in your house, it won’t pull a wall down!
There are however other things that make vintage bikes brilliant investments:
The most famous vintage bike brands
Here is a spectacular example of a Colnago. On show here is the Colnago Mexico TT from 1981, which was used by the USSR Olympic team in the 1980 Olympic games in Moscow.
Reasons to love them:
One of the oldest bicycle manufacturers. First brand to introduce equal sized pneumatic wheels.
High quality Italian pioneers - many famous riders succeeded on Bianchi bikes in the 19th Century.
Signature ‘Celeste’ colourway featuring somewhere on the bike, said to represent the colour of the Milan sky.
Founder Ernesto Colnago was a medical equipment engineer who pursued bicycle manufacture after an injury ended his own racing career.
Ernesto was a mechanic as well as manufacturer and assisted many champions, such as Merckx and Masi.
Their logo is something similar to the ‘clubs’ symbol from a deck of cards.
Founded by one of the greatest cyclists of all time: Eddy Merckx after his retirement.
The bike’s have been deemed worthy of use by a true champion of the sport.
Merckx’s initials blend together to produce a cyclist for their logo.
Before entering into frame manufacture, Ugo de Rosa, the founder, was an amateur racer but wasn’t satisfied by merely racing so created his own business.
De Rosa teamed up with many champions throughout the years, proving just how well built and reliable his bikes are.
The de Rosa logo is a heart, either featuring in the ‘o’ of Rosa, or around the ‘D’.
Founded before the car side of the business, Peugeot were a trusted and sturdy European brand manufacturing high quality bicycles.
Peugeot supported mainly French manufacturers of componentry even though the market was broadly dominated by Campagnolo.
Featuring a pouncing lion on most items they produce, they also enjoy a black and white checkerboard design.
A father-son business that gained notoriety in the 1970s after many successful years of professional racing.
One of the most distinctive brands who will sell you a bike in any colour you want, as long as it is blue!
The Gios bright blue comes from a partnership with Brooklyn chewing gum in 1972, and since then the colour has remained.
Nevertheless, there are many more classic vintage brands out there that are excellent too!
How much is a vintage bike worth?
Vintage bikes can vary greatly in price, but that depends on how many of the bullet points above are met. For example, a bike that meets all the criteria could cost in excess of €30,000. Normally though vintage bikes will cost between €2,000 and €10,000 - but you may also be able to find less costly bikes for around €1,000.
However, if you’re extremely lucky, you might be able to source a gem for around €400-€500, these bikes would have been made for comfort and city travelling as opposed to speed. Often, they will be referred to as Mixte or Randonneurs and provide an interesting and reliable alternative to a more expensive vintage road bike.