Archive for the ‘Once Upon a Ride’ Category

Butano Fire Road lives on

April 10, 2023

Butano Fire Road at its best two miles up from Cloverdale Road.

While trying to track down a Jobst Ride photo taken in 1981, I found myself once again riding on Butano Fire Road. It follows the northern border of Butano State Park and overlooks the Pacific Ocean.

The fire road is unique in that it offers a direct route from Hwy 236 to Cloverdale Road, but it wasn’t the Jobst Riders’ favorite. We much preferred Gazos Creek Road, which cuts through Big Basin Redwoods State Park and has spring water from West Waddell Creek. Then there’s the fun descent that tests a rider’s skills.

David Epperson tries out Butano Fire Road in 1983.

I don’t know why, but when David Epperson visited and I offered to take him on a memorable ride, I chose Butano Fire Road, downhill. Back in the day, David took some unforgettable photos of mountain bike riders in locations that made you wish you were there.

In 2013, David was named to the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, deservedly so.

My thoughts focused more on the time I rode up the fire road with Jobst. It’s a fun climb for three miles, but then the real climbing begins, another six miles of unrelenting 10-18 percent grade over crushed white shale on an exposed ridge.

The views from Butano Fire Road can’t be beat.

That was bad enough, but remember we had already ridden 40 miles. I was hammered when we reached China Grade pavement. There’s a brief rest on Hwy 236 before another 10 kilometers of 5-7 percent grade to Skyline Boulevard.

Nowadays I’m doing more thinking about past rides than I am pedaling.

I’m not complaining. In 2020, the forests of Butano State Park burned along with the trees in Big Basin, one of the worst firestorms in a century.

The forest is recovering after three years.

The fire, the pandemic, and old age conspire against us, but we persevere. I made it to Jackson Flats Trail, looked up at the ridge line and decided that was enough.

There was still Gazos Creek Road to see. The road (paved in 1992 from Cloverdale east for a couple of miles) is one of my favorites in Northern California as the creek cuts through a canopy of trees in a remote valley free of cars. What more can you ask for?

Gazos Creek Road a question mark.

The road is, well, closed, kind of. Several orange cones block the road, but it’s not like you can’t just ride through.

On the ride back, I remembered those days with a stiff tailwind on Cloverdale as we headed for Santa Cruz. If only. The headwind wasn’t so bad.

Pescadero Creek Road has always been a favorite for cyclists thanks to the redwoods and a gentle climb to Loma Mar. Pescadero Creek is flowing strong, its clear, cold water offering a visual respite from the redwoods.

One more stop, the Haul Road. Sadly, the road is still closed a mile from the Wurr Road entrance, thanks to the CZU fire, which was finally halted when the fire fighters took a stand here.

The Haul Road is one of my favorites.

At least the road is in good shape, despite the heavy rains we’ve had all winter.

Those were the days… when I could do the ride from home.

How HOT is it? Not this hot since 1971..

September 8, 2022

My hottest ride, Oct. 4, 1987. Mt. Hamilton loop 102 miles via Livermore. Start was 78 degrees, then 96-100 degrees from noon on.

Glancing through weather stats, I found a heat wave in September 1971 that was a scorcher. San Jose temps:

7 – 88 (91)3 – 88
8 – 91 (93)4 – 97
9 – 87 (89)5 – 102
10 – 88 (89)6 – 109
11 – 85 (87)7 – 97
12 – 95 (98)8 – 104
13 – 102 (106)9 – 93
14 – 104 (108)
15 – 102 (106)
16 – 99
Numbers in parens are Weather Underground. Other #s are National Weather Service.

There’s almost always a heat wave in September, but they haven’t been as long or as hot as this year, with the exception of 1971.

This heat wave had higher peak temps, but didn’t last as long. The media gave us early warnings it was coming this year, but it was days before the heat was on.

Santa Cruz Mountains in a blizzard

April 2, 2021

Jobst Brandt enjoyed riding to Santa Cruz up until his last days on the bike in January 2011. Nothing seemed to bother him when it came to cold weather. Here’s a brief account of a ride that started out nice, but ended up being less than nice. The date was March 31, 2010. His ride started in Palo Alto. From personal email correspondence:

————————-Jobst Brandt on Mt. Hamilton summit, 2001.

“So today I rode over to the coast and down to Santa Cruz in wonderful sunshine and a slight headwind of about 5 mph, but beautiful surf.  In Pescadero waves were smashing in through the tunnel parallel to ones coming in the main inlet. These swells went far inland like surf in the reeds.

Anyway, the wind became a tailwind up HWY 9 and was fun up past Waterman Gap.  However it clouded over and began raining intermittent large drops after the dip a mile above HWY 236.  THEN when I reached the Monterey Bay overlook parking lot the big drops turned to snow and when I reached Saratoga Gap, it was a blizzard. 

I went down HWY 9 to Redwood Lodge where it was still snowing but more lightly.  It just kept getting colder and even had some snow at Stevens Creek Reservoir.

I rode to the BO [Bicycle Outfitter] and Dave [Prion] trucked me home after warming my hands over a hand warmer heater.  That was an amazing change from warm sunshine to snow.  Now I’m dry and comfortable after a shower, dinner, and wash clothes that got a bit dirty splashing through all that water on the road.”

Now this is an unspoiled view

February 17, 2021

I want to remember my Jobst Rides this way, an unspoiled view of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Display at full size, then download and use as a background image in dual-monitor mode for best effect.

Powder Works explodes on the scene

February 14, 2019

Pipeline Road overlook, with Santa Cruz in the distance.

Once upon a ride, May 28, 2006, on a fine spring Sunday, Jobst Brandt led us onto a trail deep in the redwoods alongside the San Lorenzo River. It took us from Graham Hill Road over to Highway 9 and Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.

So-named Pipeline Road headed down, paved at times, past an overlook where we stopped to drink in the view of the blue Pacific and Santa Cruz shimmering in the distance. It was a magical moment.

Little did I realize that only a short distance away, California Powder Works made gunpowder in the late 19th century. The company supplied the transcontinental railroad (Summit Tunnel and other tunnels), and just about every other public works project out West.

At one point they installed some heavy-caliber naval artillery to test the powder. That must have been quite a boom coming from the canyon. Heard for miles around no doubt.

Everything from those times is gone — the tunnel, the flume, and the dam to supply water vital for the manufacturing process. One historic artifact still standing is a covered bridge spanning the San Lorenzo River.

Most workers lived in company housing, in what is now Paradise Park.

We exited onto Hwy 9, bypassing the narrow parts of the road leading out of Santa Cruz.

Once Upon a Ride…available now

June 29, 2016

Once Upon a Ride... a compendium of Jobst Rides, available now.

Once Upon a Ride… a compendium of Jobst Rides, available now.

Thirty-six years in the making, Once Upon a Ride… offers the reader the most complete account of Jobst Rides ever. Even if you own the other three magazines, Adventure Rides in the Santa Cruz Mountains, High Sierra and Mount Hamilton by Bike, there’s something new here.

Over the years I’ve posted past ride reports, based on my personal journal, on this WordPress blog and a personal website (no longer active). All of those articles, including 60 new ones about rides with Jobst Brandt and/or his friends, are for sale on

It’s a lot: 100,000 words, 169 photos, with almost all photos matched to the report. Now you don’t have to search all over the place for Jobst Ride stories, most of which are no longer posted.

All for the price of an inner tube, $5.95.

Available on

These are your options: print, notebook/chromebook or tablet.

These are your options: print, notebook/chromebook or tablet.

Mt. Hamilton backside road stories

March 28, 2016

The old road followed Arroyo Bayo.

The old road followed Arroyo Bayo.

One of the most wild and scenic roads in the Bay Area is Hwy 130, San Antonio Valley Road, on the backside of Mt. Hamilton.

I’ve ridden there since 1980 and it never fails to impress. Over the years I’ve wondered about that dirt road alongside Arroyo Bayo after the hill out of Isabel Creek.

Jobst Brandt, who rode on the backside of Mt. Hamilton more than any cyclist, may have mentioned riding there, but I’ve forgotten.

But Peter Locke has not forgotten, and he rode with Jobst. He told me recently by phone how they rode through the creek. He had fond memories of fording the creek numerous times, as well as crossing a reservoir. Here’s Google Maps after the Isabel Creek climb.

Red line shows where the road went.

Red line shows where the road went.

I looked at a USGS topographic map from 1955 and sure enough the dirt road that you see today along the creek was the main road.

It’s fast disappearing, but it’s still used by landowners in some sections.

I wouldn’t want to try riding there today, but back in 1956-57 when Jobst, Peter and others rode it, the road was maintained.

The road enters a narrow section.

The road enters a narrow section.

Here's where the first section of road returns to present Hwy 130.

Here’s where the first section of road returns to present Hwy 130.

USGS topo map from 1955.

USGS topo map from 1955.

Another location where the road diverged from today’s alignment was in San Antonio Valley. There’s a short incline that passes by a ranch on the right. The old road ran through the ranch property up until around 1954 when the road was straightened.

Jobst Brandt mentioned riding this segment in the early days. Potentially he could have ridden here in 1954 when he was 19, but certainly within a year or two.

Location on San Antonio Road/Valley where the old road took a right through a rancher’s property.

Former San Antonio Valley Road until about 1954 when it was realigned.

Remember Alpine Road!

March 4, 2016

Alpine Road from Portola Valley to Skyline used to be a nice ride. I'll never forget.

Alpine Road from Portola Valley to Skyline used to be a nice ride. I’ll never forget.

Just a friendly reminder, this is how Alpine Road looked in 1990. Fabulous!

It was the best way to Skyline Boulevard.

Who can forget the pumpkin tree?

October 29, 2015

Jobst Brandt and Mike Higgins pass by the pumpkin tree on Pescadero Road in 1984.

Jobst Brandt and Mike Higgins pass by the pumpkin tree on Pescadero Road in 1984.

I know I can’t. In the early 1980s the residents of a house on Pescadero Road hung pumpkins from their apple tree starting in late October.

We enjoyed passing by and admiring the tree every Halloween.

The owners of the house are long-since gone, along with the tree, but the memories remain.

Pumpkin tree location today.

Pumpkin tree location today.

Jobst Brandt leaves behind memories to last a lifetime

May 6, 2015

Jobst Brandt rides up Gavia Pass, Italy in 1983. (Peter Johnson photo)

Behold the wise Jobst Rider,
Whose unfettered mind
Sees God in dirt
And hears him in the spokes.

(Adapted from a quote by Alexander Pope)

Jobst Brandt, a cyclist who in so many ways influenced the bicycle industry during its glory days of the 1980s, died on Tuesday, May 5, 2015, after a long illness. He was 80.

The day after his 76th birthday, Jobst crashed his bike at the Sand Hill Road and Whiskey Hill Road intersection near Woodside during an early morning ride in a dense fog. It was his last bike ride. His serious injuries added to the burden of other health liabilities.

Jobst exerted considerable influence over those he knew in the bike industry, but he was not an industry insider. Because he never worked in the bike business, he could offer his opinions about the industry without reservation.

His passing is a personal loss for me. I met Jobst in 1979 while working at Palo Alto Bicycles. I’ll never forget seeing Jobst wheel into the store on his huge bike, which he always rode into the shop while deftly opening the door.

He immediately bound upstairs to the Avocet headquarters where he would engage owner Bud Hoffacker in lively discussions (browbeat) about everything under the sun involving bike technology.

Jobst was like that. He believed with 100 percent certainty that his way was the right way. If you disagreed and didn’t have the facts to support your argument, you were just another crackpot.

Consummate engineer
Most of the time Jobst was right. He had that rare skill in a mechanical engineer — he not only understood engineering principles, he could translate theory into meaningful product improvements, whether it be a bicycle shoe, a floor pump or a cyclometer.

Jobst received seven patents (3 cycling), testimony to his abilities.

1 – 6,583,524 Micro-mover with balanced dynamics (Hewlett Packard)
2 – 6,134,508 Simplified system for displaying user-selected functions in a bicycle computer or similar device (for Avocet)
3 – 5,834,864 Magnetic micro-mover (Hewlett Packard, and Bob Walmsley, Victor Hesterman)
4 – 5,058,427 Accumulating altimeter with ascent/descent accumulation thresholds (for Avocet)
5 – 4,547,983 Bicycle shoe (for Avocet)
6 – 4,369,453 Plotter having a concave platen (Hewlett Packard)
7 – 3,317,186 Alignment and support hydraulic jack (SLAC)

He received his first U.S. patent while working at the two-mile long Stanford Linear Accelerator in 1966; he was recognized for his work on suspension for the particle accelerator. There’s a plaque with his name on it in one of the lobbies.

At Porsche he designed race-car suspensions, after quickly moving through the ranks. The way he got his job is classic Jobst. The young Stanford University graduate (his father was an economics professor at Stanford), who spent time in the U.S. Army in Germany as a reserve officer — lieutenant, then captain — in the 9th Engineer Battalion, approached Porsche and told them that their English translations lacked polish. Porsche agreed and he was hired.

Cycling legacy
Jobst blazed trails beyond bike product development. His freewheeling way of thinking led him to do things most people would never dream of — like riding a racing bike with tubular tires on rugged trails in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

It’s not that big a deal, but other cyclists thought it was, so Jobst quickly gained a reputation that drew elite cyclists from the Bay Area to join him on his Sunday rides, starting promptly at 8 a.m. from his house on Middlefield Road in Palo Alto.

By the mid-1970s, Jobst had such a large following that some rides counted up to 20 riders. Most would not complete the ride, mainly because it lasted all day and went through creeks, over rocky trails lined with poison oak (Jobst was immune) and through private property.

While Jobst had an entourage of bike racers, he never had anything kind to say about the sport. I think the only good he saw in it was a test of a person’s mettle (a bike’s metal too) and the ability to overcome obstacles. That’s what Jobst was all about.

He never showed fear or got rattled in difficult situations. These Übermensch qualities came to the forefront when he fell and broke his leg at the hip in 1986 on the rain-slick pavement of Col de Tende. He got up, cursed himself for not recognizing the foam on the road, and ordered me to lift his leg over the top tube so he could coast to the next town.

In Tende, Jobst dismounted and crawled on hands and knees up the steps to the doctor’s office.

On another occasion he was trying to help a snake off Calaveras Road; it bit him and only then did he realize the young reptile was a rattlesnake. He didn’t panic, but rode back to his car in Milpitas and drove to Stanford Hospital for the antidote. The venom mangled his thumb.

One beautiful spring day in 1982 we were bound for Gazos Creek Road when we came upon a scene of absolute devastation. The road had been obliterated by torrential rains that downed redwoods and dislodged boulders the size of cars. Instead of turning around, Jobst urged us on.

So we clambered over trees and followed the creek downhill, eventually reaching a recognizable road after a mile of walking.

The Bicycle Wheel
Jobst wrote a lot (check out or Sheldon Brown’s website), but nothing was more important to him than his book on the bicycle wheel. He spent more than a decade writing the book with the intention of producing a tome that would stand the test of time.

I learned to build my first set of wheels using his book when it was still in manuscript form. It was the first time I read a description so well done that I could follow along and build wheels that would last for many years.

Jobst let many people edit the manuscript, but it was Jim Westby, Jobst’s friend and manager of the Palo Alto Bicycles mail order catalog, who did the heavy lifting. Jobst also published a German edition.

The book has sold well since being published by Avocet and is still in print. It could be in print 100 years from now because the principles of wheel building are never going to change. Sure, thanks to new materials we now have 16-spoke wheels, but it’s a number that made Jobst cringe.

Love for the Alps
Although Jobst rode most of his miles in the U.S., he always made time for the Alps. For 50 years he rode there annually, riding many of the same passes year after year, with some variation. He almost always went with another rider.

Riding with Jobst in the Alps tested friendships. He became obsessive about riding all day, every day, and I don’t mean until 5 p.m. He liked to ride until 8 p.m. after starting around 8 a.m., when he could coax the hotel owner to get up that early.

If you rode in the Alps with Jobst, you knew you were going to cover a lot of ground and you could expect some adventure riding, sometimes sliding down snow-covered slopes when crossing high passes on hiking trails. Of course, Jobst rode all but the rockiest trails.

Jobst took many photos of his exploits over the decades, probably more than 10,000 slides. He had a unique ability to capture great photos with his Rollei 35. A few of his photos were made into posters and sold by Palo Alto Bicycles.

He could be obsessive about getting just the right shot, as when we were on the section of road supported by concrete beams looming over Bedretto Valley, Switzerland. Given the right cropping, the road appears to be suspended in mid-air, the village of Fontana 1,000 feet below. Possessed with taking the perfect photo, Jobst hacked away, limb for limb, at a sapling growing next to the road.

Wheel suckers
Although Jobst sometimes had a harsh demeanor, he had his fun side too. He loved to pull pranks and make puns while out on the road. We passed the day telling stories, jokes, and commenting on world affairs.

That was when we weren’t struggling to stay on Jobst’s wheel in his younger days. It was especially true with Tom Ritchey along for the ride. The accomplished racer and frame builder had a way about him that caused Jobst to push the pace; maybe Jobst did it to prove a point or just because he knew he could have some serious competition with Tom.

Whatever the reason, we had some hard and fast riding ahead of us on many a Sunday. It got even worse when other racers showed up, like Keith Vierra, Sterling McBride, Dave McLaughlin, Peter Johnson, Bill Robertson, the list is lengthy.

It got so competitive that we sprinted for city limits signs.

I could go on about Jobst, but it would require a book-length blog. I’ve published some accounts of past rides here (Once Upon a Ride) and they’ll have to do for now.

As Jobst was always fond of saying, “Ride bike!”

Excellent read: The Force Who Rides by Laurence Malone.