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Naomi  The Biking Life

 by: Naomi Bloom  10/1/2008

The Old Farts Ride Again!

"OK, everybody suck it in."

Thus spake our illustrious photographer as he raised his camera at the start of the 28th Annual Old Farts Ride in Woodside on Sunday, September 7. Gathered there were some 50 people, former bike racers from all over California who had raced with and/or against each other in the 1960s and early 1970s.

The invitation we received read, in part: "In 1998 [Dave Capron] organized a reunion of vintage Pedali Alpini riders and friends. . . This year we are holding a reunion of this reunion in conjunction with the Old Farts Ride."

Ever read Hearts of Lions by Peter Nye? It's about all those great bicycle racers of the '60s and '70s. Those 20th Century heroes are the very ones who are the Old Farts today. A lot of them rode for clubs in the Bay Area, clubs like Pedali Alpini, Berkeley Bicycle Club, Belmont Bike Club.

"We had four groups within Pedali Alpini," Mike Jacoubowsky reminisces on his website. "There was the 'A' group, whom we were expected to bow down reverently before, got $$$ from the treasury for travel expenses etc, the 'B' group that comprised 'serious' cyclists who weren't good enough (and probably never would be) for the A group, the 'belongers' who helped out and supported things...and us. A bunch of upstart young punks who created the 'Z' team. . . .We were a feisty bunch, had a lot of fun, traveled all over the state and had/have many interesting stories to tell."

And every year, like clockwork, a gaggle of the As, Bs, "belongers" and Zs from all over get together somewhere in the Bay Area to ride, reminisce, eat and drink. Some attendees, like us, just came up or down the Peninsula for the day. But there was a healthy representation of Southern Californians this year. And plenty of nostalgia.

When we arrived at the hosts' cul de sac off Canada Road, we saw a sign at the intersection: "OF and Pedali Park on Canada Road." Everyone walked their bikes and potluck contributions up the cul de sac then milled around munching on homemade scones and slurping caffeinated drinks in preparation for the rigors of the toasty 35 or so miles to come.

I get to go to the OF Ride because Jim is an authentic Old Fart. He first joined Pedali Alpini in 1968, while he was still at the University of Oregon, but wanted to race over the summer at home. (It didn't take long until he was shanghaied into being president in 1972-73.)

Not my first OF Ride

I got to go last year, too, when the OF Ride took place in Marin, starting in Fairfax and looping down to Point Reyes Station and back. We took our trusty CoMotion tandem and discovered other tandem couples arriving as well. I was tickled pink to reconnect with Owen Mulholland post-ride. We got right down to swapping stories about touring in France.

Then a perky woman came up to me and said, "Remember me? Your were the first journalist to write about me." It was Elaine Mariolle, and I did indeed cover her first bid for a RAAM championship in California Bicyclist in 1984.

Back to this year's OF Ride: On that steamy Sunday -- right on the tail end of the last heat wave of summer -- over 30 people rode through Woodside, Portola Valley, Los Altos Hills and back. The route covered most of the old Portola Valley Twilight Race Series course. But it wasn't quite the way Jim remembered it from the early '70s because the course varied over time. He recalled how he would suffer climbing the last steep grade on Willowbrook up to Alpine Road. So we took the tandem on a detour from Portola Road onto Willowbrook and then over to Alpine. That was the last we saw of the pack until we were on the way back.

There was more than one California Grizzly Bear jersey peeling down the road. "If you see a Grizzly jersey here, it's for real," Jim told me. "The guy wearing it earned it." Of course, that would have been decades ago, long before any racer wannabe could stroll into a bike shop (or log on to a bike gear/clothing site) and buy they same thing. Back then, you had to be a state champion -- road, TT, or track; junior, senior or masters, to sport the state flag on your back.

By this time it was really hot! Everyone was thinking: cold beer! And there was plenty waiting in the back yard, not to mention grilled chicken and burgers and enough side dishes to choke any hard-nosed racer.

A post-ride stroll through the hosts' home revealed black-and-white glossy photos all over the house. Piles of color snaps and old scrapbooks beckoned from coffee tables. Newsletters from national and local racing organizations between 1963 and 1968, and Pedali Alpini membership rosters from 1962 and 1963 may have been almost falling apart, but we all thumbed through at least a few.

Someone had added a copy of The American Bicycle, which gives Pedali a good plug.

A rack of vintage jerseys out in the yard drew our attention, in addition to those on the backs of more than one OF. Further back in the yard, a collection of vintage racing bikes (and at least one Columbia "clunker") got tongues wagging about their old rides and how they regretted not preserving or refurbishing them.

So, all this raises the age-old question: Do Old Farts really get fat in winter? I'd venture to say some sport a bit of paunch all year round these days. But there are quite a few others you'd never know weren't still racing. They ride almost daily and still look like elite competitors. As one OF's post-ride T-shirt announced, "I'm Not Dead Yet!"

Thanks to Mike Jacoubowsky for
the vintage Pedali Alpini photo,
and to Cathy and Ruike Piper
for photos of the 2008 Old Farts Ride.

Naomi can be reached at naomibloom@earthlink.net

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