Robin Williams’ bike collection is being auctioned off. It’s been two scant years since the actor’s suicide, a period in which his many of us have failed to process his departure, his reasons, his method, or the hole he left in the world of entertainment. He was, for creative types as well as neurotypicals, a lighthouse in a sea of conformity. His example to us was that it was not just okay to be odd, but that we should go ahead and fly our freak flag high and proud.
That someone who could speak so clearly to such a sensitive part of my heart would also happen to be a cyclist was a miraculous sort of gift. His collection of bikes suggests something of what I think I’d do if I earned a fortune. It is a marvel in its sheer breadth and scope, and suggests a philia that borders on mania.
The collection being auctioned—a whopping 87 bikes—is incomplete. This isn’t every bike he ever owned. Over the years he frequently donated bikes to charities to be auctioned for proceeds. Some years back I saw that he was giving up his custom Seven Odonata for which he was fitted at City Cycle. I was crestfallen, but hey, it went to a great cause. Even these bikes will result in more good deeds; proceeds from the auction will benefit the Challenged Athletes Foundation and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.
Williams was a patron in a way few of us can conceive. His purchases were so frequent, he made a difference in the operations of a number of Bay Area bike shops. Plural. He spread his love, his largesse, around. There’s something incomparably touching in that. Bike shops dreamt of Williams the way candy stores dream of the proverbial fat kid.
In looking at the collection, I see bikes I’ve ridden and loved (like the Serotta Ottrot), and bikes I always irrationally coveted (the Litespeed Ghisallo or the Pegoretti Responsorium), and bikes that I still want to fit into my own personal N+1 (the 5-speed, shock-absorber-equipped Schwinn Apple Picker). Beyond that, there’s something in seeing that Sycip Java Town that makes his death fresh, a scab ripped open, and I find myself wiping my face all over again.
I am, irreparably, a bike geek, and I’ve been studying the photos of these bikes. You begin to learn things about a rider as you examine their bike collection. He had an appetite for bikes in general. He had road bikes, mountain bikes, tri bikes, TT bikes, track bikes, city bikes, weird bikes—even had a unicycle. And he wasn’t partial; he had Campy and Shimano. A number of these bikes have clip-on aero bars; Williams really liked to go fast. All of the bikes have pedals. With few exceptions, they all have bottle cages and seat bags, and I’m sure that every one of those seat bags has a tube, tire levers, mini tool and Co2. It says something about how busy his life was, that he wanted a bike to be ready to go, and it also says something about his awareness of the reach of his own generosity. Every time he completely outfitted a bike that purchase did a lot for a shop.
He was the bike collector we all wish we could be, and in that, I feel his loss all over again. Damn.
Check out the auction for yourself at Paddle8.
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