Monday, 15 August 2011

Vintage Velo Advice

Pic of Sandra Dee with vintage bike from wonderful blog Rides A Bike

As a big fan of second hand bikes I am delighted to have Going Going Bike write a guest post for us imparting their knowledge on buying a vintage ladies bicycle.

Buying a second hand bicycle is really satisfying. Such a bicycle gives so much better value than a new bike. A new bicycle can lose as much as 50% of their value the moment they leave the shop.
Buying a used bike also appeals because it is sustainable and, if you choose a vintage bike, results in you getting a bike with some classic, retro appeal. It is worth noting that buying a vintage bicycle is also often a better idea than buying a new low-cost modern bicycle.
Golden age of bikes
The golden era for vintage women’s bikes is from the late 1950s onwards. Such bikes are still very rideable and still provide much of the basic design elements used in modern versions of women’s bikes. As a rule any bike that was built from the late-1950s to mid-1980s is considered as being very collectable. With most bikes from that period you are still able to find suitable components if you need to make repairs or restore them.
Bike types
Women’s bikes on the vintage scene are split into two types. More commonly seen is the Mixtie frame bike. The Mixtie is essentially a light utility road bike for women with some even coming with dropdown handlebars. Mixtie frames can be easily converted to single speeds making them very sought after particularly with the single speed/fixed gear craze. 70s and 80s Raleigh and Peugeot bikes are good brands to look out for if you purchase a Mixtie due to the ease of finding suitable component replacements or adding newer more modern components.
Town/Dutch/utility vintage bikes are much the modern vogue and there is a clutch of manufacturers offering new bikes in this market. Sadly many of the old UK brands such as BSA no long exist as do bikes from this period. Pashley still operates in this market with its modern interpretations of its classic bikes of the past but finding a classic vintage model is hard to find. More prevalent are brands from the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden.
Where to buy
The women’s second hand market is seeing a bit of a renaissance with more women now cycling. Apart from sources such as Going Going Bike (click here for our vintage category), there are the usual places such as eBay and Gumtree. Markets are also a good idea. A new business, The Bike Spoke, which specialises in Vintage bikes, recently sold all its vintage ladies bikes stock at the Hackney Homemade market. In each case, given the nature of it being an old bike, it is actually going to inspect the bike before you buy. Pricing can be very difficult to determine but you generally get a feel for what a bike is worth by looking online or going to bike markets.
Once you had decided on a bike, we have some basic guidelines on buying a second hand bike.
Check the bike’s condition
Second-hand bikes come in all sorts of conditions and it is worth noting specific things to look out for when it comes to vintage bikes.
Always inspect the state of the brakes, derailleur system, headset, wheel spokes, hubs and whether the frame itself is structurally sound. Superficial marks or scratches on a frame shouldn’t be a problem, but avoid a frame or fork that is bent, dented or cracked. Similarly if there is rust on the frame, scratch with a finger nail to see how deep it is. Also look out for rusty worn chains and cogs.
Be prepared to pay for certain repairs or updates to a vintage bike. It is important to factor this into the purchasing price when buying.

Size is key
When it comes to a vintage bike, the actual size of the bike is of less of an importance given the step through nature of the bike frame. What is important to note though is that the feel rider has a comfortable upright riding position, whereby they can reach the handlebars without stretching unduly. Best fit should therefore be determined by arm reach Women have shorter arms but longer legs relative to men so bear this in mind when choosing the right sizes bike. Typically vintage frames are measured in inches as opposed to centimetres with sizes going up from 17.5 inches to 22 inches typically.  For a good fit, measure your inside leg measurement and as a general guide compare this against the following measurements:
A 17.5 inches frame will fit a lady with a 24,5"-28,5" inside leg measurement
A 20 inch frame will fit a lady with a 27"-31,5" inside leg measurement
A 22 inch frame will fit a lady with a 30,5"-38 inside leg measurement
Ask questions of the seller
Find out how long the seller owned the bike or if the bike has any problems in the past. Has the bike been stored indoors in the dry, or outside in the damp? If you’re buying the bike from a second-hand bike store you may be able to get a warranty for any problems the bike may develop in the first few months.
  Going Going Bike, is the UK's leading online marketplace for buying and selling bikes. However it's not just about trading.  They also keep their rapidly growing community of cyclists amused with blogs, news and useful features.


Cara said...

I can also recommend Amsterdammers in Brighton, for anyone looking for a vintage/second-hand Dutch bike. They were very helpful and not at all intimidating for the lady cyclist! For the London-based, they are right under Brighton station so, if you pop down at the weekend, you can put your bike straight back on the train to Victoria or London Bridge.

Caz said...

Great tip, thanks so much Cara.