|Peugeot in the Portland snow. Source: Hart Ryan Noecker|
If Portland is known for one thing other than rain, it’s bikes. Lots of them. Take a look at what types of bikes most people are riding and you’ll see skinny tire, steel frame 10-speed bikes from decades past. Or, as some may say, “vintage bikes." And by vintage, I am referring to bicycles that hark back to an era of cycling simplicity, from the 1970’s through the 1990’s.
Portland may clearly love older, vintage bikes as a main mode of active transportation, however, vintage isn’t just Portland. This phenomenon is a movement that spans from coast to coast. Steve Swyryt , owner of Cambridge Used Bicycles in Cambridge, Massachusetts can attest to the recent rise in vintage bicycle popularity. Swyryt says that Cambridge Used Bicycles had its best financial year since they opened their doors six years ago and that the success was based “mainly on selling mostly older bikes.”
A visit to Google Trends reinforces the popularity of vintage bikes – searches for vintage bicycle have been increasing slowly since 2004, with a recent surge in the topic last summer.
“The popularity of biking in general may be driving the trend toward older bikes.” Swyryt says. However, vintage bikes have certain draws over their newer counterparts. Mainly, the price of a used bicycle is significantly less than a new bike. “For $120 you can get a better old bike than a new one,” Swyryt said. “A bike that came from a bike shop twenty years ago is still better than a bike you get from Walmart.”
|Everyday vintage cycling in Portland, Oregon. Source: Patrick Finn|
|Sticker on the door of City Bikes. Source: Author|
Riders of vintage bicycles typically have an environmentally conscious thread. “The idea of constantly throwing things away and buying new things is, in a lot of ways, contrary to what the social mission of a lot of bicyclists is.” Marketing plays a big part in the bicycling industry. We are constantly told that we should upgrade to the newest technology, quickly leaving behind perfectly adequate bicycles that have years of use left in them for the latest and greatest in materials and components. As bicycle companies find ways to streamline production and bicycles become continually cheaply mass-produced, vintage bicycles show their promise to keep the craft of durable, long-lasting transportation at an affordable level.
“I think it’s great that we should be celebrating a culture where things are built to last forever,” said Daniel Kamalic, the faculty advisor for BU Bikes and the manager of research computing for BU’s College of Engineering. “We can keep them in good condition…and celebrate the beauty of these things that were made to last.”
Thanks goes out to Max Scheideman for kindly editing this post.
 Vintage Bikes Grow in Popularity
 Image 1, by Hart Ryan Noecker
 Image 2, by Patrick Finn