Vintage Road Bikes Guide: What To Look For In A Vintage Road Bike

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In the market for a vintage road bike? There are a few things to look out for to ensure you get the best deal possible!

Vintage road bikes provide an excellent entry point into the world of road cycling, but they’re not just for the beginner. There are a number of highly desirable vintage road bikes that enjoy a high level of esteem due to their functionality, aesthetics, and collectibility.

They can come at a variety of price points – from durable, functional, and reliable machines at an entry-level price point to extremely rare models with top-level components that are highly collectible.

As a lifelong vintage bike geek and avid collector, I’ve had plenty of experience both buying and selling vintage bikes.

However, for many, the vintage road bike market can be difficult to navigate. Buying a second-hand bike requires a lot of research and effort – and even still, if you don’t necessarily know what to look for, it can be hard to know if you’re getting a good deal.

So, what are some iconic vintage road bike brands? What are some highly-revered models? And what should you look for in a vintage road bike?

In this guide, we’ll give you the lowdown on exactly what to look out for in the vintage bike market. To get you up to speed, we’ll be covering:

  • Some Of The Best Vintage Road Bike Brands
  • What To Look Out For When Buying A Vintage Road Bike: A General Guide
  • Buying Your Vintage Road Bike

Let’s dive in!

Vintage Road Bikes Guide: Title Image

Some of the best vintage bike brands

There are a few vintage road bike brands that are typically associated with reliable, high-quality rides.

These, again, vary in price significantly.

Budget Brands

Some vintage road bike brands are very reliable and functional but not necessarily rare or collectible, which usually means a lower price.

It’s worth noting, however, that only certain models within each of these budget-friendly brands will be worth getting.

A vintage road bike from any of these brands can provide an excellent entry-level first road bike for someone just getting into the sport.


Peugeot bikes are a highly sought-after vintage road bike brand with huge popularity, so much so that they are now ubiquitous in the vintage road bike market.

The French company, established in 1882, became a major player in bike racing throughout the 20th century, earning ten Tour de France victories between 1903 and 1983 with riders such as Eddy Merckx and Eugène Christophe.

Certain models of vintage Peugeot bikes are highly-regarded and an excellent option for a budget-friendly entry into the world of vintage bikes.


Raleigh Bicycle Company is one of the oldest bike manufacturers with a long history of producing high-quality bikes during the 20th century.

Unlike many other bike brands, Raleigh has primarily focused on providing innovative and practical bikes for everyday riders and hobby cyclists. This approach, combined with their unique designs, made Raleigh bikes very popular, particularly in the UK.

However, they have also manufactured professional-standard road bikes and continue to offer solid, good-quality road bikes at affordable prices.


Trek is now a very well-known brand among amateur cyclists, with the largest market share in the US.

Since its establishment in the 1970s, Trek has gained worldwide popularity. With over 40 years of production, there are a wide variety of vintage Trek models available.

It should be noted, however, that not all such models are particularly budget-friendly. The models ridden by the infamous Lance Armstrong are some of the best vintage Treks, but they also come with a hefty price tag.

Most vintage Treks are pretty affordable and offer high levels of reliability and durability, making them some of the most popular on the vintage road bike market.

Premium Brands

For the majority of the 20th century, Italian road bike manufacturers were considered by many to be the best.

So, many of the premium vintage road bikes are of Italian origin, and there are a few specific Italian brands worth looking out for if you’re looking to get an iconic vintage bike.


Colnago is widely considered to be one of the greatest bicycle manufacturers of all time.

They arguably produced some of the most beautiful (and collectible) vintage road bike frames, and you can’t really go wrong with any Colnago model.

Today, Colnago frames can still be seen in the professional cycling world. The company’s reputation for excellence is built on its innovative bikes and iconic vintage models.

Founded in 1952, Colnago’s prestige has grown through its commitment to producing top-quality bikes, including the legendary one-hour record set by Eddy Merckx in 1972.

They are, unfortunately, not a budget option, however, and they can be some of the most expensive bikes on the vintage market.


Bianchi is a prized vintage road bike manufacturer known for its innovative designs, quality manufacturing, and distinctive appearance.

With a history dating back to 1885, Bianchi is one of the oldest bike producers still in existence.

A vintage Bianchi road bike is easily recognizable due to its excellent tubing, Italian components, and the signature “celeste” color that has won over many fans with its unique beauty.

Again, vintage Bianchi’s are highly collectible (there’s an entire cult following of die-hard collectors), so they will set you back a fairly significant sum of money. Some models are slightly cheaper, though, so if you’re after a Bianchi, it’s worth looking into.

What to look out for when buying a Vintage Road bike: A General guide

When you’re looking to get yourself a nice vintage road bike, there are a few different things to look for that might indicate the reliability, functionality, and durability of the bike in question.

The first of these is the brand – as explained above, certain vintage bike brands have reputations for being particularly good, and it’s always a good idea to look out for this.

But, aside from the brand of the bike, what are some indicators of a good-quality vintage road bike?

#1. The Frame

Close-up of a Reynolds 531 steel sticker on a yellow vintage road bike.
Credit: ConollybCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

One of the first things you should look at is the frame itself. There are a few things that might indicate the quality of the frame – but it’s essential to do your research.

The material of the frame is the first thing to look at, particularly when it’s a steel frame; you’ll want to go a little deeper. Not all steel is created equal.

Generally, some of the best steel tubing brands to look out for are Columbus is Reynolds. However, you’ll need to go further to investigate the specific reference of the Columbus or Reynolds tubing.

Each model of steel tubing comes with a unique set of advantages and disadvantages, depending on the alloy, the treatment, and the welding compatibility. These generally cover a diverse range of benefits, including strength, weight, reactivity, flexibility, and softness.

If you’re unsure about the type of steel tubing on a vintage road bike, check out this excellent resource that will inform you of the specific benefits and drawbacks of each type of Reynolds and Columbus tubing.

#2. The Components

Another very important part of the bike; having good, high-quality componentry makes a world of difference when it comes to the feel of the ride and durability.

As usual, it’s a good idea to look for components made by Shimano or Campagnolo.

The upper-tier components, for example, an old model of Dura-Ace or Ultegra, are usually going to hold their condition the longest. They’ll also have the best feel to them and smoother shifting.

Again though, just like the frame, it’s a good idea to look into the specific groupset model before you commit to a certain bike.

#3. Wheels

The wheels of a vintage bike often also make a huge difference to the feel of your ride – and a worn-out set of wheels is going to be an expensive fix.

The very first thing to ensure when it comes to the wheels is that they look like they’re in good condition – this includes the rims.

A vintage road bike will almost always use rim brakes. If the rims look like they’re concave, then the braking surface has worn out, and the wheels will need replacing.

There are also a few brands of wheels that are generally considered to offer the best performance and durability.

Many higher-end vintage road bikes may come pre-equipped with these wheels. Mavic wheelsets are particularly reliable and high-quality.

A vintage celeste Bianchi road bike stands against a white background.
Credit: Museo della Scienza e della Tecnologia “Leonardo da Vinci” CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Buying your vintage road bike

Now that you know all about vintage road bikes and what to look out for in your search, all that’s left to do is find yourself the perfect steed and buy it!

However, entering into the second-hand bike market, in general, can seem somewhat unsafe. What if the bike has some issues that weren’t stated in the listing?

If you didn’t know about an issue prior to buying it, it could prove to be an expensive mistake.

There are many different ways to ensure that you’re going to get the best deal possible when buying a vintage road bike, which is generally applicable to any second-hand bike on the market.

Want to know more? Check out How To Buy A Bike: Everything You Need To Know About Buying A Bike!

Found this vintage road bike guide helpful? Check out more from the BikeTips experts below!

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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.

6 thoughts on “Vintage Road Bikes Guide: What To Look For In A Vintage Road Bike”

    • Hi Larry, thanks for the response!

      I’ve never had the fortune to ride a Della Santa vintage bike myself, but they certainly have a stellar reputation. Roland Della Santa provided many of the bikes Greg 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. They were aggressive bikes designed to be ridden hard and fast. They were typically built with either Columbus or Dedacciai steel tubing, and Della Santa was known for exceptional attention to detail.

      Af anybody here has ridden a Della Santa for themselves and has anything to share, we’d love to hear from them!


      BikeTips Editor


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