Water bottle primes

Does anybody remember Joe Bentley? He’s dead now. But he used to be a bike race promoter in Houston. He, along with Tom Boyden, also dead, was one of the mainstays of bike racing in Texas in the late 70’s and through the 80’s.

Joe had a bike shop in Houston, I think it was called Daniel Boone Cycles. It was one of the few places that spoke Campagnolo.

I did a crit one time in Hermann Park in Houston my first season of racing, in 1984. It was a Joe Bentley special, by which I mean there was hardly any prize money and he literally gave away water bottles for primes. On close inspection, they might not have been new. You only hoped they had been washed.

I did pretty good in that race and got enough points to upgrade to a Cat 3.

Joe and Tom Boyden always caught a lot of grief because, well, things never quite happened the way they promised when it came to money. But in retrospect, what money? You had to have a screw loose to promote bike races in Texas back then. It was the ultimate get-rich-slow-I-mean-never plan. Kind of like today.

People like Joe loved bikes and bike racing even though they themselves weren’t any good at it. Joe liked being in the thick of it, and it was a hell of a lot of work putting on a race. Like now, racers were ungrateful, entitled, bed-wetting, and always looking for a free entry. Like now, race turnout was highly dependent on weather. You could go to all the effort to put on a race and the pillow babies would take a pass if it rained. The promoter got stuck with the bill.

Unlike now, fields were huge. It didn’t cost an arm and a leg to get a race bike and gear, only an arm. You could race in a hairnet and the average schmo didn’t dope. There were no masters racers. We called them “veterans” and they were so old as to barely be considered alive. I think they were 35-40 years of age.

I was thinking about Joe as my Lyft driver, stuck in Houston rush hour traffic, slowly trolled past Hermann Park.

“I won that race,” I remembered. It was a good memory whether it was true or not. And I wouldn’t have had it were it not for quirky old Joe Bentley, may he rest in peace.


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13 thoughts on “Water bottle primes”

  1. A yearly USCF license was $5, an expensive race entry fee might set you back $10 and junior fields had a 100 riders, sigh….

  2. Ha! Joe’s shop was Pro Cycles on S Shepherd by the 59 Freeway (later moved up to the Heights) and yes he sponsored the Hermann Park race, called Tour de Houston maybe. Boone’s is another old shop closer to Hermann Park, but you got the gist of it right as usual. Sounds like you are perhaps visiting the Med Center area, so LMK if you are looking for a ride or distraction while you are here.

    1. I figured someone would help me get my mangled history straight! I’m downtown, thanks for the offer, but have a pretty quick and packed schedule.

  3. Good story about the local Houston bike scene from back in the day. Not really that way today. Unfortunately, Dan Boone Cycles closed about 5 months ago after around 50 years in business. Change is inevitable but it was sad to see them go after so long. Even in the 4th largest city in the country there are very few independent shops left. Keep up the good work Seth.

      1. Not sure if the S10S was a sport bike, but that was my first venture into something that qualified as a pretty nice bike. It wasn’t a racer, but I did a few races on it before I moved all the components over to an early pearly Trek.

  4. When I knew Joe, (late 70’s – early 80’s,) his shop was the Houston Bicycle Company. It was in an old house on Fairview, right around the corner from my apartment on Yoakum. (More the Montrose area than the Heights, B Mac, although one or the other may have been an intermediate stop.) It was a great place to hang out. I think the shop was mostly a hobby for Joe, and his wife probably supported the family with her job at the Rice library.
    When I was rear-ended on the I-10 feeder road out by Memorial City, Joe arranged for Ray Romic to replace the rear triangle on my Bianchi, and sold me a really nice Medici. (still have the both!)
    So, any idea what happened to Joe? Cissy?
    Sorry to hear that Boone’s closed; it was a real institution for the Rice cycling community.

    1. You’re right Rick on several counts: after I posted I remembered it was the house on Fairview St that Joe moved to (in Montrose, not the Heights); and the shop name was not Pro Cycles, that was Dan Kahn’s shop when he took over the location on S Shepherd (near the old Star Pizza). Both shops were very *unique*. You also reminded me that Cissy worked at Rice. Thanks for the memories.

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