Alps Memories as Fresh as Newly Fallen Snow

Rick Bronson, Jobst Brandt, and Steve Smith recall their first tour of the Alps in 1960 during a gathering of friends and family to see slides of that epic ride. Klaus Brandt photo.

Last Saturday I met up with Jobst Riders from the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s to have a first look at digitized slides of the earliest (1959 and on) legendary Alps tours led by Jobst Brandt. As a special tribute, two friends who accompanied this indomitable rider in 1960 traveled some considerable distance for the occasion.

Rick Bronson and Steve Smith were pioneers, joining Jobst on a new kind of touring. Lightly equipped with no more than a Carradice saddle bag, they rode long and hard all day and into the early evening, ticking off the grand passes one by one as they rolled through Switzerland, France, and northern Italy. They spent the night in hotels, consuming a healthy meal and plenty of lager for a peaceful night’s rest before the next day’s journey. A tourist’s Tour de France you might call it.

On their 1960 tour (captured here)they saw the last of the dirt roads. A post WW II Europe bent on putting those nightmare years behind it found the perfect remedy: packing the family into the car and driving into the mountains for holiday. And so the roads were paved.

You had to believe these were some wistful and at times painful private moments for Rick and Steve as they looked back at the days of their youth…and Dan Jones. A tall, strong rider, Dan died in a car wreck during a blinding thunderstorm outside Albuquerque while driving his vintage VW bug — hit from behind and pushed down a ravine. “I warned him to get larger tail lights, but he wouldn’t listen,” Steve recalled.

All in attendance who accompanied Jobst on his 50 tours of the Alps from one decade to the next were struck by the scenery and the poses of the riders. It all looked so familiar, the choice places to take photos unchanged over 50 years.

There was more — Jobst on a frozen Zurich lake riding his bike in sub-zero weather, Jobst riding over the Stelvio in early spring’s snow walls, the Cinelli factory when it actually made bikes — the bikes these intrepid riders owned and rode through the Alps on wooden rims. They would settle for nothing less. And Eddy Merckx battling demons in perhaps his first race in the Giro ‘d Italia. He looked none too happy.

It was a great day for reminiscing with Jobst and friends, reliving the days of our youth.

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