Friday, September 22, 2006

The Robin Hood of Bicycles

I discern a pattern emerging here. Whenever I go for my haircut (at a place downtown near the main library), I come out to find a fantastic bike locked up next to mine. I already showed you one I found there a few months ago. Here's another one, this time an old 3-speed Raleigh, just like one I had in the early eighties in Eugene. Look. The original Brooks leather saddle. Maybe not the original – how could it be, and look that good? It was about to be rained on as I took this picture. I hope that if the owner is reading this (I left a card), they will realize their folly and cover it when they leave it parked outside like that.

Now here’s my favorite part – the whatchamacallit at the front. (If you know what that’s called could you please write in and tell me?) The plaque thing with the Raleigh logo on it, that amazing bird.

Oh no, wait. This is my favorite part: the hood ornament! Try and find a fender like that today. It’s all dullsville out there now. And the forks! Look at the top of the forks there.

And on the back fender you can still see the logo painted on there. And I love that it’s from Robin Hood land.

The Raleigh I had was not as beautiful because some idiot had graced it with a very bad paint job in dirty-silver-gray. There’s only one reason anyone would cover up that beautiful green, and do such a sloppy job of it: The bike was stolen and they were in a hurry. And now of course you’re wondering how I came into possession of a stolen bike.

At the time I was seriously exploring the idea of becoming a bike mechanic as a way of supporting my art habits. I purchased an intense bike stand that could’ve held up a small automobile and began practicing on my friends’ bikes, taking them completely apart and putting them back together with new stuff. These activities caused me to become a magnet for needy bicycles. They would come to me, inexplicably, for free, like stray cats who leave their original owners and get themselves adopted by a neighbor who treats them better.

This one I found lying in the gutter --- as if thrown from the back of a truck and left for dead. It was at the edge of a hospital parking lot, across from a row of small businesses – not a home in sight. Otherwise I would’ve knocked on a few doors, of course, in search of an owner. I checked with the police, checked the ads in the paper, even paid to put an ad in the lost & found section myself, but no luck.

When I moved into smaller quarters and had to find homes for all my extra bikes, the Raleigh was the one I kept. I fixed it up but left it ugly, as a disguise, hoping its homeliness would protect it from theft. But eventually, someone nabbed it anyway. I lived on an alley without regular car traffic and thought it was safe enough to leave it locked to itself. Not.

I was as devastated as if I’d lost a friend, not to mention mad as a hornet at losing my only vehicle. We cyclists all fantasize about the special place in hell where the bike thieves writhe.


At 8:15 PM, Anonymous Phil said...

It's called the headbadge, and that's the infamous Raleigh heron on it. The more expensive models had a beautiful solid metal one of the same look glued on, rather than the thin metal and rivets like this. Probably the most appropriate all-purpose commuter bike ever made. Too bad so many people believed the faulty logic that 10 > 3 (speeds) and moved to cheap derailleur bikes in the 1970s.

Raleigh actually made a version of this bike branded the "Robin Hood", and only now do I get the connection with their place of manufacture. I rescued one from a cleaned out basement after it had been in a fork-mangling accident. Same style of fenders, love the chromeish tips!

Sheldon Brown has some info about 3speeds here:
and a "podcast" about them here:

At 12:55 PM, Blogger kate gawf said...

The headbadge! I was hoping someone would write in who knew all about that. I knew I coulnd't be the only one who noticed such details. I've seen the thicker ones that are glued on. And thank you also, Mr Phil, for the great site referrals!

At 5:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a Robin Hood from the 70's.
Do you think is possible for you to tell me if the paint used in the manufature of these bikes was a lead base paint?
Please let me know.
Here is my email


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