Passion for Fashion

21 01 2013

It’s been far too long since I’ve posted, and the last month has had it’s ups and downs. On the downside, I got this nasty, lung-clogging flu that kept me off my bike for the longest period of time since 2005. On the upside, I’ve built up my newest winter bike and am enjoying a little bout of newbike-itis.

Introducing the Romein Fashion 90210. The distinctive down tube/seat tube connection seems to be a hallmark of Romein bicycles.

Introducing the Romein Fashion 90210. The distinctive down tube/seat tube connection seems to be a hallmark of Romein bicycles.

This not so little dutch bike came into my life last fall sporting a back wheel with a cracked rim and a half dozen broken spokes and front wheel that wasn’t much better. But it also came with a 3 speed Sturmey Archer hub, drum brakes, full fenders & mudflaps, a skirt guard, a fully encased chain, matching rack, cafe lock, rack straps, and a super solid kickstand. It was exactly one generator (it even has the lights) short of being the perfect winter ride. But there’s also a bit of mystery surrounding it. This Romein, with it’s two-tone purple paint job was far brighter than your classic dutch bike, and it’s moniker, colour scheme and mountain bike-ish influences placed its birth square in the nineties.

It's Fashion! Also, check the cafe lock.

It’s Fashion! Also, check the cafe lock and matching purple rack. I took off the skirt guard to repair it.

I don't think anyone in Beverly Hills in the 90's would be caught dead on a bike.

I don’t think anyone in Beverly Hills in the 90’s would be caught dead on a dutch bike.

I decided that since the bike needed new rims anyway, that I would lace up those Sturmey Archer hubs to bright blue deep-V rims. Why? Because I can. Coloured rims, being the fashionable choice, would not only update the bike, they’d make it a bit of a show stopper.

New studded tire bling on the new blue rim.

Fresh studded tire on the new blue rim.

The early nineties Sturmey Archer hubs, (plastic) shifter and (plastic) brake levers aren’t exactly a classic vintage, however. If I can, I’ll probably replace them with older school metal components.

There seems to be a lot of plastic on the brake levers and shifters. I hope it will stand up to the cold.

There’s a lot of plastic on the brake levers and shifters. I hope it will stand up to the cold.

The chain case is also plastic and doesn’t seem very robust so I’m expecting to have to remove it sooner or later. Overall, it seems like it started out life as a low-end bike even though it has features that are either hard to find or only available on a higher end bike in North America.

One more clue:

A dealer sticker from Groningen in the Netherlands.

A dealer sticker from Groningen in the Netherlands.

What an age we live in that I can, with a few keystrokes, go to a Google street view and find a picture of a street half way across the world where this bike was first purchased. It’s a quaint, narrow street in the city of Groningen where there’s bicycles a plenty, but no bike shop. Groningen has been called the “World Cycling City” because 57% of all trips are made by bike (Wikipedia). Sounds cool.

Speaking of cool, the Dutchy's getting a taste of winter with an ice bear.

Speaking of cool, the Dutchy’s getting a taste of winter with an ice bear.

I still haven’t been able to find out much about the manufacturer/brand name Romein, save a couple of photos of bikes older than mine. If anyone out the has any info on these bikes, I’d love to hear about it!

This bike looks sweet with any colour.

This bike looks sweet with any colour.

In the meantime, I’m still adjusting things and have already changed the saddle (twice, and may again) and will probably change the pedals and handlebars as well. Part of me (specifically, my back) wants a bar more swept back. Another part of me has been eying this magenta flat bar currently on the shelf at EBC…

Fashion is best when you play around with it and switch things up.



6 responses

21 01 2013
Bike to Work

Great photos of a sweet bike! I’m jealous!

21 01 2013


21 01 2013

Great score!
It’s so interesting that “low end Dutch bike from the ’90’s” was better equipped than most North American bikes of the era, low end or not.

21 01 2013

It certainly speaks to how radically different the cycling culture is between the two continents. Twenty years later, North America is just barely starting to “get” transportation cycling.

22 01 2013

Hm, the “distinctive down tube/seat tube connection” strongly reminds me of Sparta bicycles – they came into Germany in large numbers due to the first ‘dutch bike craze’ from 1980 onward. This frame design was unique (and patented), but it proved to be prone to failure after a time. My friend Herbert Kuner has a site about this (available in Dutch language only, sorry …): . More information about the specific Sparta frames is to be found under: , and a comprehensive Sparta company history under: .
But I cannot say for shure if your bike was made by Sparta – maybe Herbert knows more, so I will ask him. 🙂

22 01 2013

As promised, here is the answer of my friend Herbert Kuner concerning your bike, translated from german (so any mistake is on me, not on him) and in some places annotated by me: “It is funny to see in which places these bikes surface … Romein always has been a sublabel of Sparta, right from the start (see e.g. [I guess this link does not help you much either, because this is the German version of the dutch text … Maybe a translation programme may help some.]).
In [Dutch] reality, I’ve never seen Romein bikes older than ca. 1980 [Herbert hosts a very large bicycle data source for Dutch bikes, so this is definitely a substantial and reliable piece of information], but from that time on there were quite a number of them, until 1988 – this Groningen bike is the first that I hear of being younger than that (as you may already know, the exact production month and year is to be found on the Sturmey Archer hubs).
A similar model ‘Fashion’ under the name of the main brand Sparta starts to appear in the 1995 Sparta catalogue, but just in a single-coloured version. A two-tone model follows in 1996, but the colours differ from the Canadian bike; a 1997 catalogue [which may have featured this exact colour scheme] is not in my collection.
In 1998 the whole Sparta bike model program was remodeled, including the change of model names. Sparta ended the production of single-tube frames in 1997 or 1998.
However it may well be possible that Romein bikes were build to specifications that differed from the main brand Sparta (e.g. different colour schemes) for quantity buyers. This is a common practice for bikes that were made to be used as leasing bikes on the Dutch North Sea islands [a huge market] (Gazelle and Batavus are doing this since about 30 years) or for sellers of cheap ‘train station bikes’ [that tend to get stolen or rust to death whilst standing in the huge bike parking lots around Dutch local commuter train stations].
Maybe the Groningen bike dealer whose sign you see on the back fender has bought a number of these bikes in used condition and sold them individually afterwards – but there is much room for speculation …”

Herbert also sent me a scan of the 1996 Sparta catalogue page that shows the ‘Fashion’ model, gents and ladies version – if you give me a short notice ( m.puehl [at] ) I will gladly forward it to you. Interestingly, the male version of the Sparta ‘Fashion’ is equipped with Magura hydraulic brakes (and always has been equipped so, says Herbert), while the ladies versions sports Sachs’ drum brakes, not Sturmey Archer’s.

And one a side note, Herbert noted that he likes your new rims quite a lot, and thinks that they suit the ‘Fashion’ idea of the bike quite well. 🙂

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