For quite some time, only the big names, in the vintage road bicycle world, garnered much attention or coin, when purchase was the issue.

The list of big names includes, at the very least, included Bianchi, Peugeot, and Raleigh.  I target these three name only because I am most familiar with them.  And Bianchi might not even qualify, in this instance.

Bianchi did not begin to aggressively market bicycles, in North America, until the end of the seventies.  As a result, the name Bianchi rarely comes immediately to minds, of most people, trying to recall the names of the Ten Speeds of the seventies.

Keep in mind that Raleigh and Peugeot were companies, not builders.  Managerial philosophy tended to focus more on bottom lines and profits, than quality of construction.  And, in so doing, targeted large markets, with bottom of the line or entry level bicycles.  With this in mind, it would be logical to assume, that today's vintage road bicycle hunter has a much greater chance of finding a Raleigh, or Peugeot, dog, rather than one of either company's top dogs.


For simplicities sake, let's divide vintage road bicycles into three quality categories - hand built, mass produced and department store.

Hand built bicycles, those coming out of the smaller shops, lead the list in monetary and collectible value.  Some of these bicycles attained near legendary status.  The hand built machine will be the most difficult to find, simply because there were far fewer of them made.  But they will, as a rule, be the nicest appearing, offering the best ride qualities and while continuing to rise in both collectible and monetary value.  Examples of hand built bicycles include...

Marinoni, Masi, some Legnanos, some Carltons, Cyclops, Gardin, some Raleighs, some Peugeots, ALAN, some Bianchis, Pinarello, Tommasini, one CCM, some Bottecchias...  This list can become very long, since almost every first world country, on the planet, has produced hand built bicycles, however; the most sought after come from Italy, France and England, at the time of this writing.  That is not to say that there were a great many top of the line hand built bicycles coming from the USA, Canada, Japan, Switzerland and Spain, just to name a few.

Mass produced bicycles, manufactured in almost every country in the world, need to be viewed for what they are.  Mass produced and that suggests quality compromises, decreased collectible values and, most certainly, less than stellar ride quality.  This is a general rule of thumb, not a statement one should run out and cast in stone. Examples of mass produced bicycles include many Peugeots, many Raleighs, many Torpados, many Bottecchias, many Phillips, and a literal host of others, once again, from almost every country on Earth.

And finally, the least valuable vintage road bicycle category - department store bicycles.  These are of minimal value, to the rider or collector.  The Sears Free Spirit, or Eaton Glider, or what ever other common bicycle names were displayed on department store show room floors, of mail order catalogues.  And, this list of bicycles will be considerably different, depending on the country the bicycle was sold in.

In today's vintage bicycle market, the big names are no longer those most targeted with big values.  The hand built bikes, those frequently coming from smaller, shops, but built by renowned craftsmen, are gaining in collectible value, even as these words are being typed.  With that in mind, know this...

There is no way to determine, with a list, the best, second best and so on, when trying to determine a vintage bicycle's worthiness, be it from a collector's, or banker's, points of view.  And, knowing that, the only way to really determine the quality level of a bicycle, is to study the frame set and, though of far less importance, the components fitted to the frame.

The frame, itself, will tell you if it is entry, mid or top of the line level.  Consider the tubing type and structure.  Look also to the drops, both front and back.  Then, look at the appearance of the workmanship.  These are the things one weighs, when attempting to determine if the frame was built by an employee and/or a craftsman.

Use these sorts of criteria to help determine value.  Do not be fooled into believing that a manufacturer's, or builder's, decal on a bike, qualifies it as this, or that, in any way, when quality is the issue.  Focus on the workmanship and materials used to build the frame set.

But what about age?  Is older really better?  Better?  Not in the quality or performance sense, but in the collectible and dollars and cents, sense, yes!  Older is hard to find and/or restore.  Interest in collecting vintage bicycles is increasing, be they vintage roadsters, vintage road bikes or vintage what have you.

Vintage?  What is vintage?  When can one call a bicycle vintage?  Answers to these questions are subject to open, and at times, heated debate.  For our purposes, lets say that to qualify as vintage, a road bicycle must be one of two things...

Twenty five years old, or older and/or pre-Brifter.

The 25 year old number is an arbitrarily chosen value, based on the vintage or antique car and motorcycle industry.  In days gone by, for a motorcycle to be considered antique or vintage, it had to be a minimum of 25 years old.  To that add that there are two categories of old - pre and post Bike Boom.

If the bike found, in Canada or the USA, is pre 1970, it falls into the rarest of the two old categories.  The Bike Boom occurred in 1970, 71 and perhaps 72.  Bicycles sales, in North America, jumped from six or seven million per year, to close to fifteen million.  Hence, in North America, there are way more post 1970 vintage road bicycle, than pre.  This adds value to pre-Bike Boom machines.

But what about Brifters, if that is even a word?

Old road bikes were fitted with down tube shifters, be they friction or indexed, in nature.  Some entry level models sported steering stem shifters.  And some, Barcons, or bar end shifters.  These styles of shifters could be either, or and sometimes and/or, friction/indexed.  And then along came the best shifting system ever invented for the road bicycle - the Brifter!

One must brake with a Brake and shift with a Shifter.  However, the two were always two.  Modern road bicycles, incorporate both components, into a single unit, the Brifter.  The rider need not remove his hands, from the handlebars, to brake or shift with this wonderful component.  However, a bicycle manufactured after the Brifter came into being does not qualify as vintage, in my book. 

Please keep in mind, I am the person determining how I view the vintage of a bicycle.  Others may not agree, and that is just fine with me.  But for me, if the bike is not 25 years old, it is just old and not vintage.  And if the bike was manufactured post Brifter, then it does not qualify, at this moment in my time.  However...

The minute the electric Brifter transmissions comes into general being, then the manual shifting Brifter bikes could, with the passing of time, qualify as vintage.  Simply because they fall under a bygone standard, just as the down tube ones do today.  Again, just an old man's opinion

When considering where the bicycle was made, the consideration is country based.  In the eyes of most vintage road bicycle collectors, the Italian mounts lead the list for collectability, with France or England running a close second.  All other countries of manufacture fall, pretty much, into category three, with non showing particular dominance in the collector's eye.  However, one of those third category countries, Japan, is likely to be added to the most wanted list before long.  Perhaps the Asian giant has already gained a favourable rating.

Summing this all up suggests, that there is no real way to pre-determine a vintage bicycle's monetary value.  Prices, ultimately, are subject to the whim of the buyer.  If the same bicycle, in the same condition, and with the same advertising offers a selling price that ranges between $180.00 US and $1200.00+ US, how can anyone predict how much the next one will sell for?  Simply put, you cannot!  To rub salt into a wound, know that this inability to predict value is further complicated by where the bicycle is being sold.