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 fatherâ€™s broad slipstream while we pedaled up and down New Hampshireâ€™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), heâ€™d ramble on about all the epic Alpine rides he and his fellow farm boy buddies had done as teenagers. Then heâ€™d crack open a can of Coors when we got home, drain it and tell me more. I knew â€˜em by heart: The time theyâ€™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 theyâ€™d stumbled into a Swiss gasthof, cycling caps askew and faces full of grime, only to be fed for free by the matronly proprietor whoâ€™d pitied such a worn-out and weary-looking crew; and of course the many occasions on which theyâ€™d outmaneuvered slick Italian sport coups down Passo di Stelvioâ€™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, Iâ€™m still â€“ thanks to dad â€“ 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 Californianâ€™s 20-something Alpine cycling trips dating back to 1959. Despite Jobstâ€™s techy background, however, you wonâ€™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 Americaâ€™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 Coloradoâ€™s Red Zinger Classic and Californiaâ€™s Nevada City Criterium, and, just like Jobst, many headed for Europe to retrace the pedal strokes of their heroes. Packing their jerseysâ€™ 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 bicycleâ€™s true value isnâ€™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 Jobstâ€™s meticulously detailed journals and a gorgeous gallery of the storeâ€™s vintage catalogs. â€”JAMES JUNG
James Jung founded and edits a â€œgentlemanâ€™sâ€ 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.