Robin Hood 3-speed—An English Classic

This Robin Hood Bicycle will need some major work before the next ride.

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.

I just love the style of these old English 3-speed bikes.

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.

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About Turbo Bob's Bicycle Blog

E-bike Enthusiast Vintage Bike Enthusiast
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17 Responses to Robin Hood 3-speed—An English Classic

  1. Florida Biking says:

    Very nice article Bob!

  2. What luck. Not only a great find, but saving a bike destined, as you say, to the thrift store dumpster!

  3. HI, Bob, just came across your blog (via YouTube) this morning, and in turn, saw this post. My first bike was a Robin Hood single speed, 24 inch wheels, purchased when I was still not big enough to reach the peddles – about 60 years ago. My dad bolted some wood blocks on the peddles so I could reach and that was how I learned to ride. I think the bike is still kicking around a shed on the family farm – I guess I will have to have a look for it sometime.

  4. jimbi41@yahoo.com says:

    I have one of these bikes. Are you interested in buying anymore? It’s in good shape, possibly the same as the one as you have. I believe it’s blue in color.

  5. Tom says:

    I just found today two old bikes in Itasca Illinois, next to the shop where I’m working. One of them is a Robin Hood from Nottingham England, I think it was made in the 1960s. It’s a black men bike in bad condition. The second one is Schwinn Chicago made, red color. It looks like an old Cadillac. I like the frame, it is nice. Also it is in pure condition and I think it’s from 1954 to 1960, I’m not sure. I would like to restore them to sell, but I don’t know what they’re worth. Maybe someone knows how much they are worth? Thanks, Tom.

  6. Tom, It is so hard to say what any bike is worth. It’s easy to say it’s only worth what you paid, or what anyone will pay on this given day.
    Most often the only reason to restore them if you want to have it for your own and ride it, or you have someone in mind that could appreciate it and ride it.
    If they don’t need much, then it might be worth the time and money to fix them up to resell. If they really need a lot, then it probably wouldn’t be worth it.
    Consider selling them in the condition they are in now so the new owner can do the work themselves to enjoy them.
    You can do a nationwide Craig’s List search to see what similar bikes are being offered for. Even still, that might not be what they will sell for.
    Good luck deciding what works best for you. And thanks for writing in (and reading), even though I wasn’t much help with an answer, Turbo.

  7. Kimberly F says:

    So, what did you end up doing with the bike? I’ve been desperately trying to get a bike (while on a crazy tight budget) and I just got lucky and got a 1968 Robin Hood for free! Of course it needs work before I can ride it and it will take a while since I’ve never fixed up a bike before, but I’m excited about the challenge. I’m looking to connect with others who have fixed up this type of bike before in the hope of getting some guidance as I go through the process. Cheers!

    • Kimberly, truth be told although I did start to fully rework this cool vintage bike, life in general has damped its progress. So for now it still sits in the same basic shape and is yet un-ridden. I plan on doing what it takes soon, but our two Tweed Ride (Meteor and Raynal) bikes will be first in line when the time comes. Those both ride well and get used several times a year, but cry out of a shine, polish and lube.
      You might check my posts on my Schwinn Cruiser Deluxe 2.0 for some ideas what it could take to get your bike just right for some great rides. It was in near new shape, but needed much of what you bike should get.
      You can attack it section by section (which might be best), or do an entire tear-down to complete the whole project at once. Either way all the bearings (both wheel hubs, the pedal crank and the head tube) should be fully cleaned, lubed and adjusted just right. The cables need to be checked and internally lubed along with the brakes being fully checked. The intensive cleaning and polishing of the bike and all its parts is optional, but makes all the other work come together in the best of ways.
      Here in town there are groups that help to teach bike repair and maintenance. I have seen many areas that have the same thing, sometimes called bike kitchens or co-ops. They offer help, training and tools to allow you to do the work yourself (most satisfying indeed).
      If you need to have a shop do the work, count on a pricey bill and the possibility they won’t do all the work with a loving hand. Many will do a great job you can count on, but some might not.
      Let us know how it comes about and how the ride suits you. Riding a classic bike (especially one you have reworked yourself) is a thrill worth exploring and pursuing.
      P.S. there are a few unusual mechanical details that are unique to Robin Hoods. Do some on-line checking to un-earth them (which I bet you are doing now).
      Thanks for the question for and following my bike blog, Turbo.

  8. Bill says:

    I picked up a 1969 “gents” Robin Hood in the Carmine Red this summer and just completed the take down and fix up. It was really dirty but under the dirt was very nice plating,paint and decals. I dumped the cheaply replaced foam grips and after market saddle for a nice pair of Kenda made black Raleigh style grips and an excellent condition Brooks B72 saddle I had laying around waiting for a ride. I added a Brooks Millbrook bag and mounted a new pair of Michelin World Tour tires. Call me crazy but it doesn’t get any better than British 3 speed for me. Bet your red step through will look great when you get it done.

  9. Brett says:

    What size are the tires on this bike exactly? I have one in my back shop and it too needs tires but as you said, they aren’t standard sizes so my local shop needs the size info to order the correct ones.

    Thanks!

    • Brett, this Robin Hood uses a fairy standard tire for its time. They are 26 X 1 3/8. That is the same listed size of some older Schwinn bikes. The Schwinn tires say “fits S-6 rims (straight sided). That is one way to know the difference between the two. The two tires, although the sizes marked are the same, are not interchangeable.
      Your tire brand selection won’t be to wide, but there should be some choices.
      I do believe that some Robin Hoods used a 24″ tire and rim, so make sure you have a 26” before ordering.
      Any bike shop that has been in business for a while should be very familiar with these tires and their fitting.
      Have fun on that baby, Turbo.

  10. John says:

    I have a pair…his n hers…69 …one has a 14 on the hub and the other has 16…black/white…the hers seems to be all original looking..seat handgrip and chain guard is changed on his model…I want to sell them to someone that can appreciate them for what they are…but have no idea of their value..

    • John, cool bikes, eh? The net is full of questions about bike value. All I can tell you for sure is that there are two times during bike ownership that you know the value. The one is the day you buy it—the other is the day you sell it.
      You can check eBay—Craig’s List—and other online sources to see what others think their similar bikes are worth.
      These bikes are classics and will never be made again.
      Good luck and thanks for reading.

  11. Guy says:

    I just bought a 1960 Robin Hood men’s bike for $175.00. And was happy to pay it.
    Unrestored (no need) as it is in remarkably good shape & works perfectly.
    It was $100.00 over my budget, but brings back a flood of good childhood memories.
    It now lives in my temp. Controlled garage right next to my 1960 Triumph TR3A
    (Both in Black)
    So no regrets!

  12. Brian says:

    Bob, I’m restoring a 1972 ladies RH is has some wear, but will be fine after complete servicing. I need some guidance on where to get new bearings and races for the bottom bracket. I would love to hear from you and your readers on my options to re-chrome the handle bars, sprocket and arms and the brakes. Is it worth the trouble?

    Thanks!

    Brian
    Jacksonville, FL

    • Great project—and a good bike to ride when it is all done. When it comes to those parts I would consider getting a ‘parts’ bike. You can’t be sure if the ones you need will be right or good though. With some luck you can find a similar bike for very little. For our three English 3 speeds I have 2 ‘parts’ bikes. As far as replacements, hard to say. Surfing the web might take time, yet yield results. EBay can be helpful too.
      Re-chroming is very pricey and bad for the world around you. It might be worth it though. Think back to the ‘parts’ bike—you just never know.

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