Collectible Vintage Bikes

“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike” — John F. Kennedy

For many of us it was our first glimpse of independence. It propelled us through the neighborhood at record speeds. It gave us status. It took us to hang with our friends and allowed us to exhibit our fearlessness jumping makeshift ramps. For many of us the most cherished memories of our youth center around our bikes. It should then come as no surprise that, as adults, we love to collect them.
Classic and vintage bikes abound online and at local shops, but it is important to keep your sentimentality in check when shopping. Many a collector has learned an expensive lessons by grabbing up a memory with out being informed. This has prompted me to offer you a (excuse the choice of wording) “crash course” in vintage bike shopping.
Collectible vintage bikes fall into two basic categories, Balloon Tire Classics (1933-1965) and BMX Racing Bikes (1965-1990).
Balloon Tire classics, named for their large tires, were very heavy, durable bikes with, lights, speedometers, large seats and horns. Many of these bike were rode hard and discarded, but if you can find them, even in decent condition, you have found a gem!
BMX Racing Bikes, with their streamlined features and lightweight design, began to replace balloon tire bikes at the end of the 1960s. Banana seats, high handle bars, and black-handle stick-shifts are in demand. These bikes were quite expensive and as a result many were well maintained, making many of them as good a ride today as they were 50 years ago.
Restoration can be a simple do-it-yourself repair or a replacement piece that can run you into the hundreds. Watch for damage to the frame (which if extensive can be a deal breaker) and broken or missing parts. A vintage Schwinn Breeze can often be round for under $70. This is not a deal if the cost to have the frame replaced runs into the hundreds! Some of the most common replacements on vintage bikes include cables, tires, tubes and the chain. A degree of rust is inevitable. Look closely to see if it is surface rust or if it goes deeper and avoid bikes with excessive damage.
Determining the age of your bike is really not difficult if it has the original decals. If they are missing then check for the serial or frame number. To begin your research has a wealth of information on bike frames and for those of you with Schwinn bikes check out If you are interested in the general value of your bike, offers online assistance or check in the “items sold” listings on eBay.
Most all major cities will have a vintage bike shop, but it appears that your largest selection will be online. Check the return policy of a bike you are considering purchasing and deal only with long time, reputable sellers.
Before taking any bike for a ride drop by your local bike shop and have a tune up. Then jump on, and go rediscover those carefree days of your youth. Until next time . . . Linda

Linda Kennett is a professional liquidation consultant specializing in down-sizing for seniors and the liquidation of estates and may be reached at or 317-258-7835.