Vintage for beginners - Help?

OK, here's the deal. I got into cycling three - four years back and after riding various hybrids and roads bike I have become a little obsessed by it.

Now like most things in my life, Hi-fi's, music, films, guitars, I eventually pine for the old and classic form a day once forgotten. I am know pretty keen on looking at vintage bikes and crave a 531steel framed beauty.

However I am vertically challenged and don’t know where to start.

I currently ride a 52cm Trek and am 5'6". It would appear that the good old days didn’t make that many 'girl' size bikes.
And, ideally, i would love a frame form 1981 as it is my birth year.

Can anyone recommend where one would start.

Yes, part of me is looking for a bit of cool, but I am desperate to get a lovely vintage for summer fun.



Über Member
5' 6", 1981? Gotta be a Raleigh Grifter!


Go back further to the 50's 60's and look for a 21" Raleigh Lenton or Clubman and the derivatives from Rudge, Humber etc. Not classic lightweights but nice old bikes all the same. Came as fixed, 4 speed Sturmey Archer and later models had 5 speed derailleur gears, so a nice wide choice. Earlier models had 26 x 1 1/4 wheels which are a bit of a paint to find rims for if they need replacing.


South Liverpool
There are smaller frames out there but I agree that they are less common.

I recently posted this photo on another thread, the frame is 20.5" (52cm) and is set up for a 5' 9" rider, who feels a little cramped on this compared to his other bikes, so a vintage frame of this size should suit you (seeing you ride a 52cm currently) :thumbsup:



Über Member
It is more difficult to find smaller frames but try looking for what were often described as "ladies or if you want what would be described as a "gents" frame a youths club or clubman racer [odd phrase I know} model. These were made to very high standards by firms who had a reputation to maintain [unlike many modern "kids" bikes].
As above a 20 or 21 inch frame should be ok [no sloping top tubes then].
The exact spec and condition depends on what you want to pay and if you would be prepared to do a little light restoration or just want a "done deal".
Finally you must accept that a bike from that period wil be very different to a modern bike, not IMHO worse but different. Try to get a ride on one first to be sure it suits you.


Middle aged bald git.
My advice is save a search on eBay - tick the advanced search option and write the keyword Reynolds in. Then you will get alerts for anyone that has listed a Reynolds framed bicycle but not put Reynolds in the title......
I picked up my 80's Falcon Westminster in as new condition (531 frame) for £78.... and a slightly scruffy but mechanically perfect and now restored Raleigh Pioneer in 501 for my wife for £19.01 - and it was only 2 miles from where I live!


Legendary Member
Accra, Ghana
Hello Will, strange isn't it I have the opposite problem, getting larger sized frames. There are plenty of retro bikes down here, and in smaller sizes. Pity I can't ship one over for you! But I have seen quite a few on ebay. Also try preloved as they have a good selection on there. You can often pick up a little used bike from the eighties as bikes are often impulse purchases and just chucked in a garage after a few rides. You need to be careful as there is a lot of junk out there so you need to look for signs of wear and abuse. Good luck.


I would agree with the suggestion that you go back a little further in time. Late 40s to mid 60s bikes tended to be well designed good machines, later bikes were often knocked out by companies that had taken over "househol name" manufacturers with a decline in product standards. Raleigh/Rudge/Carlton/Dawes/CB bikes in respectable tubing (including 531) come up regulary and a 21" frame will probably fit you (Or a "boys" 20"). The attached Rudge probably cost me £70 (excluding the posh paint job).
winter 11 & pathfinders 008.JPG

Be warned, vintage bikes are addictive!
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