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Check before buying vintage bicycles

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: August 11, 2012

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The "Wiggo" Effect, sometimes referred to the "wheel good factor", is going to have a profound effect on the leisure habits of the British public.

The first British winner of the Tour de France (and a winner of a gold medal at the London Olympics) will be responsible for millions of pounds worth of bike sales as the nation dons its lycra to seek out lung-sapping hills to ride up and down.

Wiggins is not solely responsible for the trend. Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton among others have played their part in Team GB enjoying medal success.

This is in no small part due to massive investment in the sport, in training, nutrition, fitness and equipment. One of the bikes especially made for Bradley's assault on the Tour de France – a 2011 Pinarello Dogma in Rainforest Green – would have cost £12,000 new but is now up for sale at a "negotiable" price. It's not clear if the star actually rode it during the Tour but it has rarity value by association.

Investing in rare and vintage bikes is not new. Many of the original velocipedes and boneshakers have a remarkable value and are much sought after. There are 11 organisations affiliated to the National Association of Veteran Cycle Clubs where members enjoy organised rides and rallies often in costume appropriate to the bikes' ages. They may equally enjoy the fact that vintage bikes have a value and like all collectibles, the rarer the item the greater the value.

The penny farthing is a great favourite. With its large front wheel and small rear wheel, it was named after two British coins, one large and one small. A penny farthing dating from around 1885 can be worth as much as £3,000 while a 56in Humber Racer Penny Farthing made in 1889 is reportedly worth more than £8,000.

You do not have to go that far back to find bicycles that are worth far more today than when they first appeared. The iconic Raleigh Chopper and early BMX (Bicycle Motocross) bikes of the 1970s are highly collectible and can reach four-figure sums.

However, like many alternative investment chances, collecting vintage bicycles is undertaken by those who love the sport and want to enjoy their belongings as well as seeing them appreciate in value. Equally, there is no regulation regarding this niche purchase so the watchword is caveat emptor! (buyer beware), especially as most deals are made online.

Anyone considering buying a vintage bicycle can do no better than consult with a bona fide club such as the National Association of Veteran Cycle Clubs or the Veteran Cycle Club, both of which have useful websites.

In the penny farthing's heyday, the world was cycling mad and, much like the aftermath of Bradley Wiggins' triumph in France last month, everybody wanted a go. So spare a thought for George Pilkington Mills, the Bradley Wiggins of the Victorian age who won the very first Bordeaux to Paris Cycle Race in 1891.

Five years earlier, Mills broke the record for cycling from Land's End to John O'Groats taking only five days and ten hours to complete the 861 mile route.

He did it on a penny farthing. I wonder if Bradley could do that?

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