Total new bicycle sales are increasing every year and in 2018, global sales were approximately $50bn, and the forecast for 2025 shows sales hitting $75.5bn. In addition, and over the last few years, about 100 million bikes have been produced every year. This means that there are a quite a lot of potential vintage bikes in the bicycle collecting succession plan, and whilst nobody has identified the absolute value of vintage bike sales globally, it must be at least 10% of total new bike sales, which is about $5bn. Obviously, the average price of a vintage bike, which is at least 20 years old, varies dramatically, but it is a globally thriving market.

Vintage and old cycling stuff has always been popular. Vintage stuff is also massive in every category and ranges from all bicycle style categories, to clothing, to books, and includes things now also referred to as ‘design classics’, like the Campagnolo cork screw for example. We are also seeing a shift in how we can locate and buy vintage bikes and parts. The day of the cycling forum is slowly evaporating and being replaced by global Facebook groups instead. This is a good thing, and partly because the forum pages arn’t easy to use (although the Vintage Cannondale forum is the exception) and selling and buying stuff isn’t easy either. However, Facebook now have their Market Place and next year, an e-currency as well. This means that not only will you be able to get fast advice and opinions from your vintage cycling Facebook group, but you’ll be able to buy stuff really easily as well. So far, making sales on Facebook Market Place doesn’t incur fees like eBay and PayPal do, and this is why it’s taking off really fast as a platform to sell and buy vintage bikes. Locating them is easy as well because Facebook groups are usually global. My prediction is that the vintage scene will grow as much as new bike sales as a growth percentage in the future. 

However, not all vintage stuff is useful today and I’m now talking about things like early mountain bike helmets made out of polystyrene. Not many of these old helmets have survived as well as the adverts like the one below, which is by Giro Helmets in 1994, and is taken from one of my ‘vintage MTB magazines’. Cool huh!

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There are a lot of vintage bikes that are useful and very cool, and I’m talking now about 1990s fully rigid mountain (MTB) bikes. I accept that one of these first generation MTBs does not have anywhere near the capability of a modern day descendant on any type of trail, but they do actually do a great job in today’s world, and in my view, they are better value than one of the new and trendy ‘gravel bikes’. For example, take a really good, long hard look at this 1991 Kona Cinder Cone below, then read on……

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………MTB frame geometry didn’t come any better than this bike. Point it somewhere on a trail and it didn’t, and still doesn’t, disappoint. Compare it to some of today’s gravel bikes and you’ll see a similarity. Find a good condition bike like this and you’ll pay about 20% of the cost of a basic gravel bike. Whilst the brakes might not be up to modern day discs and the gears not quite as smooth as modern day kit, the grin factor scores at least the same. Gravel tyre widths are now running at nearly the same widths as those 1990s cross country knobbly tyres. MTBs have developed so quickly in a short space of time that this bike, which is only 19 years old, is now seen as very vintage or retro, and a target for collectors. Also, if you’ve ever ridden a gravel bike or cyclo-cross bike, you’ll know that they’re not easy things to master in the muddy or rooty or rocky stuff. However, this bike is, and it will also get you riding quite swiftly on tarmac as well.

The 1991 fierce-Kona-competition took the form of bikes like the Scott below, which is also very cool and rides really well too. I found it in this complete condition with another matching bike that has a slightly bigger frame, and you can read about them both in a previous post. 

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A modern day cyclist is not only a top consumer of new and old cycling stuff, but is likely to own a minimum of 2 bikes. One for the road and one for off-road at the very least. You can then add other specialist bikes to this list as well for a lot of riders. I’m obviously including myself in this group of cycling consumers. I’ve also stepped well into ‘vintage world’ and whilst I’ve got a brace of last-century-Cannondales, it’s these two 1990 bikes that I’m going to do a ‘Back to Black’ (a top track by Ami Winehouse by the way) test on, and just for old times sake. However, this test will be a bit of a ‘piss-take’ version of bike tests that we’ve been reading in magazines over the last 30 years, so read on………

………Let’s start with some ratings & it’ll minimise the bullshit-column-filling text:

  • The testers’ recommendation to buy: Kona 9 out of 10. Scott 8 out of 10. This is because my first MTB was a Kona like this one, so the memory factor scores higher.
  • Colour scheme: Hmmmmm, tough one. I like both of them equally so it’s a tie at 9 out of 10. In the event of an appeal from someone, I could be persuaded to give the Scott half a point more for the ‘For off road USE only’ decal on the seat stay tube.
  • Riding position: both get 7 out of 10 as it takes time to move my body back to riding in the Superman position with the long stems, particularly in comparison to today’s shortie stems.
  • Brakes working as laxatives: both score 10 out 10. Setting up time so they work reasonably well: both score 5 out of 10.
  • Gear shifting: the shifting is fine if you think well ahead of when you need to change gear. Both score low for the spontaneous shifting required on a steep hill when your lungs want to exit your rib cage.
  • Tyres: they’re just tyres so no point getting all tarty-techy about round and rubbery things.
  • Frame geometry: if I understood all the bollocks that is written today about frame geometry, I would score this category, but I don’t, nor do I care, so I won’t.
  • COOLNESS! This is by far the most important rating and as last century’s cool is once again becoming cool, I’d give them both full scores.
  • The one would I ride first and sell the last: The Kona of course.
  • Advice from the tester: just buy and ride whatever you want and can afford.

To sign off, I’m going to actively encourage you to start getting excited about vintage stuff because it is the future, it is good fun, and in some cases, if you buy well, it is an investment too. Do you really need any other reasons to buy, ride and/or sell a vintage bike?

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All photos by the Author

3 thoughts on “The future of vintage bicycle sales and a spoof ‘Back to Black’ 1990s MTB review”

  1. Kona is really nice looking, don’t recall seeing one previously. 7 speed SunTour? I have lots of NOS and used SunTour on hand, including NOS cassettes which are getting a bit hard to find.

    I do wonder about the future market value of vintage bikes. I buy bikes that I find interesting and want to preserve – rarely sell one except to a friend. That said, I hope that they will remain valuable to someone. It is only through people’s conception of value that things are preserved.

  2. Hello Guy or is it Adam or? this is a comment for this and your previous posting about the great looking Scott Mountain bikes you discovered.

    My first proper mountain bike was purchased in early 1992, a Carrera Catalyst, yes from Halfords, mainly because my wife’s company got a big discount from them, I have not seen another like it for many years.
    Its a bit odd looking with raised chain stays and biopace? ie oval chainrings, I still have the bike, it was used a lot until replaced with a Specialized Rockhopper, I will send an image to you.

    Polystyrene helmets, I still have mine from 1992, its my workshop lid, short road tests only, see image.

    Vintage bikes are great, there is a number of groups springing up in the uk, my favourite ride is the Reading Lightweight ride in May. Apart from my Cilo I have 4 others, plus a tandem.

    Gravel bikes, horrible things I bought one a couple of years ago, poor on and off road, to see a person riding through a forest over tree roots etc with drop bars looks so wrong, I intend to make it into an e bike, Andy Kirby sells some inexpensive kits.

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