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History of the Modesto Roadmen

The original Modesto Roadmen (from left to right): Tom Woods, David Steffen, Jeff Cowdrey, and Paul Robinson.

My Memories of the Modesto Roadmen

by David Steffen. Last updated May 14, 2018.

Unless otherwise noted, this history is based on the memory of its author, David Steffen. There is ample evidence that David's memory is unreliable, so caveat emptor.

Pre-1965

The date the Modesto Roadmen was founded has been lost in the mists of time. It could not have happened before 1963, the earliest we could have purchased the particular bicycles we were riding. It must have happened by 1965 based on our racing history. The founding members of the Modesto Roadmen (which may not have yet had a name) were David Steffen, Paul Robinson, Tom Woods, and Jeff Cowdrey. Paul, Jeff, and David 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 other three and rode with them from the very beginning. It is possible that there were others involved from the very beginning, so if any former Modesto Roadman claims to have been a founding member, that may well be true.

1965-1967

During the 1960s, here were three high schools in Modesto; Davis, Downey, and Modesto. 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 had a membership list or dues at that time, 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 Gary Combs, Fred Brockman, Stacy Dull, John Campopiano, Mike Jewitt, Roger Farshon, and Eldon Rosenow. With the exception of Fred Brockman who attended Modesto High School and Eldon Rosenow who lived outside of Modesto, in the town of Riverside, 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 1966 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. There is a link at the bottom of this page to 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, multi-day bicycle tours. A third subset, including the four founders, liked just about everything; racing, long tours, and fun, social rides. Rarely would a weekend go by that this group didn't hop on their bikes and go for a ride. A typical weekend ride for this group took all day and covered about 100 miles. Favorite destinations were Turlock Lake, La Grange, Sonora, Copperopolis, Yosemite National Park, and back and forth across the mountain passes of the Sierra Nevadas. They also participated in training rides to improve their racing skills. They raced in ABL of A sanctioned bicycle races, most of which were held somewhere in the the San Francisco Bay Area. The Modesto Roadmen was a young club and in the beginning, they all raced in the Junior category for riders under the age of 18, but by 1967, the oldest members has crossed that line and raced as Seniors competing against members of the US Olympic cycling team. The Modesto Roadmen didn't win all that often but were competitive and had fun.

In the October 1966 newsletter, it was noted that David had just completed his term as president of the Modesto Roadmen and Fred Brockman was the new President.

1967-1970

An example of a Modesto Roadmen newsletter. Click on image to see full size.

The June 1967 newsletter listed ten candidates for the position of President of The Modesto Roadmen, and in the July 1967 newsletter it was announced that Larry Hanne was the new president. In the October 1967 newsletter it was announced that Gary Combs was the new President. A variety of sources testify that Stacy Dull was president during 1968 and a signed membership card from 1969 reveals that Kurt Theimann was president that year.

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 September of 1967, David and Fred left Modesto to attend U.C. Berkeley but they continued to ride with the Modesto Roadmen occasionally through 1969, when they attended the Great Western Bike Rally as Roadmen.

By 1969, the remaining members of the Modesto Roadmen started becoming more interested in girlfriends than in bicycles and drifted away. New members of the club came more from Davis High School rather than Downey High School, the folks who cared if David participated or not were mostly gone, and his involvement with The Modesto Roadmen coasted to a stop.

In 1970, David was a member of the Berkeley Wheelmen and edited their newsletters. These newsletters contained racing results for Northern California, and within those results, six members of the Modesto Roadmen were listed; Gunnar Caylor, J. Holmes, Gordon Jewett, Dave Langley, Richard Schraam, and Kimo Tanaka. Paul remembers that Gordon was a member before he quit the club, so he represents a bridge between the Downey and Davis eras. According to Roger, Gordon was an excellent sprinter, winning the State track championships one year. Besides racing, Kimo and Gunnar build bicycle frames.

After 1970

In 2008, after 40 years of no contact, David got a a telephone call from Paul. Thereafter, they kept in touch by telephone and email, and even managed a couple of rides together. Both of them had stopped cycling decades before, but this renewed contact got them both riding again. This reignited my interest in the Modesto Roadmen. I did a Google search for "Modesto Roadmen" and found the following:

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.

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