Questions from a noob about buying a Vintage road bike

opewie

Retro Newbie
Hi guys! Although I have been riding a bike for as long as I remember, the closest thing to a road bike I’ve ever owned is a mtb. I am looking at getting a decent condition, used, vintage road bike (been looking at Puegeots quite a bit) to ride to work and get some more exercise. I know they’re not the best/lightest/fastest bikes out there but there seem to be some pretty decent bikes in the ~$300 CAD range locally. I’ve just got a few questions
  1. Are there any major downsides of getting an older bike? Is it very hard to find part if/when something breaks?
  2. Other than Puegeots, what are some brands I should look for or avoid?
  3. Are there any particular features I should look for (or avoid) in a vintage road bike?
  4. Pretty much any vintage I see for sale has drop bars, how hard is it to convert to bullhorns? I know the bar itself is pretty straight forward but more so wondering about the brakes, old VS modern parts cinema hd
 
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hamster

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Modernising and repairing much older bikes can highlight how much design norms have changed over the years...and with road bikes you could potentially be going back 70 years or more.

In my view, avoid anything pre-1970 for starters. 126mm rear OLN is the starting point - all frames of that age are steel and can be widened to the modern norm of 130mm. You an then run pretty much anything. I would avoid any wheel that took a screw-on freewheel as a starting point - which gives you anything after 1990 for certain.

Bottom bracket shells didn't change generally, amongst the older stuff there are French and Italian standards.

Unless it's English it will take 700C wheels, (ETRTO 622mm), 27" (ETRTO 630mm) are a pain but deep drop callipers are available to run.

After that, it's pretty much all OK, look for a decent tubing label (Reynolds 531, Tange etc).

Beyond that, with modern tyres it's largely up to a decent engine. There is a lot of scope to rip the legs off people on modern bikes if you are fit.
 

sjcprojects

Retro Guru
I don't really think there's any major downsides of getting an older bike, as long as you're not unlucky and end up with something that needs lots of work (but which wasn't advertised as needing such). Parts are easily available online, and lots of newly available parts are still exactly the same (brake blocks, cables, bearings, quill stems, bars, etc). Any decent bike shop (or you, if you're interested in doing so) should be able to service pretty much any road bike which goes back to at least the early 70s with no trouble.

The only thing with brands like Peugeot is that they made a very wide range of road bikes, from very good to pretty basic, so you do need to know a bit about what to look for. But, as said above, looking at things like whether it uses Reynolds 531 tubing tend to be a decent starting point as to whether it's worth looking at.

There's a reason road bikes have drop bars, and that's because they are great for road-riding (they do of course get some getting used to if you're only used to flat bars, but it's not that steep a learning curve, IMO). So unless there's some specific reason to use bullhorns, I'd stick to drops. Apart from anything, you then don't have to worry about potentially changing brake levers, etc. Mind you, I also think bullhorns look horrible, but that's a personal thing, obviously....;)
 

dirttorpedo

Senior Retro Guru
I think there are some downsides to purchasing a vintage bike if you don't know what you are doing. Firstly, really old vintage bikes have different standards than modern bikes which makes getting replacement parts and/ or upgrading a bit of a pain.

I would be looking for a bike with ideally 130mm rear spacing and drilled for recessed nut brakes - so probably late 80's to early 90's.

Older bikes have some questionable parts - I'm thinking simplex derailleurs with Delrin knuckles and many of the single pivot brake levers of the late 70's / early 80's.

the gearing of most / many bikes from the 70's and early 80's is not very friendly to the modern cyclist - particularly if you live in hilly areas. An older touring bike with a triple and bar ends might be ok. Also they have cantilever brakes for the most part so you can get decent braking by upgrading to vbrakes/mini vbrakes.

Some old bikes have wheels built to older standards and its harder to get tires for them. Need to look for 700c standard wheels.

Some of those old chrome steel rims are downright dangerous when wet. You need to look for higher quality wheel sets on really old bikes. Those were pretty much gone by the mid 80's.

Ideas about fit changed over the years - I've made the mistake of buying a too small vintage frame thinking that they would work the same as my modern bikes sizing.

Some older bikes used different specs for threads, stems, bars, etc. which are now defunct so getting spares is a challenge. Buying something made in the UK, USA or Japan/Taiwan will probably get you something you can still get bits for.

I think that's it.
 

Peachy!

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Just an idea, but you could have a look through the various threads in Readers bikes.
Lots of good ideas and interesting solutions to the various hurdles mentioned above.
 

dirttorpedo

Senior Retro Guru
Just an idea, but you could have a look through the various threads in Readers bikes.
Lots of good ideas and interesting solutions to the various hurdles mentioned above.

Sure, but the OP made it sound like he wanted to get a bike to ride for fun and exercise which is why I pointed out all of the potential pitfalls of a vintage bikes of a certain age and origin. Believe me I've been exploring interesting solutions for a bit now.
 

JoeH

Old School Hero
I would be looking for a bike with ideally 130mm rear spacing and drilled for recessed nut brakes - so probably late 80's to early 90's.

Older bikes have some questionable parts - I'm thinking simplex derailleurs with Delrin knuckles and many of the single pivot brake levers of the late 70's / early 80's.

the gearing of most / many bikes from the 70's and early 80's is not very friendly to the modern cyclist - particularly if you live in hilly areas. An older touring bike with a triple and bar ends might be ok. Also they have cantilever brakes for the most part so you can get decent braking by upgrading to vbrakes/mini vbrakes.

Some old bikes have wheels built to older standards and its harder to get tires for them. Need to look for 700c standard wheels.

Some of those old chrome steel rims are downright dangerous when wet. You need to look for higher quality wheel sets on really old bikes. Those were pretty much gone by the mid 80's.
Absolutely agree with this.
Albeit many do ride even older, I personally wouldn't if I can't run sensible gears and brakes.
 
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