Classic bicycles are, honestly, a piece of art. But, when we say art, we don't mean art that you can't use in your everyday life. We're talking about something that's also very practical, and can come in handy in quite a few situations. If you're a fan of the retro, vintage look, you'll love classic bicycles. They're the ones with thin frame construction, big, metal mudguards, a pannier rack at the back, and a basket at the front. They're the ones that put you in a very comfortable riding position. One you'll enjoy, regardless of whether you're going out for 10 minutes, or a couple of hours of riding.
We couldn't blame you if you enjoyed this kind of bicycle. There are a lot of good things about them, and many of those things are hard to find in a modern bicycle. But what if you could get them? What if you could actually buy a bicycle that looks like classic bicycles did back in the day, but has a lot of the qualities of a modern one? Well, if you think this might be for you, read on. You won't be disappointed.
What is a classic bicycle?
A classic bicycle is fairly simple to explain. It looks a lot like the Dutch bikes, or some of the cruiser bikes of today. They're commonly made with either a diamond frame, or a step through one such as this, with thin (and somewhat light) tubes. Depending on how much you would spend on one, higher end bikes could even be found with tubes made by Reynolds or Columbus - both high end companies, and both have quite a reputation in the cycling world. We're talking about 1960s bicycles, 1970s bicycles and 1980s bicycles.
You will often find high end steel bikes today, such as the Cinelli Mash, made with Columbus tubing. However, that's the high end, and that's often out of reach for many. And the Mash is far from classic bicycles anyways. Back to the point, the frame was built incredibly well, that's why you might still see classic bicycles out on the streets today. The higher end ones were even made so they don't rust or degrade over time, something that's pretty common with bikes nowadays. It's safe to say that they were truly built to last. There were plenty of vintage bicycle brands that made everything from commuter bikes, to vintage road bicycles.
The components of classic bicycles were chosen carefully
The components were a major part of classic bicycles. For example, the saddle was often made of leather, and was spring loaded. These were some of the most comfortable saddles you could get on a bicycle. And the materials were durable too, so you didn't have to replace the saddle every few months. You could still find such seats, for example with what Brooks have to offer. But they're very expensive, and not worth it for many.
The handlebars weren't "flat bars", or "riser bars" like you would find on bicycles today. Instead, there were backswept handlebars, which are some of the most ergonomic handlebars you could ride. They put your arms in a natural position, and don't put any unnecessary stress on the palms or your shoulders. The grips were also often made of leather with the better classic bicycles, and they were both very comfortable, and very durable.
Classic bicycles also oftentimes had accessories such as mudguards and chain guards. Both are things that aren't found on many bikes today, but they are extremely useful for the day to day commuter. You could also find a pannier rack every once in a while, which is another very useful accessory we don't see every day.
All things considered, they were very well thought out. They weren't just good looking. They were also incredibly comfortable and practical for day to day use. There were very good reasons why people bought them, and those same reasons are why some people still ride them today.
How do classic bicycles differ from today's modern ones?
Well, to begin with, the looks. Unlike classic old bicycles, today's bicycles are commonly made of aluminum, or sometimes steel. Steel bikes can still look like classic bicycles, but aluminum gives you a lot more flexibility with tubing and shapes. This has led to some very interesting designs with bikes nowadays. And then we have carbon fiber, which gives you any kind of frame you want, as well as some unconventional materials, such as titanium or bamboo. If you want something that's close to classic bicycles in terms of looks, your best bet is a steel frame, as we had classic steel bicycles back in the days. But, more on that later.
Next, we have the ride characteristics. Recent technological advancements have given us quite a lot of comfort boosts. Aluminum hubs and rims make for a softer, more forgiving ride, especially when compared to the steel ones that were used on classic bicycles. We also have different welding and build methods, which do have quite an influence on the ride quality. Overall, bikes have become much more comfortable, especially commuter bikes, or cruiser bikes. This is something that simply didn't exist back in the time of classic bicycles due to technological limitations. There are better tires too, with different compounds and much more options that let you get the right tire for the terrain you're riding.
Note that the difference between classic road bicycles and classic Dutch bicycles, for example, wasn't as emphasized as it is now with modern bikes. Today, road bicycles are a whole different beast, unlike classic bicycles that take inspiration from Dutch bikes, which are considered classic looking bicycles.
And then we have the classic bicycles' components
When looking at classical bikes vs modern bikes, the immediately apparent differences are in the looks and the ride characteristics we mentioned. However, as we all know, the devil is in the details. Once you get past the frame itself, we have the components. The components of a modern bicycle is where we have the largest technological advancements, from shifters and derailleurs, to hydraulic brakes and electronic suspension.
To begin with, the largest parts aside from the frame are the fork and the wheels. With forks and classic bicycles, it was a simple rigid fork. But now we have suspension forks ranging from 100 to 200 millimeters of travel, as well as inverted forks, rigid aluminum, and rigid carbon forks. They are all for different purposes, but there is a plethora of options. With suspension forks there's a variety of systems, from coil, to solo and even dual air, as well as a lot of various dampers for adjustment. You can also lock out some of them, either via a mechanical lever on the top of the fork's leg, or via a remote on the handlebars. Those lockout systems can also be electronic, with some high end bikes.
As far as wheels go, there are plenty of options. From 26", to 27.5", 28" and 29" wheels, from aluminum rims to carbon, and from ball bearing hubs, to industrial bearing ones. Not everything is available on all bikes, however. Each wheelsize has its pros and cons. Choosing one is an individual thing. However, mountain bikes are commonly 27.5" or 29", with 26" wheels slowly fading away. Road bikes are all 28".
Moving on to the details
The smaller things, such as derailleurs and brakes, have also seen quite a lot of improvements. With a classic bicycle, for example, you have rim brakes. They're amazing, when high quality. But cheap ones can be a disaster. With mountain bikes, hydraulic disc brakes are taking over. They have more power, are easier to operate, and don't depend on the wheel being true. However, they're expensive, and require compatible hubs, frames and forks. And, classic bicycles all had one gear. A single speed bike is manageable, but a geared one is much more versatile. Modern bicycles, such as Peace Bicycles, give you at least 3 or 7 gears. This lets you handle various terrain with ease.
Then, we have the seat post, stem, and handlebars. Back in the days, we only had steel. Now, there's a choice of materials - steel, aluminum, carbon, titanium, whatever you want - you have it. They also come in various sizes, so you can pick and choose what suits you most.
And last but not least, there are the saddles. Long gone are the leather, spring loaded seats. They're replaced with plush, comfortable seats, that you can ride for hours, and not feel sore. Or, you could get racing seats that are thin, yet comfortable, but meant for use with cycling clothes. There are also the carbon-made lightweight options, but they're reserved for people who know they need them.
Can you still find classic bicycles for sale today?
The short answer would be "yes, you can", as there are still classic bicycles brands out there. But you aren't here for the short answer. Let's elaborate.
If you're looking for something similar to a classic bicycle, you're looking for a few things. First, you'll want something with looks reminiscent of classic bicycles. The closest to that are Dutch bikes, or cruiser bikes. You can get them in both a step-through, or a diamond frame, and there are some very good ones.
Next, you'll want the comfort and ride position. This includes an upright seating position, handlebars with plenty of backsweep, and a plush, comfortable saddle. And yes, you can get all of those on a single bike, as you'll see below.
And last but not least, you will want the accessories and accessory options. Not a lot of road bikes, for example, can fit mudguards, a chain guard, a pannier rack and a basket. But a classic bike can. Or, a modern bike that's close to classic bicycles.
If we're right, we think we have just the bike for you - the Peace Bicycles Dreamer 7-speed. It's available in both a step-through, and a diamond frame, and it has all the classic bicycles parts and accessories you need. Let's take a look at it.
The Peace Bicycles Dreamer 7-speed - one of the best modern, yet classic cruiser bicycles on the market
As we said, the Dreamer is one of the best ways you can get close to classic bicycles. It's got the looks, it's got the build quality and accessories, but it brings a few modern touches along as well. To begin with, as we mentioned, you have the choice between a diamond frame, or a step-through frame. Whichever you choose to go for is your personal decision. A step-through frame is more suited to the ladies, though, so keep that in mind. Since that's the only thing that separates the two configurations, everything said below applies to the bike, regardless of frame choice.
To begin with, the frame is made of steel. That means two things. First, it absolutely has that classic bicycles look, and it's stunning. Second, you get a frame that's a bit heavier than aluminum, but with a lot better vibration and shock absorption. If you're worried about weight, know that the rest of the components are generally aluminum. This helps keep the weight low. Also, aluminum gets damaged more easily, so durability is an advantage here.
You will get stellar build quality with the Dreamer as well. If a frame isn't built well, it can easily degrade if you expose it to the elements. Don't take a lot of care for it? It'll degrade even faster. However, the Dreamer is built like a tank. As time passes, you'll start to see other bikes begin to look old and damaged - not yours. You'll be happy this was your choice. The geometry is also great. Regardless of the frame choice, it's an upright, comfortable position.
You have a 7 speed drivetrain
We agree that this isn't very "classic bicycles". However, a single speed bike might be difficult to ride. When going around town, the terrain isn't completely flat. There are both uphills and downhills. It's difficult going uphill on a single speed bike, especially when you're tired after a day's work, or you have bought some groceries on the way home. However, living with a 7 speed bike is very easy. You don't really need more. With 7 speeds, you can both ascend and descend, regardless of the hill's incline - there's a gear for just about anything.
The argument for single speed bicycles is usually maintenance. However, that's when you're looking at low quality bikes. With the drivetrain on this bicycle, all you need to do is keep it clean, and lube the chain every once in a while. The components on the Dreamer are very reliable, and the only service you'll need can be done at a local bike shop, every few months at most. This is a bike made to last, and it shows. You can spend your time riding it, instead of waiting for the shop guys to call you that it's done, and you can pick it up. A bike with gears is, indeed, the best option.
Comfort and confidence are provided by the wide balloon tires
Since classical bicycles were made to be comfortable, the Dreamer lives up to that reputation. When you're looking at comfort factors, it's the frame, the saddle, and the tires. We talked about the frame, let's discuss the tires now, and we'll touch on the saddle too. The tires are how the bike makes contact with the surface, and therefore, they have a direct impact on vibrations and shock absorption. When you have a set of wide tires, such as the ones you'll find on the Dreamer, the ride will be much more enjoyable. The contact surface is wide, so you don't skid out, and vibration absorption is excellent. Compared to a road racing bike, which often has tires less than an inch wide, it's a whole different experience, and in a good way.
The tires don't just provide comfort, but confidence as well. You feel safe and planted on the road, and you don't have to worry about a tiny rock throwing you off balance. The Schwalbe Fat Frank tires you'll find also have a Kevlar guard, which will save you from punctures on the road. The Kevlar layer is very stiff, and prevents any sharp objects from puncturing the tube. There are a lot of people who don't even know such a thing is an option, but you'll be thankful you have it. And sure, switching them out with some other popular options is always a possibility if you don't like them.
What about the saddle?
The saddle is the last big comfort factor. With classic bicycles, you used to get a leather-clad saddle that was often spring loaded. They were incredibly comfortable, and lasted for ages before they'd show any wear and tear. However, the seat you'll find on the Dreamer is even better. It is a plush, comfortable saddle, with plenty of padding. It is comfortable for just about any body type, and you can sit on it for hours on end without feeling fatigued. However, if you think that it doesn't suit you just right, you could look at some alternatives.
Safety features are all taken care of
The most important part in terms of safety on any bike, from classic bicycles to modern ones, are the brakes. As much as you have fun on a bike, at some point you'll need to stop. The brakes absolutely must be reliable, regardless of what kind of bike we're talking about. Sure, you might think "If a fixie rider can ride without brakes, so can I", and that would be a mistake. They did have brakes when they started out, and you should have them as well. They also have an alternative method of stopping the bike, which you don't.
If you were to get the Dreamer, you will get an amazing pair of brakes. They will allow you for a lot of modulation for slowing down. And they will also stop you in an instant if that's what's required at the moment. The materials used are high quality. What that means is that those braking properties won't diminish over time, and they'll continue braking just as good even years later. Competitors, for example, might offer brakes made of thin pieces of metal. They, unlike the ones on the Dreamer, will bend over time, and won't be able to stop you. Brakes are a component you don't want to be cheaping out on, and the Dreamer follows that admirably.
Those safety features aren't just limited to the brakes
When we're talking about safety, yes, the first and most important thing are the brakes. However, classic bicycles also had one more thing going for them - a bell. Unsurprisingly, even back in the days, people often walked around bike paths. If you don't want to hit someone, hurting yourself, and them in the process, a bell can be a very easy way to let them know you're coming. A handlebar mounted bell is easily accessible, so you don't have to move your hands from the handlebar, and it's loud enough. And the Dreamer does come with one, just like all bikes, from modern to classic bicycles should.
Now, it's worth saying that we're talking about a modern representation of classic bicycles. Therefore, a modern touch here and there is to be expected. Plenty of cyclists ride after sunset, or at night, and they want not only to be seen by others, but to be able to see what's ahead of them. The modern touch comes in form of a bicycle light, two of them to be exact. Even though classic bicycles didn't have them, every modern bike should.
The front light is crucial if you want to see what's ahead of you in the dark. Riding in an area with a lot of potholes? That light will help you see them. Car coming up in your direction? It can see you much more easily if you have a light, and from further away. However, when you have cars coming up behind you that need to overtake you, you'll want a rear light. The Dreamer has a red rear light, which shines bright, and allows others to easily see you.
Mudguards, a pannier rack, and a basket round out the whole package
With modern bicycles, adding convenient features is somewhat of a must. Maybe you wouldn't have a basket or a pannier rack on classic bicycles, but you have them on the Dreamer. There are also mudguards that allow you to ride in pretty much any weather. But, why would you have them? Well, a basket and a pannier rack are excellent storage solutions. The Dreamer is more than just for entertainment - it's also very practical.
Coming back from work? Need to buy a few groceries? Load them up in the basket. If they don't fit, put them on the pannier rack in the back. Oh, and while you're doing that, there's a kickstand to keep your bicycle upright. As easy as it gets. Need to carry your documents or bag to work? Don't put it on you, it isn't comfortable - place it in the basket, or on the rack instead. These are all things that you might not have thought you need. But once you have them, you'll be wondering how you lived without them.
The Dreamer isn't just made for the classic bicycle looks - it's made to be your go-to method of transportation. Whether you're going to work, or running errands, or want to exercise a bit, that's the bicycle you'll be reaching for.
Wrapping things up - classic bicycles today: who should buy one?
If you love the retro, vintage look of classical bicycles, there are solutions for you. There are bikes that will let you ride with pleasure, with the same ergonomic seating position, on a bike that looks retro and vintage. However, if you opt for the Dreamer, you will also get a nice little bonus. You get a much more comfortable seat and handlebars, you get more reliable brakes, comfier tires, as well as lights and a bell. Compared to classic bicycles, it looks lovely, and does remind us of them. However, in terms of performance, safety and quality, it is absolutely miles ahead.
For people who need a bicycle to get them from point A to point B, or people who want to spend some quality time doing recreational activities, the Dreamer is an excellent bike. It will get you just about anywhere, and thanks to its 7-speed transmission, you can conquer a hill or two as well. It is not a racing bike, and you can't ride rough mountain trails on it, but it's not meant for people who do that.
At the end of the day, classic bicycles were a stunning piece of mechanical work. Since they aren't available today, the solution for you would be to get the next best thing - a classic-looking modern bike. And the Dreamer fits the description just fine.