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 professionally restored and serviced vintage bikes with a warranty.
So now there are quite a few sellers Australia wide who offer restored vintage bikes with new tires and cables and more but there is no way of knowing what experience they have servicing bikes.
Buyers recognise now that buying a restored and serviced vintage bikes is the more economical and much safer, 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 because there is no regulation in the industry, no certified training course. 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 itemise 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! Check the cables, are they rusty, check the tires, are they cracked, dry or perished?
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 labour & parts go into a "Full Service". Most sellers on ebay are not experienced bike mechanics nor have the right tools to carry out the work correctly and some are simply misleading buyers in order to achieve maximum sale price. Some sellers will claim that their bikes have been "recently serviced". Ask what was done and where and by who? What bike shop?
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 or "a service".
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.
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! 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.
Brake Adjustment - Should always be undertaken in a full service, unfortunately many amateur bike sellers on ebay do not have the expertise to ensure this is done correctly and safely, 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 or replaced especially in vintage/retro bikes at the very least cleaned, repacked with new grease. Most 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 eg. 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 could snap and is obviously another safety issue/cost.
Vintage bikes should be inspected for cracks in the frame, some may have been in a front end impact or accident. Look for cracks or wrinkles in paintwork, this could be an indication that frame has been compromised. Also look around the lugs and joins in tubing, this is a common place for cracks. A common area to assess bikes for cracks or bends is the down tube near the head tube, on mens bikes where the old gear shifters on the down tube area, if there are creases in paint, the bike has sustained major damage.. walk away from sale.
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 unnatural bend so ask the seller if they can provide one to show the angle/alignment of the fork or ask a qualified/experienced bike mechanic to have a look at pics of the bike you intend to purchase. Some professional advice now might save you headache and heartache not to mention dollars.
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 !! Sorry hipsters! 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:
Do they work in a bike shop? How long have they been repairing bikes? 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 closer inspection their bikes that they claim to have serviced are not, which could compromise your safety. We've seen quite a few scary things, calliper brakes on back to front (a seller in Melbourne sadly), cables not adjusted safely, missing parts, quick release skewers on the wrong side of wheel, wheel nuts not fitted correctly, luggage racks not installed correctly, mudguards attached with zip ties! head cups loose, brake levers on back to front or upsidedown, seat and handlebars/levers poorly set up, missing front derailleurs on 10 speed frames, just shonky and looks ugly, missing cable caps so cables will fray, hacked off gear lever bands, badly installed luggage racks which will collapse under load. We used to regularly see a Melbourne seller offer "restored bikes each week" and he'd often commit all of the above mentioned mistakes.. He claimed to have 30 years experience, so was obviously lying to potential customers to win the sale. Be careful.
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 of the chain 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, we are now seeing many cheap repros for sale on ebay, they have overtaken the market, but will be on the rubbish heap shortly.. Consider a genuine vintage ladies bike, it'll last another 30 years if you buy the right one.
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 wwwsydneyvintagebikesdotcomdotau