I cut my teeth on bikes in the 1970s and ‘80s when lugged steel and friction shifting were the norm. While I very much appreciate and enjoy the performance advantages of modern, high-tech commuters, I’m probably the most fond of old school bikes that are true to my roots. My Rivendell is a good example of a bike that draws style tips and technology from the past, but brings them forward to the present day in a functional package that doesn’t make compromises in performance. It’s a bike that’s at least as good as—if not better than—the vintage bikes from which it draws inspiration.
With the rise of Cycle Chic and retro-chic over the past few years, we’re seeing an increasing number of new bikes that are designed to look like old bikes. From pseudo Dutch bikes, to French constructeur look-alikes, more-and-more of what I like to call “neo-vintage” designs are showing up on the market. Many of these bikes are quite attractive and provide a nice alternative to the somewhat generic bikes that have dominated the market for the past couple of decades.
While many of these bikes are well made using modern materials and reliable components, there is a small minority that are merely low quality imports dressed up to look like something they’re not. In many ways, they’re not much different than the fully-suspended “mountain bikes” sold at big box stores; these fake MTBs aren’t actually built to be ridden off road, and some of these new retro-imposters also promise an unrealistic level of reliability and performance.
I’m excited about this new wave of vintage-inspired bikes. Because they’re visually attractive, I believe they’ll appeal to a wider audience than the generic “hybrids” that have been so prevalent for the past 20 years. My only worry is that because vintage bikes are becoming a fashion statement, we may see an increasing number of poorly designed and built bikes dressed up in vintage clothing. What we certainly don’t need is a new wave of neo-vintage bikes that promise more than they can deliver.