Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

07 May 2011

Remembrance of Bike Past: Romic





So why am I posting a photo of a weird bike I've never seen in person?


Well, believe it or not, it's personal for me.  


Those of you who know me, whether in person or through this blog, know that I have never owned a bike that even remotely resembles that one, and that I've ridden such bikes maybe a couple of times in my life.


Did some hipster use his fixie in an anger management class?Or did some messenger smoke too much of, shall we say, something that's not made by a subsidiary of RJ Reynolds?


Actually, the original owner of that bike had the frame built that way.  Apparently, it was built as a pursuit track frame.  

One thing that makes it more interesting is that the frame was built by a builder with a conservative reputation (in building practices, anyway:  I know nothing about his politics!).



Romic bicycles were built by Ray Gasiorowski in Houston from the mid-70's until the mid-90's.  On some frames he used Nervex-style lugs; on others, he used plainer but elegant long-point lugs.  His work was very clean and solid, if not blingy.  


     
This is a road-racing bike he made, apparently, some time during the early '90's.  Like most of his bikes, it was constructed of Reynolds 531 tubing.  


Here is a Romic touring frame:




Some non-Reynolds Romic bikes were made of Columbus or Tange tubing.  Some of the builder's touring and sport-touring frames had Reynolds 531 main triangles and Tange rear triangles and forks.  I suspect that such was the case with the pictured bike.


My suspicion is an informed one: I had one of those bikes.  It was a sport-touring model, which featured geometry somewhere between the racing and touring bikes in the photos. It was the first frame I ever bought and built up.  


At the time, it was my only bike.  And it was the kind of bike you wanted to have if you were going to have only one:  I toured and raced with it.  The rear triangle was surprisingly stiff for a bike with its geometry; it gave a zippy ride when I put a pair of tubular wheels and tires on it but was remarkably stable when I rode it, with a rack, panniers and handlebar bag, through England and France.  


One of my youthful follies was deciding that I needed a "racier" bike.  So I sold my Romic and bought a Trek frame made from Columbus tubing.  In those days, some Trek racing frames--including the one I bought--had even shorter chainstays and wheelbases than most Italian criterium bikes.  A few cyclists still seek those Trek frames from the late 70s and early 80s for their stiffness.   However, some of them had a problem that could prove painful:  the seat clusters broke off them.  


As far as I know, nothing like that ever happened to a Romic.  Better yet, I still remember the bike--and, more important, the ride--all of these years later.  When I ordered Arielle, I had that Romic in mind.  You might say that my Mercian road bike is an updated, somewhat tighter, version of that Romic from my youth.


Note:  Romic mountain-bike shocks have no relationship to Romic bicycles.  In fact, I think the first Romic shocks were made after Ray Gasiorowski died in 1996.

8 comments:

  1. I moved to Houston in early 1996. Romic bikes were everywhere, especially at the local velodrome. I even remember stopping by his workshop which was kind of silly as there was no way I could afford one of his frames at the time. I had never seen one of his touring frames but I have seen Romic pursuit frames similar to the photo you posted.

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  2. I picked up one of his sports tourers earlier this year. Looking at the bike, it does not appear all that impressive. The lugs look amateur compared to hand built frames from his peers. However, the bike "rides" deceptively well. From my understanding, although he was very talented at building frames, he did not always put much emphasis on making the bike look pretty. I suppose that a telltale sign of a good bike is one that will be heavily ridden, not one that looks pretty and hangs on a wall.

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  3. Anon: You're right about his aesthetics. He even said that they weren't a major concern of his: He cared more about building solid bikes that ride well.

    Rat Trap: I think Romic got the most respect for his track bikes. I know they were big in the Houston area, but a fair number of them were raced in Trexlertown and Encino as well.

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  4. Great shots - not sure if you've stumbled upon my Romic tribute pages, but if you'd like to have your pictures included there, I'd gladly do so !

    Either google Romic Tribute Pages... or try this link below:
    http://www-hsc.usc.edu/~rpinder/Romic.html

    I'm taking my lovely red 1975 Romic to a vintage lightweight bike show out in Virginia next month - stay tuned as I hope to include more of Ray's build pages, showing exact build dates of your Romic frames. The show is Le Cirque du Cyclisme

    Rich Pinder - sherman oaks, ca

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  5. I worked in Ray's shop in 1978-79. We built a lot of frames from Tange and Reynolds tubing. Ray ran a workmanlike place, one of the comments of his that I remember well was, "We're building bicycles here -- we ain't building jewelry."

    Ray was quite a guy. I am so happy to have known him.

    Some of the bikes we made under Ray's tutelage may still be for sale at Boone's cyclery in Houston.

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  6. Robert--I'm not surprised Ray said that. I think some of his promotional material said as much. It seemed to be a point of pride with him.

    As much as I love nice lugwork and paint finishes, I still have a soft spot for that old Romic. I wouldn't be surprised if someone is still riding it.

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  7. I ordered my Romic Touring frame (27"!- I have a 37" inseam) through Yellow Jersey in Madison, WI (they're still there!) in Feb, 1977. I still own and ride it today, with some upgraded components through the years. I think it would cost me thousands$$ to replace it with as comfortable a ride today. I believe I paid $300 for the frame with an insurance settlement (I was run over by a student driver and my then-current bike was destroyed). I still get favorable comments about the bike today from my riding buddies. I daresay I have not aged quite as well as my Romic has...

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  8. Anon--Does any of us age as well as a fine bike? Thanks for sharing your story!

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