Out with the New and in with the Old! January 01 2017
You may have needed to read the title twice but rest assured it is written correctly.
We are very quick to dismiss with something familiar in exchange for a promise of something better. Do you ever feel that the pinnacle of performance has been reached in a past version and that the pursuit and development of newer (“better”) often falls short of the previous. I feel this way with bicycle gearing.
Since the appearance of derailleur gearing, the number of available gears has steadily risen with some bikes now sporting 30 speeds or gears. With this set-up comes a lot of specialized, individual parts that need to work seamlessly together but often don’t. Performance is directly related to cost.
Compare that to an Sturmey-Archer (SA) internally geared 3-speed hub that has fallen out of favour with the masses since the ten-speed boom of the early 80’s. This hub provides you with three different speed options (hills, flat roads and late for work), easy shifting (the chain doesn’t move) and years of “no maintenance required” operation. Maybe the most desirable feature is that shifting doesn't require any technique. In my opinion, these hubs are the go-to gearing choice for everyday riding. Every time I salvage a bicycle and discover a SA 3-speed hub I feel like a kid looking down and spotting a $50 on the sidewalk with no claimant in sight. The best part about Sturmey-Archer is that they are still being manufactured today.
I just finished installing a SA 3-Speed hub with drum brake on a 1950’s Sunshine-Waterloo (A full review of the restoration is forthcoming). Along with easy 3 speed shifting, this model has a lever operated drum brake. The brake is also internal meaning fewer parts to rust or get knocked around that will later require repair or servicing.
My next project is building a bicycle with a SA 2-speed kick-back gearing whereby I have one easy gear and one easier gear. I simply back pedal a quarter turn to shift from one to the other. Of course there is also the single speed coaster-brake bicycle. With the right gearing you’ll wonder if you even need gears. You would be literally fascinated with the number of very useful bicycle technologies that are out there that have been overshadowed by modern day bicycle monoculture.
I’ve noticed this trend in other areas of life as well. Although new clothes may be appealing in the short term, buying used (old) better made clothing from thrift stores is a much better investment. Often the brand name clothes found at thrift stores lasts longer and performs better than newer articles bought at department stores.
Whether it’s bicycles, clothing, furniture or most other things, there is value and economy in buying quality, previously owned items. This is to say nothing of the environmental benefits, the change in consumption patterns and the enjoyment you get from stuff that works like it should.
I prefer striving for continuous improvement in stead of resolutions. So in 2017 I hope you are able to consider each of your purchases individually and think more about the options available to you. This time next year you can reflect on the money you saved (or spent) and the difference your choices made, whether in the quality of the experience that item provided or the overall impact on your well-being, the earth or others.
Happy New Year and Take care,
Disclaimer: I do appreciate the need for multi-speed derailleur gearing for racing, touring and certain terrains. However, for everyday riding I think three-speed gearing is ideal.
The Perfect Bicycle? March 23 2016
What would your perfect bicycle look like; comfy seat, easy to pedal, a beautiful colour? I agree. These are all characteristics of the perfect bicycle. The bicycle has evolved to be more that just a recreational vehicle. It can be much more. Today it is equally a symbol of conscious living, an extension of your personality and a way of exploring and getting around on this planet. So comfort and character should rank high on your list.
However, the bicycle you choose has to function first and should reflect your consumer values in terms of production and purchasing, then you put your stamp on it. So let’s look at the functional elements of what may become your perfect bicycle.
First of all, there is no such thing as a bicycle that will do it all. Although hybrids exist and lots of options provide many opportunities to customize, bicycles will always work better in one environment over another. Chances are you will be doing most of your riding on paved roads and smooth trails in a community setting. You probably want to get around at a good pace but wouldn’t sacrifice comfort for going faster and want to feel steady while riding. As you gain confidence you will want to ride as often as possible, even in less than ideal weather to do more and more by bicycle.
So be that our criteria for the perfect bicycle, it would likely fall under the heading “City Bike”. First of all a bicycle has to fit. If it doesn’t, then it just won’t feel right. A lot has changed in term of bicycle geometry, frame sizing and tire size so the best way to choose a “size” is to ride the bicycle and have a knowledgable person guide you through riding position while making some adjustments to the setup of the bicycle. Feel is often more accurate than frame size in finding the right fit.
Numero deux on the list is gearing. Most bicycles have a lot of gears these days which are unnecessary and detract from the joy of riding a bicycle. Many casual riders are so focused on how and when to change gears, they never get to experience the euphoria that comes from a long, pleasant bicycle ride. My advice on multi-speed bicycles is to find a gear you like on the easy side and just stick with that for a while. Once you are comfortable with that one gear then learn to use the one harder and one easier gear on either side. That will be likely all you need. And remember the most fun and easiest gear is called “coasting”.
That said, you may only need one, three, five or ten speeds, not 18 or more. I am partial to three and five speeds. But what is even more important is the size of the chain rings on the front and sprockets on the back. The front is the more important; and the fewer teeth the easier. I like 32-36T, but most would say that is too low. Most bicycles have between 38 and 48T on a single chain ring or for the middle/small chain wheel on a triple or double front set respectively. Just remember, smaller/easier on the front.
|A "Mixte", which means "unisex" in French. An upright that gets its pedigree from road bikes!||A Canadian Made Raleigh 5 Speed||The Classic Raleigh 3-Speed Sports. By the way, owned by a female rider; There are no ladies and mens bicycles, just bicycles!|
I think a general consensus would be that most bicycles (including vintage) are geared too high (hard) for the average rider. They are fine on very flat roads, but truly flat roads exist almost nowhere. Most places have hills and some have lots of them. In most cases it is easier to lower the gearing on a vintage bicycle (and for less money) than to convert a newer bicycle to lower gearing.
Fenders! Fenders were standard issue on most bicycles built before the 1980’s ten speed bike boom hit. If you speak to a European about bicycles, they often question why most of the bicycles sold in North America are sold without fenders. For those who compete on their bicycles, fenders are not necessary as weight and accessories detract from the function. Unless you fall into that category, your bicycle should have fenders for obvious reasons. It is nice to see the resurgence of bicycles that come with fenders as standard equipment.
Baskets and racks (carriers) are also essential equipment for the average rider. Racks are best for carrying any amount of goods securely. Lots of options exist for loading up on groceries or carrying other rather bulky materials around by bicycle. Baskets are great for smaller lighter items such as a small purse, water bottle, lunch, etc. In the end, it will take a while for you to decide what you need to carry on your bicycle and what (basket, rack, etc.) is best suited for the job. Just be sure to try different options and to speak to other riders about their preferences.
Then there is the seat. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked, “have they learned how to make a comfortable seat yet?” The answer is “yes and no”. Seats (or saddles) are made of very comfortable materials these days. The problem isn’t really the seat in most cases, it’s your bottom where the discomfort exists. You need to break in your butt more than the seat. Yes, there are good and bad seats, and fit is a factor, but generally speaking you will always need to break in your butt as well. Try taking shorter trips at first and increasing the time in the saddle over a period of weeks and months. Usually this will resolve the conflict. If not, do visit your local bike shop and discuss a replacement.
Now that all the mechanical, technical stuff is out of the way, we can talk about the fun stuff. The style should match your personality so long as it fits and is comfortable to ride. Some like road bicycles and some like loop framed city bikes. Other like classic English three-speeds while others like the raised “camel’s back” top tube of vintage CCMs. Of course this wide of a selection in only available in vintage bicycles. With vintage bicycles you have access to every style ever made!
|Once a Raleigh "Racer" road bike; Now a cruiser||One of my favourites; Jodi's low geared city bicycle in beautiful blue||Pure "10 Speed Bike Boom"! Canadian Tire SuperCycle 10 Speed|
Colour is also important. If you decide to go with a full restoration of a vintage bicycle, you can choose whatever colour you like. It seems that bicycles once came in many different colours compared to todays selection of new bicycles. Then there is that one of a kind, only age can do that colour, called patina. As paint ages it takes on it own characteristics like good wine and great friends. And don’t be afraid to put your own touches on it. Decorate it if it’s your style. Just enjoy riding it!
p.s. Your's may be in here somewhere :)
Metamorphosis March 14 2016
About a year ago I was fortunate to get to speak to a small audience of bicycle enthusiasts about bicycles and my "greener" approach to acquiring a bicycle, namely restoring an existing one. This took place at our local public library and Greg, the branch manager, I discovered was a strong supporter of the bicycle culture here in Pictou county. We had a wonderful discussion about cycle touring and he expressed interest in doing more of it.
So when I received a message from Greg recently saying he had a frame he wanted built into a sport-touring road bike for an upcoming week long tour, I was excited and envious; excited for the restoration and envious of the trip.
Greg's bike was a c.1981 VeloSport Escapade 10 speed originally designed as an upright city bike/commuter. The frame geometry was very typical of road bikes of that vintage so it was ideally suited for the intended conversion.
VeloSport was a truly Canadian bicycle company that made bicycles of all styles during the 80's. In my opinion they were some of the best valued bicycles made. The fact that 36 years later this bicycle could be easy converted is evidence of that fact. Not only did they make quality entry level bicycles, but some rather well designed and equipped road and touring bicycles.
So Greg and I met over coffee to discuss details of what he wanted. After about 30 minutes we had decided what stays and what goes, identified the quality of components he was looking for and the budget and time line to work within.
Original VeloSPort Escapade
Credit: Stephane LaPointe
Greg's Original Escapade Frame
|Sport Touring Conversion|
This first order of business was to get the wheels turning. The rear wheel is an Araya (Japan) rim laced to a Suzue (Japan) hub. The front wheel consists of a Weinmann (Belgium) rim with reinforced eyelets laced to a Mallard (France) hub. Both hubs were completely disassembled, cleaned, polished and repacked with Mallory marine wheel bearing grease and the rims were cleaned/polished and checked and adjusted for “true”. New 27 x 1 1/4” (32-630) Kenda Kwick Tendril tires were installed. These tires are a blend of durability, efficiency, and control. They now turn beautifully.
The original steel, cotter crankset was replaced by a Sugino #6 52/40 crankset consisting of alloy arms and steel rings. The bottom bracket was upgraded to a sealed Shimano 122 mm cartridge style. These units require zero maintenance and the length provided a near perfect chain line. A very nice indexed Shimano freewheel was installed. Indexed freewheels provide smoother shifting even on non-indexed drive trains. A new KMC Z33 5/6 speed speed chain was cut to length and installed. The Vintage Shimano RS rear derailleur (RD) was removed, cleaned and reinstalled. The front derailleur is a Shimano FE model in very good condition both mechanically and cosmetically. Shifting on the front rings is smooth and precise. A set of vintage Shimano stem shifters controlled the new front and rear derailleur cables. The cables and the cable housing were sprayed with a rust preventing lubricant.
A vintage set of Dia-Compe road brakes were installed. These are a quality brake set that include quick release cable tension levers for conveniently removing wheels. Two sets of new Alhonga 50mm brake shoes were installed. The cables and housing are all new. A period matching set of Dia-Compe brake levers completed the setup. The stopping power is very good.
Handle Bar, Stem and Headset
What make this a road bicycle in visual terms is the alloy road (drop) handle bars that were installed. I used a short reach alloy stem and wrapped the bars with red foam tape. It was double wrapped around levers for extra cushion. The headset was in very good condition. It wa disassembled, cleaned and polished to make it sparkle. Mechanically it was repacked with Mallory marine wheel bearing grease. A second spacer was added to compensate for the removal of the centre-pull cable stop of the previous brake set.
I took this bicycle for a test ride on my commute to work one day and absolutely loved how it performed; I didn't hurt that it was the perfect size for me. It was quick, agile and responsive. There was a great transfer of power from the pedals to the road. It also had that perfect bit of flex that softens the bumps in the road.
I have two other Velo Sports in my inventory to be restored; After riding this one they will need to get done sooner than later.
Take care, Daryl
Is my bicycle too old to restore? March 09 2016
As spring creeps ever closer our minds start to fill with images of things we love to do. Gardening, swimming and just maybe, riding a bicycle. It may have been some years since you last rode a bike. Yet of all the memories you could recall, riding a bicycle is a perennial flashback for many. Spliced on the end of that memory of you coasting down your favourite path is a new trailer of you doing the same thing this summer. And sadly, it often quickly fades in a cloud of doubt. Doubt that you could, yet you know you can.
The greatest buzz-kill however, is the thought of buying a new bicycle. "Buying new" is what we have been conditioned to do when when need or want something. You may ask yourself questions like, "how many speeds?; what size?; what if I buy it and don't like it?; Can I afford it?" etc. This is a common scenario played out in the heads of would be bicycle riders.
Here is an alternate scene, a retake if you will. Imagine riding that bike of your youth that you loved and then fast forward to the Summer of 2016 and imagine riding that same bicycle again. The one that fit you. The one you knew how to ride in all conditions. The one you could shift gears on, or not, and brake safely whenever you needed to. Did you think of this as an option for bicycling this season?
|1979 Raleigh 5 Speed||1973 SuperCycle 3 Speed||1967 CCM Single Speed/Coaster|
To get this show to theatre, lets begin with finding that bicycle of your past. In fact, you may still have that very bicycle. Unless you grew substantially taller since last riding it, it probably still fits or could be adjusted slightly to fit you, maybe even better than before. If you still have it, I bet you kept it inside somewhere, maybe even your parent's garage. It is likely in very good condition overall. Sure it will need some replacement parts (tires, chain) and a solid tune-up, but that may be all that is required to get you rolling again.
Don't be sold by anyone who looks at an old bicycle and says, "You'll never find tires for that; That will never be safe to ride; You should get a new one...they have 21 speeds now and are made of light weight aluminum; etc., etc.". You can still get tires for almost every bicycle ever made. Vintage bicycles were made of steel and built to take the abuse of several generations of everyday riding. And yes, new bicycles are lighter and have more gears, but is that an imperative for you to ride your bicycle. In fact, bicycles sold by most chain stores (albeit, light, multi geared contraptions) are less safe because of the lack of quality manufacturing and failure of parts to work properly. As long as it is in reasonable condition, your bicycle is NOT too old to restore!
To cut a long story short, if you think of bicycle restoration in purely monetary terms, you miss the environmental value of repair and re-use. In other words, we should not just keep buying new imports of poor quality and throwing things away. Chances are, if you are reading this then you have some sympathy for this view. Bicycle Hub, 2010
I also happen to believe that your body remembers the bicycle you spent many hours riding. Some call it muscle memory; I call it a feel for what's familiar. I know that my 20 year old mountain bike, which is a tad small for me is the most comfortable to ride. Even more so than my seven year old, ideal sized, modern touring bike. My mountain bicycle just feels familiar.
If you were to restore bicycle you already own there would be no learning curve. No need to learn how the gears and brakes work. No need to get used to the style and position of the handle bars or the way it feels on the road. A short, simple reintroduction is all that is required.
So now you are wishing you never got rid of your old bicycle. Don't fret. You can likely still find the same or similar model out there. Either from a vintage bicycle shop, Kijiji, yard sale, private sale, auction, police sale...and who knows from where/who else! It is best however (unless the bicycle is in obvious "mint" or close to that condition) to have someone look at it. Do be careful of "pickers", those who buy and sell at an absurd price, seldom knowing anything about a bicycle's condition and only about current eBay pricing of similar models. See this blog post for more on buying vintage. This actually happened to me this past summer. I stopped to look at a bicycle I spotted while driving by a yard sale. The asking price was $40. I was told it was $40 because, despite a broken shifter and many other issues, it was "vintage". It was a late '90's big-box store brand worth exactly $0. Don't let this story discourage you though. There are many good people out there selling good bicycles at a fair price. Your perfect bicycle is out there somewhere.
Rhonda's Dad's 1951 Raleigh
|Leanne's 1985 ProTour||Sole's 1980's Peugeot|
So before you let that annual dream of riding a bicycle to town for brunch fade for another year, hop on the internet and search for your favourite bicycle of recent memory. Then contact your local bike shop (LBS) or one that specializes in vintage bicycle restoration and service, and start making some new memories.
Take care, Daryl
Jodi's Custom Blue June 28 2015
It is great to know that others see the merit in restoring vintage bicycles. I met Jodi briefly at a market. Later she emailed me about the possibility of building her a bicycle:
Hi there - I saw your bikes at the market in Antigonish on Saturday and fell in love!
Ive been looking to buy my first bike since I was a teenager (Im 44!) and have been looking at different options. I cant afford to buy a beautiful new light blue cruiser with a box on the back and a basket on the front (my dream...lol) from a bike shop...I do see bikes that fit this description in Walmart and Can tire but doubt they have any quality at all. I like the idea of refurbishing rather than landfill filling. Do you have anything currently in stock that may suit me? Im a single mom with university aged kids, so Im on a tight budget. I appreciate your response. Have a good day!
This warmed my heart. It is exactly what FreeLander is all about. Helping people find a bicycle that they can enjoy, afford and is easy on the environment. So after a few more emails and pictures, we set off to build Jodi her "dream cycle".We started with a generic step-through frame and stripped it to bare metal. The colour blue was chosen and the paint applied. It came out fabulous. Next we looked at the existing parts that came with the frame and what used parts we had that were suitable to see where we could add environmental "value" to the bicycle. In the end the frame, wheels, one brake calliper, stem, headset and seat post were all recycled.
Next came the drive train. Personally I find most bicycles geared too high (hard) for everyday riding. The size of the front chain ring ('sprocket') is a major factor in how easy a bicycle is to pedal. They are sized according to the number of teeth present. For example a road (racing) bicycle will typically have two chain rings, a 42T and 52T. The other determinant is the size of the cogs ('sprockets') on the back wheel. The most common set of cogs are 14T-28T. The easiest gear is when you place the chain on the smallest in front and largest in the back. We gave Jodi's bicycle a 36T chainring. This made cycling up hills a breeze and still allowed cruising at a good clip on the flats.
The other aspect of the drive train that makes for ease of use is indexed shifting. Shifters (gear control levers) were once all friction. That meant having to "feel" for the gear, often resulting in the chain not finding its place precisely on the desired cog. Newer index shifting, means when the shift lever is pushed or pulled the chain will automatically find its place aligned on the next cog, either up or down, as desired. The remainder of the drive train (rear derailleur, chain, pedals, bottom bracket and freewheel (cogs) were all new.
A cruiser style handle bar was chosen to provide Jodi with an upright riding position and a new contour comfort saddle was installed to match the new tan FreeLander Leather Handle Bar Grips with cork underlay. Seat are like shoes; sometimes they need to be broken in and sometimes they need to be returned. So the option to swap the seat after a trial period is a great idea. A rear carrier (rack), flat brushed aluminum fenders and an House of Talents hand woven grass basket completed the look. But more importantly, these are essential items for getting the most from you bicycle and being able to use it for commuting to work or running errands. Sadly, these are left off most bicycles nowadays. Ah, but the real character of this bicycle comes from the Skull and Cross Bones decals chosen by Jodi to reflect here occupation as an x-ray technologist.
So as with all FreeLander Bicycles, Jodi now is in the "evaluation" phase. It is difficult to know if a bicycle is right for you until you have ridden it on many occasions along roads with different contours and elevations. Hopefully, this bicycle will meet with approval. If not, there is always the option to return it and try something different either from us or from another Bicycle shop. It seems that is is working out so far...so good:
I'm loving this bike so much. It's a real piece of art and certainly getting a lot of attention. I've been biking everywhere and getting better all the time. Thanks again so much. It makes me so joyful and full of light energy...
Take care, Daryl
Apollo MK II & Suntour Power Shifter Assembly June 10 2015
I acquired this really nice Apollo MK II. One of the coolest things about this bicycle is the Fred Deely HeadBadge. I understand these bikes were common on the West Coast but this was the first I have seen in my region. Apollo bicycles were made in Japan and sold in Canada by Deeley Cycles out of Vancouver.
The Apollo MK II is nicely equipped with Suntour components including a V-GT Luxe RD, Compe-V FD, power shifters, Sugino Maxy Crank and BB, Dia-Compe brakes and levers, Shimano high-flange hubs and ARAYA rims.
The shifters were stem mounted Suntour Power Shifters. These shifters were designed to offer minimal resistance when shifting into a lower gear. It achieved this by employing a ratchet wheel and spring loaded pawl. When the lever is in its desired position the pawl and friction from the [screw] would hold the derailleur in gear nicely. To shift to a higher gear the rider would push the lever forward and the pawl would rotate the wheel breaking the friction allowing the derailleur to drop down into a higher gear.
Whether it was due to this type of shifter design or the concept of keeping both shift levers operating in the same direction while shifting to lower gears, the front derailleur cage moves inward or down when the lever is pulled moving the chain to the smaller (lower) ring. This takes some getting used to but I tend to like the concept. To me, it feels easier and smoother to pull the chain to the lower ring than push it to the larger. [Click picture at left for video on shifter actuation]
While completing a restoration it is customary to disassemble most parts to clean and inspect and/or learn about the bicycles history and design. Such was the case with these shifters. Most mechanics will carefully disassemble and reassemble in a very methodical way keeping the parts in order. However on occasion the reassembly goes awry and there is a need to consult technical diagrams and pray that someone on some forum, some where has encountered the same issue and resolved it successfully.
The problem I was having was that the right shifter was ratcheting in the wrong direction. I looked to be assembled correctly yet did not hold the lever in place causing the RD to drop into the highest gear when the shifter was released. It seems that whatever information you find does not refer to the exact model you're working with. So I went with logic and knowing that the shifter ratcheted down.
The problem was an incorrectly positioned pawl and spring. I reversed the pawl and spring and although this orientation seemed the less likely one, it was in fact correct.
So if you find yourself in a similar situation, here are my notes and advice:
1. Do try to keep everything in order.
2. It does not seem to matter which way the ratchet wheel goes. Teeth up or down does't matter and the depth of the depression on the ratchet wheel seems to be the same on both sides. I did however face the teeth downward at the pawl. It seemed to make sense to do it this way.
3. The are two different size (diameter) slotted washers (#8 & #12). the larger one goes on the inside of the ratchet wheel. The chamfered side facing the stem. The "washers" are thick unlike the "spacer spring (#11) which are very thin.
4. On the diagram #9 "slot washer" doesn't look like a slot washer.
In this particular style of power shifter the lever housing is symmetrical, meaning the position of the pawl and spring can easily be changed to an incorrect configuration. This photo shows what worked in this case. Looking closely at the orientation of the teeth one can see I choose to orient them down. This seemed like the more logical position allowing the pawl to ratchet over them as the lever is moved down.
After a 14 km test drive everything is shifting great. I'm looking forward to getting some miles in on this one before someone makes it their own. If it hangs around too long I may need to paint it and call it mine!
Thinking of Buying "Vintage"? April 05 2015
There is something rewarding about owning and riding a vintage bicycle. Vintage bicycles say a lot about who you are; your character. You have bucked the consumerist ideology of buy now, buy new. You value the environment more than the latest trends in bicycle technology. Maybe it is the look and workmanship of a decades old bicycle you admire. You likely ride a bicycle more for practical and recreational reasons than as an athletic pursuit. But buying a vintage takes a little more effort to ensure that the bicycle you buy will perform well and safe mechanically and lives up to your expectations. First of all, there are many categories of “vintage” bicycles and bicycle sellers out there. Just to clarify, I am speaking of bicycles that are at least 25 years old and not simply a bicycle purchased recently and being sold.
So in an effort to identify some of the sources and post-purchase expectations for buying a vintage bicycle I offer some advice. These are of course generalizations since every seller has his or her own reasons for selling. As well, every bicycle has its own unique story and condition. Overall, my best advice is to be patient, get some help if needed and do some research.
Vintage Bicycle Sources
Yard Sales: These are bikes that are being sold because the owner has inherited it from an estate, their parents or it is their personal bicycle from a time when they rode a lot. The owner simply no longer wants, needs or has space for it. These are usually your best find. These bikes have often been stored indoors and are being sold for a very reasonable price: $20-50. They are sold as-is.
Pickers (to use the modern day vernacular), Antique or Second Hand Shops: These are bikes bought or obtained by sellers hoping to make a profit. In my opinion, these bicycles are often overpriced and are of most uncertain origin and condition. Often the pricing is based on a comparable bicycle seen listed elsewhere of unknown or better condition. As a result, the prices are often inflated. The seller will often gauge your knowledge of bicycles and use some general bicycle terminology or the brand name to convince you of the asking price. Of course this is not true of all in this category but prudence on the part of the buyer here is essential.
(Retired) Neighbourhood Bicycle Mechanics and Shops that Sell used Bicycles: These are often retired gentleman who have some/extensive experience working on bicycles either on their own or as a former mechanic. They enjoy the work and sell bicycles to supplement their income. They often have a variety of styles, makes, etc., including vintage models. Their bicycles have been tuned-up to varying degrees and are usually sold at reasonable prices ($100-200). They are a relatively good value. Bicycle shops that sell used bikes will also fall under this category.
Bicycle Restorationists: These are businesses that specialize in taking an old bicycle and making it new again. They often work on and sell better quality bicycles or bicycles of a particular vintage/maker. The main difference is that these bicycles have been stripped down and every part inspected, cleaned (replaced if needed) and the bicycle is rebuilt. In many cases, this includes refinishing, or polishing and waxing the original paint. Some deal in only high end bicycles. These bicycles are the most expensive to purchase but also work like new and look great. In many ways, it is similar to buying a new bicycle, but with character.
What the potential buyer needs to acknowledge at the outset, is that buying a vintage bicycle from a yard sale or picker, will require that the bicycle be tuned up and have worn out parts replaced. Often the cost of having the work done by a bicycle shop will exceed the purchase price up to several times the original cost. This off course depends on what you expect from your new ride. If “ridable and safe” is what you desire, then tires, tubes, cables (if present) and a tune-up may be just enough to get you going. Expect to spend between $100-150 minimum. That is assuming there are no major issues and this does not imply that the bicycle will work at its optimum. If the bicycle has parts that no longer work and need to be replaced your vintage bicycle dreams may come to an abrupt end (see below). The converse is also true. You may have found a real gem that will cost you nothing but some air in the tires to get you rolling. The later is quite rare, however.
Be aware that parts for many vintage bicycles are not commonly stocked by main stream bicycle shops. For example a pre 1980 bicycle will likely have a non standard 26" (not the same size as the common 26” mountain bike wheel) or a 27” wheel which are no longer the standard wheel sizes. I guarantee you that the majority of local bicycle shops (LBS) do not have one in stock. Nor would they have the tire to fit one. You may be able to convert the bicycle to a newer sized wheel, but then you are talking even bigger money. Coaster hub, three speeds and freewheels are all part of the history of bicycle technology. They require special tools and knowledge that may or may not be available at your LBS. It often depends on the age of the shop and the age of the mechanics that work there. Nonetheless, they do still exist. Or if your bicycle mechanic is willing, there are lots of resources out there, like Sheldon Brown, that they can get the “how to” from.
More often however, the conversation between you and the sales/service staff at the shop you go to will gently drift towards the amount of time and money it will take to “repair” your bicycle and for just an extra $__.00 you could have this shiny new bicycle with the most recent brake and shifter technology. It comes with a warranty and we will give you 20% off accessories at time of purchase. And in all truthfulness that may not be a bad option depending on what you wheel into the shop. Just remember why you wanted a vintage bicycle in the first place…the look, the quality, the environmental considerations, etc. (But if you do decide to buy new, I may buy that “vintage trash” from you just the same.)
Of course I would encourage you to buy a restored bicycle if vintage is what you’re after. That’s what I do and what I believe offers the greatest value in getting a vintage bicycle. But it is not the only or best choice for everyone. The important thing is to know your options. Then factor in your expectations and your budget. Then go buy the bicycle of your dreams (or at least the best you can afford). In the end, just make sure you get a bicycle and enjoy riding it.
Take care, Daryl