The Beginning of the Davis Double Century
Recollections of Bill Kuttner

When I enrolled at U.C. Davis as a freshman in 1968, I was new to performance cycling. I had purchased a used Bianchi Specialisma and had done long rides on my own, but I had never raced or been a member of a club. At Davis, I immediately joined the small Cal Aggie Wheelmen riding club. Critically, these more experienced riders helped me develop good riding techniques.

Not content with merely riding for my own satisfaction, I was obsessed with making the sport more popular. This dated from my high school days in Orange County where any kind of bike riding for any purpose was almost unheard of. I had heard from Aggie Wheelmen and others about the famous L.A. Wheelmen Double Century. I had never ridden a DC, but I suggested that the Aggie Wheelmen should consider putting on their own DC. This suggestion was met with immediate support.

The underlying philosophy of the event paralleled my thoughts on the young cycling movement. Though I had not done a DC, I had every confidence that I could complete one without killing myself. I believed that recreational cyclists could learn proper riding techniques, own appropriately sophisticated bicycles, bring their machines and themselves to the event in good working order, and achieve what on the face of it appears to be a mind-boggling feat: ride 200 miles, most of which gets covered during daylight hours. The Aggie Wheelmen usually did a ride every Saturday morning of about 40 miles, and people looking forward to the DC used these weekly rides to prepare physically, mechanically, and mentally.

The plan was to have two routes, one of which would supposedly be easier because it was all flat: basically head north for a hundred miles and return. The other route went west to Lake Berryessa, then on to Clear Lake, and returned via the Capay Valley. It involved hill climbing, some challenging. The flat route, however, was at the mercy of wind conditions. You could expect a headwind for half the ride, or more if you were unlucky with a wind shift.

There were 47 participants. Only about 13 tackled the highland route, and they all finished. Everyone else attempted the lowland route, and only a handful finished. This was partly due to wind conditions, and partly that the more proficient riders went on the highland route. The sag wagons did their job well, and no one was downhearted. The one event expense was reimbursing the sag wagons for their 25 cent/gallon gas, which was paid for with a startup grant from the University student organization. Note that cellphones had not yet been invented!

A few names still come to mind when I recall the event. Tom Harper was the Aggie Wheelmen President when I joined, and both taught me good riding techniques and encouraged me to organize the DC. During my sophomore year I left Davis and my life led me elsewhere. Several first year participants, including Bruce Herman and Dave Faike, others I have forgotten as well as people new to the cycling movement all contributed to continue the event.