Roberts Cycles c. 1980
I remember the first time I saw him.
He was hanging proudly on the wall behind the counter at the local shop. He was exquisite. A rich British racing green, sporting stylish black and white decals, and gold engravings. That was 35 years ago.
He hung there for months, and every time I visited the shop, I marvelled. He was the shop’s centrepiece. At least for me. He needed a few things. Accessories, if you will. Wheels. Handlebars. Brakes. Cranks. Saddle. Derailleurs. At nights I would dream about building the perfect bike. Buying the best components. Assembling them myself. I had never built a bike before but was confident I could. Why not? I had most of the necessary tools. And, a work stand.
For a months, I researched, carefully considering the type of cycling I enjoyed, all the while imagining the perfect bike. One day, after much deliberation, I walked into the shop, money in hand. $350 CAD. That was a lot in those days. He didn’t have a name back then but we were close from the start. In the ensuing months, I outfitted him. You see, in those days, I couldn’t afford to buy everything at once. I had an infant son at home, and there were other priorities. We lived in a 2-bedroom suite, the top 2 floors of a house on the east side. One bedroom for my partner and I, and the other for him. Yes, in those days, he had his own room overlooking the yard. I had converted the second bedroom into a workshop for the winter as I meticulously assembled, and tuned, him.
He had nothing but the best. Cinelli. Campagnolo. Brooks. Weinmann. As he came to life, I photographed him. B&W of course. Artful photographs featuring his magnificence, sophistication, and subtleties. I still have those photographs. Some are mounted and grace the walls in the den, and the cottage.
Cinelli bars and stem
We, he and I, have experienced several incarnations. We were cycling tourists at the start, touring the country roads in rural Ontario, Quebec, Maine, and parts of England. Then we began to commute regularly until he was almost stolen one sunny afternoon whilst locked to a tree outside of the office window. He has the scars to prove it. A large dent in his seat tube, a sad reminder of how careful you must be. And, then we began training together, challenging ourselves on the local hills and mountain roads. The same roads we enjoy today.
He has been rebuilt with each reincarnation, always with the best. Tubular tyres on ultra light rims. A small chainring for long mountain climbs. And, most recently, he sports indexed shifting, integrated brake levers, compact cranks, and a 700c training wheel set – the perfect setup to tackle the hills, and dry weather commutes.
And, he is nowhere near done. He has a lot of life left – that’s the advantage of steel – and, more reincarnations to come. If not with me, and I have another in mind, then with my son.
At rest – Summer 2015