Buying Vintage

by bamilton wackademical   August 21, 2014  

I was back in Scotland over the weekend and I took my stepfather's old Peugeot CroMo road bike out for a spin around the local countryside. I don't think it had seen the road for the best part of 10-15 years (it still has the original Michelin gumwalls on), but after a clean and a good oiling it turned out to be great fun to ride and it chewed up climbs with ease.

Anyways, that bike will probably going to end up down in London with me when I get a chance to package it up sometime - but in meantime it's reinforced my need/greed for a decent vintage road bike to bomb about on once in a while. Preferably steel frame. Aside from general condition - checking for rust and the like - what are the things to look out for when buying an older bike? Also, apart from the top end models (I can't afford a Colnago Master, more's the pity) what brands are worth a look? Obviously bikes by the master frame builders can go for quite a bit, so I'd probably be looking for one that was a bit more mass market.

Just as a bonus - what old bike would you like to get your hands on if money was no object?

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Not sure if it's likely you'll come across one but watch the BB thread. I'm now stuck with a bike i love with a French thread. Velo Orange do replacement bits but they aren't as cheap as the more common English or Italian.

posted by Maggers [62 posts]
21st August 2014 - 14:36


Anything made of Reynolds 531 will generally be a cut above most vintage steel, both in frame weight and in componentry. (Yes, I know it's not the top grade there is, but is at least plentiful enough that you can find bargains in local garage sales or the 'bay.)

Mind you I have a Peugeot made of plain-gauge ("gaspipe") tubing and it rides like a dream.

Other things to look for: are the wheels steel or aluminium? Are the brakes crap? (Often.) Do the cables need replacing? (Usually.) Is the seatpost jammed? (Walk away.)

There's an increasing number of people doing decent restorations of vintage bikes and selling them at reasonable prices, if you're not mechanically inclined.

posted by chokofingrz [403 posts]
21st August 2014 - 15:09


chokofingrz wrote:
There's an increasing number of people doing decent restorations of vintage bikes and selling them at reasonable prices, if you're not mechanically inclined.

There's also a faster increasing number of people doing utterly shite restorations of knackered old heaps and hiding by terms like 'vintage', 'retro', 'ideal fixie conversion' and 'patina' at whoppingly inflated prices.

posted by farrell [1945 posts]
21st August 2014 - 15:33


Best places to look -, and
It's a bit of a minefield because apart from the obvious wear and tear, matching components and groupsets becomes ever more difficult when you're trying to work out whether your 9 speed group will fit on that old frame you just tore a 6 speed wheel out of. etc.
It's loads of fun though.

posted by bashthebox [764 posts]
21st August 2014 - 18:55

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The main things that will catch you out are rear drop-out spacing and seat-post size.

Older frames, especially British frames of pre-80's tend to be spaced around 120 or 125-ish. Modern bikes and therefore modern hubs are spaced at 130mm, and although you can spring a frame a few mm, it is not ideal so you will end up looking for old hubs of the right spacing if you need to replace the wheels.

Seat-posts can be hard to find in the right size, as older steel frames used narrow diameter posts and there were lots of small size increments back then rather than the main two that we have now.

Finally it will most likely be a quill stem, and they can be a bit of a minefield, as the clamp diameter could be one of several all of which were very close, Cinelli in particular used a 26.4mm, whilst most others of the time used 26.0, and there was also 25.4 doing the rounds. That slight difference can cause issues with getting bars to hold properly if you don't get the right combination.

I have a beautiful Gazelle with handbuilt 531C lugged frame and fork which were the frame of choice for TVM back in the day, and they are a bit of an unknown in this country so still go for pretty good prices if you can find them.

Complicating matters since 1965

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posted by DaSy [693 posts]
22nd August 2014 - 12:38


My main road bike is a 1979 Peugeot that used to be my Dad's. 531 frame. Lovely ride.

As others have mentioned, rear triangle spacing is a problem. I'm not the most graceful of riders so I can have a tendency to mangle rear wheels. They rarely come up on EBay, and when they do they tend to go for stupid bucks as vintage bikes are fashionable and people are too lazy to go to jumbles.

Jumbles are your friend. I picked up a lovely pair of Mavic MA2's for £20 at one earlier this year, the rear of which is currently at my friendly LBS for the 2nd time getting trued after I rode some fairly rough roads in Wales last week.

(the right) LBS is also your friend. Ask around locally, chat to staff and owners and try to find out which have experience with vintage bikes. The last catastrophic failure I had on mine was when the seatpost sheared off. Fortunately I was about 2 miles away from the bike shop that would have been my first call anyway. Not too far to ride 1-handed and stood on the pedals to give them the sob story. Owner spends a few minutes getting the old one out (not so easy with no saddle attached and less metal than usual sticking out!) and then starts rooting around in a box of likely parts to find one the right size. After ruling out a few likely candidates the bottom of the box is nearing and I'm starting to fret but eventually a match is made, a wee bit of cash changes hands, I get back out onto my ride, he gets back to his (now cold) pasty.

As well as the great ride feel, the other benefit of riding vintage is that all the folk who only started riding in the last decade who have never known a cassette with less than 8 sprockets, a small ring with more than 39 teeth, or a frame weighing much more than 3 lbs will look upon you as some kind of god. Especially if you live anywhere hilly!

posted by Bhachgen [107 posts]
22nd August 2014 - 13:55


My early '70s Italian racer has non indexed gears, so I spend a lot of time fumbling around the down tube trying to finesse levers into the right position.

It's lovely to ride though and feels much faster than my modern bikes.

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posted by Crosshouses [271 posts]
22nd August 2014 - 17:00