Another cool English bike has come my way. In a nice red color, with signs of age, this bike was hanging in a person’s garage for about “forty years”. It was a unique twist of fate that brought it to me. It was one of those things that makes you think it was meant to be. And, I saved it from the thrift shop dumpster just in time.
I had just bought a generic, English appearing 3-speed off of Craig’s List. The guy said he had ridden it some, but the back tire kept coming off the rim. Right away, I noticed it was a Schwinn style tire, not the right one. I was mostly interested in it for parts for my other 3-speeds, but it is in good shape and I thought a fix-up would be the right thing to do. So, a replacement tire was called for.
On the way home, we stopped by a local thrift store. As we were walking towards the door, I joked to my wife, ’What are the chances they have the tire I need for that bike?” Just then, we noticed an older gentleman wheeling this bike up to the store to get rid of it. I stopped him to ask if he would sell it. He said “Sure, I’ll just take the cash and donate that instead“. Just as I was offering twenty dollars (the same as I had just paid for the other bike), another person interceded to point out the lugged frame and the Brooks saddle.
I pointed out the fact I had just got a similar bike for the same amount. He was good with that, the money changed hands, and he walked in and gave it to the thrift store worker with a smile. So in it goes to the station wagon and I brought home two bikes instead of one. We all agreed that the shape it is in would never warrant the store to sell it, and it would most likely be thrown out. So this bike is given a chance for a new lease on life.
I love the style of these old English 3-speeds. You may have read the story I did on the others we already have. I am still planning a full rework on them, but they ride well and that can wait for now. Those are in the more expected color of black, but this metallic red is eye-catching. Also, Robin Hoods were known for the cool enameled emblem on the head tube. The one on this bike is rubbed a little raw in the middle from a previous rack mounting. Too bad.
The bike has two flats so I haven’t had a chance to ride it. I seems to be pretty well tuned though. There is some slop in the front wheel bearings, but other than that, the wheels turn true and the brakes are set well. The shifting is also adjusted correctly, but the handlebar shifter is in need of some lube. Of course, the whole bike is in some need of lubing after many years of inactivity.
According to the stamp on the hub, it was made in 1969. There is a fair amount of surface rust on the chrome. It is hard to tell just how nice it will look after some heavy polishing. The paint looks ok and time will tell just how good it will clean-up. The fenders and braces are a little pushed around, but not really dented or scratched. The mechanics (hub, bearings and the such) should be in great shape from the minimal use it has had.
So the question presents itself, just how far should I go to restore this Robin Hood? Even though it is not that complicated of a bike, a total tear-down, polish, and re-lube is a fair amount of work. I don’t mind going through this routine, but normally this is something I do for bikes I intend to keep and ride. Plus, it is more sized for my wife than me. If I do decide to restore it and resell it, will the end pay-off be worth all the work? Or will my wife decide she likes it more than her Meteor?
I have spent some time trying to decide the fate of this bike. The answers are yet to come. What I do know is that it is great to take old bikes with a history and bring them back to life. The thrill alone could be worth every cent and hour it takes to make it shine and ride like new again. Of course, it will never have that brand-new look, no matter how much I shine and polish the pieces. Time takes its toll on everything, to be sure.
So look at the photos and think about how nice you think it could be. Like me, many people would rather ride a vintage bike instead of some new, modern machine. Sure, it doesn’t have a ton of gears or the strongest brakes, but so what. What this bike has is more than what you’ll find at the corner bike store. It has character, style, and personality. These features in a bicycle are hard to find, and oh so desirable.
The lugged frame is strong and fairly light. The vinyl Brooks saddle should be comfy and give good support. The classic Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hub has satisfied riders for years. The fenders have a great shape with the chromed peak on the front one. The chain guard also has a fancy look. Plus, I really like the pedals. This Robin Hood just oozes with cool. It would be a shame not to do what it takes to get it road worthy again. So, that is my main goal.
This bike is an economy version that was made by Raleigh through the 60’ and 70’s. After finding out it was manufactured in Nottingham, England, the name of the bike makes more sense. I could not find a lot of info online, but did find a link to a book about them. I will try my local library to see if they can secure a copy for me. It is always fun to learn more about the history of bikes and in particular, the ones you own. It does look like the bike and I will learn a lot about each other as I try to return it to its former self. So keep an eye out here to see just how well this Robin Hood 3-speed comes together.
Stay vintage, Turbo Bob.
“When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments. Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man. And (unlike subsequent inventions for man’s convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became. Here, for once, was a product of man’s brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others. Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle.”—Elizabeth West, Hovel in the Hills.