"When I see a beautiful bike, I know a guy worked really hard to make those welds, to make it not just functional. And I think it's the same with acting. It's the details, the sense of a craftsman at work, getting it right." (Robin Williams)
Robin Williams’ bike collection went up for auction through the online house, Paddle8 yesterday. You can bid on a wonderful collection of 87 bikes which will be on sale until 25th October. His family are making the sale to raise money for two charities, the Challenged Athletes Foundation and the Christopher and Dona Reeve Foundation, both of which are organisations that Williams supported throughout his life.
While he was still with us, Williams was an obsessive cyclist and bike collector. “He had such a passion for the sport and the bicycle,” remembers Jim Ochcowitz who manages BMC Racing Team. “He loved the colours, the design, the engineering. When I rode with him, he’d often be on another bike and I’d be like, ‘Whoa, where’d that come from?’” He loved the camaraderie of bike riding and would make as much time as possible to spin through the Bay area of San Francisco when he was at home. Apparently, rather like the Queen at Buck House, he would raise a flag outside whenever he was in residence – you can bet that much of his time would have been spent on his many bikes when he was there.
We now know that he had a much darker side to his character than he let on about when he was still alive. Apparently he cherished the meditative aspect of going for bike rides, enjoying the time alone and the opportunity to move around anonymously, camouflaged by helmet and glasses. His daughter Zelda said that, “Watching my dad get on a bike was like watching a penguin spread its wings and take flight. He’d take off at inhuman speed, a smile on his face, and never look back.” In fact he once likened riding a bike as the closest a human can get to flying.
Describing his less than classic cycling physique he once said, “With thighs like these, you’ve got two choices – cycling or a go-go dancer,” and he seemed to relish squeezing his wrestler’s frame into the tightest and most garish lycra he could find. He was self deprecating about his abilities. Speaking just before an organised charity ride he said, “The drug test came back. They found traces of Viagra, It helps me ride long and hard, and I don’t need a kickstand.” But by all accounts he was no slouch on a flat road. According to many San Francisco locals he’d set a fast pace and didn’t wait around for those who couldn’t keep up, although he admitted, “I’ve never been a climber.”
Williams had many friends in the pro cycling world and would make a point of watching a stage of the Tour de France each year. He inevitably became friends with Lance Armstrong and Greg LeMond and was pictured riding with them often. He had a huge admiration for racers and the time they dedicated to training (“These guys spend everything they have, day after day.”) He was also hugely impressed by their bike handling skills noting that, “they can pee while they’re riding. I take my hat off to them, but not near them.”
At its height, Williams’ collection included about 100 bikes. He would visit bike shops wherever he went. Luckily for him, a large bank balance enabled him to indulge an intense lust for all things bike related. His collection includes a huge range from vintage steel models to the latest carbon fibre technology, from fold ups to unicycles, scooters to electric bikes. Some were custom made and some were bought spontaneously off the rack. He loved their aesthetics and beauty and worshipped them as design objects.
The collection on auction has something for everybody. His Dario Pegoretti, custom built for him, has a guide price of $6,000 - $10,000 and the beautiful multi coloured polka dot Colnago Pista is likely to go for between $10,000 and $15,000. There are some stunning time trial bikes like the bright yellow Zipp and some interesting vintage classics like the Masi 3V, built for the Russian team. While you may not pick up a bargain, there are some cheaper steeds in the stable like a Fuji road bike at $650 and even a Pashley Guv’nor at $1,600. Robin Williams adored his bike collection and it’s fantastic that these bikes can go on to be loved by someone else while raising money for two charities that he was passionate about.