Buying A Vintage Bike
Wow - We never thought that our idea to offer a Fully Serviced Vintage Bike for sale would start a nationwide 'CRAZE" on Ebay!
Sydney Vintage Bikes are very proud to be widely recognised as the first business to see that there was a need for and offer for sale "Restored Vintage Bikes". Now many sellers in other states have followed us - One Melbourne seller used to "critiscise" our lovely powdercoated restored bikes because he didn't understand what buyers wanted - now he's had to do a backflip, swallow his pride and perform the extra work to his bikes and offer working, rideable vintage bikes for sale. So now there are quite a few sellers Australia wide who offer restored vintage bikes with new tires and cables.... but there is no way of knowing what experienced they have had in the industry if any at all..
But... because buyers recognise that a serviced bike is more desirable, the latest buzz word on ebay for bike sellers is to claim that their bikes are "restored by a Pro Bike Mechanic" or Professionally Restored etc etc. Unfortunately many bikes we've seen from these so called "Expert bike mechanics" are not built to the standard that you would expect from a qualified or experienced bike mechanic. It seems that anybody can claim they're pro bike mechanics these days!!! Might be worth asking them which retail bike shops they've worked for, for how long, check them out.
If you're buying a VINTAGE / RETRO BIKE and the seller has claimed that they have "SERVICED" or "RESTORED" the bike then don't be afraid to ask them to list what work they have done. There is a big difference between a full rebuild service and a general service or just oiling the chain and pumping up the tires!
Some sellers claim to have carried out a "FULL SERVICE" when all they've really done is pump up the perished tires and maybe given the bike a quick clean - a huge amount of work & parts go into a "Full Service". Most sellers on ebay are not experienced bike mechanics nor have the right tools to do the work correctly and some are simply misleading buyers in order to achieve maximum sale price. Here's one we see a bit "recently serviced" what? There is nothing wrong with putting up un-restored bikes for sale as long as the seller is clear in their item description for example this item is "Sold as is" etc or "we would recommended new tires" and a "service" or both.
A Full Rebuild Service includes :New Gear and Brake Cables (it's easy to see if this has been done - if cables are rusty, corroded or frayed then they need replacing) good cables are paramount to ensure the safety of the bicycle. The outer casing can also have tears/cracks/rust marks - if this is the case it'll need replacing. The brakes and gears may fail! - not a good situation to be in when riding in heavy traffic. An experienced bike mechanic should run through the gears to ensure they are working correctly. Otherwise it could be a safety issue if not adjusted correctly, chain may slip, or jump off which could be dangerous. Vintages bikes should have New Tyres, if not ask the seller if the rubber on the tyres has perished or check sidewalls. If seller has described the tyres as having "GOOD TREAD" but you can see that the rubber is CRACKED on sidewalls then they need to be replaced, they won't hold air for long! Some sellers even try to estimate how long they think the tires will last for! LOL - If only we all had a crystal ball. If new tires are needed factor in the cost and labour to fit new by a bike shop - it will be an added cost to your purchase! Brakes and gear levers should be checked and adjusted. We have seen many bike sellers that have claimed to have serviced the bike but DO NOT know how to adjust brakes correctly (we see it every day on ebay) again this could be a safety issue - you don't want "tinkerers" mucking around with brakes. Rims should be trued and tensioned and spin freely, if they don't then they'll need the bearings serviced or a service by a qualified/experienced bike mechanic. They may need to be replaced or rebuilt but wheel rebuilds are a dying art, fewer mechanics are able to offer this service now, most bike shops will replace wheels with new, another expense. Bearings in the bottom bracket, headset, and wheel axles should be serviced on all vintage bikes and should be cleaned, repacked with new grease or bearings will need replacing. Many sellers don't bother with this and often the cones, bottom bracket or the headset can be over tightened, if it has a "grinding feel" then it needs attention, they're either rusty and have dried grease or worse. The drive train ie: chain & cogs should be thoroughly cleaned and oiled, some use degreaser in the wrong areas, degreaser can be harmful to some parts of the bike and will accelerate rust, most importantly check if the chain is rusty, if it is, then it'll snap and is obviously another safety issue/cost. Vintage bikes should be inspected for cracks in frame/tubes, some may have been in a front impact/accident. Look for cracks or wrinkles in paintwork, this could be an indication that frame has been compromised. Also look around the lugs/joins in tubing, this is a common place for cracks. It's common for Ladies bikes to have cracks or bends in the seat tube or head tube if it's been in an accident, or ridden down a gutter, check those areas carefully. If you have the opportunity run your fingers over the suspected area for creases in tubes.
We've seen plenty of bikes up for sale from regular sellers on ebay that have BENT FORKS, often they avoid taking a side on pic as it will show the bend so ask the seller if they can provide one to show the angle/alignment of the fork or ask a qualified/experienced bike mechinac to have a look.
Vintage Bikes should be checked over thoroughly by someone who knows what they're doing, go to a bike shop that has been around for a while - there are new bike shops opening every week who have young staff in tight jeans and beanies (fixie newbies) who do not know what they're talking about but claim to be super experienced !! This had to be said and is worth thinking about...
So if seller has stated their bike for sale has been "serviced" and/or is claiming to be an experienced bike mechanic ask them a few quick questions:
a) Do they work in a bike shop?
b) How long have they been repairing bikes?
c) Are they just a hobbyist? Unfortunately any "back yard bob" can call themselves a bike mechanic just to make a quick sale! We keep tabs on many bike sellers on ebay, pictures can be pretty, but on close inspection their bike maintenance work is not, which could compromise your safety. We've seen quite a few scary things, brakes on back to front, cables not adjusted safely, missing parts, quick release skewars on the wrong side, wheel nuts not fitted correctly, luggage racks not installed correctly, mudguards attached with zip ties! headcups loose, brake levers on back to front, seat and handlebars/levers poorly set up, missing front derailleurs on 10 speed frames! Yes we see a regular bike seller each week (Melbourne seller) list ladies bikes with no front derailleur, no cable caps, hacked off gear lever bands, badly installed luggage racks which will collapse under load - this seller has been around for 3 years but claims to have 30 years experience, scary!
Finally, it's always nice to buy a serviced vintage bike that has been washed and polished. Although we have seen many bikes for sale that have been degreased but haven't been serviced, something to look for. A quick degrease is not a service by a long shot... so when buying a vintage bike to ride straight away, ask the SELLER lots of questions and if you have doubts as to weather the work has been carried out, simply take your purchase into a good bike shop (one that's been around for more than a few weeks!) and get a senior bike mechanic to check it over.
Serviced Vintage bikes will be a joy to ride, will have a lot more style and will outlast the cheap new reproductions.
Vintage bikes are becoming harder to find, are a lot more collectible and if looked after well can provide many years of enjoyment and can actually increase in value!
Please check out our website at sydneyvintagebikesdotcomdotau