Cyclometers keep us honest

Jobst Brandt descends Haskins Hill on Pescadero Road, promoting Avocet tires.

Jobst Brandt descends Haskins Hill on Pescadero Road, promoting Avocet tires.

Among its many benefits, the Avocet cyclometer took the BS out of cycling. You couldn’t exaggerate how fast you sped down steep hills. I used to routinely hear Tour de France TV announcers talk about racers reaching 60-70 mph as though it were an everyday occurrence. Hardly.

I don’t hear that kind of talk as much now, so to impress the uninitiated they go metric on us. “They’re descending at amazing speeds, 80-90 kph.” That’s more like it.

One of the best descenders I’ve known is Jobst Brandt. Not only was he a skilled rider, he was fearless, a pre-requisite for going 60 mph and beyond. At 180 pounds he had a weight advantage over the elite riders who took his draft, racers like Tom Ritchey, Sterling McBride, Peter Johnson, Keith Vierra and others.

Jobst had a key role in designing the Avocet cyclometer (bike computer). As an engineer and a cyclist he was a stickler for accuracy, which is why the Avocet cyclometer was the most accurate computer of its time.

So how fast did Jobst go? He clocked himself just over 60 mph descending the east slope of Tioga Pass. Jobst repeated that effort on Italy’s Fedaia Pass with Peter Johnson. Dave McLaughlin, past winner of the Mt. Hamilton road race, says he reached a similar speed on Tioga Pass, according his to friends following in a car.

You can’t appreciate how fast that is until you’re up around 50 mph. The slightest error means catastrophe — a rock, a gust of wind, a pothole.

I’ve read anecdotal reports of racers reaching speeds of 75 mph, but I’m skeptical. It would have to be under perfect conditions and with a tailwind. Few racers carry as much weight as Jobst, who also lugged a 20-pound saddle bag on his Alps rides.

Ted Mock takes photos for an Avocet tire ad with Jobst Brandt.

Ted Mock takes photos for an Avocet tire ad with Jobst Brandt in the mid-1980s.

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5 Responses to “Cyclometers keep us honest”

  1. ted pauly Says:

    Okay, so I have been wondering a little about wind and speed combinded a few times though I have never achieved going that fast myself, maybe in the forties if I am really crusing, but I was wondering if people ever get knocked over by the wind when they are travelling really fast? Any thoughts Ray? Love to hear your comments.

  2. Ray Hosler Says:

    I saw Jobst Brandt and other riders fly by me doing 45-50 descending Conway Summit in fierce side winds in 2003. It was so windy at the summit I had a hard time standing. It doesn’t bother some riders, apparently.

  3. Jim Says:

    Ray, I always wondered where that top picture of Jobst was taken; it has been reprinted numerous times. I am guessing that is exiting the first 180 turn near the top on the west side.

  4. Ray Hosler Says:

    I think so. The photo with Ted looks like it’s lower down.

  5. jkeehan Says:

    When I’ve driven the east side of Tioga Pass (usually listening to Beethoven) I’ve always thought this is one beautiful road that I guessed would be too scary fast on a bike. Now I know.

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