The Davis Double Century: Origins and Early Years

"200 miles in one day."

The Davis Double Century was run for the fortysixth time on May 16th, 2015. This is not the oldest double century in California- that would be the Grand Tour, put on by the Los Angeles Wheelmen, but, it has been considered the most popular. It has often been recommended as a "first" double due to it's excellent support and it's modest 8,000 plus feet of elevation gain. (That's "modest" by today's California standards.)

Although never conceived as a race, there was from the beginning a competitive spirit among the participants. Times were recorded and, eventually, there was a trophy with the names of the fastest riders engraved on it. This was discontinued after the 1981 event and further competition has not been encouraged. But, in its first decade, the DC attracted participants who were active in organized racing and had a goal of being the first rider back to Davis. So, the purpose of this page is to document those first few years of this organized, recreational ride which was, at once, casual and competitive, and would also become highly regarded for its organization and support.

Serious recreational and competitive cycling for adults in this country was finally making a comeback in the 1960s after the Depression, WWII, and the automobile mania of the 1950s. The only organized double century rides then were the Grand Tours put on by the Los Angeles Wheelmen (starting in 1959). This was about to be changed by some young cycling enthusiasts, members of the Cal Aggie Wheelmen, a cycling club at the University of California, Davis. There was a reconnaissance ride in 1969 whose details are lost in the fog of oral history but on May 23 in 1970 the first official Davis Double Century took place. I should now turn you over to former Cal Aggie Wheelman, Bill Kuttner.

The Beginning of the Davis Double Century
The 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. Read entire letter...

Any comments, identifications, and corrections are welcome at Velo Vecchio.

click on any image for a larger version

The Cal Aggie Wheelmen's newsletter, the Cluster, announces the first official, organized, open-to-the-public Davis Double Century in May, 1970. Entrance fee: $1.00.

The Fall, 1970 edition of the Cluster announces the finishers of the first Davis DC and their times. 92% of the mountain course riders and 24% of the valley riders finished. (This issue also contains a juicy gossip column.)

Here is a Cal Aggie Wheelmen flyer/poster with a photo including Bill Kuttner. He's 3rd rider from the left behind the guy with the headband. I've also included the Winter, '71 Cluster which has another of those fine gossip columns.

The Cluster's list of some of the 1972 DC's finishers. Some familiar names are Leonard Nitz- Olympics medal winner, Bill Bryant- Randonneurs USA activist, and Rick Blunden- Caltrans Bicycle Facilities Chief.

Dave Nasatir (far right) and Patty Kline (far left) during the 1972 Davis DC. Photo by John Finley Scott. Click on the photo and you will also find a letter from Dave.

Another photo by John Finley Scott. That's Dave Nasatir and Linda Searle on Finley's Jack Taylor tandem.

Some photos from Herb Mesler of rest stops at an early Davis DC. The fruit stand was at the junction of Lincoln Ave. (SR 29) and Silverado Trail just north of Calistoga.

Herb Mesler refuels at Austin Park in Clearlake Highlands before he has to face the Gooseneck. For more photos of Herb, click on the image.

The information brochure and entry form for 1974's Davis DC written by John Finley Scott, faculty sponsor for the Cal Aggie Wheelmen.

The very informative 1975 DC rider information handout (written, I would guess, by J.F.Scott). The first section has an interesting take on the relations between the ride organizers and the CHP in the early years of the event.

1975 was the first year that the tandem team of Joe Breeze and Otis Guy, from Velo-Club Tamalpais, rode the Davis Double, initiating a five year winning streak.

The route map, course profile, and cue sheet for the 1976 Davis DC.

Calvin Trampleasure recalls his early Davis Doubles.

Ed "Foxy Grandpa" Delano
Read about Foxy here

Mike Callahan's 1982 DC

Helen and Lee Poole

The Pooles opened the B&LBike Shop, Davis' first real cyclery, in the mid 60's. (Previously, bicycles were bought and repaired at Del Montgomery's lawn mower and fix-it shop.) With its U.C. campus, fine weather,and flat topography, it's not surprising Davis became a cycling town. And another factor was the Poole's constant, energetic support for bicycle transportation and recreation. They were on hand for the first DC in 1970 as its first "official" SAG vehicle and were among the founder/sponsors of the Davis Bike Club in 1976. (The DBC took over promotion of the DC in 1977.) Here are a few excerpts from an interview with Helen and Lee in December of 2011.

  • Helen discusses SAG support in the first DC. Listen
  • Ed "Foxy Grandpa" Delano rides the first DC. Listen
  • The newly formed (in 1976) Davis Bike Club gets a sponsor. Listen

Mark McGahan

Click on photo for larger image.

Who was that guy on the "pennyfarthing", a unicycle, a Sting-Ray, a fat-tired single-speed tandem, or...??? That was Mark McGahan, a Davis resident, who started riding the DC when a sophomore in high school. Apparently, just finishing the DC wasn't enough of a challenge; he had to complete it on the most unlikely pedal-powered vehicles he could come up with. I should let Mark's friend, John Swann, tell you about him:

A contemporary rest stop- This is the Pope Valley Grange Hall during the 2010 DC.