Vintage Bicycles are usually classified as being manufactured from the late 1800s to the 1970s. It is interesting to note that early bicycles were an outgrowth of companies which did not intend to build bicycles in the beginning. For example, Schwinn bicycles came into being because of the manufacture of balloon bike tires for early American automobiles. When Firestone and Huffman joined forces to make bicycle frames compatible with bike tires, no one imagined what a successful venture this would turn out to be.
During the early 1900s an Englishman by the name of Bowden came up with the idea of making a 2-piece aluminum bicycle frame which could be bonded together. While the concept was good it was deemed too costly to produce. It was not until Mr. Bowden immigrated to America around 1950 that his bicycle design received an American patent. Bowden is also credited with the 'Speedlancer' model of bicycle which boasted an aluminum frame with head and tail lights and was produced around 1960.
Among the first vintage bicycles is believed to be a 3-wheel model made by the BSA Bike Company in England. Ironically, the BSA Company did not set out to produce bicycles, but was at that time an established gun making business. In 1908 a BSA bicycle beat the world distance record by being the first bicycle to go faster than one mile per minute for longer than one hour. The BSA Bike Company was subsequently purchased by a The Raleigh Bicycle Company located in Nottingham, England in 1957.
The majority of early vintage bicycles were made of steel making them very heavy to maneuver resulting in a slow and somewhat cumbersome ride. During the 1950s bicycle designers began to turn their attention to what they termed as mid-weight bicycles. Some of the most well known brands are Western Flyer, Columbia and Schwinn.
Western Flyer bicycles were introduced by Western Automobile Stores beginning around 1933. One interesting model of Western Flyer bicycles was the 1962 model which could easily and quickly be converted from a boy's to a girl's riding style.
Columbia bicycles are believed to be the first bicycles produced by an American bicycle maker. In 1878 the Weed Sewing Machine Company located in Hartford, Connecticut produced a Columbia bicycle which sold for $125. It is interesting to note that the sewing machines made by this company sold for less than $40.
There are many items that are considered collectors items today. One category of collections is vintage and antique bicycles. While this collection tends to take up a bit more room than say a baseball card collection, it is still a piece of history. Collecting vintage and antique bicycles is a difficult task, but one that many grasp with delight and pleasure.
Bicycle manufacturing goes back to the 1920s and 1930s officially. There are other more rustic forms of bicycles that have been discovered, but true bicycles date back to the 1920s and 1930s. Today, most antique and vintage bicycles are either owned by collectors or found in old dilapidated barns and sheds. Most are in very poor condition when they first found. Collectors love to repair and restore these bicycles to their former glory, however finding parts to do the repairs sometimes proves very difficult.
Since they are no longer manufactured, finding a part to repair one means that another has been destroyed. However, some parts are found that have no bicycle to go along with them. These are used parts obviously and will require some cleaning at the very minimum. Repainting old bicycles is something that first requires a lot of research to restore the bicycle to its original glory.