When it comes to vintage race bicycles, there is almost no way around a certain figure in the scene. Cycling geeks from all around the world that are interested in this sector, or by some point were seeking expertise or information for their own restoration project, sooner or later came in touch with one of the most skilled and passionate experts on the scene: Stefan Schäfter and his race-bicycle-encyclopedia Speedbicycles.com.
We visited Stefan at his newly opened shop in Basel, Switzerland and talked to him about his thoughts on the vintage cycling scene, how things have changed in the past years and where it all might go in the near future.
It's a nice sunny winter day when we drive up the small alley in downtown Basel, where Stefan awaits us in his shop. Walking pass the store window, he waves at us to come in.
The old wooden floor creeks when we enter. The room is filled with a warm and charming atmosphere. Stefans small cycling haven is tidy and well organized. It confirms the picture that you have about a cycling enthusiast, who has had his fingers on vintage race bikes for more than 30 years.
Old workshop drawers surround the heavy casted bicycle lift in the middle. There is a bookshelf which holds artifacts, from countless Campagnolo component boxes, and various books and magazines about different frame-builders, component manufacturers and cycling pros. Everything has its perfect place, nothing is overloaded. No doubt, this man is a purist.
"Racing bikes are the highest quality of bicycles. They are the queens of bicycles. More is not possible" - S.Schäfter
Stefan started with collecting and restoration of vintage cycles in early 1980. Cycling was always a big part of his life, long before he narrowed it down specifically to racing bikes. Ever since he learned how to ride a bicycle as a child, he was fascinated by these simple, yet so complex things on two wheels.
Born in Germany, he relocated to Basel in Switzerland in the 1980s, where he and his wife, Doris Moser, founded one of the first bicycle messenger services in Switzerland, which also became one of the most successful ones and still is. After 15 years of running the business, he felt it is time to dive into his more personal passion for vintage bicycles, and they decided to sell the company. From there on he diverted his focus entirely to "Speedbicycles".
Ever since, he is offering the full service, ranging from offer estimations, council, sourcing of parts and components, to complete restoration services. His high level of professionalism and endless passion has given him a certain reputation amongst cycling enthusiasts. His Virtual Museum Collection has become a well read source of information for collectors all around the world.
As for many others, this is how we first came in touch with him a few years ago.
But things are changing. In the past 10 years, the popularity of vintage cycling grew and with it came a lot of new sellers. It has become more difficult to source good material at reasonable prices. When Stefan first started his business, the number of Campagnolo components on the biggest auction platform in the internet was around 700 items worldwide, nowadays it is between 50'000-60'000 items. More people are bringing their precious basement goods to the light and the good old barn-finds have become very rare.
Working with vintage race bikes is a very passion driven and time-consuming art. As with all rare finds, professions and collectors, there is only a handful of people who share the same views on the true worth of this craft.
Even though, right now it is more popular than ever, to own a genuine vintage cycle and join events, such as l'eroica and many of the countless other classic-events, the willingness of people to pay an adequate price for products and service, is decreasing. Everyone who ever worked on the professional restoration of a race bike, knows exactly how much time, determination, knowledge and patience it takes, to do it accurately. Therefore, it has become almost impossible to make a living out of it.
That is one of the reasons that brought Stefan to widen his horizon and open a shop, where he not only keeps offering all his services through speedbicycles.com, but that also covers your needs on all makes of race bicycles, from the vintage beauties to the modern day race bikes.
Even though the scene is changing, Stefan keeps his calm. He is certain that it would never affect him in terms of leaving the whole business behind, because no matter what, his fascination and love for vintage bicycles will always be a part of him. It seems like with anything in life, nothing is as constant as change. And one has to figure out new ways to adapt.
Story behind the story...
The Masi Gran Criterium Stefan is working on in the pictures, is another reason why we visit him today. Around 5 years ago, we were lucky to buy this bicycle after it has been standing in a barn for more than 20 years. It was covered in dust and spider-webs, one could hardly tell what brand it was. According to the previous owner, the bike has been used in a local bike club for several years in the late 70's / early 80's and has been standing in storage ever since. We took it in and restored it in a conservative way. It was one of the first bikes, leaving our store after the opening in 2015.
The bicycle changed a few hands and now, almost 5 years later, ended up at Stefans place. We spend the rest of the afternoon talking about the details of our restoration, the history of the bike and possible improvements. Seeing this bike with Stefan now, feels a bit like a circle that is closing. Sharing this passion is a wonderful thing that connects generations. Or as Stefan also states: We are all in the same boat on this vintage journey.
Nice to know...
This March 25th, Stefan organizes the first Concours d'Élégance in Switzerland, where cycling lovers can apply and display their best show bike to a hand picked jury. Scampi