November 17, 2010


It seems like my place on this blog is to be the premature retro-grouch. I certainly don't consider myself such and I'm not going to advocate for 1 inch headsets to offset Jeff's vehement canards against them, but I do like riding old bikes. It boils down to a few factors: I like old things and history; I'm a terrible mechanic and the margin of error is greater on old parts; and when you ride these old bikes and they actually still work really well, there is a little "holy shit, this still works" going on. Turning thirty this year prompted me to think that I should get a custom bike to congratulate myself on bumbling my way at least this far through life. But by chance, I realized that a frame I bought on ebay almost a year ago (that has been sitting around gathering dust) was, in fact, the custom frame I needed. This frame, a Romic X-100 touring model, was built in the glorious year of my birth, 1980, when we plunged into the Reagan years and all that darkness. I learned this from an obscure and untended website about Romic that has photos of pages from Ray Gasiorowski's log book. Serendipitously, my frame was on one of the pages on the website:

(my frame is the first entry on the recto page)

The frame was built for the shop, Bikesmith. I haven't been able to figure out if this shop is still in existence, but there is a curious coincidence afoot. In Milwaukee there is a shop called Bikesmith that opened in 1981. Was this some sort of flagship model built for the shop opening? Even if this is the case, who knows if the shop has a record of it or not.

The Bike

For a touring frame, it is quite sporty. It has clean, classic lug work, a slender fork with oval tubes and an elegant bend, and it feels simultaneously light and responsive, but also solid and well-built. It barely has any miles on it yet, so I'll let you know how it goes.

Reynolds 531 tubing
Haden Concorde #303 lugs
Campagnolo dropouts
Campagnolo Record Hubs w/Mavic MA-2 rims
Record derailleurs
VO crankset
Mafac competition brakes
Nitto Noodle bar 46cm (I've got wide shoulders)
Brooks Professional
TA front rack
Shimano bar-end shifters (not crazy about these, but no shifter bosses on the downtube)
RX-1000 aero levers
Continental grand prix 28c (really 26c)
VO fenders

But who is this Romic character? (stolen from:

Born: 09/28/1928 - Passed: 11/16/1996

Wife: Gerry.

Children: Michael, Debbie & Chris

Ray learned much about bicycle building at the Schwinn factory in Chicago and was close to Rudy Schwinn, one of the old school European engineers that helped make Schwinn the quality name it was. Ray worked as a bicycle design and products engineer. Schwinn actually help fund his industrial engineering studies at IIT Institute. He was involved with Paramount frame building

Ray was a first line racer in Chicago. Ray rode in the Vuelta de Mexico, and was a finalist in Olympic trials back in the '50's. He also raced the "Tour of Somerville" (New Jersey) and did well in it. His army service took him to Europe where he was sponsored by the Army to participate in the Olympic road trials.

Click this thumbnail to see Ted, Ray and Don at the finish line, in Sherman Park, Chicago, in the Spring of 1950:

Ray left Schwinn in 1959 and went to the AMF corporation to head up their production team through the early 70's. After deciding to forge out on his own he spent a couple years getting the logistics in order to open up a shop. During that time he consulted in Russia on a bicycle startup endeavor. His expertise in high quality building techniques and a great eye for efficient building systems made him an invaluable resource that many sought out over the years.

"Quality American Bicycles" (from the Romic business cards)

Quotes from Ray

"An inch of gold will not buy an inch of time."

"Why is there always enough time to do it over, but never enough time to do it right the first time."

Whew, that is a lot of reading.


Anonymous said...

if you ever come to houston stop by Daniel Boone's bike shop downtown. They have quite a few Romics both for sale and on display. Awesome bikes.

Jeff said...

looks real nice guy.

a little bummed though, I was totally looking forward to you making Erik build a 650B lugged chrome touring PG.

Anonymous said...

Isn't part of the point of getting a custom frame having the geometry completely personalized?

emo said...

Yeah, I never heard back from him, so it went the way of the dodo...

anonymous #2: thanks for clearing the air.

rigtenzin said...

FWIW, there was a Bikesmith in Indianapolis back in the '80s that sold lots of high-end bikes. It may still exist.

For some, a custom bike may not be about geometry, but about function like getting the proper braze-ons or picking tubing on an existing geometry that meets the buyers needs.

d'emploi said...

hey i was gonna say the same about Boone's in Houston! serendipitously ended up there cause the hostel is right next door and run by the same people! super nice there and told us all we wanted to hear about romic!

Anonymous said...

Nice bike! Let us know how it rides, I'm pretty keen on getting one of those Romic frames from Boone's.