Phil Wood: A tribute

Shortly after we reported on the sad news about Phil Wood last week, his family contacted BikeBiz and sent us some words about his fascinating life and legacy to the bicycle world. Here are their words, reprinted in full:
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Phil Wood.jpg

Phil Wood, inventor of sealed bearing bicycle hubs and bottom brackets, died of pancreatic cancer on March 14, 2010 at his daughter’s home in Roseville, California.

A mechanical engineer by trade, Phil Wood was also gifted with a never ending thirst for making life simpler for people. While racing bicycles with his youngest son, Barrie, in 1970, Phil accidently fell into the hub business. His chief criticism was the task of having to grease and repack the hub bearings each time he rode. Thus, Phil Wood & Co. was founded on April Fool’s Day in 1971.

Both Phil and his wife, Lavada (Vada), worked tirelessly to manufacture and ship Phil Wood hubs throughout the world. Bicycle enthusiasts were always welcome to stop by for a chat and walk through the shop. His hubs became legendary, and he was invited to participate in a world-wide trade show in Germany. Upon their return from Germany, Vada laughingly told stories about Phil’s awkwardness when he was encountered by people who asked for his autograph.

Phil Wood not only designed and manufactured maintenance free hubs for cyclists, he also produced quality hubs for wheelchairs. Phil passionately believed that people who live in wheelchairs should not wait for repairs, so at every opportunity with bicycle shops, Phil championed “spot repairs” for all wheelchairs.

Having friends who rode tandem bicycles, Phil learned firsthand that the pedals of tandem bikes were deficient. Wheels began to once again turn in his creative mind, and Phil manufactured the world’s first production sealed bearing pedal. This pedal was the first of its kind to receive formal approval by the California Highway Patrol.

Phil’s hubs were made to last a lifetime and to have the utmost integrity, quality and resilience. After more than 30 years since he opened his modest shop in San Jose, Ca, his original hubs are still rolling throughout the world. He had so much faith in his product that he offered a lifetime warranty. “It’s the best money I never spent,” Phil often said.

Not to let the grass grow under his feet, Phil produced Phil Wood Waterproof Grease and Tenacious Oil, as well as other bicycle components. The term “Tenacious Oil” was put to a vote by Phil to his wife and children.

On a trip while flying over the state of Indiana, Phil designed a spoke cutting and threading machine that manually cuts and threads spokes at any length in seconds. His tool continues to be utilized by large manufacturers such as Campagnolo, DT, HED, MARWI, Shimano, Wheelsmith, and wheel builders throughout the world.

Phil Wood & Co. was purchased on April Fool’s Day in 1991 by a group of investors led by Peter Enright. It still produces American made, quality Phil Wood products from its headquarters in San Jose, California.

In 1995, after retirement, Phil and Vada moved to Baxter, Iowa, where they raised their great granddaughter. Although retired, Phil’s never-ending lust for learning and simplifying ideas carried on.

Phil had another passion, and that was mathematics. He enjoyed solving mathematical problems and creating new ones for his family and friends to unravel. When he was a young student, Phil had taken a calculus class. One of the courses, differential calculus, presented much disappointment to him, and over the years he had thought about how to make it more presentable and understandable, both for the student and the teacher. He found the subject to be interesting and wanted to encourage that interest with others. In 2006, Phil wrote a textbook entitled Differential Calculus. It presumed that the students understood algebra, trigonometry and logarithms. He presented his course to professors and mathematicians at the college level.

After his diagnosis of prostate cancer in 2009, Phil had one more item to be checked off of his list of things to do. He enjoyed playing with a nylon cord and making knots. Of course, he didn’t simply play with them; he researched various books of knots. When looking for a particular type of knot, Phil realised that no book had been written solely dedicated to the theory of Turksheads, which is a continuous braided type of knot that had no end, so it ends up as a circle with a hole in the middle. Not only did Phil write the book, he also did his own photographing and binding.

While living in Baxter, Phil tutored students at the local school, spent countless hours in discussion with the school board and the planning commission, as well as participated in the city council meetings. He was always curious, and at times challenging of how things were conducted and done in his new town. In April 2009, the Baxter School Board presented Phil with an outstanding achievement award for his 14 years of service to the community.

Vada passed away on December 18, 2009 in Newton, Iowa. Phil passed away in Roseville, California on March 14, 2010. They were predeceased by two children. They leave behind 7 children, 19 grandchildren, 11 great grandchildren, and 1 great-great grandchild, as well as Phil’s brother, Reuel L. (Woody) Wood of Florida. A memorial service will be held on April 17, 2010, in Los Gatos, California, to celebrate their extraordinary lives. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations in the names of Phil and Vada Wood can be made to Hospice of Jasper County, 204 N. 4th Avenue East, Newton, IA 50208.

Phil Wood
July 9th, 1926 – March 14th, 2010

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