Like a lot of people who are passionate about ‘vintage stuff’, I’ve been playing in the ‘vintage velo and Moto markets’ for quite some years as a buyer-seller-hobbyist-projecteer. This means, like a lot of people, and maybe you, I’ve had tremendous fun restoring, and riding, and selling, and buying vintage bicycles and parts. I have written a previous post about ‘The Projecteer’ (link at the bottom of page) and in relation to vintage bicycle restoration, but this post that you’re reading now is targeting the actual vintage bicycle (bike from here on) market and its current state, in my view obviously.
What we already know, is that vintage bike market went bonkers during the recent lockdowns that we all endured and with this, we also saw an increase in vintage parts and bike prices. Nearly two years on and things are very different. Firstly, there isn’t the same breadth of vintage, quality bikes and parts for sale as there was previously. I don’t believe that all of the bikes and parts have been found and sold yet, so something has slowed down in the vintage value chain somewhere. I have a view that there are a lot of people out there who now have small collections of the stuff ‘that they always wanted etc etc’ and have found them and restored them. At what cost? Probably at a cost that might not ultimately be recoverable, and certainly not right now. That is, unless there is one particular bike in your collection/shed that is still regularly being searched for, like that ‘unicorn of whatever’, the chance of selling a bike AND making a decent profit in the current market is much reduced/fat chance!
Owners are seemingly not selling their restorations at the moment either, as their re-creations are still quite recent, and they’re still being lovingly dusted occasionally. There has even been a slight drop in the number of ‘look what I’ve finished posts’ in the various Facebook and forum groups by people sharing their latest restoration achievements as well.
From the restorers and collectors that I speak to and know, most of their bikes will never be ridden in the mud or on the wet road. So, assuming everyone is happy with their investment and enjoying the ownership, why would they sell? This is one reason I would suggest is why the market is a bit flat right now. The previous projecteers are not desperate for another project and they’re not selling what they already have either. Couple these two up with the latest, global financial environment and recession and here’s another reason why the market is down. In summary, not much to buy and not worth selling as prices are way too low due to lack of buyers willing to spend cash etc etc.
In my experience, sales of vintage bikes and their prices always hit their peak when a certain criteria like the following is present; the target buyers have the means to buy, and are at an age where meeting their cycling past is desired/needed and affordable. This means that people will buy a bike that they did have/really wanted/is iconic, approximately 15-20 years previously, and that makes bikes in those periods valuable for just a small moment in time. Try searching for a really great and iconic downhill mountain bike or Italian road bike from 2000 and you’ll see what I mean, as you will likely have a fair bit of competition to buy it, if you can actually find one in the current market. I know that searching for that bike or part is a big piece of the fun-cake, but it’s not easy at the moment.
My other observation is that we have seen a number of new start-ups develop over the last 3-4 years that are recreating parts and products for our vintage bike market, and they appear to be continuing to innovate and serve the market that is still out there. I use Terra One and Improve Part (links in the side bar) as just two quality business examples of my point. These start-ups continue to develop as their innovation pipelines are producing parts that will put the finishing touches to a project, and feed the latest project market. I hope they continue through this low period in sales and tough pricing as we owe them a lot in terms of them providing the stuff that we couldn’t get previously, and in some cases, better that the original.
Anyway, some might say and assume from the current sales and prices, that the current vintage bike market is dead!
Now we’ve had some context around the current state of the vintage bike market, let me give you some personal experience of my 2022 sales. So far this year, I’ve sold 8 bikes and to new owners in several countries, and all with excellent feedback. 7 of them sold in the first 6 months and the most recent and very rare one was sold last week. I also sold quite a few parts during this period as well. Remember, I’m not a business, just a projecteer-collector-hobbyist. Sales have been split between Facebook Marketplace and eBay, with one sale being realised through the shop page on this site (Hurrah!). So what happened from July to now? Good question. In July, I decided to list two bikes on eBay that both have some uniqueness and a high level of ‘iconicness’ (this is a new word I’ve just dreamed up). One of the bikes is a British made time Trial bike ‘funny bike’, you know, the ones with a 24” front wheel, and the second one being a Cannondale Super V Freeride mountain bike. Both are in great condition and ready to ride. Both bikes were well market priced and both bikes gained between 35 and 40 ‘eBay watchers’ very quickly. Bizarrely, after 5 months with the same amount of watchers, they’re still for sale! Either there are a lot of other people watching because they have a similar bike for sale or we are in a culture where people just keep things for sale in their ‘watch list’. Unusually, I’ve also not had one ‘stupid offer’ either. There is always one person who sends an offer, usually late in the evening, and for half or less than the asking price, but not in the last 5 months. This isn’t anything to do with what I’m selling either. I can put pictures of them on various and dedicated Facebook groups and they get lots of ‘likes & loves’, but as with all ‘likes & loves’, 99.9% don’t ever materialise into sales.
I looked at the black, shiny, 1997 Cannondale Freeride bike recently, which was waiting patiently for its new owner to turn up and I thought, I’m going to ride it rather than just having it in the electronic shop window of the world. Like a lot of very fortunate vintage bike enthusiasts, I’m not short of choice when it comes to picking a bike to ride. However, I love riding the Cannondale Super Vs and this particular Freeride version has some really good, new mud tyres on it. In North Yorkshire in the UK right now, it is damp, wet, muddy, slippery etc etc, which is every bit of winter weather that you would expect in a Northern European country in December. Assuming no crashes occur, riding the bike won’t make it less valuable as long as I give it a good clean and oil post-ride, so that’s exactly what I’ve done.
I last rode a Cannondale Super V model back in June when I rode the Yorkshire Mountain Bike Marathon (see link at the bottom of this page). I used my Carbon Raven, which was great fun and an object of phone-photos by several ‘youngsters not actually born before 1998’, and the bike got me to the end a lot faster than some people on much more expensive, modern day 29ers. The bike has its limitations as technology back in 1998 was obviously not as proven or developed as it is today, but it was still a lot of fun and the bike worked just great. Anyway, back to my ride on the black Freeride bike ride. A friend of mine, Dr Simon Holmes (who you can read about in the ‘Interesting Interviews’ section on the home page or link at the bottom) suggested a night time ride together. This sounded like the perfect opportunity to ride the Black Freeride.
We chose our local trail centre, Dalby forest, as the trails are well managed and ideal during wet weather as they’re not too muddy. Simon is riding a modern enduro bike and we both switch on our lights and head off into the very dark and damp forest. Reading about our ride would probably be boring, so I’ll give it a miss and save you from too many words. However, I will add that this bike still does the job on a ride that has some trail challenges. Anyway, post-ride, the bike got a good clean, and whilst it is still for sale, it wasn’t put back in its box, because I’m probably going to ride it again.
Moral of the story/post I hear you ask? Well, looking at the vintage bike market, it could be considered dead, but I really believe that it is just taking a break, a breather, and that at some point, the market will be buoyant again, but it will take time for prices to pick up to previous levels, if they ever do😬. This increased market bouyancy could be triggered by the fact that people just want to downsize their current collections, or in some cases, may have to sell up to pay for heating oil, petrol for the car, electricity, holidays etc. All of these factors will get the market to a healthy selling and buying state again and there will still be some great, small companies out there that are making parts for those of us that ride them, and to keep these bikes going forever.
One last point of note. In essence, I don’t see the vintage bike market ever being dead, but it may sleep a bit in the coming 12-18 months, which is really great as a buyer if you manage to get a really cheap deal whilst the market is down. So, long live the vintage bike market!
Oh yeah, if you have a Cannondale Freeride bike with Moto Forks like the ones on my bike, Improve Part have made a number of things for them, such as: the needle bearing and cartridge servicing tools, the V-cap seal and adjuster needle seals, and the critical rubber boots that go on the fork stanchions (which also fit the Lefty fork).
And finally, if you want to buy a black Cannondale Super V Freeride or Time Trial bike or other bike, you can look in my shop at the top of the page😉.
Links to other posts:
Life as a Projecteer https://diaryofacyclingnobody.com/life-as-a-projecteer/
Why I chose to ride the Yorkshire Mountain Bike Marathon https://diaryofacyclingnobody.com/my-cycling-event-criteria-and-why-i-chose-to-do-the-2022-yorkshire-mountain-bike-marathon/
The Interesting Interview with Simon Holmes https://diaryofacyclingnobody.com/the-interesting-interview-series-no-8-simon-holmes-the-lotus/
All photos by the Author