|The Davis Enterprise: Nov. 24, 2008
Davis Bicycles! column #002
Title: Davis in the Bike Museum; Bike Museum in Davis?
David Takemoto-Weerts with an antique highwheeler found in UC Davis’s Pierce Miller collection in August 2006
Did you know the current California Bicycle Museum exhibit at Third and B, “Swiftwalkers to Streamliners, Bicycles 1823-2008,” includes two bicycles that belonged to two cycling hall of fame members with Davis connections? And there will only be four more Saturday mornings to view these special bikes with Davis ties and learn some bike history. After that, it will be time to re-double our community’s efforts to bring the California Bike Museum to Davis permanently. If Davis is in the bike museum, let’s get the bike museum in Davis.
One Davis connection is an off-road bicycle designed by and built for the late John Finley Scott, an emeritus professor of Sociology at UC Davis. Finley, as he was known to his friends and fellow cyclists, is credited with being an inventor of the mountain bike. An avid outdooorsman, Finley modified bicycles in the early 1950s by installing “fat” tires, heavy-duty brakes and multi-speed gearing systems to allow him to “boldly go where no man had gone before” on a bicycle, especially in his beloved California mountains. His earliest bikes remain only in photos and drawings, but Finley pursued his cycling passion throughout his life. The bright orange bike on display was built by then-local frame artisan, John Padgett, known for his exquisite steel frames sold under the “Saturn” marque. This particular “Woodsie”, as Finley called his all-terrain bikes, closely resembles the mountain bikes about to be produced commercially a few years later except for the “drop” handlebars he favored.
Professor Scott was inducted posthumously into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame this past September — but not just for his early mountain bike engineering. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, as owner of the Cupertino Bike Shop, Finley knew many top California bike riders, racers and builders. He followed the efforts and exploits of the Marin County mountain bike pioneers including Tom Ritchey, Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, Jackie Phelan, Otis Guy, and Charlie Cunningham. Finley’s place in cycling history was further cemented because he supplied the start-up funds to Gary Fisher and Tom Ritchey allowing them to produce high-quality frames and complete bikes to start selling them commercially — sparking a revolution in bicycling that continues today.
Incidentally, look for the names of Joe Breeze and Otis Guy engraved on the Davis Double Century trophy at the exhibit. They were setting the roads of Yolo, Napa and Lake Counties ablaze a few years before they began hurtling down the fire roads of Mt. Tamalpais on their early, crude Schwinn off-roadsters.
While not as closely associated with our community as Professor Scott, another Hall of Famer with a Davis connection is certainly more widely known world-wide — but less so for his cycling victories. Eric Heiden earned fame by winning all the men’s speed skating events at the 1980 winter Olympic Games earning him five gold medals. After hanging up his skates, Eric took up cycling, eventually winning the American professional road racing title in 1985. Next year Eric joined the 7-Eleven racing team — the first US team to compete in the Tour de France. Eric’s time trial bike from that event, a swoopy, silver Cinelli Laser, is on exhibit. Note its “disc” wheels, smaller front tire, and “teardrop” shaped frame members that reflect a trend towards emphasizing aerodynamics in those years. What’s Eric’s Davis connection? After he graduated from Stanford Medical School, he did his residency at the UC Davis Medical Center. He stayed on as an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine until opening his own practice in Utah two years ago. Eric was inducted into the US Bicycling Hall of Fame in 1999.
A final Davis connection is the exhibit’s feature of bicycles from the University’s Pierce Miller Bicycle Collection. The exhibit shares bike history and other machines donated to the museum from throughout California and world. There are only a few more opportunities to view this unique California Bicycle Museum exhibit at the Third & B teen center in Central Park from 9:00 to noon on Saturdays through December 20. Don’t miss it.
David Takemoto-Weerts is UC Davis’ Bicycle Program Coordinator, a member of the California Bicycle Museum board, and is part of our community’s effort to make Davis the permanent home of the California Bicycle Museum. Reach him at email@example.com.
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