One from the vaults

I received this most excellent email from Ira Schaffer on Wednesday, and had to share–with his permission of course!

Thank you for your great writing and thanks for helping me to stay connected to cycling in the South Bay!

I grew up in Palos Verdes and lived there from 1958 to 1976. One day in 1972 I walked from my house to the Peninsula Center, I was fourteen at the time, and noticed a bunch of commotion that was ununusal for an early Sunday morning around Hawthorne and Indian Peak.

I walked up to the corner and at that moment a huge pack of racing cyclists came screaming down Hawthorne and made the turn onto Indian Peak at what seemed like a hundred miles an hour! It turned out to be an Olympic qualifying road race, won by John Howard.

I watched in amazement and knew that I wanted to do the same thing. I began to ride my bike everywhere and joined a local club, the Lomita Bicycle Peddalers, run by Bob Roach in Lomita. His son Tim Roach, one of the top track coaches in American today, was my best friend at Rolling Hills High School. I trained in the hills of PV in the 70’s along with the few other cyclists like Paul Deem, and raced whenever I could.

Back then, as it is now, SoCal was known mostly for crits. I traveled to Encino twice a week to hone my bike handling skills, with Bob Roach usually driving us until Tim and I got our driving licenses, and we raced on Saturday nights at the velodrome and on Sunday. I raced crits mostly, and “competed” as a Junior against guys like the Whitehead brothers, Dave and Mark and of course Gibby Hatton, who had just won the Junior World Championships. The fields on crit raceday for juniors, which was a category aged 14-18, typically had 75-100 racers, and events like the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix drew up to 125 entrants for the Junior field alone.

I raced through the early 80’s and won the Junior State Road Championship in 1976. I attended UCLA and lived with a guy that worked at a shop and with whom I raced. The shop was on Wilshire and called, appropriately enough, Wilshire West Bicycle Shop.

Since the shop was in West LA, the clientele included a bunch of “movie folks.” One day a producer or director or other important person walked into the shop and asked my roommate if he knew anyone who could help a couple of actors learn the ins and outs of how to ride a bike. My roommate agreed. For the next month, Dennis Christopher and Hart Bochner of Breaking Away met us at our apartment in Santa Monica and we helped teach them some of the “ins and outs” of riding. They invited us to continue the training in Indiana, but I would have had to drop out of school, something I didn’t even consider.

I have great memories of riding and racing my bike in Palos Verdes and your writing helps me to connect. My folks still live in PV (89 years old) and I still ride a bit. I raced masters a few years ago in SoCal. I recently moved to the Bay Area and enjoy the riding up here as well. Thanks for your writing and thanks for helping me stay connected.

Ira Schaffer

[Note from Wanky: Actually, Ira, it is we who should thank you for sharing this great piece of SoCal cycling history and, most especially, for your $2.99 monthly subscription! A round of craft water for everyone!]



For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog, like Ira did! Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

24 thoughts on “One from the vaults”

  1. “The fields on crit raceday for juniors, which was a category aged 14-18, typically had 75-100 racers, and events like the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix drew up to 125 entrants for the Junior field alone.”
    That makes me sad, because I can’t imagine that kind of field depth. Dear USAC, this is what I want for Christmas… And some 100% full carbon.

  2. Nice one and I especially enjoyed the Roach connection. 🙂 Sometime when Gibby is in town, you sit down with Roach, Gibby, and Marc Karzen. You’d get some amazing stories! I love that you appreciate the history of our sport.

  3. Wow – remarkably cool and inspiring SoCal racing history. There’s always way more than we think there is! Thanks Ira, should Bay Area Strava-stalking prove successful, coffee-beer is on us upon first interception.

  4. Thanks for this treat, cycling history, not only in the US but in our very own stomping grounds. Any more stories out there?

    So this is in the days before frames of any kind of lightness. Frames of the 70s I’ve ridden were of thick-walled steel. From the weight you’d think they were cast iron.

    Hawthorne to Indian Peak. I’m guessing that they were doing a loop Hawthorne – Indian Peak – Crenshaw – Crest (or Highridge) – Hawthorne. That would be a nice crit practice loop with a bit of decent climbing thrown in.

    1. Nice course that nowadays maybe five or six people would have the legs or guts to show up for …

  5. Thank you to Ira and Seth.
    So many with experience walk among us… you’d never know until they step into the phone booth and come out with that S on their chests.
    Sometimes, “all you gotta do is ask”.

    Always grateful to my teachers and you bet, I’ve said “Thanks!” from time to time. Sure have.

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