If you saw him or met him or knew him, Robin Williams tragic passing last week (Aug 11, 2014)most certainly touched you. Manic, brilliant, versatile, vulnerable, compassionate, his work and life enriched so many. You’ve perhaps already seen your fill of sad remembrances.
A few anecdotes from cyclists. For us, he was a bike nut and that only made his work more meaningful.
“He was a Mill Valley boy and went to school with Potts, Breeze and the rest of them. One of my good friends worked where he tended bar in the 70’s and always talked about this guy that was so funny no one could get any work done.”
BTW, classmates at Redwood High also include Pete Carroll, coach of Super Bowl XLVIII Champion Seattle Seahawks.
“This happened at Bicycle Habitat in NYC maybe 2 years ago. The messenger was a down and out punk rock kid who couldn’t afford to replace everything that had been stolen from his bike. He jokingly asked Robin Williams (who happened to be in the store) if he had any used bikes he could sell him. Robin politely said that he was afraid not…they wouldn’t be the right size. The kid left his stripped frame at the shop…and left to see what parts or cash he could come up with. The next day, the kid gets a call from Bicycle Habitat. His brand new Bianchi Pista was ready for pick up. Paid for by Mr. Williams. The story spread quickly among the NYC cycling community. Yet another reason Robin was beloved by many.”
“When asked about bringing cycling to the screen, Williams is circumspect, though he readily talks about his favorite bike movie—Vive Le Tour, a documentary on the 1962 Tour by French director Louis Malle. ‘My favorite thing to do is ride a bicycle. I ride road bikes. And for me, it’s mobile meditation,” Williams is quoted in one of the tweets. He felt that biking was “the closest you can get to flying.’ ”
“Through his appearances at cycling’s most famous race, Williams also got to know Belgium legend Merckx, who dominated the sport in the 1970s with a string of victories in all of the major tours and one-day classics… “I am shocked at Robin Williams’ death,” Merckx was quoted on a Belgian radio station VRT Tuesday. “He had a great sense of humor and he was a cycling fanatic. He was above all a big friend of Lance Armstrong, but he knew me and what I had won….” Eddy also mentioned cycling with Robin a few times when in the USA.”
“Over the next half hour, we were just two guys talking. I mentioned that we both had Italian road bikes made by the same area shop, Above Category. A longtime and passionate bicycle rider and collector, Williams was a huge fan of the beautiful steel-framed Pegoretti cycles that originated in northern Italy. ‘They’re like riding a horse, so responsive, so smooth,’ he said.” [- Marco della Cava, USA Today]
“When questioned about his huge collection of bikes, Williams said ‘That sounds a lot, but they need less space than a car. When I’m riding my bicycle I feel like a Buddhist who is happy just to enjoy his mundane existence.’ ”
“Robin had also quietly admitted that after defending Lance Armstrong vehemently for so many years, after final disclosure of his criminal doping to Oprah, he felt stabbed in the back by someone he’d long considered a good friend. ”
I remember the 2008 NAHBS in Portland. A huge event, signaling the start of the Handbuilt Show era. Sam Whittingham of Naked Cycles won Best in Show (voted by exhibitors and press), People’s Choice (voted by attendees), and President’s Choice (Don’s Walker’s own selection), with his wood rimmed beauty. Lance got there first and bought it for his Mellow Johnny Shop in Austin. Robin arrived just a bit late and also tried to buy it.
But there Robin met Italian framebuilder Dario Pegoretti. They hit it off, dining together that night. Robin ordered the first of several Pegoretti bikes he would come to own and cherish. My eyes were drawn to one of Pegoretti’s display bikes sporting wood rims Wheel Fanatyk, at that time, imported.