Leg-Breaking Alpine Adventures


James Jung, a friend of ACL, offers his thoughts on cycling escapades both domestic and abroad.

As a spindly-legged kid, I spent most of my summers tucked in my Austrian father’s broad slipstream while we pedaled up and down New Hampshire’s winding back roads. Saddled atop his dinosaur of a Motobecane, ragged cycling shoes wedged into his toe clips and his unruly grey hair flapping in the wind (he never wore a helmet, which, he assured me in his heavily-accented English, were for loozahs), he’d ramble on about all the epic Alpine rides he and his fellow farm boy buddies had done as teenagers. Then he’d crack open a can of Coors when we got home, drain it and tell me more. I knew ‘em by heart: The time they’d hooked their hands onto the back of a bus in order to coast the last few rain-soaked kilometers into Munich just to buy an LP of Revolver; the time they’d stumbled into a Swiss gasthof, cycling caps askew and faces full of grime, only to be fed for free by the matronly proprietor who’d pitied such a worn-out and weary-looking crew; and of course the many occasions on which they’d outmaneuvered slick Italian sport coups down Passo di Stelvio’s 48 hairpin turns. Sure, just the other day I blew a few too many freelance checks on this carbon fiber racing rig, but no matter how modern my tastes have become, I’m still – thanks to dad – obsessed with vintage bikes, no-frills cycling apparel and leg-breaking rides.

Which is why I was so psyched to find these photos. Snapped by (and in some instances starring) Jobst Brandt, a former mechanical engineer for Porsche and the author behind wheel-building bible The Bicycle Wheel, these photos chronicle the Californian’s 20-something Alpine cycling trips dating back to 1959. Despite Jobst’s techy background, however, you won’t find anything in the photos below but rawhide tans, long surfer hair, wool jerseys, vintage touring bikes, gravel roads running wet with Alpine snow melt and summer snow banks piled higher than a set of stacked Suburbans. No route was too daunting for Jobst and his buds. Pretty refreshing stuff.

But what really makes these photos so interesting is that they serve as testament to America’s love affair with cycling and adventure. Long before anal-retentive endurance athletes hijacked the sport with their scientifically engineered training programs, heart rate monitors and recovery shakes, laidback westerners were going nuts for two-wheeled competitions like Colorado’s Red Zinger Classic and California’s Nevada City Criterium, and, just like Jobst, many headed for Europe to retrace the pedal strokes of their heroes. Packing their jerseys’ with spare tires, passports and enough Schillings, Liras and Francs to buy a few post-ride rounds at whatever bar they found themselves in, these guys had a boyish mentality to riding and a real sense of two-wheeled camaraderie, proving that a bicycle’s true value isn’t measured in pounds or price tags, but merely by where it can take you.

If you dig these photos as much as I do, head on over to Palo Alto Bicycles for the full set, as well as Jobst’s meticulously detailed journals and a gorgeous gallery of the store’s vintage catalogs. —JAMES JUNG


James Jung founded and edits a “gentleman’s” humor blog titled The Foggy Monocle. His sports and travel writing has appeared in Slate, SKI Magazine and Outside. Currently unemployed, you can find James at many a New York City dive bar should you have freelance writing assignments for him or even a lucrative, low-intensity job offer.

Comments on “Leg-Breaking Alpine Adventures

    Jasonon August 17, 2009 @ 9:21 AM:

    Really fantastic photo’s and the story is told just as good!

    Paul Beirneon August 17, 2009 @ 9:29 AM:

    A gentleman indeed.

    Eric Channing Breweron August 17, 2009 @ 10:26 AM:

    This makes me want to dust of my sidi’s get back in the saddle again! Thanks for sharing!

    Nickon August 17, 2009 @ 10:44 AM:

    Killer fotos. Fuck a spandex.

    Kyleon August 17, 2009 @ 3:46 PM:

    Makes my London-Paris ride look like a walk in the park.

    sethon August 17, 2009 @ 5:04 PM:


    how many gear inches are you guys running on that ride?


    Knox Gardneron August 17, 2009 @ 6:54 PM:

    Thanks for posting!

    Fun photos and freaking great inspiration for the pleasures of cycling simply to cycle and have fun.

    Kyleon August 17, 2009 @ 7:26 PM:


    I’m running 49×17, about 77 gear inches. Most of the guys had similar gearing.

    Donald Couchon August 18, 2009 @ 12:44 AM:

    Thanks for putting me into visual contact with old friends, fellow riders, and the tradition of cycling in Northern California.

    Rickon August 18, 2009 @ 10:37 AM:

    I’m w/ Nick on the photos and the spandex issues. And since you appreciate the (superior, I’d say) style of the vintage velo, but require something modern in for racy applications, you should consider [parting with and replacing / supplementing ] your newly acquired C-dale with something in this idiom:

    Chrison August 18, 2009 @ 10:38 AM:

    Images like that pulled me into road cycling in the late ’70s, and I’m still in the saddle. I’ve never made it to Europe, but those roads still beckon. Gary Erickson of Clif Bar was similarly inspired and wrote “Raising the Bar” based on his cycling adventures on many of these same mountain passes. It’s a good read. Thanks for sharing this. Your site is an inspiration, sir.

    Paton August 19, 2009 @ 1:47 AM:

    Wow, great story. Really captured what I too think cycling is all about, and I’m only 18. Someday I’ll do something like this, hopefully soon.

    till507on August 23, 2009 @ 10:05 PM:

    I just got blindsided by wanderlust. These are really great.

    Gregon August 24, 2009 @ 8:02 AM:

    had no idea this was written by the foggy monocle mate at first. Cheers to cycling and dive bars, and cheers to wanderlust!

    leyoon August 24, 2009 @ 7:28 PM:

    first, you are really tall, second, I will not have these shitty shorts chaff my balls. Don’t get me wrong, sportwholl fan one 100% but the buck tops ate the balls baby…

Comments are closed.