It wasn’t until five years after I first laid eyes on a De Rosa bicycle that I came across the opportunity to acquire one.
I was a college student at the time, and De Rosas were better priced for people who weren't eating ramen for three square meals. But I happened upon a Craigslist posting, live just 15 minutes at the time, that read “De Rosa. First Owner. Must sell fast.”
It was everything I had been waiting for.
A couple hours later, I was exiting the ferry to the East Bay with my new ride in hand when an outlandishly kitted-out rider on a (much nicer) De Rosa accosted me. “Nice bike. Wanna race?”
I might not have a had a loot at the time, but riding a minimum of 40 miles a day up, down and around SF’s hills had rendered me a humanlike structure of flesh, steel and long blonde hair. Of course I wanted to race. And so, without thinking twice, I bolted, leaving my spandex-clad competitor in the dust.
A few miles later, I pulled up to a small local, shop and happened across the same De Rosa. What I hadn’t expected was to find Robin Williams atop it. “Hey,” I said, “We were racing for pinks, right?” He just buckled his helmet and laughed. “You wish,” he said as he pulled away.
And though this was a wonderful and memorable day in more ways than one for me, it was not an uncommon one: Robin Williams, a legend who made the world laugh and cry for ages, was also a superior biker and enthusiastic collector. He supported local shops and ardently defended cyclist’s rights and physically disabled riders.
And now, that passion will live on under the rumps of other riders: now through October 25th, the Robin Williams Bicycle Collection is up for auction. It features a staggering 87 rides formerly owned by the late actor.
A one-of-a-kind opportunity in partnership with auction house Paddle8, the bikes donated range in value from $1,000 to $25,000; everything from a carbon fiber Trek Madone from Lance Armstrong's Discovery Team to Williams's wildly handpainted fleet of Pegorettis are in there. Proceeds from the sales will go to benefit two charities that were near and dear to his heart: the Challenged Athletes Foundation and the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.
But perhaps no words commemorate the collection better than a few from Williams himself, who, before embarking upon a 56-mile race, was casually asked by a reporter how he would feel after completing the race.
“How will I be feeling?” he replied. “Thanks for asking! One thing I know for sure…there will be a river of sweat flowing down the crack of my ass the size of Niagara Falls …..oh, is this live TV?”
Main image credit: Robin Williams: A Singular Portrait, 1986-2002 (copyright Arthur Grace)