Jobst Brandt’s bikes

Finding a bike suitable for a strong rider who’s 6’5″ is a tall order.

Few riders, outside of the pros, rode as hard and as long as Jobst Brandt. Jobst and Northern California racers explored the Santa Cruz Mountains, crossed the High Sierra, and took weeks-long tours in the Alps.

Given his size, it stands to reason Jobst was particular about his bike. Cycling became more than transportation while he attended Stanford University in the mid 1950s.

Master frame builders of Jobst’s steel bikes: Cino Cinelli, Tom Ritchey, Peter Johnson

Around 1955 he purchased his first bike, a Schwinn three-speed. No photos exist. He switched to a straight handlebar, like those found on today’s mountain bikes.

That bike took him into the Santa Cruz Mountains where he met devotees of the sport, who scoffed at his heavy Schwinn and steered him to the Cinelli.

A former bike racer, Cino Cinelli made about 250 frames a year when Jobst purchased his first Cinelli on October 2, 1957, from Spence Wolfe.

First Cinelli
Spence ran the Cupertino Bike Shop part-time out of his house. Jobst’s blue Super Corsa 62 cm. fully equipped sold for $138 ($1,259 in 2020).

How many Cinellis did Jobst Brandt own? Maybe 4. Blue with chrome lugs, blue, silver, red.

Jobst raced in 1958, but quickly lost interest in the sport. He moved to Europe around 1960 as part of his military service where, I’m guessing, he purchased one, two, three (who knows?) Cinellis. After the military, he landed a job at Porsche in Germany.

When Jobst returned to the U.S. with his German wife around 1964, he resumed long weekend rides in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

It wasn’t long before Jobst started breaking not only bike parts, but frames as well. His size and leg strength put bike components to the ultimate test. Most failed, including the vaunted Campagnolo crank.

Tom Ritchey frame
These failures caused no end of frustration for Jobst. He finally gave up on Cinelli frames in about 1975 and turned to Tom Ritchey to build a frame.

The young, competitive rider had started joining him on rides. “I had replaced half of its [Cinelli] broken tubes,” Tom recalls when he was asked to build a frame.

Jobst must have been impressed by Tom’s frame-building prowess. The 18-year-old who lived in Palo Alto had already built racing frames for local riders and mastered lugless frame building. Without lugs, he had easy access to various tube diameters.

Tom’s mastery of frame building suited Jobst’s engineering sensibility. He had found someone who not only knew how to handle a torch, but Tom could ride his pace and understood the stresses bikes had to withstand.

Jobst had his share of accidents, including one on November 29, 1981, on Swett Road. Riding with a half-dozen cyclists they passed a few houses. A dog vaulted after the riders and lunged into the pack, where Jobst tangled with the dog and fell. He bent his Ritchey frame.

Tom fixed it and Jobst was quickly back on the road.

Peter Johnson frames
In the meantime, Jobst asked Peter Johnson to build him another frame. The machinist had been riding with Jobst for years and he, like Tom, had become a master frame builder who specialized in tig welding.

From the mid-1980s on, Jobst rode a yellow bike. Yellow, according to him, showed cracks better compared to other colors. He also painted one of his Cinellis yellow back in 1970.

Jobst started riding Peter’s frame in the mid 1980s, so he had two rideable custom-built frames for a time. However, he collided with a car on his Ritchey. Its whereabouts is unknown, but it may turn up. Jobst’s original Peter Johnson frame is owned by Richard Mlynarik.

Size matters
One thing that stand out about Jobst’s bikes is their size. Peter said he made Jobst’s first bike 66 cm. “Jobst’s theory was that he liked his handlebar high and if he stuck the stem up that high, it would break off. So he wanted a big frame with the stem stuck well down in the fork.”

Peter helped Jobst’s bike maintenance and performance by developing a threadless steerer tube, first used by Jobst’s nephew Marc Brandt in the early 1980s, and later by Jobst in the early 2000s. (That technology was patented in 1990 by Homer Rader III.)

What really irked me about Jobst and his big bike was that he would nonchalantly leave it outside stores while he went inside for a bite to eat, and a Pepsi. The rest of us had to worry about leaving our bikes unattended.

In the late 1980s, according to Peter, he built Jobst a second frame, which is still owned by the Brandt family, fully restored.

Bike is a utility
As much as Jobst loved cycling, he didn’t cherish his bikes. They were utilities to him. Owning three or four? Cinellis eventually turned into owning a single bike, which he rode into the ground. When it broke, he had it fixed. That’s the beauty of owning a steel frame.

Steel was to Jobst like a bottle of fine Chianti was to Cinelli. There was no better choice.

Jobst on his red Cinelli in early 1960s (Jobst Brandt photo).

Feel free to add to this story, if you have more details.

11 Responses to “Jobst Brandt’s bikes”

  1. jamesRides Says:

    Interesting story. Ritchey built tougher bikes which is what the mountain bikers in Marin needed.

  2. Joachim Laubsch Says:

    Hi Ray, I found some pictures with Jobst’s (latest) bike:

  3. Marc Brandt Says:

    Thank you Ray. Ride Bike.

  4. Anwyl McDonald Says:

    Jobst broke the seat tube on his Cinelli at the bottom bracket once when I was riding with him in the early ’70’s. He took some pride in telling us later that when he complained to Mr. Cinelli about the failure his response was that Jobst “rode too hard”.

  5. Ray Hosler Says:

    Anwyl — About the time you were with him on Mt. Hamilton. All those Brooks saddles. I never got mine broken in.

  6. peter johnson Says:

    Jobst could break an anvil.He broke 22 campy cranks not to mention steel cinelli stems,pedal axels,freewhwheels etc.He rode steel Cinelli bars until the very end.

  7. Brian Cox Says:

    When I first rode with Jobst circa 1986 he was on a red Richey. One Sunday while descending Johansen, he hit a rut and crashed. He suffered some minor road rash and bent the bike. Next Sunday, he was on a yellow Peter Johnson. Peter fixed the Richey and it was sold through Wheelsmith. The last time I saw this bike, it was hanging from the ceiling of WS (when it was on the corner of Hamilton and Emerson).

  8. Ray Hosler Says:

    Yes, it was November 29, 1987, the same day he hit a dog on Swett Road six years earlier. Jobst should have stayed home that day. It’s mentioned on page 168 of “Once Upon a Ride.” Peter, you, me, Jeff Vance, were on that ride. He hit one of those hard-to-see drainage berms. Forks mangled and top tube crimped.

  9. Jon Blum Says:

    I know that Jobst was a very smart man, so I am puzzled to hear that he broke 22 Campy cranks. Given the dangers of a broken crank, did he not try some other kind? Those are said to have a problem stemming from a stress riser at a sharp edge where the right arm meets the spider. (And yes, I am jealous, because I am not strong enough to break stuff unless I fall off the bike, and then usually what breaks is me.)

  10. Ray Hosler Says:

    Jon, Peter Johnson could tell you more, but Jobst did tell Campagnolo and anyone who would listen. They shrugged their shoulders. However, technology has improved and today cranks rarely break. Jobst developed a solution for Campy cranks requiring that the pedal eye be drilled with a concave shape for some convex washers. The idea was to reduce the amount of motion of the pedal axle, which weakened the crank arm over time. Peter made the parts himself. I’m riding them now on my Campagnolo Super Record cranks. Some cranks today have small indentations at the pedal eye. Jobst always likened it to car wheels and their concave lug bolts. They used to be flat, and sure enough car wheels came off!

  11. Jon Blum Says:

    Thanks for the explanation. I remember reading Jobst’s recommendations about the pedal eye somewhere; it’s too bad that what is probably the wrong standard was adopted long ago, and is hard to undo. A quote from Pardo’s collection of broken cranks on line may also provide some answer: “Campag cranks were the vast majority of failures because they saw the really serious miles. Victims were sure not to stray from Campag for fear of even worse experiences. The more of their cranks you broke the more you recommended to others like yourself to use nothing else.”

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