Sunday, November 30, 2008

6 Design of Vintage Bicycles and The Question of Restoring Vs Reconditioning

Every now and then, you'll find the old rusting remains of what is an ancient bicycle in your basement, a bequeathal from your grandparents of which you would probably be less concerned about than the dust collecting in your laptop keyboard. However, it pays to take a second look at these objects because they could very well turn out to be a gem, or one of those rare classic vintage bikes that sweep a lot in value these days (think museum, or even EBAY!). Are you just going to stand there doing nothing when a mini-treasure just sits there right under your feet? Then maybe you should quit complaining about not having the cash flow for your next season.

Okay. So you did take a second look at the bike. You asked a few people around and found out that its a Netherlandish or nederlandish design from the days when your greatgrandpa had more teeth, and that it has a good amount of value. Then the next important question is, what do you do with it? Do you restore or recondition it?

Vin Vullo, apart from having strong opinions on the ills of modern bikes and cyclists wearing tight fitting clothes (see Wheeling Through History, The Boston Pheonix May '08), has also been buying and selling vintage bicycles since the 1960s. In 1995 as the internet gained in popularity he founded Menotomy Vintage Bicycles and moved his business to the web at His company's web site has many tools and resources for people interested in vintage bicycles, including a picture database, an online price guide, serial number charts and a dozen discussion areas where collectors can post questions and provide answers for other bike collectors.

I've collected a series of nice video presentations he gave on vintage bikes through Expertvillage. He walks us through from an introduction to vintage bikes, to the question of restoring vs reconditioning.

While you're at it, also pay special attention to design elements in the common style of vintage bikes, for a lot of those elements have carried on and are seen in present bikes as well. For example, apart from the double diamond frame design which I already talked about in a previous post, the remnants of the cantilever frame design has also stuck in road bikes and cruisers.
Another point of interest is the front fork design. You may see a relation between the front suspension of Jeff Jones' Monster Truck MTB and vintage fork designs of balloon tired bicycles from the 1930's. Nothing extremely 'out of the book', if you ask me :

The Monster Truck MTB (courtesy Wired Mag). Check out the similarities in front suspension design.

Schwinn B-10 E. Courtesy : Copakeauction

Enjoy the presentations.

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Intro To Vintage Bicycles

Intro To Vintage Bicycles -- powered by

What Makes Vintage Bicycles

What Makes Bicycles Vintage -- powered by

Why Do People Collect Vintage Bicycles?

Why People Collect Vintage Bicycles -- powered by

Styles of vintage bicycles

Vintage Bicycle Styles -- powered by

Balloon Tire Bicycles (1940's)

Popular Vintage Bicycles: 1940s -- powered by

Middle Weight Bicycles (1950's)

Popular Vintage Bicycles: 1950s -- powered by

Sting Ray Bicycles (1960's)

Popular Vintage Bicycles: 1960s -- powered by

3 Speed Bicycles (1970's)

Popular Vintage Bicycles: 1970s -- powered by

English 3 speed bicycles

English 3-Speed Bicycles -- powered by

English Rod Brakes

English Bicycle Rod Brakes -- powered by

English Bicycle Cable Brakes

English Bicycle Cable Brakes -- powered by

Pre and Post War Vintage Bikes

Pre-War & Post-War Vintage Bicycles -- powered by

Vintage Bike Serial Numbers

Vintage Bicycle Serial Numbers -- powered by

Vintage Bicycle Rims

Vintage Bicycle Rims -- powered by

Vintage Bicycle Hubs

Vintage Bicycle Hubs -- powered by

Vintage Bicycle Tires

Vintage Bicycle Tires -- powered by

Vintage Bicycle Reflectors

Vintage Bicycle Reflectors -- powered by

Vintage Bicycle Accessories

Vintage Bicycle Accessories -- powered by

Vintage Bicycle Head Badges

Vintage Bicycle Head Badges -- powered by

Vintage Bicycle Literature

Collecting Vintage Bicycle Literature -- powered by

Do You Restore Or Recondition A Vintage Bicycle?

Vintage Bicycles: Restore or Recondition -- powered by

Restoring A Vintage Bicycle

Vintage Bicycles: Restoring -- powered by


  1. Thanks for the nice videos. Also want to point out that even belt drives aren't anything new. They've been used on motorcycles for many years, and Strida first introduced it in their folding bikes back in the 80's.

  2. This is extensive. Thanks for the informative post... great reference.

  3. Lots of good stuff here. I have just returned from lovely Orchard Park, New York, just west of Buffalo, where I visited the Pedaling History Museum. It is a terrific place (I will do some posts on my blog since I took, uh, 130 photos while I was there) with something like 400 bicycles from the really early stuff (and I mean we are talking Micheaux Brothers here) to the balloon-tired bikes of the 1950s. Unfortunately the place will shut down in January permanently since the owner, Mr. Carl Burgwardt, want to retire (for real, this time). See it if you can!

  4. Anonymous9:32 AM

    The monster mtb is actually a rigid fork, not a suspension.

  5. I understand, but the way its designed is done to replace an actual shock suspension.

  6. Anonymous10:12 PM

    Ron, Both bikes are without front suspension. By your logic, you could say any rigid fork was designed to replace a suspension fork. I know its more compliant, but thats all.


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