I’m currently in North Yorkshire, UK, and I have for sale on my eBay site, two vintage Cilo road bikes. The slightly higher specification of the two is a Columbus framed, Cilo Challenger. It is priced very competitively for a bike of its age, condition and specification. I’m obviously interested in the value and pricing of vintage bikes and I’ve learnt quite a lot about the current market in the last few weeks. My Cilo Challenger has had, and currently has, between 27 and 35 eBay watchers since I listed it a month ago, and the listing has been viewed several hundred times. Not bad from an interest point of view. FYI – I still stand by my prediction that these Swiss bikes will make good investment returns whilst being great fun to ride.

However, the current COVID-driven economic state is obviously impacting consumer spending, and whilst new bikes appear to be flying out of our LBS’s, the vintage market seems to have slowed down a bit and actual ‘sold prices’ have dropped. This was clear to me when I made my own maximum bid for a bike on an eBay listing recently. I thought that I had absolutely no hope of getting the win, as my bid was about 50% of the cost of previously sold bikes, and the market price. The bike had 40 watchers, and bizarrely, I won it. This makes me reflect on why my Cilo’s haven’t sold quickly, and as they have in the past. The vintage market is obviously suffering at the expense of the new bike market, which has quickly run out of stock, unlike the vintage stock and choice out there. Interesting huh?

Another thing has struck me about vintage bikes, and it’s related to a recent communication from Larry in the USA about his vintage Cilo, and it’s about the role that vintage bikes are playing in getting people back into cycling. Read Larry’s view and Cilo story in the post ‘More about Cilo Cycles’. The link is at the bottom of this post so you have reading continuity.

Anyway, I thought to myself; why have that Cilo sitting in a box and ready for its next owner, when I could be riding it instead? I’ve also never ridden a Cilo in North Yorkshire before, so it’s been carefully unwrapped, assembled and made ready for a ride.

About 20 miles (32 kilometres) from the house is a white horse, which is 314 feet (95 metres) long and 228 feet (70 metres) high. This makes it a very big horse. It is called the Kilburn White Horse, because it looks over the pretty little village of Kilburn, and it is the most northerly turf-cut figure in The UK. There are other white horses in the UK cut into hillsides, but this one is the best, in my unbiased view. It is one of the most famous landmarks in North Yorkshire as it’s cut into the side of a very big hill, which is shaped like an inland cliff, and can be seen from a long way off from the south. Apparently, this white horse dates from 1857, when the outline of the horse was marked out by the Kilburn village schoolmaster and his pupils. The horse was then cut into the white limestone underneath, and I’m guessing, not by the school pupils. It doesn’t need much maintenance apart the occasional addition of white, chalk chippings to keep it white. 

There is a winding road which climbs the steep hill at the side of the horse and which has a 25% gradient. There is a small car park half way up this hill so that visitors can stop and see the horse up close, and for those that want to see it from the top of the hill, there are some steep steps that pass by the horses tail. The top of the hill has a flat top and there is a glider station located there. The gliders are towed off the edge of the hill and right over the horse’s head. 

Coming back to the title of this post, I’m going to use my Swiss, ‘Cilo horse’ to carry me through the pretty small, rolling roads to see the very big white horse, and then cycle back. There are lots of pretty villages to pass through on the way as well as the spectacular ruins of a 12th Century Cistercian abbey. Whilst there are no Alpine climbs to tackle, there are lots of small hills, which have the ability to stop a cyclist’s forward momentum, dead, so it’s also a good challenge for the Cilo Challenger.

The frame on this bike is 58 centimetres, which is a bit on the big side for me, but hey! I’m going to ride it anyway. I swap the saddle for my favorite Rolls saddle, pump the new tyres up hard, put a bottle in the cage and set off. It’s not raining either, or cold, or very windy, amazingly. The North Yorkshire roads are not very smooth, so the thought of riding bullet-hard, 23 millimetre road tyres wasn’t something I was relishing. However, something happens between the road and the rider that makes the Cilo ride very comfortable, lively and with a calm sense of urgency. I’ve heard people rave on about the ride in these Cilo’s as well as my own experience riding them, and this one is proving the point.

It would be boring to write or read about the whole ride, but there is one point to mention, and that’s the hill up past the White Horse. A 25% gradient isn’t unusual, but does require quite a bit of ‘out-of-the-saddle’ pedalling, particularly on a road bike. This particular Cilo was specced for some big hills by its original, Swiss owner, and unusually for a road race bike, it has a triple chainset. I know this hill and have done it on a road bike a few times and with varying degrees of speed. Knowing the hill is important so a rider knows where to recover or push hard. Long story short. On a dry road, I just pedalled up the side of the White Horse with (relative) ease, but not fast enough the make the big white horse a visual blur as I ride past it though. The spread of gears really makes this bike. At the top of the hill, there is a looooooooong, downhill road on the other side where that big gear gets the bike well into the 50mph+ speed range.

I’m not suggesting that this Cilo will ever change gear as efficiently as a modern bike, but apart from that, it’s as much fun. It’s at least 2 frame sizes too big for me and has a handlebar neck like a giraffe, but with a bit of careful setting up, it was fine. I’m always amazed at how the human body adapts so quickly to something like a different sized bike. I know getting the sizing correct is paramount, but a lot of fun can be had on something that isn’t the perfect fit.

At a brief stopping point on the top of the White Horse hill, I came across some other cyclists who had a) never seen or heard of a Cilo before, and b) they wanted to know about it, and subsequently this blog (never miss a marketing opportunity), and c) they all said they would check out the eBay listing for the bike. My expectation from this socially distanced conversation was that I’ll probably get even more eBay watchers, some traffic through this blog, and another ride or two on the bike that is too big for me until someone buys it, which isn’t all that bad really is It!?

Here’s the link to ‘More about Cilo Cycles https://diaryofacyclingnobody.com/more-about-swiss-cilo-cycles/

All photos by the Author