Vintage bikes are more than just looks. They're incredibly practical as a means of transportation as well. If you're in need of a different way of transportation, be it to get to work, or to get around town, and want to leave your car at home, they're a great way to go. From vintage 70's bikes and vintage 80's bikes, vintage American bicycles and vintage beach bike options, there are a lot of choices as well.
But, what are vintage bikes? What makes them so good? Can you still buy the bikes, or buy their frames today? Can you find their parts online? Is there a difference between a women's version, and a men's bike? Well, there's actually quite a lot to talk about, so let's begin. When you're done reading, you'll know everything there is to know about vintage bikes. You'll also know where to get them, or a version of them, and trust me, you'll want one of those modern vintage-inspired bicycles.
Whether you get the best cruiser, or a cheap one, whether you get a classic bike, or a vintage city version, whether you get a 3 speed or a 7 speed version, and whether you get an Italian, Dutch, German, French or English manufacturer to do it for you, finding a quality, yet modern bike for sale and getting one is a great choice. But, you shouldn't limit yourself to stores such as Amazon, Argos, Halfords and Walmart.
We have happy vintage Peace Bicycles Riders in Adelaide, Amsterdam, Atlanta, Auckland, Australia, Banbury, Bangalore, Barcelona, Berlin, Birmingham, Boston, Brighton, Bristol, Brooklyn, Calgary, Cambridge, Canada, Canberra, Chicago, Cleveland Ohio, Copenhagen, Dallas, Washington DC, Delhi, Denver, Dublin, India Hyderabad, Kerala, Mumbai, New Zealand, Perth, Philippines, Toronto, UK, Hamilton, Houston, Hull, Chennai, Ireland, London, Los Angeles, Melbourne, mid Ohio, Montreal, Munich, Minneapolis, Netherlands, New York, Newcastle, Northern Ireland, Nottingham, Ontario, Ottawa, Oxford, Paris, Portland, San Diego, Seattle, Singapore, Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria just to name a few. And whether you're looking for a big ladies' bike, with baskets, or in black, you'll find something for you.
What are vintage bikes?
Vintage bikes shouldn't be confused with old, antique style bicycles, or with a classic bike and classic bike frame. They do indeed have some of the characteristics of classic looking bikes, but brands that sell some of the best bikes, such as Peace Bicycles, offer all the modern things a bike should have today. What we now know as vintage bicycles used to be one of the main types of transportation a few decades ago. Cars weren't that common at that point, and bikes were a pretty common sight, mostly as a means to get from one place to the other. However, they were also used as a type of recreation as well.
Check out authentic vintage bikes in the video below:
Nowadays, buying real vintage bikes can only be done second hand, but not many of us would want used bikes. Bikes made today have changed quite a bit, from the materials used, to the construction itself. The purpose of bikes has changed as well, as we now have road bikes, mountain bikes, and cruiser bikes, plus everything in between. Fortunately, as mentioned above, brands have found a way to somewhat recreate vintage, and give them a modern twist, resulting in "new vintage bikes". When you look at such bikes, they do remind you of a vintage bike. Functionally, however, they're miles ahead. They're safer to ride, they have a much more comfortable ride than the old bikes you will find as "vintage", and they're much easier to service and maintain.
Are they worth it?
But, is getting such a bike comparable to getting a real used steel vintage bike? Honestly, it is not only comparable, but it's much better. Cruiser bikes, whether old or new, are very close in quality to vintage bikes. If you're a fan of vintage and how these bikes look, you won't be disappointed. Let's take a closer look at these options, and see how they stack up with the vintage bikes people used to ride.
How's the riding position?
Vintage bikes were famous for their riding position. Today's modern bikes, especially racing bikes that manufacturers sell, put you in a bent down position which, honestly, isn't all that comfortable. Sure, if you're a racer you're pretty much used to it, and you can spend hours on end in the saddle. But if you aren't (as most of us), you'll have trouble even after an hour of riding. That's a big no when you need to use a bike as a means of transport. However, with a vintage bike, you have an upright position. The handlebars are much higher, and the saddle is a bit lower compared to a race bike. This puts much less stress on your body, as you aren't leaning on your hands, at all. If you're a person that appreciates comfort, you'll love this. This riding position makes for especially great bikes for seniors.
An upright seating position places the pressure on parts of your body that are made to withstand that kind of pressure. You won't feel any unnecessary pressure on places such as your neck, or your back, or your shoulders. This can be a deal breaker for senior riders, and should be a deal breaker for younger ones as well. If you're younger, you might not feel any pain or pressure while riding, but you'll feel it when you're a bit older. You don't want to be hurting your body when you can easily get a comfortable, upright position that solves this issue for you.
But, what about the bikes you can get today? Well, Peace Bicycles have actually made this riding position a priority in the design of their bikes. Trust me, the riding position is something you must not underestimate when you're getting a new bicycle.
The vintage bikes riding position is also influenced by the handlebars
It wasn't just the geometry itself that influenced how you sit on the bike. You might have a good geometry that puts you in a comfortable and upwards position. However, if you put a flat handlebar with no back sweep, you'll still be uncomfortable. When you put your hands up forward, they aren't in the shape of a completely flat handlebar. Instead, they require a bit of a back sweep in order to be in a natural position. Otherwise, you'd be putting pressure on points of your body that aren't made for pressure - a major problem with any bike you'd ride.
Makers of vintage bikes, even years ago, had this figured out. They had handlebars that sweep back quite a bit, and make for a much more comfortable riding position. You aren't twisting your hands at angles that aren't natural for them - instead you just put them out and grab the handlebars. The back sweep also has influence on another major thing - the steering capability.
When your hands are in a comfortable position, you have a much easier way of controlling the handlebar and steering. With a flat bar, when your hands are angled unnaturally, it's even worse when you're turning. With a swept back handlebar, that's not the case, and things are much easier. This isn't a small thing to talk about - it's a major factor with vintage bikes. They were made that way with a reason, and they should still be made like that. There's a handy handlebar guide that does a great job at explaining why.
Well, are they?
Yes, they are. All the good, high quality modern bikes that are after that vintage look, such as Peace Bicycles, have the swept back handlebars. Combine this with the seating position we spoke about above, as well as a few more things that we'll discuss later on, and you have yourself a very comfortable ride. And yes, the handlebars don't just have any amount of backsweep - it's a calculated back sweep for optimal comfort.
The vintage bikes came with an extremely high quality construction and build
You might be wondering at this point, "Why do I see a lot of older vintage bikes on the roads?". Why aren't there that many road bikes or mountain bikes that were made 30 years ago, that are still good for the open road, or mountain trails? The answer to that is actually pretty simple. Road bikes and mountain bikes have a lot more moving parts and pieces that tend to fail over time. Vintage bikes that are made for city use don't, that's what enables them to last so much.
And when we're talking about the frames, they're made of extremely high quality tubing and welds. They were very stiff, and lasted for ages. Especially those that were made with Columbus or Reynolds tubing - brands that are still relevant today. Sure, you might find a Columbus frame here, a Reynolds frame there, even today. But their prices are sky high. This puts them out of reach for many people that want a good bike frame but don't want to spend a huge amount of money.
There are still high quality bikes today. Bikes made by brands that pay attention to things such as tube quality, welding, and choice of components. An example is Peace Bicycles, to name one. When you take a closer look at their frames, it's immediately obvious that they paid attention even the smallest of details. This can be, and should be a deal breaker for your new bike. You don't get something just because it looks good - you want it to last, too. And these bikes do last, more than you think they would. Durability was always an important factor with vintage bikes, and with brands such as Peace Bicycles, it's still an important factor, one you don't have to worry about.
The saddle is another major factor with both bike comfort, and that vintage bike look
When we were discussing handlebars, we mentioned there are other factors that influence comfort. The most notable one is the saddle. Sure, you might have an upright position and handlebars with a good backsweep, but if you're sitting on a saddle that isn't comfortable, that all matters much less. The answer? A plush, comfortable saddle. You could find one on many vintage bikes back in the day. And you can still find it on some today, too. How much does it actually matter, though?
Well, let's put it like this. A good saddle isn't just for short term comfort. When you're riding a bike, especially if you're a male, you put stress on sensitive areas of your body. Having an uncomfortable saddle can be disastrous for your reproductive organs, and nobody would like that. However, a good plush saddle will provide plenty of comfort, and enough stress relief so you don't feel any unwanted pressure on those areas.
Sure, you might think that you "only ride your bike for an hour per day, to get to work and back". But, do you really? Don't you go elsewhere with your bike? If you use it as a means of transportation, chances are you have at least two hours per day on the saddle. If you do this daily, that's a lot of time. It can, and will make an impact on your body, and having a good saddle makes a lot of difference. It's also worth to take a look at a couple of saddle options, as well.
It's not just about comfort and health
Comfort and health are extremely important, but once you have those settled, you have looks. With vintage bikes, looks matter quite a bit. And everyone who loves their vintage bike can back me up on this one. A good saddle tends to resemble those that were put on vintage bikes in the past. It's not only wide and plush, but they're also often spring loaded - something you don't find on many other saddles today. The cover material is also usually matched to other bike parts, most notably the handlebar grips. If they're brown, the saddle is brown. If they're black, you get a black saddle. You get the point. This makes for an interesting look.
Last but not least, the vintage bikes' saddles had something that's also not found often on today's saddles - tool bag clips. You might not have seen such clips, but they allow for a compatible tool bag to be attached to the saddle. That small bike bag lets you carry a multitool, a spare tube, and a few other small items that are useful for a mid-ride repair. You can't carry your whole tool box, sure, but it does fit the essentials. It basically does the job of today's saddle bags, but looks much nicer on a vintage bike. It also has a much cleaner way of attaching to your bike, as the saddle was made for it.
All of these things can still be found on today's bikes. You won't get a 30 year old saddle, though. You'll get a modern alternative, with more advanced materials, both in terms of comfort, and in terms of durability. Both are much appreciated when you're spending money on a new bike. You get everything a vintage saddle does - what else do you need?
On a vintage bike, the bike accessories do matter
Back in the days of the original vintage bikes, not a lot of high-tech accessories were available. The technology to make them just wasn't there. However, they did manage with what they had, and had things such as the tool bag mentioned above, as well as things such as front headlights. Those front headlights weren't just for show. They are an incredibly useful safety feature as well, which can make riding in sub-optimal light a real pleasure. With more modern bikes, however, we've steered away from such solutions. There are alternatives, such as handlebar mounted lights, but they just don't do the job a good front headlight would do.
The obvious solution would be to incorporate a front bicycle headlight into a modern bike, and keep the vintage bike aesthetic. This is exactly what Peace Bicycles have done. Front headlights that are high quality and produce a very good light beam. They're great for when the sun goes down. And, when talking about bicycle lights, there are generally two categories: "see" lights, which light up a good portion of the road, and let you see far ahead, and "be seen" lights, which only emit a small amount of light, so others can see you. The front headlights are definitely in the "see" category, as you can easily see what's ahead of you on the road.
And yes, I know you might be thinking that lights aren't accessories, but essential parts instead. However, you will find that not many bike manufacturers actually have them on the bike. This is something that should absolutely be fixed, as riding without lights in the night time can be dangerous.
What happens when you give vintage bikes a modern twist?
Even though vintage bikes have their own characteristic look and style, it's no secret that they lack some features that can make them much better, both in terms of rideability, and looks. And the best part? You won't lose out on that vintage look when you do this. Let's take a look at some features that can make vintage bikes a pleasure to ride.
Rear lights add a bit of safety
We just spoke about the front headlights. However, if you want to be completely safe, you'll need lights at the back as well. Apart from wearing reflective clothing, rear lights are the best way to ensure people coming up behind you can see you. This is crucial, because vintage bikes aren't meant to be ridden only during the daylight. Even if you think to yourself "I'll never ride it at night", you probably will. What if you use it as a means of transportation to work, and get stuck in a meeting? What if you have to meet someone after work, and don't have time to go home and leave the bike?
Chances are that sooner or later, you'll end up riding it at night, and you'll need lights. Therefore, when you're shopping for vintage bikes, make sure the one you get has rear lights. Sure, you could buy some afterwards, but the ones that come with them have the lights incorporated into the design somehow, and they look great on the bike.
Another safety necessity is a bell
When you're in a car, or on a motorcycle, the horn is an obvious way to warn people ahead that you're on the road. With a bicycle, however, the only way to do that is with a bicycle bell. Therefore, having one on your bicycle is incredibly important. Very often we see people walking across the bike path, not aware that there's a cyclist coming up behind them. Ringing a bell will let them know they should get away from the bike path. Some good bicycle brands, such as Peace Bicycles, actually have a bell when you get the bike. A very convenient thing that you won't have to buy extra!
A double kickstand is incredibly convenient
You will often see pictures of vintage bikes leaning against a wall. Even though this is a decent way to not leave your bike on the ground, it's far from convenient. Unless you lean it just right, you're most likely damaging either the seat, or the handlebar grips, depending on which part is leaning on the wall. And, what if there isn't a wall with enough room for you to lean a bike on? Or, what if you need your bike close to you, and there are just no walls nearby? This is where a kickstand comes in.
There are two general types of kickstands - single, and double kickstands. Single kickstands are great, but have many flaws. For example, if you're using your vintage bikes for shopping, you can't have the bike completely vertical. It's going to be leaning on one side or the other, depending on where the kickstand is. This makes it difficult to load it up.
A double kickstand, however, is much better. The bike is completely upright, the handlebars are straight, and you can leave the bike just about anywhere. Getting a bike which has a double kickstand is going to prove much more convenient than a bike with a single kickstand, not to mention one without a kickstand. Peace Bicycles is one of the only brands to feature double kickstands.
Colored tires add a touch of beauty to the vintage bikes overall look
It's no secret that vintage bikes look incredibly good. But what if you could get a modern bike with a vintage look, and make it look even better? That's where things such as colored tires come into play. You can only get so far in terms of looks with boring, black tires. However, switch things out with some bright colored rubber, and you get a much more interesting look. If you want your bike to grab attention, this is how you do it.
And those tires aren't just for show. Sure, they look great. However, they're also some of the most comfortable, plush tires you can get. The bike looks great, but it should ride equally well too, and that's where tires have a major impact. With skinny tires akin to those on a road bike, you get a very stiff ride, and you'll feel every small bump in the road. The wide tires on Peace Bicycles' bikes actually absorb a lot of those impacts and vibrations, making for a much more pleasant ride. You'll want plush tires on a bike with no suspension, so make sure you get them. If you don't want them, there are other options you can choose from, but you should take a look at this informative guide on beach cruiser tires before you buy them.
The bicycle baskets in the front are the most practical thing you could want on a bike
While we're discussing things that will make your ride a pleasure, we have to mention the basket that comes on Peace Bicycles' bikes. If you're using your bike as a daily means of transportation, chances are you carry a few things here and there. Whether it's your backpack for work, or groceries you bought on your way home, you don't have to carry it in your hands. And let's face it, most of us do our grocery shopping on our way home, so having a basket which accommodates everything we've bought is quite handy. Combine it with the double kickstand, and you have an extremely practical bicycle.
While we're discussing storage, why not have a rear rack as well?
A front basket is incredible, but it can only hold so much. And regardless of the way it's secured, it can't hold too much weight. If you're carrying a lot of things, or something that's substantially heavy, you'll want a rear rack.
A rear rack is mounted both on the seat tube, and the rear fork of the bike. It's also much stiffer and holds a lot of weight, making it ideal for something like tools, or similar things you'd need to take with you. If you're getting a bike that you want to be practical, you'll definitely want one.
So, are today's vintage bikes worth buying?
The answer is yes, absolutely. As we said, the vintage bikes that were made years ago had a certain look and flair to them. You just couldn't mistake them for anything else. For people that love that look, but want something a bit more modern, yes, today's vintage bikes are an excellent buy. They're actually a much better buy than an actual vintage bike. You get the looks and the style, but you get a bicycle that's much more comfortable to ride, while being safer and much more convenient as well. All you need to do is choose whether you want a step-through bike frame, or a diamond frame, and place your order!