Welcome to a new year of Classic Corner as a feature in cycling utah. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this column, Classic Corner takes a historical look at cycling each issue. We will look mostly at racing related products, people, and events from the 1950s through the 1980s.
Some of the topics from last season were Masi, Cinelli, Paramount, Campagnolo and Mavic. This year we will continue down this same path, and possibly rekindle memories of your first racing bike or some obscure component in the bottom of that tool box.
The 1997 racing season is yet to begin (at press time), so we thought it would be great to give a perspective on racing in Utah in a different era. Classic Corner recently had the opportunity to visit with Salt Lake native Jan Hyde.
Jan raced on a National level in the fifties and sixties and has some wonderful memories about those days. For readers of this column, you may recall the story on Cinelli in the September issue. The bike featured in that story was one of JanÕs racers from the early sixties.
As a child in the forties, Jan heard about bike racing's heyday from his grandfather and father.
"Bike racing for me," Hyde begins his story, "goes back to my grandfather, Orson Hyde. In the early 1900s, the Salt Palace Velodrome was located at 900 South to 1300 South and State Street. My Grandfather was a musician there and knew all the riders. It was part of the National scene in those days, and Frank Kramer and all the big shots of track racing would race there. My grandad was there all the time, and as a result my father wound up in that crowd as well. He got a Pierce Kramer bike from one of the racers and that kind of started him off.
"There was a local racer by the name of Frank Walker who was very good. He rode with the Kramers and Major Taylors of the day, and I remember him telling my dad about 'The fastest bike racer ever.' He was talking about Major Taylor. Kramer and Taylor were the big names, but there were many others who were right there too. The big names in bikes in those days were Iver Johnson and Pierce Arrow.
"At age 12, I got my first racing bike. My dad had it built for me, and I don't remember what it was, but it had tubular rubber tires and an 81 inch gear, and I started riding a lot. A local racer named Wendell Rollins saw me riding at Liberty Park and suggested that I start racing. I won my first race, the Little Mountain race, in 1952. It was a handicapped start where each rider was sent off at intervals based on his experience, and I ended up winning.
"My first year of really racing was 1953, and Wendell and those guys put me in the qualifiers for the National Championships and I ended up going. Wendell took me and I rode his bike. which was nicer than mine. I didn't win, but I went to Nationals my first year racing. I raced locally until 1956, then just lost interest and stopped riding.
"In 1962, on a whim I went into Joe Fisher's shop and saw a Legnano there that I liked and could afford, so I bought it and started riding again. I was at the University of Utah then and started riding with two other guys - Pete Locke from California, and Ward Hindman from Colorado. Pete knew a lot about racing, and knew Spence Wolfe at Cupertino Bike Shop out there. Spence was the recognized expert on racing bikes and had sold Pete a Cinelli. Before long Ward and I both ordered Cinellis from Cupertino. My Cinelli cost me $210.00 for the complete bike including shipping. I ordered it with chrome stays and trim, so it was more than normal price. I also got Clement Del Mondo silk sew ups which were $21.00, and Spence was the only one who carried them. I had to wait over six months for the bike to arrive.
"Before long we had a good core group of riders locally who were always in shape and ready to ride. In addition to Pete, Ward and myself, there were Milo Hadlock, who was still competing up to recently, Bill Young, Paul DeBuzek and Rod Golson. Our club was called the Utah Wheelmen, and we did regular training rides. Our favorites were from the University, up Parley's Canyon and back down Immigration for a short, between-classes ride. For longer rides, we would go from Salt Lake down to the Alpine Loop, over to Provo Canyon, then to Park City and back down Immigration or Parley's. Another regular was a late spring ride to Brighton, up over Guardsman Pass on the dirt road to Park City and back down. There was also Heber to Mirror Lake, and East Canyon to Coalville or Farmington. My favorite was the Alpine Loop ride.
"There were not many American racers of International level then, and the name that comes to mind on a National level is Jack Disney. He was really a speed skater who rode for training, but was always at the top of National events. The main guys on our level were Bob Tetzloff from California and Michael Hiltner, who was known all over as a great climber. Hiltner was very much a loner, he never said anything, but he was always right under your elbow. He also rode a Cinelli. In California, there was a hillclimb from the coast to the top of Malibu Canyon, and at the base of the climb was the Stone Market - a hangout for riders. Hiltner owned the record for this hillclimb and had his time posted on the board at this market as a challenge to other riders. I rode this climb and beat his record by three seconds. I went into the market and pinned my time above his on the board, and I got a phone call from him about how I was training.
"The International racers that we would hear about were 'The Great Coppi,' Jacques Anquetil, Tom Simpson, Louison Bobet, Christophe, and later a young Merckx. The only word we got on the Tour de France was from the British magazine Cycling. We would follow the race two or three weeks behind in the magazine. I remember when Tom Simpson died in the Tour, we found out on a delay weeks after.
"In 1964, our club decided to challenge anyone from BYU to a race on the day of the football game between the U of U and BYU. The game was in Salt Lake, so we put the word out that the race would leave Provo at 2:30 in the afternoon. It was an 'all-comers' kind of challenge race. We went to Provo and waited at the starting area, and waited. At 2:30, no one was there. At 2:40, no one. We were just getting ready for the training ride back to Salt Lake when a group of about 35 riders came around the corner. There were some excellent riders there too. We swallowed hard and began trying to formulate a strategy for the race. It was a tough race, but our plan did work, and Pete, Ward and myself ended up off the front. Both of them fell off and I ended up winning the thing. That race became an annual event on game day, travelling to the home site. Other big races in the area were a July 4th criterium at Lagoon, road races from Salt Lake to Malad, Idaho, and from Salt Lake to Elko, Nevada. The Elko Relay, as it was called, was 235 miles and was a major event with ten-man relay squads competing. There was a ring that racers would wear around their neck and hand off to the next rider. You would put your strong guys on the hills and sprinters on the flats. We raced for plaques and trophies in those days.
"In 1965, I moved to southern California, and raced for the Santa Monica Cycling Club. I did very well down there and finished third in the California Championships on the track. That was enough to send me to Nationals on the road! In that race, I crashed and broke my nose, but I continued for one lap until I was too dizzy to hold a line, so I just went straight for the hospital. I also raced a tandem down there. It was a red Follis tandem from France that I got from the Santa Monica Bike Shop, and had them put a huge ring on the crank. I had Spence Wolfe make a new derailleur cage to take up the extra chain. You could rap that thing out to amazing speeds, but it had a 'mushy' frame that would traverse about a foot either side as you rode. That tandem is still around; I took it to Rod Golson's shop about four years ago, and I think it's still there.
"Follis was one of the big names for bikes back then. The best bikes at that time were Schwinn Paramounts, Peugeot, Legnano, Bianchi and Stella. Cinellis were very rare and kind of unknown, but there was no comparison in how they rode. They were just so smooth and handling was the best. For components it was Campagnolo and Stronglight, in that order with centerpull brakes from Weinmann and Mafac. Simplex was widely used, with their plastic derailleurs . Brooks saddles were used by almost everyone. The first 'off the wall' frame design I saw was called the 'F' frame with a small front wheel to lower the body and make the rider more compact for pursuit and sprinting on the track.
"The last race I rode was in Liberty Park in 1969, on a Schwinn Paramount. I honestly don't remember if I won. I just kind of showed up and raced for the fun of it, as I recall. The most fun race I remember was the Double Century Race from Los Angeles to Palmdale and back to Santa Monica. I don't recall the year, but I was in a group of about fifteen riders to attack and get away on the hills. When we got back to the coast north of L.A. we still had about ten guys in the group. And when you're heading south on the coast out there you get a great tail wind. We cruised in to town at around fifty miles per hour with everyone pulling, what a great feeling that was!"
Jan stopped racing after that Liberty Park race to focus on raising his family and pursuing a career. Like his grandfather, Jan is a musician and freelanced for about 35 years while teaching music and repairing instruments. He has played with, among others, the Utah Symphony. For the past twelve years he has been with the Army band full time. These days his free time is spent building large scale remote control planes and answering questions from the author about bikes of the fifties and sixties.
"You belong to a what? A Bike Club!? You mean, like, choppers and leather, and... Oh, you mean a bicycle club. Wow, you must be killer strong. I mean you guys ride to Wendover for lunch and do sprints to Snowbird. I could never ride with you."
Many of you will recognize the conversation, seems like I have it at least a few times every year, during an organized century ride, at a party, in the gym. It's all about the perceptions that come with membership in a bike club.
Now while it may be good for our egos to have the rest of the cycling community thinking we are all Lance-clones, I suggest it is not good for the sport. And although good clubs have good riders, good clubs also have lots of very average riders and even a few pretty slow ones. And that, I suggest, is good for the clubs, and hence good for the sport
What I am proposing to do in a series of articles to follow in cycling utah is dig a little deeper into the world of Utah bike clubs. There are quite a few out there and the spectrum of their membership, motivation and mileage is broad.
I'll start out in this article by telling about the role of clubs in cycling, not as it is but as some think it should be. Subsequent articles will hopefully permit you to decide how we are doing in the "Pretty great State."
I would like to dedicate an article to each of the clubs in Utah, perhaps two clubs in some articles if need be. I'll be contacting the clubs for information and details of their policies, operations, and their outlook.
And I will also try and give you some firsthand reports by joining each of these clubs for a ride, a meeting, or some event they put on. As much as possible, I'll try and do this anonymously, or perhaps engage some friends as "spies," to give you a picture of what it's like to make contact with a club where you don't know anyone.
If I can, I will report on some clubs from outside of Utah or the club scene in other parts of the country or the world. If they can do it in Denver or Minneapolis or Innsbruck, why can't we do it here?
I have several goals with these articles. First, I am a big fan of bike clubs; they are the motor for cycling in this country and around the world. I hope that by telling you about what bike clubs do and what and who they are, I'll convince a few of you to give a local club a try. Bike clubs are not for everyone and not for every ride, but they can do a lot for your riding and your recreational, even your social, life.
Second, I bet that many of you have tried in the past to join a club, even if only for a ride, and were disappointed. The ride was too fast, the ride was too slow, it was too flat a course, or too hilly, people didn't talk to you or they talked so much you never rode fast enough to get out of breath. I hope that by telling you about each of the clubs, both through their eyes and mine, you'll get some sense of what each club is about and perhaps find the right one for you more quickly.
Third, I have an ulterior motive, which is to improve the bike club scene in Utah. I hope that by telling those of you who are in clubs, who perhaps run those clubs, about each other, it will spawn more ideas and more interest in providing what cyclists are looking for. And if a few motivated cyclists bring their energy to the clubs as well, then the future will look very bright indeed.
An editorial I read from VeloNews in 1994, just before my first meeting as a club president, sums up what bike clubs can be. "An ideal club could, from within itself, offer coaching to riders, organize club rides and races, have programs specific to its various constituencies (women, juniors, masters, elite racers, mountain bikers) and still provide that basic camaraderie that drives most cyclist to seek each other out."
And just so you don't think we are talking only racing, the editor went on to say "A club's obligation is to try to keep people involved in the sport and to enhance their enjoyment of it. Clubs need structure, so that new members can learn from old -- probably the most widespread form of coaching that exists. And they need to inform their members -- via a newsletter or meetings -- of developmental projects such as the federation's coaching clinics."
The federation referred to here is the United States Cycling Federation (USCF), an umbrella organization for road cycling and part of the larger USA Cycling, that includes organizations for elite racing, mountain biking, and even BMX racing. We'll talk in a later article about the role of the federation.
In these days of political ethics and hidden agendas, I want to get my potential conflict of interest on the table. I am a member of a club, the Rocky Mountain Cycling Club, and have been its president. One of the great things about my tenure was the opportunity to get to know other cyclists and the organizers of other clubs in Utah. I will try and make use of the latter situation and try to be objective in looking at specific clubs.
My biggest bias is that I am a cyclist who believes it is the greatest sport there is. I hope it's a bias I share with many of you. My agenda is to see 40 percent of participants in the AIB Century, 90 percent of the contestants at the Snowbird Hill Climb, and 75 percent of the riders in the Decker Dash mountain bike series in club jerseys.
To help me in the process of gathering information, and to make sure your club gets the exposure and coverage it deserves, I encourage club organizers to contact me. If you can, use the Internet ([email protected]) and if not, send material to cycling utah with my name on it.
My mother rode a three-speed Schwinn from New York to California in 1956. Forty years later, after an appearance on the Today Show (She was interviewed on the same show in 1956), my husband, Brian, and I set out to re-trace her trip.
What followed were fifty-two days (forty-seven riding and five days off), ten states, Canada, and nearly three thousand miles of biking. Our route took us Northwest through the Allegheny Mountains and Buffalo, into Canada and along the northern shore of Lake Erie, down to northwestern Ohio (via ferry), across the farmlands of northern Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska, up and over the Continental Divide in Colorado (via 12,000 foot Independence Pass), through southern Utah's National Parks and Monuments (Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, the new "Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument," Bryce and Zion), and finally, California, Yosemite National Park, San Francisco and the Pacific Ocean.
Our trip had much in common with my mother's. Schwinn provided us with bicycles: Hers was a 3-speed "Traveler" which weighed nearly fifty pounds. Ours were 24-speed Schwinn 96.1 aluminum mountain bikes weighing twenty-five pounds thanks to Bingham Cyclery in Murray. We encountered all types of weather, heat, humidity, thunderstorms, and even snow. She had the same. Our story was covered by local newspapers and radio stations along the way, though not quite as many as had interviewed her. And our journey proved to be every much "the adventure of a lifetime," as it was for my mother. It's hard to sum it up in a few words, but here are some of the highlights.
Delaware Water Gap: After the hoopla of New York City with the bright lights of the Today Show and all that pancake makeup they had us wear "to look natural," it felt like the ride had begun as we meandered along the cliffs of the Delaware River. We took our time, stopping to dip our feet in the water, eating french fries at stands and just being happy to have gotten out of New York City with our bikes, packs and bodies still intact. Humidity in the East is like a curtain that closes over you and won't let go and it hit us the first day -- Brian sweating so much that he had to empty his flooded shoes. My sunglasses fogged with sweat to the point that they were unusable. After riding in 96 degree heat for five hours, a sudden thunderstorm at mile 55 felt perfect sliding down our already drenched bodies. The storm didn't last long, ending as we pulled into our hotel. Brian and I waisted no time and dove right in the pool, sweaty clothes and all, bobbing around with our helmets still on.
Buffalo, New York: After hoofing it over the Poconos with the cheesy Honeymoon Havens and Lover's Lane motels and the continual hills that we thought we were ready for, it was a relief to be in the flatter parts of the East. My mother's friend, Jane, made killer lasagna and opened her refrigerator full of Lowenbrau for us. Jane even had her Ladies Bicycling Group (women in their 50's and 60's who meet once a week to do twenty mile rides) called "Outspoken" met us for lunch before we crossed the Peace Bridge into Canada.
Ohio: With bike lanes evenly paved along new roads that parallel fields of corn, soybeans and wheat, Brian and I could ride side by side and actually talk. Talking is a rare treat when you're touring. Because Brian grew up in Ohio, he knew all the good county backroads and we rarely saw cars or people. We did, however, get chased by dogs, but it made for good interval training across the flat terrain.
Iowa: Even with tons of traffic and absolutely no bike; lanes anywhere, we had a blast in Iowa. In Davenport, we celebrated the 1,000 mile mark by sneeking into a Pops Concert with fireworks and ate dinner at a great brew pub. In Iowa City, we stayed in a college dorm room and had our first Mexican food of the trip, almost as good as Salt Lake's Red Iguana. People invited us into their homes for dinner and lodging and one man in Winterset even gave us his Cadillac for the day to tour around the Bridges of Madison County. "You can't reach them all by bikes," he had said as he gave us the keys his car, waving us off.
Colorado: A late summer snowstorm, complete with sleet and specks of snow filtering down from heavy black clouds, accompanied us on our ascent up and over Independence Pass, the road between Leadville and Aspen, Colorado. A major goal of our trip was to make it over this 12,000 foot pass. We emptied our bags putting on all the wool, polypropylene, hats and gloves we had with us. We even included our fluorescent rain gear to top things off. The road from Twin Lakes to the top of the pass includes 3,000 feet of climbing over 18 miles. We started out in wind, which soon turned to sleet. By the time we were completing the final switchbacks near the top, we were in a full-blown snowstorm. People in warm cars would slow down to say either, "You're crazy!" or "You want a ride?," but we just kept going. We took a few photos at the Continental Divide sign and then coasted down into Aspen. Brian figures that he only peddled three or four times during the twenty mile descent. It was easy on the legs, but rather chilly. The snowstorm didn't let up the next day, so we took an additional day off to enjoy the hot tub and to carbo-load at the Motherload Restaurant in Aspen.
Utah: The only thing I can say about Utah is RIDE IT. There is no other way to experience the silence of the canyons, the kingly presence of the Buttes, the smell of pine and sage after a rain, the stampede of cattle being driven down the mountains for the winter, and the absolute freedom of stopping wherever and whenever you want to because youÕre on bikes. Along Rt. 128, into Moab from Cisco, we went from feeling enclosed by red rock cliffs along the Colorado River, to being awed by the vastness of Fisher Towers and The Windows. A few days later, while riding through Capital Reef, we'd watch the shadows lengthen then suddenly disappear with sunburst as the Winnebagos blazed through the park, videocameras recording what they didn't seem to have the time to stop for. Rt. 12 over the Hogsback canyons of Escalante is like being on your own bike-propelled rollercoaster that rides the ridges of a dinosaur back. All you hear is the wind in your ears, and all you see is rocks expanding over the horizon, forever. Through Bryce and Zion, we were rode and experienced all of the parks, not just from vista to vista. We rode early each day through these national treasures, often beating the crowds and the tour busses full of people ready to check off that day's points of interest.
Yosemite: We rode into Yosemite via Tioga Pass. It would be our final major climb of the trip. It was a workout, to say the least. It took us two hours to climb 3,000 feet and cover the twelve miles between Mono Lake and Yosemite's eastern entrance. The distance and the grade of this climb reminded us of the road that goes up Little Cottonwood Canyon. The rest of the day was a glorious experience, only tainted by the fact that the road going through the park had no shoulder and all the people in their rental cars weren't too happy about sharing their precious lane with a couple of "slow" bicycle tourists. Brian said they should have changed the sign at the park entrance to, "Welcome to Yosemite National Racetrack."
The San Francisco Bay: We didn't see the Bay area until we climbed one last hill and crested the ridge of Skyline Drive that overlooked Oakland and San Francisco. We had done it! The Bay sat sparkling in the late October sun as sailboats packed themselves in and around the bridges to San Francisco. It was literally all downhill as we stared at the "left coast" from our perch up high next to multimillion dollar homes. The trip suddenly felt too quick. We weren't ready to go back to jobs, and cars, and alarm clocks and house payments and responsibility. We wanted to keep going, our credit card paying the way and our bicycles enabling us the freedom of the open road. But the Pacific beckoned us and with a final clip into our pedals we glided down the hills to Berkeley and to the hugs of our family, friends and, of course, my mother, awaiting us. We symbolically ended the trip the next day by riding through San Francisco's Golden Gate Park and to the ocean. We dipped our front tires into the ocean and turned around to relish our accomplishment.
We are back in Utah now, reassimilating ourselves all too quickly into the rigors of life off the road. However, we continue to relive our adventure through photographs, video (we shot 16 hours of film along the way), and our memories. All of this, coupled with my mother's reflections and some further research, will eventually end up in a book we are currently writing: Coast- to-Coast in Forty Years, the Adventure of Two Lifetimes.