Tuesday, August 23, 2016

the Roberts 3-Speed: Plenty Of Gearing And Clearance.

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.

The Plan: 

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!

35c Pasela tires, Shimano 600 tri-color cranks, $10 swap meet front wheel with small dent you can feel while braking; vintage Kirtland handlebar bag, Nitto 'Noodle' handlebars which you can accurately judge me by, and a Brooks saddle because obviously you need that.

Sturmey Archer quadrant shifter. It's missing the barrel yolk, but I just threaded the cable through the hole where that's supposed to go. The internals of a Sturmey Archer hub have barely changed since 1936, and so the cable pull from a 1940's shifter works perfectly with a hub made 70 years later!

Sturmey Archer SRF3. Made in Taiwan since 2000. The guts are nearly identical to the AW hub made since the 1930's. The new Taiwanese hubs have aluminum spoke flanges, and nice quality internals.
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.


Anonymous said...

Hey Chris thanks for doing the post on the bicycle. that thing looks really cool is this the one you carried with you when you drove your van out to Oregon several years ago?

Pixy Stoneskipper said...

A lot of the parts are the same - and I seem to have only owned blue road bicycles. No, the one I took to Oregon in 2008 was a KHS Professional. It also had Reynolds 531, but not the "competition" tubing... as though I could ever tell the difference.

The handlebars, stem, Brooks saddle, and probably some other components are now on the Roberts 3-Speed. I have some nice parts, but they tend to move from bicycle to bicycle as I start new projects and try new setups. Now the KHS is only a frame, because the Roberts got its parts.

The same thing is going to happen again very soon as I begin work on a Diamondback Expert road bike. It would be nicer to just buy new parts and not handicap the Roberts back into a semi-complete project frame, but that would mean spending a lot of money on components that are identical to components I already have. I don't know which option is more absurd, actually...

... But there's a bicycle swap meet coming up on October 1st, and who knows what might happen when I come away from that.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful bike!

ghettorigged said...

I love the eastern bikes pedals. That's what I use too..l