What to Look for When Buying a Vintage Road Bike

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What to Look for When Buying a Vintage Road Bike

Cycling has become one of the most popular fitness hobbies for Australians, and no other type of bicycle appears to give people more pleasure than a road bike. Constructed for paved surfaces, road bikes operate smoothly over the wide-open countryside, as well as navigate the confined spaces of downtown Sydney. While many consumers prefer to purchase new road bikes, there is a growing demand for vintage road bikes. People buy vintage road bikes for both nostalgic and style reasons. They find vintage road bikes at bicycle shops and online at eBay, one of the leading e-commerce sites. Before shopping for vintage road bikes, buyers should first learn about what constitutes a vintage road bike, the riding factors to consider, and the repair and maintenance issues that can be easily overlooked.

Vintage Road Bike Overview

Most bicycle shop owners classify vintage bicycles to be at least 30 years old. Bicycle manufacturers build road bikes to travel on paved roads and in some cycling circles, the term "road bike" can refer to a racing bicycle. Road bicycles share several common features, such as the narrow tyres that possess high pressure to decrease rolling resistance. Road bikes operate using derailleur gears, although cyclists can find vintage models that operate in single speed and fixed-gear platforms. The appeal of road bikes stems from the lightweight materials used for their construction, although the lightweight design can lead to durability issues.

Riding Factors to Consider

Through the years, bike manufacturers, such as Schwinn and Raleigh, have tinkered with the road bicycle design to make it rider-friendly. However, most vintage road bikes do not provide riders with much comfort, and hence, a road bike's geometry plays a significant role in determining rider comfort level. Riders need to test a road bike for three primary riding issues that pertain to the bike's geometry. Remember that bicycle shops and manufacturers cannot alter a vintage road bike's geometry.


Set the road bike's saddle height at the level where the legs fully extend on the down pedal. If a rider can touch the ground with one tip of a toe, then the saddle height was designed for rider comfort. Steep angles prevent riders from touching the tips of their toes to the ground, which typically causes rider discomfort.

Toe Overlap

Slowly ride the vintage road bike on a level surface. Turn the handlebars all the way from one side to the other. If any toe on either foot touches the front wheel, then the rider experiences toe overlap. Older road bikes tend to possess some degree of toe overlap, which is not recommended for cyclists who ride road bikes in high traffic areas. Cyclists who ride vintage road bikes in wide open spaces do not experience toe overlap, as they rarely need to turn the handlebars.


Vintage bikes can become unresponsive to turns, which can cause rider mishaps. Test ride a vintage bike by slowly gaining speed. Then, make a few gentle turns to see if the bike remains in control. Cycling around a city block provides the turn sharpness required to test for responsiveness. Pay attention to vintage road bikes that turn too sharply or require extra effort to make turns.

Repair Problems to Consider

Buying a vintage bike demands that buyers carefully scrutinise every mechanical component of the bicycle. Some sellers may claim to have serviced a vintage bicycle to improve performance. Yet, these sellers may only pump up the tyres or provide cosmetic improvements that mask bigger repair issues. Take the vintage road bike to a trusted bicycle mechanic to examine as few of the following bike components.

Gear and Brake Cables

Strong, durable gear and brake cables represent one of the most important safety features on a vintage road bike. Avoid vintage road bicycles that have rusty, corroded, or frayed cables. Experienced bike mechanics run through each gear to ensure that there is not any gear catching or slippage. Apply the brakes to ensure that the cables instantly bring the vintage road bike to a stop.


Any vintage road bike under consideration must have new tyres, preferably from a brand name manufacturer, such as Michelin. Check to verify that the tread appears unused and the rubber does not fray at the edges of the tyres. Cracked or frayed rubber does not hold air and any bike tyres that appear damaged should be replaced. Vintage road bikes have a tendency to blow out tyres because the tyres were not checked by the rider prior to purchase. Consider vintage road bikes that have tyres constructed by brand name manufacturers.


Many vintage road bike buyers neglect to examine the condition of the bearings before they make a purchase. Vintage road bike bearings in the bottom bracket, headset, and wheel axles should be cleaned and repacked with grease or replaced with new bearings. Poor condition bearings can cause the cones or bottom bracket to tighten, which causes the bike to grind as it accelerates.


Expert bicycle mechanics can conceal physical evidence that demonstrates a vintage road bike was in an accident. Inspect any vintage road bike under consideration for tubing cracks or paint wrinkles that indicate the steel tubing has been compromised by a strong front impact. Examine the tubing lugs for cracks, as well as any bends or cracks in the seat and head tubes. Verify by running fingers over suspect areas to discern tube creases.

Bent Fork

Wheel alignment depends on the condition of the bike fork. Most bent forks are easily detected by even novice vintage bike buyers. However, buying a vintage road bike online requires sellers to post photographs that allow buyers to analyse the condition of the bicycle's fork. Bike mechanics understand what to look for when examining forks. Not only do bent forks cause wheel alignment issues, bent forks can fall into such a state of disrepair to collapse during a ride.

Anyone can claim to be an experienced bike mechanic. Vintage road bike buyers should ask a few questions before they settle on a mechanic to check the structural integrity of a vintage bicycle. Ask the mechanic how long he or she has repaired and maintained vintage bicycles. The key word is "vintage", as older bikes require more mechanical expertise than newer bike models. Determining the skill level of a bike mechanic is especially important when buyers shop at car boot sales or go online to eBay to find the right vintage road bike.

How to Buy a Vintage Road Bike on eBay

Remember that vintage bikes are older than 30 years. To find a vintage bike on eBay, type "used bicycles" into the search engine located on every eBay web page. Then, review the search results and eliminate any seller who offers a used bike made less than 30 years ago. To confirm a seller's reputation, review the customer feedback that eBay places on seller product pages. Only consider sellers who have earned positive feedback over the past year for selling cycling products. Some eBay sellers may bundle a few bicycle accessories to sweeten the vintage road bike offer. Sellers who bundle products typically run eBay Stores, where you can purchase vintage road bikes directly. Do not forget to check seller delivery terms to ensure that the terms match your time frame. Further, you can find great deals on bicycles and accessories.


Cycling has become one of Australia's most popular sporting activities for a number of reasons. The health benefits include enhanced cardiovascular functioning and strengthened muscles and bones. Many people ride road bikes to and from work. Instead of buying new road bikes, many people have turned to vintage models. Older than 30 years, vintage road bikes provide the same benefits as new road bikes. However, buyers must carefully examine a vintage road bike before they make a buying decision. They need to ensure the bike possesses a geometrical design that promotes optimal comfort. Moreover, vintage road bike shoppers must thoroughly examine the bike for rusty gears, frayed tyres, and bent forks. While some experienced cyclists can perform the inspection process, most Australians should take any vintage road bike under consideration to a licenced mechanic who can verify the bike's condition.

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