Innovative Bike Computer Jobst Brandt Celebrated With Suggested New Book Crowdfunding Kickstarter

“Ride a bike!” was the long-standing call to action of American mechanical engineer Jobst Brandt, the legendary author of The bicycle wheelwho died in 2015 at 80. And Ride a bike! is the title of a proposed new book about the enthusiast who inspired such innovations in the bicycle industry as slick tires and the handlebar-mounted bike computer.

Produced by UK publisher Isola Press, the book has so far raised $10,900 on Kickstarter and has a month to reach its $28,800 goal.

Isola Press is run by bike journalist Max Leonard and has successfully Kickstarter-funded five books, raising over $200,000 for titles such as The Rough Stuff Fellowship archive, a photo journal of a British off-road cycling club.

“Brandt’s passion and intellect changed the way we ride bikes today,” said Leonard.

“Years before the evolution of mountain bikes and gravel bikes, his legendary ‘Jobst rides’ took Bay Area racers including Tom Ritchey, Gary Fisher and Eric Heiden on dirt roads and downhills in the Santa Cruz Mountains and Sierras Leonard continued.

Brandt also toured extensively in the French, Italian and Swiss Alps, cycling 2,000 miles of Europe’s highest mountain passes nearly every year for nearly half a century.

Isola Press has access to Brandt’s photo library, which contains more than 10,000 slides, many of them taken on a Rollei 35 camera.

Brandt’s definitive guide to wheel construction was published in 1981 by the bicycle parts company Avovet, for which he consulted. This long-awaited company was based in an upstairs room at Palo Alto Bicycles, near Stanford University Silicon Valley in Palo Alto, California.

The bike shop—and associated brand of parts—was founded by Bernie Hoffacker and later run by his sons Bud and Neal. Mail order catalog Palo Alto Bicycles sold custom road bike frames from legendary builder Tom Ritchey, and Avocet made innovative components, shoes, saddles and tires.

Avocet also developed the first electronic cyclometer, now known as a bike computer, a device that evolved into today’s GPS-enabled bike computers from Garmin and Wahoo.

Palo Alto Bicycles also sponsored a cycling team that included a young Greg Lemond, who was the first American to win the Tour de France. Lemond led with an Avocet cyclometer that raises the profile of the product.

Samara maker Gary Erickson learned his trade with Avocet—he left in 1992 to co-found ClifBar, which was sold to Mondelēz in June 2022 for $2.9 billion. Erickson rode with Brad in California and the two also met in Europe.

“After descending Costalungato Canazei, I ran into a group of Berkeley riders with Gary Erickson from Cliff Bars,” Brandt wrote in his 1992 diary.

“He was having a great time, but his recruits, who had never seen so many mountains, were quite long in the face.”

Brad’s love affair with the Alps began in his youth—he attended high school in Switzerland and was also able to reach the mountains during a US Army mission to Frankfurt, Germany.

After graduating from Stanford University, he later worked for Porsche in Stuttgart where he translated the manual to the 356 before designing the 804 race car suspensions.

Earlier, while working on the two-mile long Stanford linear accelerator, Brandt was recognized for his work on the suspension for the particle accelerator. He has several patents to his name, including three for Hewlett Packard and three for Avocet. Patent 6,134,508 was for a “simplified system for displaying user-selected functions on a bicycle computer or similar device.”

In his classic book Brandt wrote that “the wheel stands on its spokes,” a counterintuitive idea he explained as follows: “Bicycles endure unusually high stresses at unusually low speeds and for this reason seem to violate many design rules that apply to other machines. Because the bike is unusual, conventional wisdom has occasionally led to misconceptions about its wheels.

“A lot of people take it for granted that the hub hangs from the top spokes and that those spokes get tighter when you get on the bike. This type of misconception is similar to the once widespread belief that the sun revolves around the earth. What may seem obvious is not always true. The bicycle wheel does not work as it seems, but rather in a way that seems to defy common sense.”

Leonard plans for Jobst Brandt Ride Bike! will be published in spring 2023.

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