Mt. Hamilton blows on Monday

Lick Observatory summit on a clear day. Nothing beats it in the South Bay, except Mt. Umunhum.

Nothing beats a ride up Mt. Hamilton on a weekday, although Sundays are a close second. Not much traffic.

I started from Alum Rock Avenue about 8 a.m. in time to greet the commuters living on Mt. Hamilton Road rushing to work. For the first several miles there’s a fair amount of cars, but traffic thins out after that.

I noticed county crews clearing chamise (greasewood) across from the Grant Lake parking lot in Grant Ranch County Park. Don’t quote me on the type of bush, but it looks like chamise.

In the past, wild pigs rooted around in this area.

The crews certainly wouldn’t be doing controlled burns on a day like today with high winds in play.

I enjoyed mostly tailwinds climbing to the summit where 25 mph gusts made for shaky standing at the observatory parking lot.

On the way up I did my civic duty by tossing large rocks off the road and saved a young bull snake from certain death by car wheels. The critter refused to budge as it sunned itself on the road.

Three miles from the summit. Glorious views.

Considering the cool breeze, it took a while to wake the snake from its torpor.

In the last section before turning up the observatory road, Caltrans workers were installing a large culvert, which is always good to see. Preventative maintenance pays off.

I counted my blessings that I can still ride to the summit in this my 40th year.

My numbers pale in comparison to Jobst Brandt, who holds the record for most 100-mile loop rides around Mt. Hamilton. Starting around 1957 he must have done well over 120 rides, ending the tradition when he was in his 70s.

Mt. Hamilton Road opened in 1877 to immense fanfare as more than 5,000 valley residents flocked to the summit for a grand celebration. Here’s a view of the road in 1876, shortly before it opened. I don’t know the location.

First Cyclists
As reported in the Oakland Tribune, the first cyclists to the summit were Ralph Coxhead and Al Bouton of Oakland, Jan. 1, 1888, on safety bikes.

Imagine a modern mountain bike bombing down that dirt road right after it opened. If only we had time machines.

Mt. Hamilton Road in 1876 looking more like a mountain bike trail than a road.

11 Responses to “Mt. Hamilton blows on Monday”

  1. ted pauly Says:

    was considering heading that way tomorrow and now I think it’s a must….thanks for the post….seemed as though great minds think alike….I like to think…..

  2. jamesRides Says:

    Did you ride the full Mines/Calaveras loop? (over 100Miles and 8.8k ft climbing)?

    I rode the FFBC Primavera 100mile yesterday. Drizzle up Calaveras; cleared up in Livermore; atrocious winds through the Altamont loop. They closed that section of the ride right after I completed it due to high winds. 25/30 mph gusts as a tailwind up the pass- I’ll take that, but descending was gusty and slow.

    Dublin grade aims right into the afternoon wind and though the grade is mild the wind made it an unfun grind. At the top of the grade while descending the wind was blowing my chain trying to force it up one gear, causing a skip. Never had that happen. Checked the rear derailleur next day and it was a little out of adjustment, but still, high winds!

    I’d like to ride the full Hammy/Mines/Calaveras loop but hoping a bike club will sponsor a ride on the loop – it’s right at my outer limit at this point. Sounds like you had a good ride though with the wind helping to push you up.

  3. Brian Cox Says:

    Jobst Brandt did his 1st Mt Hamilton loop in 1958 (starting from Palo Alto). He did his 50th anniversary ride in 2008 — as best he could: much of what he rode in 1958, include sections on the back side of Mt Hamilton, no longer exist (or aren’t public any more)

    • Ray Hosler Says:

      That makes sense. Jobst bought his Cinelli on October 2, 1957, from Spence Wolfe, one of 18 Cinellis Cupertino Bike Shop sold that year. It could have been Jobst rode up to the summit late that year or January 1958. A couple of riders, Peter Locke included, rode with him. A post office was under construction at the summit and the riders started a fire under a lead melting pot to warm themselves. Lars Zebroski’s jersey caught fire, according to Peter Locke. The first Mt. Hamilton road race was 1958, organized by Jobst, so he had to have ridden the back side in late 1957 or early 1958.

  4. Swansea Road Bikes Says:

    Hi Ray,

    I’ve recently discovered your blog when looking up stories and memories about Jobst Brandt, and I have to say no has done it better than you. Your writings are awesome!.

    One question I have is which model Avocet saddle did Jobst use?

    Thanks for letting us be a part of the ‘Jobst rides’ with your writings and amazing photos.


    • Ray Hosler Says:

      His first saddle was a Brooks leather, but he switched to Avocet Racing II when they came out in the late 70s. Then Avocet GelFlex, the Avocet O2 Air, back to GelFlex and lastly, Racing II when the bike was refurbished like new.

      • literoadie Says:

        Thanks for the quick reply Ray. I’ve looked at the Gelflex and am I correct thinking it was a ‘mountain’ saddle? Is that the one Jobst had? The ones I’ve seen on eBay say ‘Mountain’ on them.

  5. Ray Hosler Says:

    There was a mountain bike version and a road version. Of course, Jobst used the road. Best saddle I’ve ever ridden. It lasts forever. I refurbished mine with a new naval vinyl cover.

    • Ray Hosler Says:

      I looked on Ebay and saw one that said “Mountain” but based on the narrow profile it’s a road saddle. I guess Avocet added mountain for marketing reasons. That’s a later model. You can tell the saddles made for mountain bikes because they’re wider.

      • literoadie Says:

        Thanks Ray. I might buy one to put on a steel bike in tribute to Jobst.
        Of course it will have 36 spoke wheels!

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