05 January, 2018

What's Your Cut Off For Vintage?

By Scott



As another year begins, we're back in the office and working on projects, both new ones and ones that have followed us into the new year. One of the new projects for 2018 is building up a vintage bike and showing the process through the blog. Igor's been scouring ebay and has found a worthy candidate in a French frameset from the late 50s. But in starting down this road/path/trail, one thing that came to our mind: what is vintage and how is that defined vs an antique?


Webster's defines vintage as "of old, recognized and enduring interest, importance or quality. Of the best and most characteristic."  We've had folks call us about their vintage bike - a 1935 Schwinn. Other calls have been from folks asking about part for a "vintage" bike they own, a 2001 LeMond. So perhaps the date is in the eye of the beholder.


The L'Eroica folks currently use bikes from 1987 and before as the cut off for their events. They feel bikes of that era and earlier have a "vintage look and feel". They do allow aero brake levers, admitting that they started to appear in the mid 80's, but feel that they changed the look of traditional racing bikes.


Events like L'Eroica and French Fender Day provide a focal point for people who ride vintage bikes to meet up with other folks who also view these bikes as something to ride and enjoy.

In terms of vintage vs antique, Igor mentions that the difference was that he would have no problem using something everyday that was vintage, but felt that an antique should only be used sparingly to allow people in the future to experience it tangibly rather than seeing it in print or photos.

I think vintage is something 25 years and older. So in bike terms, that puts us around 1993 or so.  For me, that's a perfect time in my life. I was still working in bike shop then, so I have a tactile connection to that time frame and an appreciation for the style of the time.

Is vintage a perception? Is it related to one's own time frame of life? Where does your distinction between vintage and antique come into play?

26 comments:

Mark Rainey said...

I'd have to stretch "Vintage out a bit further, perhaps 40 years.

I would like to offer a complimentary powder coating for your project. I own Groody Bros. Bicycle Restoration in Kansas City.

www.GroodyBros.com
www.Facebook.com/GroodyBros

Joshua said...

I always think of "classic" as 20+ years and "vintage" as 35+ years. I guess I don't think about the cutoff for antique much, but maybe 50+ years. I have a bunch of bikes from the late 60s-early 80s, but I would think twice about anything from 1965 or earlier. In part because I'm not as familiar and in part because I feel like parts availability drops significantly. I would be less likely to regularly ride a bike from that era or earlier. My earliest bike is actually a 1968 Schwinn Paramount track bike. It's completely non-original and simple as dirt so I don't really mind throwing it around.

David S. said...

I think it really depends on what technological advancements have taken place since. A steel bike with a threaded headset (which hasn't just been bought from a supermarket), for instance, would probably qualify as vintage because they (mainstream bike companies) literally don't make them like that any more. Another example would be quality rigid mountain bikes. By this token, I think we could probably safely say that certain bikes from 2000 might be vintage, although I guess this would be the cutoff point.
As for whether it "looks" vintage, I guess anything with lugs and a quill stem will do.

Anonymous said...

What about the term "ancient"? Museum pieces come to mind for me. Pristine and well preserved, but where is the fun in that?

DaveD said...

I don't worry about these distinctions. Sounds like competition creep into something that should be stress free...

mike w. said...

"Vintage" is all in the mind of the eBay seller.

Christopher Andress said...

In the Classic & Vintage section of bikeforums.net, I believe 25 Year is what is considered classic or vintage. However, this is a little subjective and there is tolerance around that time frame.

david brazell said...

I just recently finished building an '86 Trek Elance, in there time they were considered mid to entry level bikes. But put into today's context they're pretty high end considering their 531 lugged construction. Built it up triple 9 speed with bar end shifting. BTW, it's sporting VO 35c hammered fenders and VO Rando bars. Vintige, classic? Dunno, do know that it's a beautiful and sweet ride. 😎

Tom M said...

Hope you take Mark Rainey up on his offer. My youngest brother had two frames (Schwinn Continental and a Nishiki) powder coated by Groody Brothers, and they came out fantastic.

Great topic, although I did a double take when you said that 1993 was 25 years ago. Time flies too fast.

Tom Milani
Alexandria, VA

Don said...

Using L'Eroica criteria is a convenient and reasonable marker for vintage, and a parallel designation for mountain biking would probably stop at thumbies and cantilever brakes and before suspension. The idea that an antique is past safe robust usage is also sensible. One piece of evolution that is rarely mentioned is aluminum rims versus steel. When I first rode my father-in-law's cheapo '70s Gitane, two things stood out: the flat plate rear semi-horizontal dropouts and the steel braking surface, both of which were absolutely worthless. I am agnostic about cottered cranks, however.

This discussion reminds me of trying to nail down the jazz canon and where a new genre emerges. In that case I draw the line at Herbie Hancock.

John I said...

My personal cutoff date is the death of Tullio Campagnolo: 3 February 1983.

anniebikes said...

I think of vintage as "viable", old-style but still reparable and up-gradable, like a 1980's mountain bike. Dates are fluid and can encompass 1970's ten speeds. Antique to me means a museum piece, perhaps previous to 1940 where it would be more difficult to source parts.

M said...

Vintage is what was new when you were a kid. Antique is what was new when your grandparent were kids. Classic is not an age but a style.

That's a generous offer from Mr. Rainey, but I could never bring myself to repaint or powder coat a vintage bike. Now and then I think I might paint this one or that one, but the bike soon convinces me otherwise. I understand some might be so far gone that this would be the only viable option, but I really like the wear and tear look. That's character, also not really an age, but age is a necessary ingredient.

agmetal said...

In my mind, "vintage" is 25+ years, and "antique" is 50+ years

Noah Carr said...

Antique is before Anquetil.
Vintage is Anquetil through Hinault.
Newfangled is Lemond and later.

Jim Casey said...

I like the idea of following the L’eroica guidelines. I learned to ride in the late 70’s on a Peugeot with a steel frame, toe clips, down tube shifters, and wheels with lots of spokes. Durable, efficient, affordable. Classic geometry(not a compact frame). That and gum wall tires. I have ridden in two two L’eroicas And I love seeing the vintage bikes!

George H said...

M's comment about antique meaning what your grandparents might have ridden got me ruminating about that. My dad was born in 1891 and my father-in-law was born in 1879. Visions of velocipedes and penny farthings danced in my head. That led me to my history books and an illustration of ice-racing on penny farthings equipped with twin skate blades instead of the trailing wheel.

gugie said...

It's the age old question at the bikeforum.net Classic and Vintage forum. We're not very picky there, but most would agree that a lugged, steel frame is classic. Vintage is in the eye of the beholder.

Phil Houck said...

When's my bike a vintage bike? Perhaps when I get ready to sell it?

Keith Benefiel said...

My 1967 Schwinn Typhoon is vintage. The '79 Mondia Super Cross is vintage. A 1950 Body that rides them both is an antique.

Roger Au said...

Tagging onto L’ Eroica comments - traditional diameter steel tubes, down tube friction shifters, and pedals with toe clips and straps represent a different era (classical bike?). Riders need to know how to use the shifters...I would liken it to an old sports car, heel-toe downshifting, no ABS or power steering, and so forth

David Schensted said...

In terms of age, there is definitely a lot of overlap between “vintage” and “antique”. For me, a vintage bike is an old one I’d feel comfortable riding every day, whereas an antique bike might only be ridden on special occasions. In terms of technology, a road bike is vintage or “vintage-like” if it has a steel frame and a quill stem (although I also consider my aluminum-framed ‘83 Cannondale a vintage bike). For mountain bikes, the introduction of the suspension fork demarcates the line between vintage and modern. A “classic “ is a bike that’s among the most characteristic of a certain era or genre. For example, a Schwinn Varsity or Continental would be a classic of the early bike boom period.

Anonymous said...

I have Grey hair. I place a demarkation line at the intro and acceptance of Shimano 7400 series Dura Ace with SIS (indexing).
Prior, there was much cross compatibility, allowing for the diverse threading, that was a given and understood.
Now, there are enthusiasts who grew up with indexing as "the Standard". Hmm… The walls to hurdle become shorter and more frequent, "clip less" pedal systems as Look created, (sorry Cinelli, the M71 was a boutique item, maybe seen at the velodrome)
Integrated shift and brake levers… The universal acceptance of "free hubs", they were out much earlier, but did not catch on.
7 cogs on the rear wheel showing up on cheap bikes… top tier bikes have an ever increasing number up to Spinal Tap "11", and ignoring the latest from Phil. I forgot to mention the progression of TIG welding to aluminum then Carbon.
The goal posts are moving. Maybe vintage is now before integrated brake/shift levers?

BikeSanta said...

I think "vintage" depends on your age. I'm 67 and still ride the Trek GX700 frame I bought in 1977. DB Reynolds 531 throughout. I've commuted and toured on it since new and estimate it has more than 150,000 miles on it. Personally, I consider vintage as any bike from the end of WWII to the end of the LAST bike boom in the mid-80s. I would classify as antique any bike from before WWII. My wife rides a 2005 custom Mariposa, built from Columbus SLX tubing, with fancy 1970s Nervex lugs. It has a Campy 10-speed drive train. Vintage bike enthusiasts love her bike and consider it "vintage". Is it? It's pretty clear that to many, any bike that looks vintage is vintage.

billyhacker said...

A couple years ago a Swedish museum had a comprehensive show on the history of bicycles with a large number of functioning bikes representing design directions that were never popular.

I was really surprised by how modern some experimental bikes were as early as the 20's. Shaped tubes, advanced gearing, it's all there, but it either didn't catch on or it cost too much, especially once cars were an alternative.

There were a lot of bikes produced by the Italians in the 60's that no one here would likely call vintage ("hideous," maybe), monocoque aluminum frames, for example. On the other hand, there some aesthetics are so durable, it's hard to imagine them not being reproduced forever. When my Swedish aunt recently bought a new cheap commuter bike it was identical, other than paint quality, to the 1950's era bike I inherited from a great uncle - down to the dress shield. Timeless? Vintage? Antique?

As an aside, my 1997 steel Lemond is definitely perceived as vintage to most people under 30.

Steve said...

You need to distinguish between the components and the frame. Certainly, by today's standards 55 year old cranks and derailleurs would be ancient. Not necessarily so for a 55 year old frame. Last year I acquired a 1963 Jack Taylor Sports. Made early in the year, this frame will be 55 years old in another month or two. Built up with fairly contemporary parts - XTR M900 indexing 8 speed drive train, 700C wheels built on early 2000s generator hub and Shimano cassette rear, there's nothing at all "antique" about the frame's geometry, construction, or ride and feel. The Mafac Racers are certainly harder to set up than modern Paul Racers would be, but then there's no little TA front rack to fit a Paul Racer. It's not a museum piece at all.