Vintage: Love It or Leave It?
As urban cycling continues to grow, so do the numbers of people looking for a deal on an older used bike. There is no shortage of people encouraging new and seasoned riders alike to check the used market for vintage road bikes, and it’s honestly not a bad idea if you know what to look for. There are a lot of steel road bikes out there worth a couple of hundred dollars and some fresh components, making for a quality and economical ride. But for every frame worth purchasing there are countless others best left to the scrap heap, or at best not worth more than fresh tires and cables for a casual, around town rider. Manufacturing in general and bicycle technology in particular has made serious advancements over the past 30 years—unless the used bike you’re looking at was relatively “serious” in its day, even the most entry level bike available in a bike shop today is leaps and bounds ahead of it in quality. Despite what well-meaning but less-than-knowledgeable friends and unscrupulous Craigslist sellers may say, simply being old and labeled as “vintage” does not a quality bicycle make.
Judging the relative quality of a bicycle at a glance is fairly easy with a few pointers in mind. This is by no means the complete handbook on bicycle quality, but a good starting point for anyone entering the used market.