Queries

What’s my vintage bicycle worth?

You can get a rough idea of value from eBay, but you’ll find a lot of price variation that may not really be helpful.  Here are some of the features that add to the value of a vintage bicycle:  overall rarity; custom built or built in a small shop; built by a well respected builder; 100% original; rare and highly sought after components; good mechanical condition or at least restorable to good condition; original paint with a nice patina; original logos, head badges and tubing transfers in good condition; and custom features such as hand-crafted racks, fenders, and lighting.

Should I re-paint the frame?

Generally speaking, no.  However, there are exceptions.  If the finish is too far gone or if there may be frame damage that has to be repaired, then you’ll want to re-paint the frame and try to use colors and transfers to bring the frame back to its original look if you can.

When is it best to keep a bicycle 100% original and what does that mean anyway?

Bicycles have maintenance requirements just like any other other mechanical device.  A bike that has had its cables, tires, tubes, and bearings replaced is simply a bike that has been well maintained over the years, and this will usually not detract from its value except in the case of very, very old bikes which are not rideable and are often best kept intact.  There is a philosophical question here that I won’t try to answer, but I’ll just say that my emphasis is on bikes that are rideable, not museum pieces.  Part of a vintage bike’s value to me is being able to ride it safely and comfortably.  However, some bikes are so rare that they should probably not be ridden.  Many vintage bikes are not particularly rare but are extremely well made and good candidates for upgrades.  Often the frame material, frame and fork geometry, and lovely appearance will make for a nice platform for reinterpretation.  Modern mass produced bikes do not share these characteristics.  And, even a modified vintage bicycle will likely hold its value over time relative to a brand new one, and is much more likely to last through the ages.

How do I clean rust from steel components without destroying my health and the environment?

Okay, mostly I only get inquiries about the first part of the question, but since rust removal can involve the use of toxic stuff, I’ll share my bias toward hours of work using safer products.  I usually use a cleaning oil such as Menotomy’s which can be used both on steel and on paint.  I also use brass or copper brushes, which will not scratch steel.  If a wheel or component is heavily rusted, it will take time to get the rust off, so just be patient and do not be tempted to try a product that promises to get the rust off easily and in no time at all.  Some people use tin foil dipped in a bit of water as a rust remover which actually produces a chemical reaction when the aluminum oxidizes and thus also works as a polish.

What cleaning and polishing products do you use?

Greasy parts:  a citrus cleaner and/or alcohol.

Paint:  in stages of really bad to really good condition – a cleaning oil, an automotive paint cleaner, an automotive paint polish, an automotive wax, a quick touch up with Pledge.

Frame internals:  clean threads with alcohol, remove rust if necessary (see above), finish with J.P. Weigle’s Frame Saver.

Chrome and aluminum surfaces:  a wadding cleaner such as Duraglit or NevrDull.  These are especially good on aluminum fenders.

How can I locate appropriate parts for my vintage bicycle?

The vintage cycling links on my blog have many vintage cycling sources for components.  Sometimes, eBay is the best source for a particular item.  If you would like to share a link to other sources, please send me a note.  There are also many cycling forums and FB pages devoted to vintage bicycles that can be sources of components and where you can share your knowledge or ask questions.

What specialized tools and knowledge are needed when working on vintage bicycles?

You’ll want to have a basic shop already set up with a bike stand, vise, and hand tools.  Beyond that you should be aware of sizing issues.  Before the days of standardization, British, French, Italian and Swiss bicycles used different protocols and sizes for threading and often different sizes for axles, headtubes, bottom brackets, and steerer tubes.  Sheldon Brown devoted many web posts to these topics, which really are required reading if you are going to work on vintage bicycles.  Here are the most important (it’s good to print the cribsheets and post them in your shop):

Bottom bracket threads and sizing http://sheldonbrown.com/cribsheet-bottombrackets.html

Headset threads and sizing http://sheldonbrown.com/cribsheet-headsets.html

French bikes http://sheldonbrown.com/velos.html

More on French bikes http://sheldonbrown.com/kunich.html

Raleigh sizing and restoration http://sheldonbrown.com/raleigh26.html

Upgrading http://sheldonbrown.com/upgrade.html

Cottered cranks http://sheldonbrown.com/tooltips/cotters.html

Sturmey Archer http://sheldonbrown.com/sturmey-archer.html

And, here is my blog post on the specialized tools and resources I use:

https://restoringvintagebicycles.com/2014/02/08/tools-of-the-trade/

67 thoughts on “Queries

  1. Hi, I’m restoring an old steel bike and am trying to procure a 1″ JIS threaded headset. Would appreciate your advice in this regard. Many thanks.

    • Hi Colin, JIS headsets have a slightly different crown race and cup size (See Sheldon’s headset cribsheet link above), so an ISO headset will not work. I believe Velo Orange carries a JIS 1 inch threaded headset. Also, eBay would be another option. Good luck with your restoration project.

      • Hi Nola. Have you started work on the Taylor tandem ? Any interest in selling as is and what other Taylor’s do you have . I have a collection of around 26 vintage tandems here in Ashland from many countries . Marty

      • That would be great Nola. Two weeks ago I was very fortunate to come across a Craigslist listing here in Ashland for a complete Campy in the wooden box brand new tool kit unused for $1500.00. I got it! I was very lucky. Marty

        Sent from my iPhone

  2. HELLO NOLA PLEASE ADVISE .I HAVE A PAIR OF WOBLER RIMS WITH AFEW RUSTY EYELETS . ANY IDEAS ON REMOVING RUST AND CLEANING THEM UP THANK YOU DONAL TURNER

    • Hi Donal, I would probably first try a wadding polish such as NevrDull and maybe careful use of a brass or copper brush on the spoke nipples and spokes with just a soft cloth in the rims themselves. To polish the rims you could also try aluminum foil dipped in a bit of water, and that may also work well on the spokes.

  3. HELP! I am trying to replace a rear rim off my 84 Fuji touring series. The rim that came off the bike was a Michelin 16_622, R.1613. I haven’t been able to locate the same rim,and for some reason my local bike shop seems to think I have acquired some ancient alien technology, as they are of no help whatsoever. ANY ideas of a suitable replacement rim?? Or where to locate said exact rim??

    • Hi, I have never heard of this rim – are you actually referring to the tire? 622 is the diameter (a 700c wheel), I believe 16 refers to the rim width. At any rate, why not just use another rim that has a similar appearance? You just need to match the number of holes, whether it is drilled for presta or schrader, and the diameter.

  4. I have rescued an old 650b Randonneur, it is badged Alcyon and has all the original French components however I can’t find and info on it and have spent endless hours trying to identify it, so I am thinking it may be something else like a Peugout. I would love to find out what it is. Any help would be much appreciated.

    • Hi Matt,

      There is an entry on French Wikipedia about Alcyon Bicycles – a French manufacturer of both bicycles and motorcycles which started business in Paris in 1902: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcyon_%28entreprise%29 Their bikes won a number of races in the 1st half of the twentieth century. Then, they were acquired by Peugeot in 1954. I would guess that if your bike was made before this, that it is probably very desirable. I spotted quite a few photos of racing and rando Alycon bikes on the web. You might want to check out some French cycling forums to see if more info is available. Feel free to post a photo on my FB page – I’d love to see it. https://www.facebook.com/RestoredVintageBicycles

  5. What color is the purple-ish bike in your heading? I just picked up a 1951 Raleigh in bad shape(26 inch wheels, caliper brakes, 6 volt DynoHub) and what is left of the paint looks like it used to be your color.

    Thanks.

    • Hi Paul, that is interesting. Raleigh did use some vibrant colors back then. You can find the 1951 catalog on Sheldon Brown’s Retro Raleigh site. There is a color described as “Worcester Blue” that actually looks a bit purplish in the catalog photo. The bike in my header photo is a French mixte of unknown marquis, probably built in the early 50’s.

  6. Hi I have a Campagnolo (Unicanitor) number M7291 with a Olympics decal on the seat support shaft, from I think 1968. It is in good condition and can be restored I think to very good condition.

    1. How much would it be to restore? There are no permanent damages or “injury” to the bike
    2. What would it be worth before and after restore?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Jay,

      To my knowledge, Campagnolo never built frames, but may have put their decals on some track frames maybe during the 60’s. So, the frame was built by someone else. As far as value, and whether or not you should restore it, you might try visiting cycling forums to see if others have a similar kind of Campagnolo branded bicycle. If it is built up with a full Campy Gruppo, that would certainly make it more desirable. Vintage bicycles that are undamaged can certainly be restored to rideable condition. Whether it is worth it to you to do so is a personal choice. There aren’t a lot of financial “home runs” when it comes to collecting and restoring bicycles, as the time, effort and cost to do the restoration will often exceed the bike’s value in the current marketplace. But, that is not to say that some rare and unusual machines will not increase in value over time, relative to the market. The biggest incentives for restoration relate to the ride quality, lack of depreciation in value, interchangeability of components, easy maintenance, and the pure pleasure of it all.

  7. Hi Nola, I’m restoring a 1964 Raleigh Gran Sport and can’t find the 3 prong freewheel tool.
    Any ideas besides ebay. Thanks for your help.
    Jim

  8. Hi Nola,
    I have a bike from 1980, a Bruce Gordon.It’s in good shape and almost all original except for handle bar tape and stuff like that. Anyway, I need to sell it to complete another project I’m working on. The problem is I can’t find any comparable bike from that vintage to help me set the price. Do you have any ideas on where to look beside Craigslist or eBay? Thanks for your help.
    -Pete

    • Hi Pete, the Bruce Gordon would probably be very desirable to touring cyclists and other enthusiasts. Prices all all over the map, but you might find that searching internationally on eBay for custom bicycles of that era will give you a better idea about the pricing. The other option is to sell it in pieces – and you would probably make more money overall in doing so. Touring cyclists especially like to do their own build up from the frame.

  9. I just want to say I’m enjoying your website, and plan on returning often to learn so much of this subject. I am building an F. H. Grubb from the mid-50’s, and the project is going well. Keep up the good work and thank you.

  10. Can you recommend a shop in the Portland area to recover and 1960s leather bike seat? I’m restoring a Norweigian-made Kombi.

  11. There is a member on the forum at bikeforums.net named RHM who does splendid restorations of C&V saddles; Ideale, Brooks, Wright, Mansfield, etc. Go over to bikeforums.net, go to the classic and vintage sub-forum, and tell them what you have and need, Lori.

    • Hi Anthony, As far as I know, no one in the U.S. or Canada carries 700A tires. However, I found a set from Velogear in Australia with carries a brand by Vee Rubber. There may also be other retailers in France that carry this size.

  12. Good afternoon, Nola,
    I am putting the final touches to my F. H. Grubb Pyrennean, which consist of installing and adjusting the 4-sp gear shifter and installing a double water bottlecage on the handlebar. I am wondering if you can tell me something about the cable and barrel adjuster that goes with the Cyclo Mk 7 shifter and rear derailleur: Are they something special, or is it any old cable and barrel adjuster?
    One thing that came with the kit, back in the late 50’s, was a grey cable housing, but my frame design does not call for housing, as the bare cable runs through the guide brazed on top of the B.B. shell. I do not know whether this has any bearing upon whether I need a barrel adjuster at the shifter at all. Maybe I can just run a straight cable out of the shifter and fine-tune at the rear derailleur? Thanks.

  13. About four decades ago, I bought a nice six-speed Motobecane for my six-year-old son. Still have the bike, complete (if a bit dusty), but the tires are shot. Can’t locate anyone who carries 450mm x 28 mm tires and tubes. I’ll clean it up, clean and lube the bearings, and make sure the bike stays in good condition, but I gotta find the tires and tubes. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Rich – I think you mean 451 x 28? I thought that Schwalbe carried this tire – it’s a recumbent size but quite uncommon. But it looks like that’s been discontinued. You might try contacting an online retailer over the phone – sometimes they will have weird stuff that may not be on their website. biketiresdirect.com might be able to help. Good luck!

  14. Have you ever heard of the West German brand NSU? I have the opportunity to buy one of their frames in very good condition. It is a Model 41 from 1948-49. I was just wondering if you had ever heard of them and if you consider them good for a 3-speed around-town restoration/conversion (from the single speed).

    • Hi Paul, I haven’t had any experience with NSU bicycles. There are a number of examples on the web – and a nice overview at oldbike: https://oldbike.wordpress.com/1951-nsu-damenrad/
      The German company manufactured bicycles, motorbikes, and cars from the late 1800’s through 1969, when they were acquired by VW. Looks like they manufactured the full range of bicycles – from 3 speed utility bikes to higher end racing bikes. One search tip for finding info on bikes in non English speaking countries: use the word for bicycle in your search, in this case fahrrad – and then you can use a translate tool to read the page. Good luck with your project!

      • Thanks for the search tip, Nola. this project looks like it could be a challenge, especially from what I am hearing about German-sized bottom brackets. I’ll pop some photos your way when I get something to look at.

  15. I originally reached your site because I was searching for information on the AD Inter10. You definitely have (had) the best looking Inter10! My father gave me his (Shimano-clad), which is in great shape, but still needs some love. I’m 31 years old, and want to do a full restoration on it. Is there a particular shop you go through to have pieces re-chrome-plated? And who would be a great person to contact for restoration help for the more complicated aspects? Perhaps yourself?
    Thank you!

    • Hi Josiah, that sounds like a great bike to restore. I would not have anything re-chromed unless the chrome is so pitted or comprised as to create a safety issue. It’s very expensive to re-chrome bicycle parts, and very difficult to find a chrome plater who will do the job correctly. I don’t have anyone to recommend, but it is possible that a chrome plating shop that specializes in motorcycle parts would be your best bet if you still want to proceed. Otherwise – clean it up and enjoy the patina!

      • Sounds good. Yeah the original pedals are still at large, so I found a pair of Atom 700s which are in rough shape. Definitely need to be resurfaced.

  16. Hi, I found you site here by chance and I am glad I did. I am actually trying to restore/rebuild a 60s rollfast/hawthorn and I am curious what you advise when the rims/spokes are too far gone to reuse. I am actually located in the Vancouer Washington area so if you have a shop you could recommend visiting I would greatly appreciate that as well!

    Thanks!

    • Hi Jordan,

      I recommend checking out Dave’s Vintage Bicycles at nostalgic.net. He has a page devoted to Hawthorne/Rollfast and may be able to help with locating a wheelset replacement. If you want to restore the wheels, it takes time and patience to remove the rust, but sometimes even a heavily rusted set can be brought back to life. Steel is pretty resilient!

  17. I am restoring a 1938 BSA Gold Vase which has a Cyclo Gear Standard rear derailleur. I am in need of the long spring which provides tension for the swing arm. Your recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks, Jeff

    • Jeff, you could probably use a spring from another derailleur of that era if you can’t find an old Cyclo to use for parts. U.K. eBay might be a source for another Cyclo or possibly Hilary Stone. Springs from Simplex derailleurs would likely work as well.

  18. Hi Nola,
    My husband has an old bicycle from his uncle who was stationed in Japan in the 1950’s. He has been unable to find information on the bicycle. Some of the information we do have: There are three plates labeled “Takashimaya” on the front and rear fenders; the neck badge displays a Japanese character and “Super Cycle” within a “V” shape; the sprocket cover has an outstretched wing eagle Trade Mark and “New Model Special Bicycle” stamped into the steel; the headlight bracket has a “K” within a joined diamond pattern an “Komine” beneath. The seat has the word “Special” stamped into the leather.
    Any information and gaps you might be able to fill in would really be appreciated! Thank you

    • HI Cheryl, I don’t recognize that Japanese marquee but I am not an expert on Japanese bicycles of that era. If you have a friend who speaks Japanese it might be helpful to ask them to do some research. And, if other readers have ideas, please weigh in.

  19. Nola, I just happen to stumble on a Antique french Luxor carbide bicycle front lamp. Do you have any idea of the time period and what it may be worth. I have photos if you are interested I just thought it was neat so I picked it up

    • Hi Eric, the best way to determine value is probably eBay. Keep in mind that some components may be valued more or less highly in other countries than in the US. I like to search eBay in France, the U.K., Canada, and Italy if I am researching a particular item that may not be well understood in the US. Carbide lamps (acetylene gas) were introduced for cyclists in the late 1800’s. They were a bit dangerous and could explode! The book “Bicycle Design” by Tony Hadland and Hans-Erhard Lessing has a good discussion of early cycling lighting technology.

  20. Hello, I have found a nice bike but wondering if the year is what I am think it is. Can you have a quick look at my page? In German though … 🙂

    http://ds19von1964.blogspot.de/

    I looked at bikeboompeugeot.com and think it is either 1947 or 1948, but the break in the back is correct for the year as well as the locker for the front wheel however the front break is not (I think).
    The paint is new, the basket in the back is missing, lights not correct, etc. …

    It could be a PHL 55 Tourisme alleges or PRD Randonneur from 1947, or PH 55 or PH 65 from 1948.

    I would appreciate your feedback.

    Thnx, Uwe

    • Hello Uwe. It is hard to tell what you have there. The frame has been repainted, but I still see a period correct head badge and lug design as well as the rear Jeay brakes and chain stay derailleur bracket, which date the bike probably to the late 40’s to mid 50’s. The French forum Tonton Velo might be the best place to go with your photos and questions. Good luck with your project!

  21. I have two (his & hers) Raleigh Gran Sport bicycles I bought new in 1970. The two bikes have been hanging in my garage for years and are still in impressive condition. Seems when I ride a bike it’s never on one of these:
    Raleigh Gran Sport

    My spouse can no longer ride hers (she only will ride her Diamondback Vital2). Anyway, I need to replace the front fork on my larger bike and it doesn’t appear the fork from her smaller frame will work. I would assume the exact part replacement is impossible to obtain at this time. Should I try to fix the bike with a new fork to ride again or consider parting with both to a collector?

    • Hi Jim, you may be able to find a replacement fork on eBay or at your local community used bike shop. Often such shops have a bin of used steel forks for sale. The most important measurement in addition to the axle to crown, is the steerer tube length, and the portion of the steerer tube that is threaded. It’s okay to use a fork that is slightly longer (a few mm), or that has different rake from the original, but this may have a small impact on the handling of the bike. You can also make a slightly shorter steerer work by removing spacers in the headset, or choosing a different headset with a smaller stack height. The reverse is true for a slightly taller steerer tube. Sometimes, a new steel fork is the best solution – you can also find these from Surly and other makers, and on eBay.

  22. Well. Thanks for the details on working freewheels.

    I found this site while searching out information on wobble on my 1985 Fuji League’s freewheel. This is the best collection I’ve seen outside of Sheldon Brown’s. I’ll be curious to check out the resources you have listed.

  23. Do you know of listings of shops actually competent with vintage bikes? Salem and Corvallis area specifically.

      • General work when I am feeling like I don’t want to chance on doing damage out of ignorance or lack of skills.

      • hello nola in a word yes i have resorted to duct tape it works but a mess and tire fitting a strain. which rim tape do you use please include width. any ideas please and thank you don

      • Hi Don, I typically use Velox rim tape, but there are other products out there as well. Sometimes when I’ve had a problem with a rim causing a tire puncture, I will also use electrician’s tape on the area that is causing the problem.

  24. Looking for a L’Eroica bike especially Italian. Any suggestions? I think i saw a Schwinn Voyager bike that you may have restored and converted to 650 and large tires at a vintage bike show. It was beautiful!

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