A-Z Guide To Legendary Vintage Bicycle Brands

Photo of author
Written by
reviewed by Rory McAllister
Last Updated:

Vintage bikes can provide a specific feeling of joy to a cycling fanatic.

The beauty of a well-made, vintage bicycle in good condition cannot be understated. But what are the best vintage bicycle brands?

There’s really something special about the timeless beauty and functionality that comes with a vintage bike.

However, the vintage bike market can be difficult to navigate. With hundreds of different brands and thousands of models, it can be really challenging to know if a certain bike is worth getting. So, knowing a few of the most reputable brands can come in handy when buying a vintage bike.

In this article, we’ll tell you about some of the most legendary vintage bicycle brands.

Before we start, we’d like to acknowledge that there’s absolutely no way this is an exhaustive list. There are hundreds of wonderful vintage bicycle brands out there, and we’d love for this list to evolve with the suggestions of our readers as we fill in the gaps!

Which is your favorite vintage cycling brand, and is it missing from this list? Let us know in the comments at the bottom!

Vintage Bicycle Brands: Title Image

“A” is for…


  • Founded: 1907
  • Origin: Milan, Italy
  • Known For: Steel road bikes

Though still producing bikes of all varieties, Atala’s glory days are in the past.

Atala produced several championship-winning racing bikes in the first half of the twentieth century, before fading into relative obscurity through financial difficulty in the late ’80s onwards.

Atala was one of a handful of quality bike brands available in the US market before the “Bike Boom” of the 1970s.

“B” is for…


  • Founded: 1982
  • Origin: Marostica, Italy
  • Known For: Steel racing bikes, Stephen Roche’s “Triple Crown” in 1987

One of the younger manufacturers on this list, the firm was founded by professional racer Giovanni Battaglin soon after winning the Vuelta-Giro double in 1981.

Battaglin put his racing expertise to use, rapidly gaining a stellar reputation and developing serious racing pedigree which peaked with Stephen Roche’s 1987 “Triple Crown” of Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and World Championship victories.

In 2014, Battaglin returned to the craft of custom steel bicycle frames under the Officina Battaglin (“Battaglin Workshop”) mark. This included 187 replicas of Roche’s custom 1987 Triple Crown bike, produced in 2017.


  • Founded: 1931
  • Origin: Turin, Italy
  • Known For: Steel road bikes

Another Italian frame-builder with serious racing pedigree, the glory days for Benotto came in the 1960s-80s.

Benottos carried stars such as Roger de Vlaeminck and Francesco Moser to victory at the World Championships, Paris-Roubaix, and Milan-San Remo, while Ole Ritter set the hour record on a Benotto track bike in 1968.

Benotto is also notable for its successful expansion into Latin America, first to Venezuela in 1948 and later to Mexico.

Many of the Mexican-produced models are excellent, but the Italian-built Benottos are particularly special if you can get your hands on one.


  • Founded: 1885
  • Origin: Milan, Italy
  • Known For: Racing Bikes, Mountain Bikes

The oldest bike manufacturer still in existence, Bianchi is a true icon of the sport.

Bianchi – and its instantly-recognizable “Celeste” colorway – is synonymous with cycling legends such as Fausto Coppi and Marco Pantani.

Vintage Bianchis rank among the most desirable and envy-inducing bikes around, and the company continues to produce high-end road bikes, time trial bikes, and track bikes to this day – alongside a more recent entry into the mountain bike market.


  • Founded: 1924
  • Origin: Vittorio Veneto, Italy
  • Known For: Steel Road Bikes

Named for the great Ottavio Bottechia who collaborated on the firm’s early frames, Bottechia has been producing bikes for almost a century.

Bottechias were pedaled to victory at the Tour de France by Greg LeMond in 1989, and at the Giro in 1957, 1966, and 1979.

The great Sheldon Brown notes that Campagnolo Super Record-equipped Bottechias from the mid-1980s are especially valued by vintage enthusiasts.

Alongside high-end racing bikes used as recently as 2010 at the Giro d’Italia, Bottechia also produce mountain bikes, electric bikes, and BMXs.


  • Founded: 1931 (1949)
  • Origin: Japan
  • Known For: Cult-Classic Road Bikes and Pioneering Mountain Bikes

The Japanese manufacturing giant started producing bicycles in 1949.

Bridgestone road bikes from the late-twentieth century – particularly the outstanding Bridgestone RB-1 – have taken on a near-mythical status among vintage bike lovers.

Bridgestone was also one of the earliest mountain bike manufacturers, pioneering innovations such as shortened chainstays and and aggressive frame angles to improve uphill performance.

Bridgestone has produced bikes under other aliases throughout its history, including Anchor and Kabuki.

“C” is for…


  • Founded: 1933
  • Origin: Vicenza, Italy
  • Known For: High-End Components Manufacturer

Campagnolo is the oldest, most prestigious, and most lusted-for component manufacturer still in existence.

The height of technical excellence and beautiful design, early innovations by founder Tullio Campagnolo included the ingenious Cambio Corsa mechanism – a forerunner of the modern derailleur.

Campagnolo groupsets have outfitted more Tour de France-winning bikes than any other manufacturer, most recently Tadej Pogačar‘s victorious 2021 Colnago.


  • Founded: 1948
  • Origin: Milan, Italy
  • Known For: Road Bikes, Track Bikes

Another Italian icon with rich cycling heritage, Cinelli remains a major name in the sport.

Founded by Cino Cinelli, a decorated racer in his own right with multiple Classic victories to his name, Cinelli’s influence in twentieth-century bike design was arguably greater than the fame the manufacturer gained in its own right.

Alongside outstanding road bike frames, Cinelli also built a reputation for their innovative, outlandish “funny” track bikes with a deadly combination of speed and style – the Laser being a key example.

The Supercorsa (originally Speciale Corsa until a decal manufacturing mishap) remains in production over 70 years after its introduction, and is among the most iconic road bikes in history.

Cinelli continue to produce high-quality frames and components to this day and have a cult following – especially amongst fixie fanatics.


  • Founded: 1969
  • Origin: Bergamo, Italy
  • Known For: Racing bikes

Ciöcc was founded in 1969 by Giovanni Pelizzoli, a mechanic for the GS ZONCA racing team.

The 1980s marked the high point of the firm’s fortunes, as they provided racing bikes for the likes of Lucien van Impe and Davide Cassani, while Claudio Corti won the 1977 World Championships on a Ciöcc San Cristobal frame.

Ciöcc continues to manufacture frames in the present day.


  • Founded: 1952
  • Origin: Milan, Italy
  • Known For: Legendary racing bikes

Colnago is one of the true heavyweights of elite cycling.

Alongside frame building, Ernesto Colnago built his early reputation as one of the most sought-after bike mechanics in the sport, including for the great Eddy Merckx.

With time, recognition – and then reverence – for his steel racing frames followed.

Colnago frames have a reputation for exceptional quality and creative innovation. The Colnago Master X-Light introduced in the late ’80s is widely regarded as among the greatest road bikes ever built.


  • Founded: 1919
  • Origin: Settala, Italy
  • Known For: Legendary steel tubing

Few names are as intrinsically linked with exceptional vintage steel bikes as Columbus.

Double-butted Columbus SLX tubing emerged as the main competitor to the ubiquitous TI Reynolds 531, and became the premium steel of choice for many iconic Italian manufacturers such as Cinelli, Pinarello, Colnago, and more for decades.

Many other lines of Columbus steel are noteworthy too, including Columbus Air (the world’s first oval-profiled aerodynamic tubing), the elliptical Columbus Max tubeset, and the older Colmbus EL (Extra Leggeri, meaning “Extra Light”).

Columbus Nivacrom was drawn into the distinctive star-shaped cross-section of the legendary Colnago Master – regarded by many as the greatest racing bike ever built.


  • Founded: 1948
  • Origin: London, UK
  • Known For: Vintage and modern bespoke racing bikes.

Condor has been building bespoke bikes since 1948, when the premises on Gray’s Inn Road in Holborn, London, first opened.

Condor founder Monty Young’s bespoke lightweight racing bikes became popular among professionals for his innovative “Monty Young Race Wheels” in 1957.

Riders signed to Condor racing teams such as Condor Makeson, Condor Olympia and Rapha Condor have ridden in Le Tour and World Championships since 1967.

In the 1970s Condor had serious cycling chic among professional riders and celebrities alike; Mick Jagger and members of the royal family were riding Condor bikes.

Today Condor is known for modern top-class bespoke racing bikes and their impressive range of vintage racers which can sell for thousands.

Condor’s frames are designed in Britain, and built by hand in Italy.

“D” is for…


  • Founded: 1926
  • Origin: Birmingham, United Kingdom
  • Known For: Good quality, reliable steel frames

Dawes is an extremely well-regarded cycling brand, who have been manufacturing high-quality bikes since 1926.

Originally a motorcycle company from 1906 – Humphries and Dawes – they switched to the bicycle industry, later becoming a prominent bike brand in the United Kingdom.

Dawes made a name for itself by making bikes for the armed forces during WWII, and after the war ended, became renowned for its road and touring bicycles in the United Kingdom.

One of the most famous models was the Dawes Galaxy touring bike. A line that was in production for nearly 50 years, it is often touted as one of the best and most reliable touring bikes of all time. The line sadly was discontinued in 2020.

Since then, however, Dawes has continued their production, largely specializing in commuter and folding bicycles.

Della Santa

  • Founded: 1970s
  • Origin: Reno, Nevada
  • Known For: Exceptional handbuilt racing frames

Roland Della Santa is perhaps best known as Greg LeMond’s first sponsor and framebuilder, but his legacy goes well beyond that.

Della Santa started building frames for professional racers in the 1970s before his partnership with LeMond propelled his bikes to greater fame in the ’80s.

Della Santa provided many of the bikes LeMond rode throughout his career (even when they carried the name of the team’s sponsor), and also later built the earliest steel bikes sold under the “LeMond” brand.

They have a reputation as high-quality racing bikes, designed for exactly that: racing. Della Santa almost exclusively built aggressive racing bikes designed to be ridden hard and fast, with only a few exceptions.

They were typically built with either Columbus or Dedacciai steel tubing, and Della Santa was known for exceptional attention to detail.

As mainstream manufacturers and racers transitioned to aluminum and then carbon in the ’90s and 2000s, Della Santa remained committed to steel racers. He continued building bespoke steel bikes until he passed away in 2019.

Vintage Della Santa bikes are relatively rare due to the small numbers they were produced in, especially outside of the United States.

De Rosa

  • Founded: 1953
  • Origin: Milan, Italy
  • Known For: Beautiful Road Bikes

De Rosa is a highly-revered Italian road bike brand that has been in the market for over 60 years. The company is renowned for its exceptional craftsmanship, attention to detail, and superior quality while retaining a beautiful, classic, Italian aesthetic.

De Rosa bikes are also known for their excellent handling, thanks to their geometry and carbon fiber construction.

Older vintage models are available in aluminum and steel. They will set you back a fair sum, however, since they always have produced for the upper-end of the market.

De Rosa has an excellent reputation, not only historically, but in the modern cycling world. In the Tour de France 2021, for example, De Rosa sponsored the Corfdis team, and so De Rosa bikes were commonly seen in the pro peloton once again.

De Rosa bikes are perfect for cyclists looking for a bike that is not only high-performing but also beautiful.

“E” is for…

Eddy Merckx

  • Founded: 1980
  • Origin: Brussels, Belgium
  • Known For: Founded by the greatest cyclist of all time, Eddy Merckx

Eddy Merckx’s name is synonymous with road cycling. The greatest road cyclist of all time actually began building bikes himself during the ’70s, mostly as a hobby.

But, he didn’t start his bicycle company, Eddy Merckx Cycles, until two years after his retirement in 1980.

He was actually given the idea to start his own bicycle company by Ugo De Rosa, the founder of the legendary eponymous Italian cycling brand.

Merckx had an excellent relationship with De Rosa, having ridden De Rosa bikes for much of his career, and even went to Italy to get personally trained in the art of bicycle building before founding his cycle company.

The result is Eddy Merckx Cycles, known for their extremely high-quality road bikes, which of course, quickly established themselves in the cycling world due to their legendary founder. But the bikes live up to the name too and they even still produce cycles to this day.

Eddy Merckx bikes from the ’80s in particular are extremely well-regarded, for their Italian-inspired craftsmanship, and high-quality road bikes.

Ellis Briggs

  • Founded: 1936
  • Origin: Shipley, United Kingdom
  • Known For: Oldest handmade steel frame builders in the UK

Leonard Ellis and Thomas Briggs opened up shop producing lightweight bicycles in 1936. Today, Ellis Briggs is the oldest handmade steel frame builder in Britain still operating.

Ken Russell won the 1952 Tour of Britain riding for Ellis Briggs as an independent, drawing fame for the brand, which would go on to sponsor a host of international riders.

Though still in operation today, Ellis Briggs is best known for lightweight frames made to order in the mid-twentieth century.

“F” is for…


  • Founded: 1880
  • Origin: Brigg, United Kingdom
  • Known For: One of the oldest British bicycle manufacturers

Though originally a bicycle manufacturer, their early success from 1898 until the Second World War was largely in the motorcycle industry. However, post-WWII, they concentrated their efforts on racing bikes and became the company “Falcon Cycles”.

It wasn’t until the 1970s, however, that they really grew to what they’re known as now. They made a deal with Eddy Merckx to make a Merckx-branded line (this was before Eddy Merckx Cycles) in Merckx Molteni orange.

These are a highly regarded line of ’70s vintage bikes and are highly sought-after.

During the ’80s, they were purchased by the Elswick-Hopper group, and in turn took over the Holdsworth cycling company, which included the other classic vintage brand, Claud Butler, in 1987.

Although Falcon still produces bikes today, their reputation in racing bikes has certainly diminished since its golden era as a 1970s bicycle brand.


  • Founded: 1899
  • Origin: Tokyo, Japan
  • Known For: High-quality vintage bicycle models

Fuji was founded way back in 1899, and quickly established dominance in the Asian market, becoming Japan’s most popular bicycle manufacturer by 1920. However, Fuji was largely unknown in the American market until the “bike boom” of the 1970s.

They are generally now a well-known manufacturer and are known to have produced some excellent individual models in their post-bike boom history. They are also credited with the first production titanium frame in the Fuji Titanium Dura-Ace in the ’80s.

One such model that is extremely well-regarded is the Fuji S-10S, the bike that essentially made Fuji the household name they are today in the US in 1971.

Even in today’s vintage market, this is a highly sought-after model, particularly the post-1978 double-butted chromoly version.

Of course, there are other Fuji vintage models that are worth having, too, but they are less known for their consistency of bicycles than individual standout models.

“G” is for…


  • Founded: 1948
  • Origin: Turin, Italy
  • Known For: Classic Racing Bikes

Tolmino Gios’ small bike shop in Turin, founded in 1948, was the birthplace of one of the most iconic Italian road bike brands.

The company initially found success with reliable, good-quality city bikes in the 1960s, but it was after stepping into professional racing bikes in the early ’70s that Gios bikes would achieve their greatest fame.

The bikes Gios provided for the Brooklyn cycling team were painted a deep blue to pay homage to the US flag, and the color is now inseparable from the Gios name.

Roger de Vlaeminck won seven Monuments, including three editions of Paris-Roubaix, riding a Gios Super Record for the Brooklyn team in the 1970s.


  • Founded: 1930
  • Origin: Machecoul, France
  • Known For: Some of the finest French racing bikes from the 1960s-80s

Gitane is synonymous with late-20th-century French racing bikes.

One of the highest quality vintage bicycle manufacturers with over 90 years of production experience in the industry, they were also a big player as a Tour de France factory team for such high-profile French riders as Jacques Antequil, Laurent Fignon, and Bernard Hinault.

After exporting their bikes to the U.S. in 1958, they also became a well-known brand across the pond. So much so that they even provided bikes for a young Greg LeMond, the only American Tour de France winner in history, (though not during “that” dramatic 1989 win).

Most high-quality Gitane models produced between the ’60s and ’80s are sought-after. Although Gitane is still in production, they no longer make road bikes.

“H” is for…

Harry Quinn

  • Founded: 1890
  • Origin: Liverpool, United Kingdom
  • Known For: Vintage lightweight bikes.

Harry Quinn was a legendary British manufacturer who hand-built bikes characterized by aggressive geometry.

The company was born in 1890 by Quinn’s father as Coronet Cycles, before passing to the younger Quinn and being renamed. The bikes were endorsed by a slew of professionals before Harry sold the business in 1977 having lost vision in one eye, though he remained the master builder until the workshop shut down and the business was sold again to Falcon.

The firm was a British cycling institution: frame builders who cut their teeth at Harry Quinn included Dolan’s founder Terry Dolan, founder of Merseyside Bicycles founder Bill Whitcomb, and two of Harry’s brothers who left the family business to form Quinn Bros Cycles.

Authentic Harry Quinn frames are a real collector’s item, and if you do come across one be sure to check for the frame’s unique serial number against the official registry for authenticity.

“L” is for…


  • Founded: 1902
  • Origin: Legnano, Italy
  • Known For: Legnano Team and Classic “Legnano Green” Road Bikes

Named after their founding city, Legnano is one of the oldest manufacturers in the game, having produced bikes for over 120 years.

Steeped in history, they were the sponsor of the famous men’s road cycling team of the same name between 1907 and 1966.

Some of the greatest Italian cyclists of all time rode for the team, and therefore sported Legnano bikes, including Gino Bartali, Fausto Coppi, and Ercole Baldini, earning them many wins in Grand Tours and cycling Classics.

Like Bianchi, the brand is known for its famous lime “Legnano Green” color, which remains on its modern designs to this day.

However, unlike Bianchi, Legnano bikes are not found as commonly in the modern pro peloton since the demise of the factory team.

“M” is for…


  • Founded: 1950s
  • Origin: Milan, Italy
  • Known For: Classic Steel Racing Bikes

Faliero Masi started building frames at Milan’s iconic Velodromo Vigorelli in the early 1950s.

His reputation quickly grew, and Masi bikes were raced by many of the sport’s greatest names, including Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, and Felice Gimondi. Anquetil rode a Masi track bike during his successful 1956 Hour Record attempt.

In 1973, Faliero Masi entered a business deal with an American firm and relocated to the United States to reestablish the Masi brand there, alongside two of his top deputies.

However, a bitter dispute followed, and Faliero returned to Italy, no longer permitted to sell bikes in America under his own name having sold the trademark in the original deal.


  • Founded: 1946
  • Origin: Derby, UK
  • Known For: Bespoke steel frames

Mercian is a historic bike manufacturer, still producing bespoke frames from Reynolds steel by hand in their Derby workshop.

The firm is named for Mercia, the ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England’s Midlands.

Beryl Burton, widely-regarded as one of the greatest cyclists of all time, rode a Mercian frame on many of her record-breaking rides, as did fellow British cycling icon Eileen Sheridan.

Vintage Mercian bikes remain highly sought-after by vintage bike lovers.


  • Founded: 1919
  • Origin: Saint-Etienne, France
  • Known For: Iconic French racing bikes

Few names stand as tall in the history of bike racing as Mercier.

Founded in 1919 as a producer of parts for bike pedals, the firm started producing frames in 1924 and complete bikes by the early 1930s.

By 1933, Mercier had its own factory racing team, which holds the record for the most Tour de France participations in history, surviving until 1984. The team adopted its iconic purple jersey in 1955, made immortal by Raymond Poulidor in his battles with Jacques Anquetil.

Mercier made bikes across a range of qualities, from high-end racers used by the professional team to more budget-friendly options which became commonplace across French country lanes.

Production climaxed in 1975, with 150,000 bicycles made, before the company folded in 1985, unable to compete with new American and Asian rivals.

Like Bianchi celeste, Mercier racing bikes are strongly associated with their own color scheme: pink.


  • Founded: 1979
  • Origin: Trento, Italy
  • Known For: Founded by legend Francisco Moser

Francesco Moser founded the Cicli Moser factory in 1979 at the close of his legendary career as a bike racer.

Arguably the greatest bike produced by the Moser factory was the magnificent Francesco Moser 51.151, released in 1987. Named for his iconic 1-Hour World Record, it featured Columbus SLX tubing and a Campagnolo Super Record groupset.

Confusingly, Moser Cicli was also the name of a bike brand founded by fellow Italian road racer Ermanno Moser back in 1933 – and to add to the confusion, Ermanno had also based his factory in Trento.

More recent models from Francesco Moser’s brand typically have F. Moser written on them, presumably to distinguish them as a result of this shared name.


  • Founded: 1923
  • Origin: France
  • Known For: Vintage racing bikes

Motobécane was one of the major French bicycle manufacturers of the twentieth century.

While Motobécane’s high-end racing bikes have Tour de France-winning pedigree (Luis Ocaña, 1973), their mid-range road bikes are also notable for vintage enthusiasts.

It was one of the earliest French manufacturers to switch to affordable but high-quality Japanese components in the 1970s, which markedly improved their mid-priced 10-speed bikes.

Notable Motobécane models included the Nomade, Mirage, Super Mirage, Super Touring, Grand Touring, Sprint, Super Sprint, Jubilee Sport, Grand Record, Le Champion, and Team Champion.

Motobécane produced some of the earliest aerodynamically-designed racing bakes in the early 1980s, the Profil series, which featured tear-drop-shaped tubing, some internal cabling, and were equipped with Shimano’s aero-optimized Adamax 600 ax components.

However, such innovation failed to save the firm from folding in 1981.


  • Founded: 1962
  • Origin: Wiltshire, UK
  • Known For: Vintage small-wheel bicycles

Moulton bikes are instantly recognizable for their small wheels and quirky full-suspension frames. Since the ’60s, Moultons have been reliable cruiser bikes bound to turn some heads on the commute to work.

Easy to mistake for a Brompton at first glance, with their step-through frames and <20″ wheels, look a little closer and you’ll notice that the trademark sturdy diamond frame doesn’t fold.

Adapted from suspension technology developed for Mini Cooper cars, the original Moulton design philosophy was to take small, responsive wheels and beef up the riding experience with high tire pressure and front and rear suspension.

This was decades before full-suspension designs entered the mainstream via the MTB world.

Due to scarcity caused by on-again-off-again production today, Moultons are considered collector’s items. They’re expensive and keep their value well, often selling for thousands secondhand.

“O” is for…


  • Founded: 1939
  • Origin: Celle Ligure, Italy
  • Known For: High-Quality and Environmentally Conscious

Olmo is a cycling brand that was founded by Giuseppe Olmo, a former professional cyclist. The company began by producing high-quality racing bicycles, quickly gaining a reputation for excellence in the cycling world.

In modern times, the brand has a strong focus on sustainability and is committed to reducing its environmental impact through the use of eco-friendly materials and production methods.

“P” is for…


  • Founded: 1882
  • Origin: Sochaux, France
  • Known For: Well-built vintage bicycles from entry-level to pro-quality

Having produced bicycles since 1882, Peugeot is one of the oldest bicycle manufacturers in the world.

It became one of the dominant forces in bicycles during the 20th century, and Peugeots are now some of the easiest vintage bikes to find, particularly in Europe.

Peugeot bikes were ridden to victory on ten separate occasions at Le Tour, and were used by some of the great riders of the era, including Eddy Merckx and Eugène Christophe.

During the bike boom of the 1970s, Peugeot became an extremely popular brand in North America as French 10-speed bikes became more popular. One of the standout models from this era was the legendary Peugeot PX-10.

The PX-10 was an extremely well-built machine that became popular amongst the more serious riders in the US and Europe.


  • Founded: 1952
  • Origin: Treviso, Italy
  • Known For: Performance Racing Bikes

One of the most legendary Italian cycling brands, Pinarello is known for its performance-focused, peloton-quality racers. They have a long history of success in the cycling world, arguably due to the quality of their frames.

Pinarellos have been ridden to victory in numerous major cycling races, including the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia, and the Vuelta a España.

Some of the world’s top professional cyclists have ridden Pinarello bikes, including Eddy Merckx, Miguel Indurain, and more recently Chris Froome.

Modern Pinarello bikes such as the Dogma line have been commonplace in the peloton in recent years, but their older models enjoyed similar esteem through a huge number of professional road cycling victories.

Pinarello bikes are renowned for both their performance and aesthetics, with many beautiful vintage steel models, as well as their sleek and modern carbon models.

“R” is for…


  • Founded: 1888
  • Origin: Nottingham, UK
  • Known For: Innovative and interesting bicycles for the everyday rider

Raleigh Bicycle Company, one of the oldest bike manufacturers globally, established a stellar reputation by manufacturing top-notch bicycles during the 20th century.

Unlike numerous bike brands, Raleigh primarily focused on utilizing its resources and innovative design to produce bicycles for everyday riders and enthusiasts.

While other bike companies also catered to this segment, Raleigh set itself apart by designing distinctive and functional bicycles that gained significant popularity, especially in the UK.

Additionally, Raleigh briefly ventured into creating high-quality road bikes for professional use and has consistently delivered reliable, high-quality road bikes at an appealing price range.


  • Founded: 1898
  • Origin: Birmingham, UK
  • Known For: Legendary steel tubing manufacturer

The benchmark for high-quality bike tubing throughout much of the twentieth century was the fabled Reynolds 531 steel.

Despite being introduced all the way back in 1935, Reynolds 531 steel was so far ahead of the competition that it remained state-of-the-art until the late ’70s (and arguably beyond), winning more Tour de France titles than any other frame material in history.

It was even repurposed by the RAF during World War Two to build Spitfires.

However, that 531 decal on your frame doesn’t always mean the same thing. Even within Reynolds 531 tubing, there were different categories varying in quality and price.

Mid-range vintage bikes often used the cheaper straight-gauge (i.e. the same thickness throughout) Reynolds 531 tubes. Decals on these frames will usually only say “Reynolds 531 Frame Tubes” with no further detail.

Higher-end vintage bike frames used more expensive “butted” tubing rather than straight-gauge tubing. Butted tubing is thicker at the ends than in the middle, meaning the steel is strongest where it needs to be, but can shave off a few extra ounces where it doesn’t.

Bikes just below top-of-the-line models often used butted Reynolds 531 tubing for the three tubes of the frame’s main triangle (the top tube, down tube, and seat tube), with the remaining tubes being straight-gauge steel.

You’ll sometimes find a Reynolds 531 sticker marked “Guaranteed Built with Reynolds 531 Butted Tubes, Forks, and Stays” (or a translated version) for clarification, but this isn’t the case for all manufacturers and models.

“S” is for…


  • Founded: 1895
  • Origin: Chicago, USA
  • Known For: Excellent pre-bike boom American bicycles

Schwinn was a well-known and influential brand in American households throughout the 20th century.

During the 1950s, Schwinn underwent expansion and acquisitions of smaller companies. It also started manufacturing lightweight racing-style bikes to compete with the popular European imports.

Throughout the ’60s, the company continued to expand its line of 10-speed racing bikes with the introduction of models like the Varsity, Continental, and LeTour. These models aimed to rival renowned European brands such as Peugeot and Gitane.

However, most stellar vintage Schwinn bikes were made prior to the 1970s.

The Schwinn Paramount is arguably the most famous of these, with an epic production run from 1938 to 1994. The Ten Speed range with Reynolds 531 tubing and Campagnolo components is particularly sought after.

With all of the other brands popping up across the States and East Asia in response to the bike boom, they failed to keep up with the wildly developing industry, which ultimately led to their downfall.

“T” is for…


  • Founded: 1957
  • Origin: Grosseto, Italy
  • Known For: Beautiful Racing Bikes

After a decade spent mastering his craft in a Milan bicycle factory, Irio Tommasini founded his own workshop in Tuscany in 1957.

After quickly developing a reputation for racing bikes that were lightning-quick and exceptionally rideable, Tommasini frames have been raced on by the likes of Eddy Merckx, Mario Cipollini, and Michele Bartoli, to name a few.

The company continues to produce outstanding steel frames, alongside more modern offerings. Irio Tommasini remains active within the firm, 65 years after he founded it – though it is now managed by his daughters, Roberta and Barbara.


  • Founded: 1976
  • Origin: Wisconsin, USA
  • Known For: Being the biggest bike manufacturer in the United States

Almost exactly the opposite of Schwinn, Trek is an American bicycle manufacturer bourne out of the bike boom in the US.

Trek rose to the lofty heights of its current status as the leading bike manufacturer in the United States by consistently producing extremely reliable bicycles for a range of budgets and disciplines.

They are also particularly famous in the racing world due to their long sponsorship of cycling’s biggest anti-hero, Lance Armstrong. When Lance’s illusion came crashing down, however, Trek continued its reputation in this domain through team sponsorship which they retain to this day, with the Tour de France team Lidl – Trek.

Vintage Trek bikes are generally an excellent investment since they are known for running well for an extremely long time. Some great models to look out for are the classic Trek 5500 racing bike and the legendary Trek 520 touring bike.

“W” is for…

Wilier Triestina

  • Founded: 1906
  • Origin: Rossano Veneto, Italy
  • Known For: High-End Modern Bikes, Stunning Vintage Frames

Wilier has a long and storied history in the world of cycling, and the company has been a part of some of the most famous races in the world, with bikes ridden in all three of the Grand Tours.

Which legendary vintage bicycle brands did we miss? Let us know in the comments below!

Photo of author
Jack is an experienced cycling writer based in San Diego, California. Though he loves group rides on a road bike, his true passion is backcountry bikepacking trips. His greatest adventure so far has been cycling the length of the Carretera Austral in Chilean Patagonia, and the next bucket-list trip is already in the works. Jack has a collection of vintage steel racing bikes that he rides and painstakingly restores. The jewel in the crown is his Colnago Master X-Light.

9 thoughts on “A-Z Guide To Legendary Vintage Bicycle Brands”

  1. I currently have a couple of the bikes listed in this article (1961 Olmo Special, 1964 Legnano , 1968 PX 10, 1972 Moto Grand Jubilee ) as well as a couple not mentioned (1948 Carlton Continental and 1973 Stella)
    Acquiring and riding the classic cycles can be a lot of fun ,but be careful it can be addictive

  2. Some hand crafted cycles to consider, that at one time or another I’ve been privileged to own: Harry Quinn, Guerciotti, Masi, and Moretti (which I still have). Nothing feels like a classic Italian Columbus road frame IMHO, borne of experience… 🚲


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.