Affordable Vintage Style Bicycles: What’s for Sale Today?
There is nothing more satisfying that cruising on a beautifully restored vintage style bicycle. Your ride is completely unique and gets tons of looks. The only problem? A genuine vintage or antique bicycle sells for a ton of money these days!
If you’re a fan of vintage style bikes but you have a limited budget, your best bet is to check out the many beautiful new rides that are being build in this style.
Mimicking the lines and features of cycles from days gone by, old style bikes are making a real comeback. It makes sense: people long for a time when life was simple, when carbon fibre and cell phones didn’t exist, and when a bike frame had a classic geometry and minimalist good looks.
Here’s the problem though: because the retro style bicycle frame is so popular, everyone and their dog is jumping on the bandwagon, including big manufacturers.
The difference between a home run and a strike? It’s all in the details!
This article will be taking a close look at a handful of my favourite vintage style bicycles for sale today. Primarily, I want to point you to a ride that not only looks amazing, but functions beautifully too.
So What Defines a Classic Style Bicycle Anyway?
Vintage, classic and retro styles all sort of bleed into one another, especially in the case of the bicycle. There are a lot of different bikes that market themselves in this way, but they don’t all reflect a truly antique silhouette. So what makes up a retro styled bike?
- Urban / Commuter Use: The original safety bicycle featured a simple diamond frame and was built for general use. That trend remained up until fairly recently. There weren’t as many specialized types of cycles (such as mountain, road, cyclocross, etc), and unless you were a racer you likely rode a standard style ride. For that reason, most vintage styled bikes these days are built and intended for commuting and urban riding, as opposed to trail rides or race.
- Upright Riding Position: Most classic, old style bicycles had an upright and comfortable riding position, intended to get you around town. Most classically inspired bikes will therefore have a similar stance. The once exception to this rule is the path racer style, which was the antique equivalent of the modern road bike. These have a more aggressive riding position and low swept bars. Path racers are also making a comeback.
- Function and Form: In its early years, the bicycle was more utilitarian than it is today. Not everyone could afford a car, and a bicycle was a simple, cheap and effective means to get to work or grab groceries. Most vintage style bicycles for sale today will feature a lot of functional components: integrated baskets and racks, built-in headlamps, and chain guards to keep your nice work clothes from getting greased.
Gran Royale Aristocrat: A stylish yet cheap vintage-style bicycle for sale:
The Gran Royale Aristocrat is an extremely affordable bicycle that also looks pretty great. I expect you’ll need / want to upgrade this bike in several ways, but the price tag is so low it makes it worthwhile.
Let’s get into the bicycle itself. The Artistocrat has a classically shaped diamond frame that’s intended for an upright riding style. It is shaped in such a way that a path racer conversion would be possible too.
The frame and the front fork are both made out of high tension steel. It’s strong, but it’s a bit on the heavy side (though not so heavy as to be annoying). The frame welds are pretty excellent for the price point, especially with the darker paint. It’s a clean cut frame that will get you some looks.
As for shifting and braking, this bike comes with a Shimano Nexus 3-speed internally geared hub. It’s a nice hub that shifts quite smoothly, and you can even shift gears on a hill. Three speeds isn’t a ton, but unless your ride takes you over lots of hills, it’s usually sufficient for most commuters. The shifter is a grip-shift style.
The rear brake is a coaster, meaning you pedal backwards to stop. This is my primary beef with this bicycle.
The first thing I’d do after receiving it would be to add a front brake, since I don’t trust a coaster by itself. They must have listened, because the Aristocrat now ships with a front brake!
The bike is somewhat nicely decked out with accessories. There is a simple chain guard which really gives the ride a vintage appeal. There are front and rear fenders, and the seat tube is drilled to accept a bottle holder. The other thing I’d change right away is the vinyl saddle. This is a vintage style bicycle that would look a lot better with a leather Brooks saddle or something similar.
Other details worth noting: The bicycle runs on slick Kenda tires, and the wheels feature sealed cartridge bearings, so they spin quite well. Oh, and it comes in a step-through frame style as well.
On the whole I’d consider the Aristocrat to be a good vintage bicycle for sale, though with the understanding that it needs one or two simple upgrades in order to be a show-stopper.
Hollandia Amsterdam M: One of the Best Vintage Style Bicycles for Daily Use
For anyone who’s looking for a retro inspired bicycle with tons of usability, I’d point you towards the Hollandia Amsterdam M. It is a gorgeous yet practical bike with classic lines and modern accoutrements. They’re made in China, and the build quality is quite good.
The frame is a classic diamond style, but you’ll notice a prominent feature: the double top tube. This is more of a stylistic nod to the classic, vintage bicycles of days gone by than a structural thing, but I really like it. The inclusion gives the whole frame a strong visual interest, and you’re sure to get tons of comments and looks riding this one.
The frame is made out of high tension steel. It’s not as light as aluminum, but it is very strong, particularly with that double tube.
Another prominent feature in this inexpensive vintage style bicycle is the full chain guard. Chain guards were popular with classic bicycles, particularly on European and Dutch style models. It’s a gorgeous little addition that makes the bike look much more expensive than it is. It’s also very practical, since a full chain guard prevents dirt and water from reaching the chain and reducing its lifespan.
The Amsterdam M has a 3-speed Nexus rear hub, which gives you a good gearing range for most types of riding. Like most 3 speeds, it’s not the best choice if you live somewhere that’s extremely hilly. However, it will work well for most commutes. The Nexus allows you to shift at a standstill, and it’s practically noiseless.
My favourite thing about this bike? It includes a front and rear luggage rack. Both are removable and optional, but why wouldn’t you keep them? They give the bicycle even more vintage flair, and they’re eminently practical. Pop a basket on that front rack and you’re ready to shop.
What would I change? The vinyl saddle is fine but I’d swap it out for a leather one. I’d also definitely get a good basket or wood storage crate for that front rack. On the whole, however, this is a very ridable bike right out of the box. Hollandia offers several vintage style bicycles for sale for a very good price point, and they’re all worth a look.
Biria CITI Sport: An Old Style Bicycle with Vintage Flair
If you’re hoping to find a few vintage style city bicycles with a wider range of gears, you’re in luck. While many have internal hubs limiting them to 3 or 5 gears, there are quite a few good models that combine classic good looks with a modern derailleur system and many gears.
The Biria CITI Sport is a beautifully minimalist ride with loads of potential for you to customize it.
Don’t let the simplicity fool you: this is a well equipped bicycle. It has a strong diamond frame constructed of high tension steel. This frame is available in three classic colour combinations: standard black, military grey, and olive green.
Despite its throwback looks, it is a fully modern cycle. It has 700c aluminum alloy wheels, which fit a pair of 32c tires, though you could probably size up or down a little bit based on your tire preferences.
It utilizes front and rear linear pull brakes (otherwise known as ‘v-brakes’), which stop the bicycle nicely when they’re tuned properly.
The rear derailleur is a base model Shimano Tourney, with 7 speeds to choose between. It’s not exactly high end, but it does the trick. The shifter is a very basic plastic indexed Shimano, and I’d recommend replacing it with something more durable at some point. Still, the 7 gears give you a ton of versatility, even in a hilly city.
The CITI Sport includes front and rear fenders, and front and rear luggage racks. Both are optional, but I think they help give this bicycle its vintage styled appeal. Plus they’re practical.
The saddle is vinyl, but it does a better job of mimicking a classic leather seat like you’d see on a classic bicycle. I would probably upgrade the saddle and the shifter. I’d also drop those handlebars down as far as possible in order to give it a more sporty look.
Biria is a German brand that produces a number of European, Dutch and vintage inspired city bicycles. They’re designed in Germany and produced in Asia. Other models to consider are the CITI Classic Sport line, and their EZ7 line, both of which have a similar look and feel. These bikes are available in a ‘step-through’ frame as well. On the whole, the CITI sport is one of the best vintage style bicycles for sale today.
Old Style Bikes: Warning Signs and Stuff to Avoid
While I’m pretty excited that the classic bicycle frame geometry has made its way back into the public consciousness, I’m also a bit concerned.
Sometimes flash and dazzle is used to snag buyers who don’t really know what to look for. An example would be a fancy looking mountain bike from a department store: it looks impressive, but technically speaking it’s trash.
The same is often true with vintage inspired road bicycles of all types. The frame and paint job are used to mask shoddy components and poor fit and finish.
Here are a couple of things to be wary of while you’re hunting for the perfect fit.
- Component Quality: It’s a important thing to be aware of. Are the components brand name, or are they nameless? Are the components made primarily out of plastic or metal? What kind of metal? These are all indicators of the quality of the components. If you aren’t sure, ask a friend in the cycling world to give it a look-over before buying, especially if you’re making the purchase online.
- Frame Material & Weight: In most cases, your frame will be made of one of two materials: steel or aluminum alloy. Steel is heavier and cheaper, and aluminum alloy is lighter but more expensive. Why does this matter? Weight is a subtle factor in your riding enjoyment. A heavier bike takes more effort to pedal. Don’t believe me? Take a spin on a $3000 carbon road bike and tell me you don’t notice a difference!
Thanks for reading, and good luck!