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Tuesday
Jan222013

Vintage Bikes

I was recently sent a link to this interesting video. (Above) It features a vintage bicycle event held annually in Tuscany, Italy. It is much like other similar events held in various parts of the world, one of the most popular in the US being Le Cirque du Cyclisme held in Leesburg, Virginia, May 17-19, this year.

A vintage bicycle is usually considered to be one from the mid 1980s or before. It occurred to me watching this video that the 1980s will probably be the last era of collectable bicycles.

It is the cutoff date where bicycles stopped being hand brazed lugged steel, with the same 1 1/8 inch diameter seat and down tubes, and level (Horizontal.) 1 inch top tubes. A standard that was set in the late 1800s early 1900s. It is the end of an era when bicycle frames bore the name of an individual craftsman that either built the frame or at least one time built the frame.

Bicycles are now made by corporations like most other products, Trek, Cannondale, and a whole host of others, some that have emerged in the last twenty years or so. I cannot see bicycles built today being collected in the future, not in large numbers anyway; anymore than I can see modern cars being collected.

The event in the video, l’Eroica, attracted over 3,000 participants, a large number; but when you consider that there were millions of bicycles built in Europe alone between say the 1950s and 1980s 3,000 then seems quite small.

I am finding this is holding true with my own Bicycle Registry. From 1984 to 1993 I built somewhere slightly under 3,000 Fuso frames. On my registry I can only account for a hundred or so of them. My registry has 163 members total at the time of writing this. Again small by comparison against the amount I produced over the years.

In order for a bicycle, bicycle frame or any other product for that matter to become collectable, it has to show that it will last a long time. Frames I built over thirty years ago are still being ridden today; it is safe to assume that they can safely be ridden for at least 50 years, or longer depending on how often it is used.

It is not unusual to discover a bicycle that has been sitting in a garage or basement for twenty years and is in mint condition, having had little or no use. In 2007 I bought a Recherché frame that I built in 1985; it was “New Old Stock,” (NOS) having been hanging in a bike store for 21 years. Its age is now 28, but it has had under 6 years of use.

I feel extremely fortunate to have had a career during this 1980s period, and was a part of the ending of an era. There are still new framebuilders out there, spurred on by events like the North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show. (NAHBS)

A few of their frames may be collected in the future, if only for the quality and the rarity, but in general in order for something to be collectable it has to have a number of collectors interested in the same item, if only for the reason of buying and selling the item.

Collecting vintage bicycles can be fun. It is far less costly than collecting vintage cars, and requires a lot less space. Because of the economy, it is a buyer’s market right now, and vintage bikes across the board are at an all time low.

Besides owning something of beauty, collectors are preserving something for future generations. They may also get the added pleasure of meeting other like minded people and attending events like l’Erocia or Le Cirque du Cyclisme.

 

I suggest you view the video in full screen mode to get the full effect not only of the vintage bikes but the beauty of the region where this event was held.

 

                       

Reader Comments (13)

WOW. What a great film! Absolutely loved it! Took me back many years and memories of riding in Germany and Austria.
My street ride is a 1983 Colnago Superissimo. Don't know that I will ever get a serious modern bike for the road. I would like to find a Fuso in 58 or 60 though! Thanks again for the great find.

January 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSJX426

I think there will always be a market for hand made bicycles, and those bicycles will hold value- both market value and riding value- for a long time. There are plenty of builders still making bicycles by hand, by themselves. Most of them have a really long wait list.
And yes, you will have a hard time giving away your Madone in 10 years, even if it hasn't cracked.

January 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterConrad

Steel bikes have a nose ,like vintage wines and riders. That was wonderful ,thanks.

January 22, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterlee

Thanks for sharing that video. It's a wonderful contrast to he who shall not be named.

January 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSkip Montanaro

Great watch. Thank you Dave. Since acquiring an '87 bike by a Canberra (Australia) builder last year, I've developed tunnel vision. And you've confirmed a sneaking suspicion I've had on this subject as well. Now my searches will only intensify.
And Viva Vimeo, as well.

January 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul (Sydney Australia)

Dave,

I'm a vintage bike collector. I have several bikes from the 1970's and 80's. They're all excellent bikes, even though I don't have the 'top of the range' models. Most importantly, they're fun to ride.

However, most vintage bike collectors consider themselves to be C&V guys (classic and vintage) - that means that a more modern bike made in a classic way is also desirable. I have a Waterford RSE-22 bike that was made to my specs, and it's one of my favourite bikes.....especially for day touring.

While you're right in saying that it's hard to get a real following for custom made bikes as vintage collectibles, as a whole the custom bike market is pretty healthy. Yes, it's not as large as the Paramount collectors groups or the Raleigh Pro, or Hetchins collectors groups, but it's still a respectable market.

I know that I'd love to have one of your bikes in my stable. It would be fun to ride something made by someone I 'know'. If you hear of someone who wants to part with a 59-60 cm frame, please let me know. :)

Yohann

January 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohann

Been trying for awhile to convince one of my close cycling buds to go with me - I would supply the bikes - but no luck to date.

I think you should go and ride one of your own bikes - it would be a great hit IMO with the L'Eroica crowd.

Dave, how about initiating a group to go together next year?

Anyone have a drop bolt so I can replace the long reach Weinmann centerpull brake with a Campy on my chrome '72 Paramount?

January 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJack

www.classiclightweights.co.uk Go to this fine web site by Peter Underwood to see many OldBrit bikes like Dave and I rode in the dark ages, be sure to look at all the many pages to see what Vintage bikes are all about. I have several of my collection Holland, Rotrax,Claud Butler Mercian under JC bikes and a page of my remisisess I WISH Dave would take the time to add to this with all his fond memorys and wealth of knowledge., www.classicrendezvous.com Dale Browns fine web site has bikes from all over the world also a blog that Dave has posted to a few times. Like Dave I have been invloved in bikes most of my 80yrs .Still ride most of my bikes at least once a week.

January 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Crump

John Crump,
Thanks for mentioning those two fine vintage sites. I have contacted Classic Lightweights UK and their cut off date predates my stuff. I have no problem with this, rules is rules.
Dave

January 24, 2013 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Dave you are almost as old as me, Write up a report on your club days, you have fantastic photos, (that I wish I had, my Dad tossed mine in the bin when I left for the USA) of club life and rides etc in the 50s. Share your memorys this is the history of how cycling started you where part of that. I know Peter Underwood would be very pleased to put that on his web site.

January 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Crump

Apart from a short flirt with an Alan alu job I've always gone for steel. But I'm sure every object finds it's collector - one day. Somewhere somebody already has half a dozen carbon frames hanging on the wall. It's all a case of design. I don't like the new shapes but others will. And they will collect. Tastes change.

January 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony C.

Collect bikes! Nah! I have bikes to ride them. Four or five good (and a not-so-good one) bikes - each has a purpose. Why you you like to hold a good bike off the market and keep it from being ridden? Great bicycles shouldn't be collecting dust - they should be taking people places!

January 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEric W

Up to a point I agree with Eric. But I also know that without collectors and collections we would know a lot less about all kinds of things.

January 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony C.

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