Early History of The Western Wheelers

Flat Tyre From 1968-1975

Dick Blaine

July 2002

I have been interested in the history of the Western Wheelers for many years and on January 23, 1995 I interviewed Skip LaFetra, who is the earliest member still a member of the club and documented the interview.  I discovered a wonderful article that was published in the Menlo Park Recorder on May 30, 1973 describing the early history.  Both of these documents are on the Western Wheelers web site (http://www.westernwheelers.org) under club history as well as several other documents such as the list of officers of the club from 1968 to the present and a list of awardees of the Ben Lefkowitz award.  Shortly I will be adding a history of the Sequoia Century.

Lately I have been going thru old copies of the Flat Tyre and found a series of articles in the 1972 issues describing the early days of the club.  This series was reprinted in 1977-1978 and augmented by several additional articles.  It is the latter articles that are copied below.

From the September 1977 Flat Tyre

History Of The Western Wheelers

(Editor Note:  Back in Jan. '72 a series of articles appeared in The Flat Tyre for several months outlining the club’s history. The editor of the newsletter at that time was Eric Petersen, and I suspect that these articles were written by him, although I do not know this for sure. I hope you find this, the first of the series, interesting and informative.)


It was October 1968. It was still great bicycling weather, and there were a lot of local cyclists, but there was no way for all the riders to get together for group rides or other group cycling activities. The only cubs in the area at the time were racing Clubs, and the two closest weren't in a position to help a small group of tourists.

The solution was obvious a form a touring club. The inititive for the formation came from Nick Lynch and Bob Klinger, who selected a Monday evening spaghetti feed at Magoo's Pizza Parlor as an organizational meeting. Nick did the major job in publicizing the meeting, which was natural as many cyclists patronize Sugden & Lynch.

The first few meetings were largely concerned with what the club should do, and primarily What its role would be in helping the various local riders get together for rides. Soon, enough had been said for the club to choose a name, elect officers, and select ride meeting information.

The first President of the Western Wheelers was Bob Klinger, and thus far he remains the only President from outside Menlo Park. Vice President and Treasurer went to John DeBell and Linda  Hanson was chosen as Secretary. It was decided that weekly rides would meet every Sunday morning at 10:00 behind Sugden & Lynch. These rides were, to be informal with the bike shop serving as a gathering point for anyone who was looking for someone to ride with. At first, the rides had varied turnouts, but soon a group of regulars began to develop, and the Sunday rides became quite interesting, although considerably disorganized when compared to the rides the club has today. What would usually happen was that the group would pick a destination, then as everyone headed off, a few riders would change their minds and ride off elsewhere; at this rate, the original group was soon reduced to several smaller groups.

Meetings were, at that time, every first and  third Wednesday at Magoo's. usually, they were  more like social gatherings than actual meetings.  As most members at that time were students at  Menlo-Atherton High School communication was easy enough for anything special planned. However, no-body but Menlo-Athertonians and those who frequented Sugden & Lynch were able to find out anything about the club or its activities.

At that time, dues were set at $1.00 per month, and the jersey pattern of red, white, and blue was chosen. The activities of the club were quite a bit of fun, and the primary reason of formation  (people to ride with) was fulfilled. However, the loose structure of the club, and the small number of regular members caused a few problems, which soon became apparent.

NEXT MONTH:   That First Winter

From the October 1977 Flat Tyre



Last month, we related how the club was started, and the early organization. However, the superficial organization of the club soon began to show. The activities had started out with an enthusiastic group, mostly from Menlo-Atherton High School. However, lack of interest by a few individuals, including some of the newly elected officers, and a total lack of communications except by word or mouth and on activities, soon took their toll. The meetings were often less than successful, even though all the meetings at Magoo's Pizza Parlor were fun. The rides, which really served as a meeting place for riders, were disorganized, and invariably broke up not long after the beginning, with small groups each going their own way. The rides were a lot of fun, and we went to some interesting places, but the fracturing of the groups each week took some of the fun away.

Finally, the inclement weather, combined with the total absence of the few key members, began to take its toll. One by one, the regulars failed to be regular. They'd show up occasionally, but not all that often. And when we lost a regular rider, there was seldom a new recruit to replace him. Gradually the group grew smaller and smaller, until at last it was obvious that something had to be done.

At this time, some of the remaining active members at MA formed a new plan for the club.

That will be our subject next month.


(The above is a reprint from the Feb. ‘72 issue of The Flat Tire, a part of a series outlining the history of our club. Ed.)

From the November 1977 Flat Tyre

History of The Western Wheelers


Last month, we told of some of the early club rides, and how a small group of regulars dissolved into a smaller group. The last straw was when, at the April 1969 meeting only four members showed up. Something just had to be done!

That "something" didn't take long. During the following weeks, some of the WW members at Menlo- Atherton High School (then the heart of the club) got together and wrote up a club Constitution. The new Constitution called for one thing that was new to the club: organization. The rides were still to meet Sunday mornings behind Sugden & Lynch but starting at this time they were to be pre-planned without the haphazard attitude of . the early rides. Also, a newsletter came into being, ending the word-of-mouth communications network.

At the May meeting, the new Constitution was overwhelmingly voted in. Those present at that meeting were considered the Charter Members who are still with us include Nick Lynch, Eric Petersen, Paul Beardsley, Gary Holmgren, Bill Robertson, and John Wallace.

Unfortunately, there were too few members in attendance to elect a full slate of officers. Eric Petersen was picked to serve as President, and John DeBell remained as Vice President and Treasurer. In the next few months, others were recruited to fill the vacant offices.

Soon, a regular ride schedule was set up, with weekly rides from behind Sugden & Lynch. Interest began to pick up, both from the more organized activities and the arrival of better weather. We also started the first series of evening rides, Tuesday and Thursday nights.


(The above is a reprint from the March '72 issue of The Flat Tyre, a part of a series outlining the early history of our club. Ed.)

From the December 1977 Flat Tyre

History OF The Western Wheelers


Glancing back through some of the early issues of The Flat Tyre, it is interesting to note all the ambitious ride plans of the club at that time. For example, the fall of 1969 schedule featured one ride per weekend, all leaving from in back of Sugden & Lynch in Menlo Park. The destinations varied somewhat, from Hillsborough to the north to San Jose in the south; also, many of the rides ranged from about 30 miles up to about 50, With a few longer. At that time, there was no interest in short or leisurely rides among the members, and there were no plans to recruit any new members other than those referred to us from Sugden & Lynch.

In any case we did have a varied ride schedule, even if the rides did often turn out to be very similar. Just a few of the Fall, 1969 rides should give you an idea. Foster City, Up Old La Honda Road, Lafayette St. (to San Jose and back), Los Altos Hills, Reed Ave (the basis for the recent Abe Lincoln Birthday Special), and so on. In September the first series of evening rides had ended, with rides both Tuesday and Thursday evenings. In all, it was quite a schedule for a club just a year old.

Some of the rides look much like those in current schedules, but the rides themselves are very much different. Let's take, for example, the ride to the Pulgas Water Temple that was on the slate for December 14 1969. True to form there were one or two riders lounging around near the back of Sugden & Lynch at the scheduled starting time, which was then 9 am. Even though the newsletter had stated that the ride would leave promptly on the hour, the few hardy souls who were on time elected to stick around for a few more minutes, in the hope that a sudden influx would enlarge the ride to a group. As usual, a few more members straggled in late, and so the group of about half a dozen Western Wheelers' merrily set off, going down University Drive and turning right on Middle Ave. While on Middle Ave., we'd usually stop and try to roust John DeBell out of bed to join us unless he had made-it to the start. We would then continue along Middle Ave. turning left on Olive and then a quick right on Oak Ave., and then we'd head for Sand Hill Road. On the way we'd usually also stop to get Nick Lynch up and see if he'd like to come. Fortunately for the rest of the world, John and Nick were the only members that we would chase after in this manner. Now, having reached Sand Hill Road, our Pulgas Water Temple ride heads towards the hills as most club rides of that period did. It was sort of a WW tradition that we'd use Sand Hill Road for the start of the ride unless we were going somewhere in' the opposite direction, and even then we'd get to Sand Hill Road sometimes. At any rate, our group is now on its way away from Menlo Park, going over the hills and stopping at every summit to wait for those behind. We turned right on Portola Road, and went sailing through the beautiful groves of trees along the road. At this time, Portola Road between Mountain Home Road and Woodside Road hadn't yet been repaved, so it was smooth riding on that stretch which now features all those bumps. At the corner of Portola Road, Woodside Road, and La Honda Road, we stopped for a brief rest. One or two riders broke away from the group at this point, pedaling their way up the slopes of La Honda Road and leaving the rest of us to our journey on to the Water Temple. While we were still at the base of La Honda Road, the Belmont Bicycle Club ride joined us. The BBC rides met at the Pulgas Water Temple each Sunday, and usually had one or two riders. It they ran into us, which happened rather often, they would forget where they were going and turn around and come with us. For, no matter hrw disorganized our rides would be, they would always be head and shoulders above the BBC rides. There was only one time when we ever encountered a group from BBC as large as three, and that was a week end when the Belmont Club made a concerted effort to get the whole club out to join us at the beginning of our ride. They waited at the wrong place, and we waved at them as we passed, not knowing that they planned to join us; we found out later that they had waited for more than two hours, and that they hadn't realized that it was the WW ride that had gone past them. So much for the BBC.

Returning to our ride of December 14, after the BBC’ers joined us, we set off to the north on Woodside Road, turning left onto Canada Road. By this time we had picked up several new riders besides the BBC riders, and also lost a few of our original group. The group was now eight or nine people, as we had gained riders as usual. We headed north on the pre-freeway Canada Road, with its light traffic and the easy left turn into the Water Temple parking lot. Here the BBC members left us, climbing into their car for the trip home. The rest of us lounged about the Water Temple, lying on the grass, looking into the Temple itself, riding around on the bumpy parking lot, trying to get water out of the drinking fountains there or whatever. We stayed for some time, as it took something to get us going again.

For the trip back, we went south on Canada Road, making a left turn onto Edgewood Road, and going over the hill into Redwood City. We got on the Alameda de las Pulgas, and as we got closer to Menlo Park the group started to split up, everybody going to his own home. Those of us who made it all the way back to the Sugden & Lynch parking lot would usually ride around on the parking lot for a while, and gripe about Baskin Robbins not being open until the afternoon. Then we'd all head for home until the ride next week.


(The above is a reprint from the April '72 issue of The Flat Tyre, a part of a series outlining the ear1y history of our club. Ed.)

From the January 1978 Flat Tyre

History Of The Western Wheelers


Gradually, the club began doing more and more for its members. The newsletter slowly grew, and changed format a few times. The first attempts at printing pictures and selling advertising space were made, both of which were not overwhelmingly successful. At that time, we couldn't get any photos which were clear enough for the Xerox machine, so those that we did print were difficult to figure out. The ads we carried were clear enough, but through a bit of confusion, nobody ever collected the money due.

The activities the club put on slowly became worthwhile. The first WW Century Run was held on October 19,1969. It consisted of one large loop around San Jose, Which was done as a group, without any sag wagon or prepared refreshments. One rider had to call his wife from San Jose in order to get a ride home. Several others, disgusted at the ever-changing pace, cut off near the end, thereby not finishing the entire 100 miles. Those who did finish the 100 were Gary Holmgren, Russ Lee Eric Petersen and Paul Beardsley. As an example of how the ride went, Russ figured that the first half was covered in three hours, and the second half in six hours. Still, for a first effort of a beginning club, it was quite a success.

On the following weekend, the first WW attempt at politics was made. We had scheduled a ride up Kings Mountain Road for the 26th and purely by coincidence Congressman Pete McCloskey picked the same day to have a picnic in Huddart Park with his followers. Huddart Park is right off Kings Mtn Road, so therefore we decided to ride up and see McCloskey. However we went up the road about two hours before the picnic was supposed to happen so we kept going on up to the top, over to Skylonda, down La Honda Road, and back up to the park to try to find McCloskey. Unfortunately, he was in the center of a pack of people so our hardy delegation (there were two left) elbowed and shouldered our way into the middle of the group and finally attracted the Congressman's attention. Alas, his only statements were along the lines of "there won't be any money until the Vietnam War is over." Still, he seemed behind our suggestions for cross-country bicycle routes in principle, and until last years change in club leadership, he was mailed the newsletter regularly. We received some rather nice "thank you" notes from his staff as a result.

At the December, 1969 meeting, there was a minor reshuffling of officers, with Eric Petersen remaining as President, and John DeBell as Treasurer. We elected two Vice Presidents, Gary Holmgren and Bill Robertson. (Bill has since served a year as President of Pedali Alpini, a local racing club). So with the club basically the same, we entered 1970.

The spring was largely uneventful, except for the Sunday rides. On June 28, though, Russ Lee coordinated our first special event of the year, an expedition down to the Monterey Area. Dave Holmgren assumed the unenviable job of driving down pulling a trailer full of bicycles, since we met in Menlo Park and went down as a group. Our riding was mostly limited to Carmel and the 17-mile Drive, but turned out to be quite interesting. Possibly the high point of the ride was when we stumbled onto Jack Dockstader in Carmel. Jack who was one of the original club members, had since moved down to Monterey. At any rate, we had a nice ride, then returned home to some refreshments, etc., at the Chaskin's.

The six-month terms of officers led to new elections at the July 1 meeting. This time, there was more than a token change, as Jim Chaskin was elected the third WW President. Joan Chaskin became Secretary, with Eric Petersen becoming Treasurer.

The next major "venture for the club was a trip up to Petaluma for a ride. Again, we rented a trailer and did the whole trip as a group. The only real trouble we ran into was a very hot day, without enough shade trees; in other words, we cooked. However, with a few slight changes in the planned route, we were able to ride back with at least a few breaks in the sun. That ride took place on September 6,1970.

Later in the month, on September 27, the second WW Century Run was held. This time, the event was run by Russ Lee with some help from Joan Chaskin and Eric Petersen. The set-up was different from the previous years route, with three 25-mile loops, the participants riding four times around their choices of the loops. The day was less than a terrific success mostly because we had somehow picked the smoggiest day of the year. Because of the smog, a number of riders were forced to drop out of the ride. Those who did find their way through the smog were David Eldridge, Bill Morgan, Rick Pattee, Russ Morrison and John and Dennis McDonnell; Jim Chaskin and Eric Petersen did it the day before, for a total of eight finishers.

Interspersed throughout these special events, of course, were many of the regular club rides, a lot of meetings, and a whole bunch of other goodies. WW members participated in numerous specia1 Events of other groups, also, like the Marin Century, the Marin Twin Century, and the LAW pre-Roundup Tour.

In general, in those days the club was small (about 20 members on the average) but both the club and its members were very active.


(The above is a reprint from the July '72 issue of The Flat Tire, a part of a series outlining the history of our club. Ed.)

From the February 1978 Flat Tyre

History of The Western Wheelers


One of the tirst items of interest when the club was formed was to arrange for club jerseys. In the early days, most club members wore "just regular clothes" when out riding which usually meant blue jeans and an uncomfortable shirt or similar arrangement. However, when the club started, many members suddenly became aware of the more-or-less "proper" outfits for riding, and we went on wholesale splurges to purchase the appropriate shoes, shorts etc.

In line with this desire, the club went about selecting a design for an official jersey. Nick Lynch was able to come up with photos of several patterns that he could order for us from Europe. All the photos were studied quite seriously, as this was a decision which wou11 stay with the club for some time. Finally, at a meeting in late 1968 the club jersey of blue with one red stripe above one blue stripe was selected. The selection was by secret ballot, with many votes going to other designs, including one for "my yellow football jersey" but the red, white, and blue pattern was the officially adopted club jersey.

Now it was Nick Lynch's turn, and he swiftly sent in the order for the jerseys on a variety of sizes to one of Europe’s jersey makers. But now, a snag hits apparently the jersey makers in Europe do things at their own pace, regardless of eager bicycle club members in the United states. Nick was constantly besieged with requests for information on the jerseys, but despite several telephone calls to Europe, and actually switching the order to another manufacture once, there was no word. It seemed as if the jerseys -were never going to arrive. Finally, in the spring of 1969, there was good news to spread, the jerseys were on the dock in San Francisco! After waiting what seemed an eternity, the jerseys had just about finished their trip. As Bill Robertson put it, they seemed to have come "by slow snail around the horn." All the patient Western Wheelers quickly flocked to Sugden and Lynch to buy their very own official Western Wheelers jersey.

And even today, there are a few of those original jerseys kicking around. Most of them have long since lost their red to the sun, to be replaced by a light brown hue. Most of the still-existing jerseys have been extensively patched, due to the many hours of use. But they still are recognized by many as the official WWBC jersey.

(The above is a reprint from the June '72 issue of The Flat Tire, a part of a series outlining the history of our club. Ed.)

From the April 1978 Flat Tyre

History Of The Western Wheelers

The last reprinting of The History of The Western Wheelers appeared in the February issue of our newsletter. All of these reprint articles were written by the first editor of The Flat Tyre, Eric Petersen. His stories covered the time period up to 1972, and a lot has taken place since that time. I will mention as many of these events as I can recall as a member of the club during this time, and from information taken from past newsletters.

Under the guiding hand of president Roy Petersen the club grew, and became involved in new areas. Roy worked with the Cancer Assn. to set up a Bike-A-Thon route and many members both rode and help run the event. The Cancer Assn. still uses the route we laid out, but the club no longer helps in putting the ride on.

Also in May of 1972 Palo Alto put into effect Bike Plan "E" which incorporated bike lanes all around the City. This plan also took cyclists off Middlefield Road and put them on that streets sidewalks from Lama Verde to Menlo Park.

The 'Mothers Day Spectacular' in June was a big success with the main attraction being George Walruff arriving on a 3-wheeler in diapers. In the article about the event George was described as "That tall talkative teenager".

Announcement was made in the September issue of the newsletter of a new club cloth patch for the price of $1.75.

October 1972 was really the big month of the year for the club when it put on a Bicycle Festival that 1,200 people attended. Mayor Ira Bonde welcomed everyone, there were bike exhibits, two ABL (now USCF) races, a picnic while Congressman Pete McCloskey gave a speech, a mass bike ride from Burgess Park with a thousand riders doing a three mile loop into Palo Alto and back, and guided bike tours of the area.

In December Henry Prevost was elected the new President of the Western Wheelers. During the last two years the club had grown from 25 members to 210.

by Herb Mesler

From the May 1978 Flat Tyre

History Of The Western Wheelers

Last month highlights of our club’s history for the year of 1972 was covered ending with the election of Henry Prevost as president of the Western Wheelers for 1973.

To start the new year of 1973 off the club began a ride contest and at the end of the year the person with the most miles on club rides wins a goodie.

The June issue of the newsletter has a story about three members, Clint Shiells, George Walruff and Herb Mesler, riding the Davis Double. A story about the 'Great Ballon Bicycle Fair & Ten Speed Tournament' at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds appeared in the August issue. This event had a lot of publicity and the makings of being a real neat event, but turned out a rip off for ABL racers, and others.

The following month our club had a overnighter up to Samuel P. Taylor Park in Marin County, and it was a super success. Some rode their bikes up and back, others drove, and all went on local rides around the area after a good nights sleep. We all camped in the same area, had a super hamburger feed, and a great time.

In October Canada Road was once again a quiet country road as HWY 280 opened and all the diverted traffic put on Canada Road was on 280 Where it belonged. I had started cycling just as the heavy traffic load had been put on Canada Rd., so this was my first ride on it with light traffic, what a nice change.

November saw WWBC member Rich Holder named the state representative for the ABL (USCF) he has since risen almost to the top of the ladder of that organization.

January 1974 brought great sadness as past president Roy Petersen died of cancer. Roy did much of the work to bring the club to the point it has reached today. He worked hard for Western Wheelers and we owe him a lot, he was a good friend who I miss.

It was back to riding on Middlefield Road, not its sidewalks, in March. Curt Zickerman took over the job of newsletter editor after the resignation of Eric Petersen.

Summer of '74 saw some problems for the club with the resignation of the President (C. Russell), Ride Coordinator, and Secretary. The Vice President has recently moved out of the Bay Area. After these resignations several interested club members got together and temporarily officers were appointed. These officers stayed on the job until election time at the end of the year. Much credit for the clubs current good health is due to Larry MacMlllen. It was he who took over as temporary president in 1974, and was elected to the Job for 1975.

In November of 1974 the board decided to try the use of club business cards, the idea worked great and they are still used.

The June 1975 Sequoia Century was a big success with 399 registrations which was up from 165 the year before.

Work started in November on the first Palo Alto bicycle bridge across San Francisquito Creek between Willow Rd and Palo Alto Ave., near Waverley St. At about the same a new bike shop opened in our area, Wheelsmith. Frank LaFetra was elected president of the club in December.

The 1976 edition of the Sequoia Century saw 475; riders eat 120 pounds of cold cuts, 10 cases or bananas, 12 cases of oranges and 80 pounds or gorp, they drank 100 gallons of lemonade and there were only two accidents (not serious).

Ben Lefkowitz was elected president at the December club meeting. The bike bridge at the end or San Mateo Drive was dedicated in April of 1977 providing a safe way to get to Stanford. In June cyclists were 500 strong at the public Golden Gate Bridge Directors meeting to oppose the two week ban of cycling across the bridge. They listened, we won, and the two week old ban was lifted. Just goes to show what cyclists can do when united.

Bill Puckett was elected president in December and the club should have another outstanding year ahead of it in '78.

by Herb Mesler



Last updated September 10, 2002.


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