Friday, May 8, 2015

The Bicycle Wheel

You know how after you hear so many stories of someone that, at some point, you start to begin to believe you know that person too?  Even if you've never met them?  That was kind of like how it was with Jobst Brandt.  I never met him.  Never corresponded with him.  But there's a connection.  I bought his book The Bicycle Wheel long ago in the mid '80s.  Read it cover to cover, inside out, many times.  It's not how I learned to build wheels - that was a result of Chuck Hoefer's mentorship at Pacific Coast Cycles in the late '80s.  The two were very complementary in my understanding of the wheel and my love of building wheels.  

Then there all of his many postings on threads.  I never participated in those - not enough time to keep up on that.  But I did read a lot of his posts when I was researching some aspect of the bicycle.  His posts always intrigued me.  Brash, knowing, opinionated, never quavering.  I like to feel that some form of flexibility is good in most aspects of bike mechanics and life in general.  

And then there were the infamous "Jobst Rides."  Rides of 100 miles of more on 70s/80s era road bikes with a lot of off-road riding and a lot of off the road bushwhacking.  Character shaping.  Those souls who braved those rides with him learned a lot about themselves and their abilities over the course of many hours on the bike.  Lessons held tight for these past 30+ years.  

Nope, I never knew Jobst.  But, I've got friends who have some great stories about him.  My co-host on KWMR's Bakersfield & Beyond radio show, Amanda Eichstaedt, used to manage Palo Alto Bicycles back in the 90s and Jobst would cruise into the shop on his big yellow bike and tell her what for.  Amanda writes:

"Jobst was great. It was the Palo Alto Bicycles mail order catalog that hooked me in many ways to bicycling when I was growing up in Tacoma and riding my bike. Many years later I became the manager of Palo Alto Bicycles and Jobst was a frequent visitor to the shop. He was very close friends with the owners, Bud and Neil Hoffacker. Jobst liked to tell me what I should do. It was maddening, but I learned some great nuggets from him. He was the one to explain to me in detail why a person is more likely to get a flat tire when conditions are wet by bringing in some surgical tubing and a razor blade and having me try to cut the tubing both dry and wet - try it. 

He also had the most amazing sweater. He told me the story of his sweater once. His ex-wife had knitted him the sweater out of the most gorgeous green wool. He did not like how the sweater fit so he took it to someone else and had it unraveled and re-knitted. At least that is how I recall the story. I also figured out how to get him off my back when he would come into the shop and fuss at me. I kept suggesting that I come over to his house and help him sort his many slides and photos that were used in the old PAB catalog. All I had to do was try to set a date for the meeting to sort the photos and he was gone like lightning! What a character, with his big yellow bike and long legs riding all over the place. I'm glad I knew you Jobst!"

A poem for Jobst from Amanda:
Big yellow bike
Conundrum, not a word you would use in your book
True rolling resistance
Brown corduroy trousers
Green sweater
Alps pedaling summit shooter
In my shop, the display cases I have came from Palo Alto Bicycles by way of Jock Boyer's shop.  According to Amanda, it's likely that Jobst gave her the flat tire in the wet story over one of these cases.  This link to a Bicycle Retailer obituary on Jobst is a good read - and the comments after the article from people who actually knew him are a great insight. 

I'm glad I knew about you, Jobst.  Jobst died May 6, 2015 at 80 years of age.

The Palo Alto Bicycles display case.

(What's playing:  The Specials Too Much Too Young)

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