Gill Oliver discovers how old cycles are peddling new business

With sales of vinyl records, upcycled furniture and vintage clothes booming, we are a nation gripped by nostalgia.

Another item riding high on the crest of the retro wave is the bicycle, as more cyclists turn their backs on carbon and opt for classic metal frames.

Brian Reid is so enthusiastic about this heritage he runs his own shop, Golden Age Cycles in Banbury, which specialises in bikes from the 1950s to the 1990s.

Demand for vintage wheels has proved so strong he has just opened a second – a 1,000 sq ft showroom at the hugely successful former RAF Bicester airfield and bomber base Bicester Heritage.

Brian, who stocks around 200 bikes, explained one of the main reasons they are sought after is they were handmade by craftsmen who displayed their names proudly on the finished product.

Some of the best-known makes include Hetchins, Mercian and Bates.

He pointed out: “I have bikes which are older than me.

“When they were made, it was a very different time as although they built them all similarly, each machine is very, very different.”

“Yes, they are bikes but some are also works of art – they are beautiful.”

And he joked: “I am not sure if I am running a bike shop, an art gallery or a museum.”

Brian, a part-time school teacher, buys and sells vintage racing cycles which need restoring and he and his team carry out bicycle repairs.

Customers often ask him to keep an eye out for their perfect bike, in terms of looks, colour, ride and frame size.

Cycling in general and particularly time trialling and road racing has become hugely popular during the past 10 years, mainly thanks to Team GB’s success in the Olympics and stars such as Chris Boardman, Sir Bradley Wiggins who was the first Brit to win the Tour de France, champion sprinter Mark ‘Cav’ Cavendish, Victoria Pendleton, and four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome.

Brian pointed out: “Modern bikes are amazing, carbon is king and lycra is everywhere, but it wasn’t always like this.

“Modern-day racing cyclists tend to buy a more expensive bike every year or two, but some have realised they can’t keep shelling out for a new one at £3,000-£8,000 a time and are turning to heritage bikes instead.

And along the same lines as classic cars and motorbikes, more enthusiasts are snapping-up hand-built heritage bikes as an investment.

“Modern ones are made in the Far East in anonymous factories by people pressing buttons,” Brian pointed out.

“Heritage bikes may not be as fast or as comfortable as modern machines, but they've got character.

“They are a bit like an old friend and are more civilised, relaxing and fun, which is what it’s all about.”

According to Brian, the value of heritage bikes has been rising between 20 and 40 per cent a year.

“It’s really exploded,” he said.

There are two types of cycles which are ‘riders’ and ‘hangers’, the latter hung on a wall as a piece of art, rather than being ridden.

An example is a 1993 gold-plated, limited edition racing bike which came with a video of it being assembled and which was number eight out of just 35 in the world.

Brian explained: “A chap in the Lake District bought it when it was nearly new in the early 1990s, hung it on his office wall, went bankrupt and sold it to me.

“So, I have a 25-year-old bike that no one has even sat on.”

He added: “When Raleigh had its centenary in 1987, it made two hundred 24-carat gold-plated bikes, many of which went straight to bike shops and again, most have never been ridden.”

Brian imported from South Africa a very early carbon bike like the Lotus ridden by Chris Boardman in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

The fact there were only 300 ever made and that this one had never been ridden, meant it sold to a customer in Malaysia for £8,500.

Extremely rare limited-edition bikes can be seen advertised for £80,000.

“It’s like any field where you get collectors who want the rarest one, or the one they haven’t got, they just go crazy,” Brian explained.

“I am selling £1,000 bikes most weeks and tend not to sell anything under £200,” he said.

It’s not just Oxfordshire or British buyers who appreciate the craftsmanship of these bikes, Many of Golden Age Cycles’ customers are overseas, including in China, the Pacific Rim, Taiwan and the US, despite them having to stump-up an extra £200 on top of the price to have the bike shipped out to them.

Many of his customers tend to be MAMILS (Middle Aged Men in Lycra) and he explained: “They may have realised they are not as fast as they used to be, so why not have a beautiful machine you can have fun with?”

Heritage cycles are often bought as second, third or even fourth bikes, as cyclists are well known for being big spenders on bikes, frames and other accessories but the pull of that old-style glamour can be irresistible.

At events flash carbon racing bikes costing £7,000 are often ignored, as everyone rushes to admire one of Brian’s £200 classic models.

Running the business is a labour of love and one of the things he most enjoys is talking to customers and hearing their cycling stories.

Plans for the Bicester Heritage showroom include kitting it out with a Chesterfield sofa and coffee machine, so that customers can relax in comfort while he digs out their perfect bike.

The extra space will allow him to stock more bikes and expand the business further.

Brian pointed out: “It’s totally up to customers whether they buy from me to ride them or just look at them but these are beautiful machines deserve to be cherished.”

Golden Age Cycles shop is at 2-3 North Bar St, Banbury, OX16 0TB, Tel. 01295 369468. For more information, see


If you love heritage bikes, head for one of the many retro events around the country.

Bike Oxford on May 20 is a day of 25, 50 and 80-mile rides starting and finishing in Oxford, includes a vintage cycling element.

On September 9, look out for the Banbury Star cycling club’s annual Retroride, see for more details.

Vintage bikes can usually be spotted at Bicester Heritage open days Sunday Scrambles, plus there is a chance to check out the new Golden Age Cycles showroom, on April 22 and October 7, see

Finally, head further north for the huge, three-day family-friendly festival where people get together to show-off their vintage bikes.

Eroica Britannia in Derbyshire has a group vintage bike ride at the heart of the weekend with most visitors dressing up in vintage clothing, live music, more than 200 traders and family entertainment. For more information, see


April 19 – 22 Bespoked: The Handmade Bicycle Show, Bristol

April 22 Bicester Heritage Sunday Scramble

May 5-6 Carlton Weekend, Worksop

May 20 Bike Oxford

June 2-3 Tour of Cambridge

June 15-17 Eroica Britannia

July 13-15 The Hetchins Weekend

July 15- The Chiltern Cycling Festival

September 9 Banbury Star RetroRide

October 7 Bicester Heritage Sunday Scramble