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
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: