Boston Area Roadsters: a Place to Call Our Own

An announcement for those in the Boston area who own vintage Roadsters and other lovely 3-speed creatures: A few of us are getting together and starting a club of sorts. Well, more like an appreciation and preservation society: We envision a project that will enable people to learn about their Roadsters - including how to work on them and either restore them to their all-original glory or convert them to reliable modern commuters.

[somervillain's 1986 Union Unitas]

We are also interested in photo-documenting as many vintage Roadsters that exist in the Boston area as we can, with the aim of eventually putting together an archive of the sorts of things people have done to these bicycles. Boston really is a mecca of vintage 3-speeds, and we would like to commemorate that.

[somervillain (right) with John Pyper of Open Bicycle]

We have been generously granted a "club space" for our pursuits at Open Bicycle, which is located in Union Square in Somerville, Mass. We can use this space to get together and work on our bicycles cooperatively, to organise workshops, or even just for "Show and Tell". Open's lounging area and workshop facilities make it an ideal meeting place, so a big Thank You to Open Bicycle for their support.

[my 1936 Raleigh Lady's Tourist, on display at Spoke Count]

So far, this project is in its early stages and 4 people are involved: myself, somervillain, Biking in Heels, and the Co-Habitant. I should add that somervillain is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to vintage 3-speeds, so the opportunity to receive his advice and help is quite exciting. Our plan for this club is very much open-format and will depend on the dynamic of the group. If you would like to take part, or be informed of our activities, please drop me a line at "filigreevelo-at-yahoo-dot-com" or post a comment here.


  1. well certainly; if we come to an arrangement about that DL1... otherwise I'd have no classic cruiser to speak of!

  2. That would be awesome if you compiled photos and details as to what people have done to their vintage roadsters (as well as repair tidbits and tricks), and made it available publicly for those of us who live elsewhere :) Likewise, if you ever need any advice on how to do something, I'd be happy to chime in on any experience I've had.

    Sounds like a great group, and a lot of fun!

  3. I love to read about stuff like this project. Thanks! Surely Sheldon Brown is smiling down on it.

  4. Luc - you are welcome to join even if your roadster is a hypothetical one at the moment : )

    Portlandize - Thanks, that's the plan!

    Steve - Thanks, that is a nice thought.

  5. This sounds interesting. Just for old roadsters or any classic styled 3spd? I'm sure my BSA fits the bill - but my Schwinn Breeze?

  6. Mark, that's a good question. My thought is that Schwinn is an altogether different type of creature, belonging to the cruiser rather than the roadster genus. But what say the experts?

  7. How exciting! Makes me wish I lived closer, I would bring my '69 Hercules by. Looking forward to any photos of the bicycles that assemble there!

  8. mark, i think filigree and i differ slightly on this, but i would say sure! i've held that roadsters as a category are kind of narrowly restrictive in terms of club scope and also in terms of generating a critical mass for club interest. there are so many interesting vintage rides out there, but to be all-inclusive might also dilute the focus of the club. i think a happy balance needs to be struck, and i would say anything vintage with an IGH fits the bill... in my book! then again, what do i know? maybe all the sad, ostracized DL1s will start coming out of the woodwork now that they have a place to go to feel appreciated and open will get filled to the rafters with rod brakes!

  9. somervillain, Boston really is full of them. An ostracised DL-1 was just ringing my doorbell the other day. "Please Missus, I have no place to go. Have you a warm bed for me and some porridge?" If only the club existed then.

    "anything vintage with an IGH fits the bill" sounds fine to me.

    Amy - Thanks, and you can always visit.

  10. Breeze a Cruiser? hmmm i guess i don't know the difference between a roadster and a cruiser. When i think cruiser i think of those bikes with the big handlebars that sweep up and back quite tall.

    I'll leave it up to the experts. Still interested in this little group even if my bikes don't fit the right spot in the taxonomy.

  11. After WWII American service men started coming back from England with a taste for English bicycles. Mr. Schwinn himself went to Europe, had a look at the bikes; came home enthused and started making American bikes on the same model sometime in the late 40s. Most of these bikes were fitted with either Sturmey hubs or Steyr copies.

    Whether or not you'd call any of these a roadster might be open to interpretation (I'm not an expert on these but I'm unaware of any with a full chaincase), but they weren't cruisers. They were "English Racers" with frames made in Chicago.

  12. A great idea! Wish I could join you all :)

  13. Okay, okay. So I am a roadster snob.
    Thank you for the info, kfg.

  14. That's about the whole of my knowledge of the Schwinns. I'm no roadster fan, let alone a snob: I like the lightweights, but I used to be bit of an anglophile snob.

    In my 70s shop rat days I worked on a lot of the Schwinns, but didn't pay any more attention to them than needed to do the job. I considered them "fakes." In retrospect some of them were actually nice enough bikes.

    If you're going for chaincases and rod brakes they'd be out of the club, but if you're going "anything vintage with an IGH" there's no reason to exclude the Schwinns other than their lack of caché.

  15. Sounds a great idea, and that is really something special that Open Bicycle is supporting you, even passively.

    If it were me, I'd make IGH a requirement,
    or at least keep the participating bikes to a "Working" standard- adult models, designed for commuting or urban errands.

    please keep me posted.

    Corey K

  16. Ahem, so, it HAS to be vintage? What if it's vintage in the spirit and design yet made in our present time? Vintage only would mean my Pashley with drum brakes and internal hub everything can't attend... How about internal gearing, roadster or lady roadster geometry, steel construction and either vintage or modern (or custom) with pedigree (i.e. don't forget the Pashley, Gazelle, etc.)

  17. MDI makes a good point. it's really tough to shoe-horn bikes into categories -- so many interesting bikes incorporating different design elements. i think there are varieties of bikes that share something in common-- whether it be the evocation of a certain nostalgia, or that they encourage a particular attitude about biking. vintage 3-speeds such as english or dutch roadsters and sports-style IGH steel bikes typically evoke similar feelings and attitude toward cycling. for me, that attitude is one of comfortable, practical, and unhurried transport, with a touch or recreational enjoyment tossed into the mix. cruisers, in my opinion, elicit a different emotional response: these make me think of mindlessly cruising the long beaches of the coastal shorelines- with no particular destination in mind; pure recreation.

    some modern bikes try to recreate the same emotional responses as the vintage roadsters and 3-speeds. so, i would be inclined to say these bikes "count".

  18. Oh you people are too open minded for me. But I will keep my reactionary ways in check and will go with the group majority; it will be interesting to see how this evolves.

    But you know what I really, really hope someone brings to the club? An original path racer. With upside down North Roads. Please?

  19. My Pashley can has upside down north roads, and be a path racer yes?

  20. No. And the Guv'nor doesn't count either!

  21. My Pashley can . . . be a path racer yes?"

    No. At least not without taking a torch to it. The current American slang equivalent of "path racer" is "fixie." The more direct translation from English is "track bike." If it wouldn't/won't pass scrutineering at the track, it ain't a path racer.

    Even in its single speed version the Guv'nor is a coasty; with hub brakes. It would need a wheel change at least to be a path racer.

    And of course it isn't original. Those would be from the late 1800s. When most Americans think "path racer" they're generally thinking of the dual purpose road/track bikes that were prevalent after the World Wars when few people could own a dedicated track bike. These were built to be fitted with full road equipment, sometimes even with cantilever brakes, with the bosses clamped onto the frames (Google "resilion").

    They could be ridden to work and the shops during the week, ridden to the track (likely a grass track, even if it was a dedicated, banked turn velodrome. The English are grass fetishists), stripped down to track legal, raced, built back into road trim and ridden home again.

    Variations of these were built for time trialing and touring, particularly in the 50s and early 60s, but they aren't path racers if they can't be stripped to be track legal because of brazed on road fittings. They're fixed gear road bikes. The Quickbeam would be an example of one of these.

  22. Such snobbism! :)

    My Pashley is a natural track bike, just check this Flickr image:

  23. kfg - Thank you, now I really want one. There is a bike shop in New Zealand that specializes in remaking bicycles of all sorts into vintage-style pathracers. I am so curious what these rides feel like. Not to mention that there is just something so sexy about upside down North Roads.

    "The English are grass fetishists"
    Oh yes. The "Do not walk on the grass" signs placed along the vast grass lawns of the English university I attended haunt my memories to this day. I still think twice before stepping on a patch of grass, even in a public park.

  24. MDI: "Such snobbism!"

    If it ain't fixed, it's broken. And your Pashley is obviously just another TT bike putting on airs above its station; it's got a bell on. English TT rules actually required a bell into the 60s. It's strange to see pictures of their whippet thin machines so minimalist they wouldn't even stand the weight of fully taped bars or a rubber hood on the single brake lever, but with a bell and frame pump.

    Filigree: "I am so curious what these rides feel like."

    Like a bike that won't coast. Ya know with the whole roadster snob thing going I didn't exactly have you figured as a possible candidate for fixie chic. Ya know Harris has modern road fixed and dual purpose bikes off the rack?

    Or they can supply you with a flip flop wheel that will fit the Sam.

    ". . ."Do not walk on the grass" signs . . ."

    Yeah, the Germans are winning this time.

  25. kfg - You are misunderstanding / giving me too much credit. I just love the flipped handlebars and want to know how it feels to ride with them. And though I've never ridden fixed gear, I did ride direct drive when I was a toddler. Surely that gives me street cred!


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