Have you ever looked back on a bike you used to own with regret? If only you had held onto that sweet Yeti ARC or that beautiful Colnago Mexico. Bikes like those are collectible (and valuable!) these days.
Unfortunately, bikes come and go. Our garage space is limited. And sometimes a cast-away from a bygone era becomes the belle of the ball. With our extensive museum of vintage bicycles, we certainly understand how old technology can become extremely desirable.
Since there is no way to get in a time machine and retrieve the long-lost bikes of your past, what about the bikes of today?
The classic nostalgia of down-tube Campagnolo Record shifters or a Tioga Disc Drive wheel isn’t easy to replicate. And today’s bikes are a bit more homogenous and mass-produced, compared to the rare specimens of the ‘70s, ‘80s, and even ‘90s. However, there’s a good chance that, in 20 or 30 years, a few of the bikes you see for sale on The Pro’s Closet will be sought-after collector’s items.
Here are three key factors that might determine if a modern bike will become a vintage classic.
1. Novel technology
Early adopters don’t have it easy. Bikes with new technology can be prone to unexpected issues and are often equipped with hard-to-find parts. You might also be subject to ridicule from riding buddies who prefer traditional bikes.
But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, a payoff for people who are willing to go all-in on unproven, unfamiliar technology. Their bikes could end up in a museum someday (or at least fetch a pretty penny on eBay).
Take the Mantis Valkyrie. The tubes jut every-which-way on the frame. No regard at all is given to the traditional double-diamond frame that evolved from road cycling into mountain biking. But Richard Cunningham didn’t care. He designed this frame as he saw fit, to meet needs he felt were unique to mountain biking. The result is a stunning bike that makes most mountain bike collectors swoon.
A 1990 Mantis Valkyrie, one of our museum's most striking mountain bikes.
In the realm of modern bikes, Cannondale’s Slate comes to mind as an example of new and unprecedented technology. It was a gravel bike with 650b wheels — unusual and ahead of the curve. If that wasn’t enough, the suspension fork shocked traditionalists. Sure, we’d seen the RockShox Ruby on late-’90s road bikes, but a Lefty? With the 30mm-travel Oliver fork, small wheels, and a sloping-top-tube frame, the Slate looked and rode very different from most gravel bikes which had simply adapted road bike technology for dirt.
The Slate was not perfect. Early on, it was difficult to find wide tire options in that unusual 650b diameter. In fact, Cannondale worked with Panaracer to produce the first 650b gravel tires, opening up the industry to eventually adopt the alternative wheel size.
Cannondale's Slate could never be accused of being a copycat design.
The gravel boom may continue or stabilize or dwindle — regardless it’s had a big impact on the world of bikes, and a lot of that is due to novel technology like the small wheels and suspension technology that Cannondale introduced with the Slate, years before other major manufacturers.
Other potential classics:
2. Race-winning bikes
Bikes with a pedigree are always appealing — vintage or new alike. The most extreme example in our museum might be the Specialized M2 that Ned Overend rode to victory in the 1992 NORBA championships.
Of course, this bike is one-of-a-kind. It still has Ned’s race number and the cycling computer wasn’t even reset from the last time he rode it. Fortunately, Specialized produced plenty of these beautiful red race bikes. They’re out there, and you can bet they are sought-after by collectors, even if Ned didn’t actually ride them.
The 1990s NORBA race vibe is strong in Ned Overend's '92 Specialized M2.
From the lightweight Metal-Matrix alloy frame to the Specialized-branded RockShox fork, this bike was built for pure speed. Nowadays, it might feel a little sketchy on the singletrack (even Ned admits that!), but at the time it was the ultimate racing machine. Maybe most M2s aren’t exactly like the official team bikes, but they can still capture the imagination as you remember the glory days of early ‘90s NORBA XC racing.
Today’s race bikes don’t always have so much personality, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be collectible in a few decades. One bike that comes to mind is the Pinarello Dogma, the race bike of Team Sky. Between Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome, and Egan Bernal, this team dominated the Tour de France for the better part of a decade. Plus other stars of the peloton like Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde won major races on Pinarello's premier race bike.
The older Dogma, especially, with its exaggerated Onda seat stays and fork should be especially sought-after, especially for those fans who watched Wiggins become the first Brit to win the yellow jersey alongside Cavendish who won three stages in 2012, including the Champs-Elysees finale.
Will we look back on the Team Sky era with fondness and covet these team-edition Dogma F8 frames?
Other potential classics:
Allied Able (Colin Strickland and Amity Rockwell)
Scott Spark (Nino Schurter and Kate Courtney)
Santa Cruz V10 (Steve Peat, Greg Minaar, and Josh Bryceland)
3. Special-edition or rare bikes
This is an obvious one, but it has to be said that bikes with special-edition paint or rare bikes made in limited quantities by legendary builders will always be in demand. Their value only increases with time.
From our museum, the Confente Pro-Strada is an example of a bike that came from a limited run of frames built by Mario Confente, who died before his time at 34. This elegant steel road bike is #47 of just 135 built by Confente. Rare indeed! Plus, with exquisite details like pantographed Campagnolo componentry and paint-inlaid lugs, this bike is a pure Italian beauty.
A Confente is one of the rarest vintage road bikes you can come by.
Today, there are tons of small framebuilders, perhaps more than ever in the U.S. It wouldn’t be surprising to see some of their work become especially collectible in the future. Bikes made by Vanilla, for example, are pretty hard to find today, let alone in 20 or 30 years’ time.
If handbuilt is too expensive or exclusive, you might seek out something with a limited edition paint scheme. Specialized has recently offered its road bike models in Peter Sagan paint-schemes that play in the light with iridescent colors and special graphics on nearly every component. Or, take Pivot, which sold limited-release 10th-anniversary editions of its mountain bikes with graphics and a special color.
Specialized's limited-edition Sagan bikes have plenty of little details that make the bikes desirable now ... and maybe in the future.
Above all, a bike is only valuable or collectible if you love it. So, whether you end up with a one-of-a-kind custom, a race-proven bike, or a weird invention that may never take hold (looking at you, Slingshot fanatics!), make sure it is right for you!
Other potential classics:
Any bike that wins an award at NAHBS
Specialized Red Hook Crit bikes
What modern bikes do you think will be collectible in 2040 or 2050? Let us know in the comments!