My Memories of the Modesto Roadmen
by David Steffen. Last updated December 2, 2015.
The date the Modesto Roadmen was founded has been lost the mists of time. It was after 1963, the earliest we could have purchased the particular bicycles we were riding. It was after 1965 based on our racing history. The founding members of the Modesto Roadmen (which may not have yet had a name) were David Steffen (me), Paul Robinson, Tom Woods, and Jeff Cowdrey. Paul, Jeff, and I were all in the same grade at the same schools in grades 7 through 12. Tom was two years younger but was friends with the rest of us and rode with us from the very beginning.
There were three high schools in Modesto; Davis, Downey, and Modesto High Schools. By 1965, the four founding members of the Modesto Roadmen were all students at Downey. Also by 1965, the Modesto Roadmen were registered as a racing club with the Amateur Bicycle League of America (ABL of A), the organization that governed amateur bicycle racing up to and including the US Olympic cycling team. To be so registered, we needed a name, so whether or not we had a name before, from 1965 on we were officially The Modesto Roadmen. (I recall some of the other teams making fun of our name as it precluded the possibility that we would ever participate in track racing.) I don't recall if we ever had a membership list or dues, but any of the Modesto Roadmen who raced had join the ABL of A as members of the Modesto Roadmen, so they, at least, were official members.
From the original four, our membership grew quickly. A second wave of members would certainly include Fred Brockman, Stacy Dull, John Campopiano, Mike Jewitt, Roger Farshon, and Eldon Rosenow. With the exception of Fred Brockman who attended Modesto High School, I cannot think of any members during this period who were not students of Downey High School. The first dated pictures I have come from January of 1996 and already the club is quite large and coeducational, the latter being an important marker of some degree of social acceptance, something absent in our earliest days. See below a list of all the Modesto Roadmen members that we have been able to remember.
Different subsets of our members enjoyed different kinds of cycling. One subset was mostly interested in fun rides; shorter day rides through pretty scenery during nice weather. There was another subset who had no interest in racing but who were up for very long, even multi-day bicycle tours. The hard core of the Roadmen, including the four founders, liked just about everything. Rarely would a weekend go by that we didn't hop on our bikes and go for a ride. A standard weekend ride took all day and covered about 100 miles. Sometimes we went on camping trips with our bikes, up to a week in duration. Favorite destinations were Turlock Lake, La Grange, Sonora, Copperopolis, Yosemite National Park, and back and forth across the mountain passes of the Sierra Nevadas. Besides the typical weekend century, we did shorter rides; fun rides with the rest of the club and training rides to improve our racing skills. Starting in 1965, we raced in Amateur Bicycle League of America (ABL of A) sanctioned bicycle races, most of which were held somewhere in the the San Francisco Bay Area. We were a young club, we all raced in the Junior category (under 18), we had no Senior racers. We didn't win all that much but we were competitive and had fun.
Early in 1967, Paul Robinson was struck by a car while riding his bike. Between being spooked by the accident and starting Junior College, Paul gave up cycling at that point and drifted away from the group. In 1967, I left Modesto to attend U.C. Berkeley and Roger Farschon took over from me as President of the Modesto Roadmen. However, I continued to ride with the Modesto Roadmen through 1969, when I attended the Great Western Bike Rally with them.
In about 1969, Roger and John Campopiano, another very active member of the club, became more interested in young women than in bicycles and drifted away. At about the same time, other members drifted away as well. At about that same time, the club became more associated with Davis High School and less with Downey High School, the folks who cared if I participated or not were mostly gone, and my involvement with The Modesto Roadmen coasted to a stop.
In 2008, after 40 years of no contact, I got an email from Paul Robinson. This got me to restart cycling after 30 years off the bike and reignited my interest in the Modesto Roadmen. I did Google Searches for "Modesto Roadmen" and found the following:
- 1972: The Modesto Modesto Roadmen are listed in the roster of NCNCA (the Northern California Nevada Cycling Association.)
- 1975: The Statewide Bicycle Committee in their Final Report, dated February 10, 1975, listed the Modesto Roadmen as contributors, and their address as 405 E. Orangeburg, Modesto, CA 95350.
- 1991: The Modesto Roadmen were incorporated with the State of California. That incorporation was dissolved in 1994.
The bicycle club to which Paul Robinson currently belongs is the Stanislaus County Bicycle Club. It is located in Modesto (which is in Stanislaus County) and was founded in 1982. It is certainly possible that there were competing bicycle clubs in Modesto in 1982 (during the 1960's, we coexisted and often rode with another Modesto club, Mach Schnell) but another possibility is that the Modesto Roadmen had become inactive by then. This, of course, would have to be reconciled with its incorporation in 1991.
Understanding the history of The Modesto Roadmen from 1970 until its demise would most definitely benefit from the input of someone who was there! In the absense of that, this is our best attempt at reconstructing what that history might have been.
- The 1966/1967 membership list of the Modesto Roadmen
- The Mountain Loop: Starting in 1966, we took a week-long tour through the Sierra Nevada mountains every summer, a ride we named "The Mountain Loop."
- About the adults who helped us
- Art Wilcox and Mike Hawk
- Bicycles We Rode