“Ride a bike!” was the longtime call to action from American mechanical engineer Jobst Brandt, the legendary author of The bicycle wheeldied in 2015 at age 80. And Ride a bike! is the title of a proposed new book about the maverick who inspired bike industry innovations such as slick tires and the handlebar-mounted bike computer.
Produced by UK publishing house Isola Press, the book has so far raised $10,900 on Kickstarter and has one month to reach its $28,800 goal.
Isola Press is run by cycling journalist Max Leonard and has successfully funded five Kickstarter books, raising over $200,000 for titles such as The Rough Stuff Fellowship archive, a photo diary of a pre – mountain bike.
“Brandt’s passion and intellect changed the way we ride bikes today,” Leonard said.
“Years before the evolution of mountain bikes and gravel bikes, his legendary ‘Jobst Rides’ took Bay Area riders including Tom Ritchey, Gary Fisher and Eric Heiden down dirt roads and landslides in the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Sierras,” Leonard continued.
Brandt also toured extensively in the French, Italian and Swiss Alps, hiking 2,000 miles across the highest passes in Europe almost every year for nearly half a century.
Isola Press has access to Brandt’s photo library, which contains over 10,000 slides, many of which were taken with a Rollei 35 camera.
Brandt’s definitive guide to wheel building was published in 1981 by the bicycle component company Avovet, for which he was a consultant. This much-copied company was based in an upstairs room at Palo Alto Bicycles near Stanford University in Silicon Valley in Palo Alto, California.
The bike shop – and associated component brand – was founded by Bernie Hoffacker and later run by his sons Bud and Neal. Palo Alto Bicycles’ mail-order catalog sold custom road bike frames from legendary builder Tom Ritchey, and Avocet made innovative components, shoes, saddles and tires.
Avocet also developed the first electronic cycle computer, now known as the bike computer, a device that evolved into today’s GPS-enabled bike computers, like Garmin and Wahoo.
Palo Alto Bicycles also sponsored a cycling team that included a young Greg Lemond, who was the first American to win the Tour de France. Lemond rode an Avocet cyclometer raising the profile of the product.
Saddler Gary Erickson learned his trade with Avocet – he left in 1992 to co-found ClifBar, which was sold to Mondelēz in June 2022 for $2.9 billion. Erickson rode with Brandt in California, and the two also met in Europe.
“After descending the Costalungato Canazei, I ran into a bunch of Berkeley runners with Gary Erickson of Cliff Bars,” Brandt wrote in his diary in 1992.
“He was having a good time, but his recruits, who had never seen so many mountains, were quite long in the face.”
Brandt’s love affair with the Alps began during his youth – he went to high school in Switzerland and was also able to reach the mountains during a US Army posting in Frankfurt, Germany.
After graduating from Stanford University, he then worked for Porsche in Stuttgart where he translated the manual for the 356 before designing the suspensions for the 804 race car.
Earlier, while working at the two-mile-long Stanford Linear Accelerator, Brandt was recognized for his work on the particle accelerator’s suspension. He has several patents to his name, including three for Hewlett Packard and three for Avocet. Patent 6,134,508 was for a “simplified system for displaying user-selected functions in a bicycle computer or similar device”.
In his classic book, Brandt wrote that “the wheel rests on its spokes”, a counter-intuitive concept which he explained thus: “Bicycles experience unusually high stresses at unusually low speeds, and for this reason seem to violate many design rules that apply to other Machines. Because the bicycle is unusual, conventional wisdom has sometimes led to misconceptions about its wheels.
“A lot of people think that it’s obvious that the hub is hanging from the top spokes and that those spokes tighten up as you get on the bike. This type of misconception is similar to the once widely held belief that the The sun revolves around the earth. What may seem obvious is not always true. The bicycle wheel does not work as it seems, but rather in a way that seems to defy common sense.
Leonardo foresees Jobst Brandt rides a bike! to be published in the spring of 2023.