Back in November 2022, I wrote a post (link at bottom) about the vintage bike market, and questioning whether it was dead or alive. I can confirm that it is still alive, but not quite kicking. The restoration of bicycles has some way to go to catch up to the vintage/classic motorcycle, tractor or boat categories. It’s unlikely to ever catch up with the vintage/classic car world. The car world is clearly not just into buying for pleasure, because as we’ve seen in the last 20 years, purchases are made as a critical investment. As with all investments, it’s all about timing, fashion and having the luck to dodge the global recessions, wars etc. To date, I’ve not come across anyone who has bought a bike purely for (realistic) investment, even though that’s maybe the reason given to others regarding the justification for purchase.

If you’ve read any of the previous content on this site of mine, or even just skimmed through the categories or posts, you’ll note that I am one of those that has rescued and bought bikes, restored them, lined them up so I can feel smug and proud, and crucially for me, actually ride them either in events or when I go out for rides with friends. Whilst an old bike doesn’t have the capabilities of a modern bike, it doesn’t mean to say that they’re not fun to ride. In fact, sometimes it’s more relaxing to ride a vintage bike than a modern bike.

Anyway, I’ve sold a lot of bikes that I’ve restored over the last 10 years, although nothing has sold in the last 18 months, and this is because I haven’t reduced my prices from their heady levels of 4 years ago. I’m also not going out of my way to really sell stuff hard and be happy to let it go for less than ‘I feel’ is its correct value. I’m sure I’m not on my own here. I have some restored bikes ready to ride and under dust sheets. I have some bikes that are tucked away in bike boxes, and I have some hanging on the wall. I have modern bikes, including electric (cheating) bikes, because I like to ride a multitude of bikes from different ages from a 1950s French randoneur with a suicide front derailleur, to a TT funny bike to a 1990s downhill bike. All are still fun to ride.

That’s enough context, because below are my observations of the current vintage bike market. I may have missed some as well, but hey, read them and then I’ll explain how I think the vintage bike market and it’s restorers/collectors can move from it’s current position:

⁃ The number of restored bikes that are sitting in sheds, workshops, attics, sitting rooms, bedrooms (which some might say is weird) etc is at an all time high.

⁃ The market and current pricing for selling restored bikes is currently as flat as an early morning fart, and just like the new bike market.

⁃ The price of project bikes and parts has dropped like a stone. Lockdown mania is over.

⁃ Only ‘unicorn’ or ‘rare as hens teeth’ NOS parts are holding their prices.

⁃ Of the number of restored bikes, only a teeny-weeny (that’s a very small number) percentage of them are ever ridden.

⁃ (Some) owners have so many bikes that their collection habit has now got in the way of how they live. For example, the garage/house has so many restored bikes in it that it’s hard to get two humans in there as well, or it’s hard to get one bike out without having to carefully move another 6+!

⁃ Whilst bikes have been restored because they recognise the past for people, for a lot of restorers, the fun is in the actual restoration. Finding parts, stripping stuff down, repainting, getting decals made etc etc. Whilst finding the correct, narrow pair of handlebars for a mountain bike or some narrow tri-bars for a TT bike is fun, actually riding in that position requires a reasonable level of fitness that isn’t that pleasant for some of the ‘older restorers’, and these bikes don’t get loaned to the youngsters to hammer them (again).

⁃ Owners actually forget what bikes they’ve actually got due to the number that they have, and they have too many to regularly dust/re-polish or even keep the tyres pumped up to stop them from cracking.

⁃ Restored bikes are now popping up on selling sites, but are at prices which will never recover the restoration cost. Some sellers are breaking bikes as they’re worth more in parts (sadly). There is no accurate trend data in the cycle auction world like there is in the car and motorcycle world, so it’s hard to be able to predict future buying opportunities or when to sell.

⁃ New restorers are continuing to join the community, but the number of available parts is much depleted as they’ve already been snapped up.

⁃ There is a trend that sellers of restored bikes generally want to have them collected by the buyer as they don’t want the hassle or risk of shipping them. This means that the market reach of potential buyers is much reduced and will impact the price. There are some really great bike shipping companies out there who will drop off a box and pick it up the next day. Selling further afield keeps prices higher and more stable.

⁃ Restorers are now selling bikes that they bought for restoration, but have never got around to it and the restoration bubble for them has burst, or they’ve run out of space, cash, energy etc etc.

⁃ The stocks of spare parts that restorers have in their individual cache’s are big. Some parts are never intended to be fitted to a bike and will stay as a ‘collected piece’ in a drawer or cupboard.

⁃ Bike shops/dealers put any vintage bikes that they might have either in a separate room or kept low profile, because people come into the shop to look and talk about the vintage bikes and don’t buy a new one. They’re a distraction in the shop to selling new stuff.

⁃ There are new restorers/acquirers joining the community, so the market is still developing.

⁃ The motorcycle market also mirrors the above bicycle market observations, and in some cases, the classic car market as well.

⁃ Plus several other observations that I’ve probably missed……

Two restored and classic 1970s Swiss Cilo racers, and both great fun to ride

Whilst a lot of the above may have negative connotations, I do see some great opportunities for restorers/collectors/owners like me, so here’s just a few:

⁃ It is definitely a buyers market, so you can get yourself a great, restored bike for a lot less than you could 4+ years ago.

⁃ There are a lot of events for classic bikes from road, touring to mountain bikes, which means an opportunity to get motivated to actually ride that polished steed. Other riders, particularly the youngsters have never seen a vintage bike in the flesh, so this is how they appreciate the bicycle evolution. Remember, the youngsters on their carbon bikes of today are the collectors/restorers of tomorrow, and may even be a buyer of one of your bikes.

⁃ I think that we need more of the shows and local/national races to include a vintage bike section, and a bar (🍻), to get owners out to share their bikes with others. Also, an event something like the Goodwood Festival of Speed for bikes would be aspirational.

⁃ Sharing bikes on community Facebook pages or forums is just like having a global museum, which is great, but here is where I make one request. Please, please, please, if you’re going to show off your bike, take a really, really good photo of it. You don’t need to be a professional photographer, but getting the bike in the right location, lighting and taking the photo from the right perspective is key to giving others that ‘wow factor’. If you’re not proud of the photo, don’t share it, because that photo is on the internet forever.

⁃ There are a few bike museums around, so why not send a bike over to somewhere like the Dutch MTB museum or the Australian museum of MTB (links below) as a gift or a loaner.

⁃ Auction a bike for charity. I did this with a really nice MTB on eBay and whilst it didn’t raise as much as I wanted/reckoned, cash did go to charity and somebody got a real bargain, and I reduced my collection.

⁃ There has been some really great development in the level and quality of replacement parts for vintage bikes, so if we stop restoring, these emerging businesses will fail, so they need to be supported as well.

⁃ For those that don’t want to downsize or sell any bikes, why not build a special place to display them without having them lined up or stacked up in chaos? Building a special home for them is just another project.

The price of this late 1990s Cannondale frame and forks has dropped like a stone, unlike the vintage cowbells, which have gone up in price.

As I’m a self-confessed-projecteer, I’m always on the lookout for something, and always will be, but I am being very, very careful about what I buy. I don’t have many ‘bucket list bikes’ and I do have an organised space for my collection. I’ve also donated a bike to someone who could develop parts specifically for it and needed an original to copy, and have also donated bikes to a local charity that gets people into cycling. Whilst some readers on this page won’t want to ‘just give a bike away’, it is worth thinking through what you would like to happen to your collection in the future. Food for thought, and here’s to the future of the vintage/classic bike world.

Link to my previous post on the vintage bike market

Link to the Dutch MTB Museum

Link to the Australian Museum of MTB

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All photos by the Author

5 thoughts on “The vintage bicycle market is NOT dead, but it’s NOT kicking either, and here’s why.”

  1. I had a good run flipping a few bikes during Covid, financing a budding collection. I have some beautiful examples that I am under water on. I keep riding.

  2. Hi Guy. Good point between 2018 and 2022, I sold quite a few bikes, of various types. Over the last 12 months, I have only sold a couple. I actually gave away a couple for charitable reasons. High end Italian bikes appear to be achieving good prices and the ever popular Dawes Galaxy bikes, are still selling. You mentioned boats. Prices for older 40+ year old boats are at the lowest I have seen for years. It is possible to buy a good useable 7-8 metre yacht for under £3000, the kicker can be the mooring fees.

    1. The market is down for a few things and it’s very much age-related. I guess it’s just the normal cycle, but it doesn’t stop us having fun whilst we’re here👍

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