Archive for the ‘History’ Category

San Jose Track Racing Has History

January 4, 2012

Greg LeMond and George Mount win the district Madison in 1979 at the Hellyer Park Velodrome. (Jobst Brandt photo)


While we all know about the Hellyer Park Velodrome in San Jose, there’s a lot more to the history of track racing here than you’d ever know.

Thanks to Tracy Delphia, we have a fairly good history of track racing. Tracy wrote about the sport for her master’s degree as San Jose State. It’s our good fortune to have this excellent paper available online.

It’s no surprise Tracy talked to Clyde Arbuckle, a walking encyclopedia about San Jose history in his day. He’s no longer with us, nor is his son. It’s too bad because they were both cycling authorities.

Most of her paper focuses on the short-lived but popular Garden City Velodrome (1936-1940) located at Wabash and Olive avenues, next to present-day Abraham Lincoln High School and the Rose Garden.

I’ve watched a few races at the Hellyer track. It’s a blast to see the riders speed around the concrete oval but the location in south San Jose doesn’t lend itself to drawing a crowd. I wish it were closer.

A Free Adventure Ride Around the World

December 24, 2011

A book written by Thomas Stevens about his around-the-world ride is available online for free.

Thomas Stevens has to be the ultimate adventure rider and one of the most interesting characters in cycling. Since I’ve been on my share of adventure rides, I can relate. He rode his 50-inch highwheeler around the world starting April 22, 1884, in San Francisco. His journey took him across the U.S. to Europe, the Middle East, Africa, China, and Japan.

Now you can read his two-volume book — Around the World on a Bicycle — and it won’t cost you a penny-farthing. Here’s how. Just download a Kindle application for the PC, available online. Then download volume 1 and volume 2 online, no charge.

I advise doing this sooner than later because who knows how long it will be before Amazon starts charging.

Tom was British so the language of the time was a bit stilted, but it gets better as you read along. It’s a fascinating read. I was disappointed he didn’t offer much detail on the U.S. leg as compared to the European tour a year later. You can probably piece together a fairly close approximation of the roads he traveled just by reading.

Tom rode through Wyoming along what is today Interstate 80. It must have been a lonely ride. What’s amazing though is to read about how many people he did meet back then in the Wild West. The West had pretty much been settled with the railroad going through. He spent a lot of nights at housing used by the railroad workers.

Reading about the adventures of Thomas Stevens is a great way to enjoy the holidays.

Smith Creek on Mt. Hamilton Road Then and Now

November 25, 2011

Smith Creek stage stop on Mt. Hamilton Road in 1890.


Smith Creek today. Trees have overtaken the creek bank.


I mentioned in Mt. Hamilton by Bike that Smith Creek had a hotel. Here’s a photo taken around 1890, from the San Jose public library collection.

Below is a photo of the same location today. That looks like one cold day on Mt. Hamilton in 1890.

For Adventure Rides in the High Sierra I’m researching photos of the Sierra passes from the late 1800s or early 1900s. No luck so far.

Memories of a Bike Shop Owner – Part 3

February 26, 2011

In this final installment, Mike Jacoubowsky, owner of Chain Reaction bike shop in Redwood City, California, talks about his website, where the bike industry needs to focus, and children riding to school. First photo shows a 1974 ride over Mt. Hamilton, with Mike in the group. The second photo is a ride with Jobst Brandt and Jim Westby on Loma Prieta Road around 1974.

Memories of a Bike Shop Owner – Part 2

February 21, 2011

Mike Jacoubowsky, owner of Chain Reaction bike shop in Redwood City, California, talks about his bike racing days and bike shop ownership. First photo shows a 1974 ride over Mt. Hamilton, with Mike in the group. The second photo shows Mike, right, with Jobst Brandt and Jim Westby riding on Loma Prieta Road in the early 1970s.

Memories of a Bike Shop Owner

February 15, 2011

Listening to Mike Jacoubowsky, owner of Chain Reaction bike shop in Redwood City, California, talk about cycling is both revealing and engaging. His description of his early days of cycling on the Peninsula will strike a chord for long-time area riders.

As part of a Legends of Northern California Cycling video series, Terry VerHaar and I met with Mike last September. We talked about his growing up in the Bay Area, racing, the bike shop business, the bike industry, and what keeps today’s kids from riding to school.

Where Mike’s passion for cycling really shows through is on his website. It’s a vicarious experience to get to know Mike and his family through his bike ride accounts on his Almost-Daily Diary.

What you’ll like about Mike is that he isn’t out to sell you a bike (although he’d like that), he’s out to sell you on the fun of cycling. That’s something the industry and too many bike shops are missing in their business plan. Here’s part 1 of a three-part podcast.

An Appeal for Help

January 14, 2011

At the Mt. Hamilton summit overlook, about 1970, from left: John Hiatt, Anwil McDonald, Dave Lucas, George Varian, Jobst Brandt (Photo courtesy Jobst Brandt)

This photo is the oldest I can find of cyclists on Mt. Hamilton. I hope someone out there can direct me to much older photos for my upcoming “Mt. Hamilton by Bike” magazine. I’ve tried all the obvious sources and came up empty.

Cyclists have probably been riding up Mt. Hamilton since the 1920s, or even earlier. If you have a solid lead, let me know. Even an account or a remembrance would be nice. The oldest account I have is 1955.

Mt. Hamilton by Bike

December 19, 2010

Coming soon on Magcloud.com

Here now, an exhaustive (what else for this ride?) look at Mt. Hamilton from the cyclist’s perspective. Historical facts about the road, past and current rides, and a detailed map of my updated century route over Mt. Hamilton and through Livermore are included.

Mt. Hamilton Road in 1900-10

December 17, 2010
Mt. Hamilton Road

Mt. Hamilton road around 1900. Much better than the 1876 photo I posted, but still not the place to ride in the summer. Note the dust. (Alice Hare photo, 1859-1942)

Once Upon a Ride… A Mt. Hamilton Ride of Olympic Caliber

May 10, 2010

We stopped for some food in Livermore on the Mt. Hamilton ride.

April 29, 1984

Riders: Jobst Brandt, Eric Heiden, Tom Ritchey, Steve Potts, Ted Mock
Route: Milpitas, over Mt. Hamilton to Livermore, Hwy 84, Calaveras Road.

What would have been just another Mt. Hamilton ride turned into a star-studded affair with the arrival of speedskater Eric Heiden (winner of 5 gold medals at the 1980 winter Olympics) at the summit. Eric drove up the mountain with his grandparents, who were visiting from Wisconsin. He had to attend a bike function in Santa Clara Valley and was unable to start the ride with the Jobst riders.

Tom said he was out of shape, having spent 10 days in Japan arranging for products to be made, including a mountain bike tire he designed. Steve Potts, a mountain biker and frame builder from Marin County, was visiting Tom.

Ted made a rare appearance. He just moved his photography shop across the street from Palo Alto Bicycles, having taken over another photographer’s business. Ted was going to visit friends in Danville, so he would turn off at Livermore and take Tassajara Road.

As was typical with Jobst rides, the climb had its moments when people went off the front and made others suffer trying to keep up. As always, Jobst’s eagle eyes started spotting birds, this time a Lazuli Bunting. At first, I thought it was a bluebird, but Jobst corrected me. Along the way, I looked for cracks in the road after the recent 6.2 magnitude earthquake in nearby Morgan Hill, but none were found.

At the summit (4,200 feet), Eric passed us and tooted his horn. Jobst and I raced to the top and, like a fool, I tried a 52-17 combination, but couldn’t push such a big gear. Leave the big gears to Jobst.

Eric changed into his cycling clothes as Jobst and I talked with Eric’s grandfather, who lives in Wisconsin and said he was a hockey coach at one time. They live on a lake and this past winter they had 200 inches of snow. They couldn’t get over the beauty of Santa Clara Valley and Mt. Hamilton.

Jobst went on about the problems he had with painting distance-to-go markers for the Mt. Hamilton road race. The sheriff painted over Jobst’s handiwork. This year Jobst said he would fool the sheriff and paint the markers the day of the race.

On the descent, Jobst led us down the steep side. We regrouped and rode together to San Antonio Junction store. Jobst spotted a Horned Lark, Western Kingbird, Lewis’s Woodpecker, and a Roadrunner. Wildflowers covered San Antonio Valley, but not as much as two springs ago when we had heavy rains.

We had our usual bite to eat at the store and rubbed shoulders with the motorcycle crowd.

On the first climb after leaving the store, Jobst, Ted, and Eric blasted off the front, but slowed down on the second climb –- the Double S — so I could catch up. On Mines Road we had the usual headwind.

Just before reaching Livermore, Eric had a front tubular flat [Jobst quit using sewups around 1981]. A rider caught up to us a joined our group into town.

In Livermore, we stopped at Safeway for food. We then headed west on Highway 84 [we quit taking that route around 1987-88]. We had a nice ride up Calaveras Road in the late afternoon, enjoying the green valleys and hills sprinkled with yellow and orange California poppies.

Back in Milpitas, we loaded our bikes into our cars and headed home, 102 miles, and 8,600 feet of climbing, behind us.


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