Today is the 1-year anniversary of restoration.bike. It went by a lot faster than I imagined. It’s a great opportunity to reflect on this last year, see what I’ve achieved, and what’s in store for the coming period.
I started this whole endeavor to break out of the pattern I was in. There was a lot going on in my life and I wanted something new I could sink my teeth in and call my own.
So after I finished my Cannondale Super V I decided that for my next project I would film everything start to finish. And to create content of all individual repairs and put them online. Both in the form of YouTube videos and articles on this website.
I’m no stranger to online marketing and building websites, but I had never really blogged in my life.
I knew what was possible and up until now the number of people visiting the website has basically gone up every single month.
This site currently holds 122 published blog posts roughly divided into articles about repairs and research. To write that amount of content besides the 106 YouTube videos I published as well, I needed to create roughly 3 articles per week.
Restoring and riding bikes isn’t the only hobby I have. In the videos I’ve made you can sometimes see the other things I’m interested in, like video gaming (retro of course) and Lego.
But I did put everything else on hold. There simply isn’t enough time to run a business during the day, have a family, repair bicycles, make videos, write blogs, do the occasional anime binge on Netflix, try to have a social life, AND have a gazillion other hobbies.
A shift in interests
When I started restoring bicycles I mostly picked up bikes that were totally trashed and didn’t work. Some I literally found lying in a ditch without handlebars.
That made sense considering the fact you start out small, investing time rather than money. And one of the things that happen when you pick up bikes otherwise meant for the scrapheap, is that you have to fix everything.
So I learned the basics of bicycle maintenance very fast. From swapping out bottom brackets, replacing chains, overhauling hubs and headsets, replacing shifter and brake cables, adjusting the drivetrain setup etc.
From €100 to €1000 bike restorations
At a certain point I found myself doing the same stuff over and over again, and there’s only so much content you can create about the same repair.
2020 was a big year, and not only because of the Corona pandemic. I lost 5 family members in quick succession and one of my old time best friends. It made me acutely aware of the fact that live indeed is short.
I treated myself to a €450 Cannondale Killer V, which would turn out to be the first bike that would cross the €1000 mark in terms of upgrading costs (with the purchase of a set of €150 Hope F20 pedals).
That might seem like a lot of money, but it’s all relative of course since the amount of joy that bike gives me is priceless.
As my skills grew, and I learned more about what type of retro bicycles were out there, I began to be more picky about what project I would undertake. The fact that my bicycle collection grew out of control didn’t help either.
I sold a bunch of bicycles I’d lost interest in and we’re taking up space and focusing on dream projects. After an almost year-long search I finished my holy triangle of retro mountain bikes (rigid, hardtail, full-suspension) with a stunning Koga Miyata Skyrunner Carbolite.
It would be the most expensive initial purchase at €500 and the fastest restoration. I got it up and running within a week. A set of new René Herse Humptulips Ridge tires, pair of new shifter cables, degreasing and re-greasing sticky mtb shifters, overhauling the headset, fixing the pedals, and a solid cleaning of the drivetrain did the trick.
I celebrated my anniversary riding this bike. Its purchase and relatively smooth repair feels like the culmination of the year-long journey I have undertaken with my little bicycle adventure.
Dare to dream
So what’s next? Obviously I’ve been thinking about ways to actually make money with this whole restoration endeavor. And obviously, that’s not as easy as I’d like it to be. But nothing ever is. Such is life.
I know it’s possible. If other people can do it, so can I. I started with 0 visitors to my website, now I’m nearing 30K a month. I started with 0 views on my YouTube channel, now I’m nearing 40K. I started with my first dedicated bicycle repair tool, now I have a box full of the stuff and over a dozen bikes restored.
Everything is possible with patience, discipline, and focus.
I secretly have been sharing my ultimate dream of building my own frame and reintroducing retro-styled mountain bikes to the world for a niche group of vintage connoisseurs. Steel frames, classic geometry, cantilever brakes, 26″ wheels, narrow handlebars with bar ends, oversized tubing. Hell, maybe I’ll even ditch single speed cranksets for duals and triple ones.
Who knows where I’ll end up. I don’t know and don’t really care. I’m having fun as it is. But dare to dream!
Johan van Seijen
Johan van Seijen is the founder of restoration.bike. His passion for cycling in general, and restoring older bikes turned into a website to share his knowledge with a broader audience. Starting out on his father’s road bike and riding classics as the Amstel Gold Race and Liege Bastogne Liege he has shifted his attention to trail, XC, and gravel riding since. No matter how much he loves writing about everything related to cycling, nothing beats actually using his ever-expanding bicycle collection.