I turned 30 a few years ago. Nearly four. I was living at Jim's place in West Philly. It was a great place to live, and dirt cheap. Dirty and cheap. There was a coffee shop around the corner that didn't charge a lot, and above that, Firehouse Bicycles. Great shop.
Thirty years felt like a milestone. I was happy and proud. I made it a long time without paying for a haircut or falling victim to all the other scams. I thought I deserved a reward. I thought I'd get myself a bicycle.
There was a handbuilt Roberts hanging from the ceiling of Firehouse Bicycles, and it had been there for a long time. I stood under it many times; admiring from below. Cutouts on the thinned lugs, chrome under the paint, Reynolds competition tubing. My size. I asked them to take it off the hooks.
I only went a little bit fast, and not far. I said I loved it, but I would have to think about the money. I walked away and returned two hours later. I knew my price, but I was nervous to hear theirs. They knocked it way down to $600, and I breathed a sigh of relief. $600 was nothing for this bicycle. $600 was free.
I'm a bicycle mechanic with dreams and schemes. New projects are a passion and a weakness.
Sell all of the vintage and valuable parts to recoup most of the investment, and then build the Roberts as a 3-Speed road bicycle. My first road bicycle was a Shogun that I converted to 3-Speed with my first handbuilt set of wheels. The Roberts would be an homage to that Shogun - an important bicycle in my life.
Time passed, and not much got done. I sold most of the parts, and was left with a semi-assembled project frame. Eventually, I had all the components I wanted at the same time and the same place - and so the 3-Speed Roberts was a vision finished at last.
The Roberts is a vintage British frame with a geared hub of British heritage (now made in Taiwan), and to top it off a 1940's quadrant shifter that was inexpensive because it was missing the yolk that holds the cable end (a part you don't technically need.)
Here it is!
|Snazzy old Kirtland handlebar bag. Made in Boulder, CO a long time ago.|
|Clearance with a 35c tire is less than 1mm per side. It's not rubbing, but it's damned close.|
|I started putting these on all bicycles.|
|You can trust this guy with your gearing and clearance.|