Sunday, May 23, 2010

CLASSICS: Robin Hood, the bicycle

Ridley Scott's new hit movie, Robin Hood, starring Russell Crowe makes me think of other Robin Hoods - The Adventures of Robin Hood TV series and the brilliant 1938 Michael Curtiz movie of the same name with Errol Flynn as Robin, that all we kids watched in the sixties.

But, even more interesting, it makes me think of the "English racer" 3-speed Robin Hood bicycles made by Raleigh, that some of us were lucky enough to ride at the time.

On the left is a 1944 Robin Hood bicycle ad from my collection. Click to enlarge it so you can see Robin in his boots and cap, and shouldering his bow and quiver). You can also make out that the 1944 Robin Hood model was likely higher quality and built with different components than the later models imported to the USA that we rode.

What's interesting to me, is that one 1960's 3-speed was pretty much identical to the next - sturdy all-British-steel construction, Sturmey-Archer 3-speed gearing, stamped-steel sidepull brakes, 26 x 1/38-inch wheels and tires, fenders and a chainguard.

But by naming theirs after the famous bowman from Sherwood Forest, and affixing a wonderful head badge of Robin in his Lincoln green suit with Nottingham Castle in the background, and using Robin Hood-theme decals, Raleigh captured every boy's attention (surely lots of men's too), and made them think that riding a Robin Hood was a lot more fun than pedaling around on a no-name two-wheeler. And, I'm sure other boys, like we did, pretended their bikes were horses and they were Robin's band of merry men.

Robin Hood bicycles and head badges from the 1960's aren't all that hard to find or expensive. Check yard sales, flea markets, Goodwill stores, eBay, your neighbor's garage/attic!

If you get a good one in original condition, it'll be a nice rider perfect for getting around town or just becoming an outlaw and escaping reality for awhile.


JORGE said...

Great piece... Here's mine

Sabinna said...

That's a great example of powerful branding at work...from 'just another bike' to something special..something needed in today's cluttered marketplace, although maybe the Contadors and Cavendishs of the elite racing scene have a similar effect?

Jim Langley said...

That's a beautiful bicycle Jorge. Thanks for the photo. Loved seeing it!


JORGE said...


more photos...

George Bruck Jr said...

I just got a '70 for free. Its all original and works fine; I do need to know if the old cast carry rack over back tire is something original and I need a period correct seat for it.

Jim Langley said...

Good find, George. Congrats. If the rack is aluminum, it's probably not original to the bike. Raleighs sometimes came with stamped steel racks painted the same color as the bike, so some Robin Hoods may have, too. For a seat, you could go with a used Brooks leather saddle. They're not too hard to find, or you could buy a new one: Enjoy that bike!