Jobst Brandt, the legendary does-not-suffer-fools-gladly author of ‘The Bicycle Wheel’ has died. He was 80. His famous book was first published in 1981, published by tyre company Avovet, for whom he consulted. Brandt of the San Francisco Bay area was an engineer who loved cycling, but didn’t work in the bicycle industry directly.
In his classic book Brandt wrote that "the wheel stands on its spokes,” a counter-intuitive concept he explained thus:
"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 bicycle is unusual, conventional wisdom has at times led to misconceptions about its wheels.
"Many people believe it is self-evident that the hub hangs from the upper spokes, and that these spokes become tighter when you get on the bicycle. This type of misconception is similar to the belief, once widely held, that the sun rotates around the earth. What may appear self-evident is not always true. The bicycle wheel does not work the way it appears to, but rather in a way that seems to defy common sense."
His friend Ray Hosler has a moving tribute to the man who, until the onset of illness a few years ago, was a regular expert contributor to cycle forums.
"His passing is a personal loss for me," writes Hosler. "I met Jobst in 1979 while working at Palo Alto Bicycles. I’ll never forget seeing Jobst wheel into the store on his huge bike, which he always rode into the shop while deftly opening the door.
"He immediately bound upstairs to the Avocet headquarters where he would engage owner Bud Hoffacker in lively discussions (browbeat) about everything under the sun involving bike technology.
"Jobst was like that. He believed with 100 percent certainty that his way was the right way. If you disagreed and didn’t have the facts to support your argument, you were just another crackpot.
"Most of the time Jobst was right. He had that rare skill in a mechanical engineer — he not only understood engineering principles, he could translate theory into meaningful product improvements, whether it be a bicycle shoe, a floor pump or a cyclometer.
"His accomplishments extend well beyond patents. While working at the two-mile long Stanford Linear Accelerator, he was recognized for his work on suspension for the particle accelerator. There’s a plaque with his name on it in one of the lobbies.
At Porsche he designed race-car suspensions, after quickly moving through the ranks. The way he got his job is classic Jobst. The young Stanford University graduate (his father was an economics professor at Stanford), who spent time in the U.S. Army in Germany as a lieutenant, approached Porsche and told them that their English translations lacked polish. Porsche agreed and he was hired.
"Jobst blazed trails beyond bike product development. His freewheeling way of thinking led him to do things most people would never dream of — like riding a racing bike with tubular tires on rugged trails in the Santa Cruz Mountains."
"Although Jobst rode most of his miles in the U.S., he always made time for the Alps. For 50 years he rode there annually, riding many of the same passes year after year, with some variation.
"If you rode in the Alps with Jobst, you knew you were going to cover a lot of ground and you could expect some adventure riding, sometimes sliding down snow-covered slopes when crossing high passes on hiking trails.
"Jobst took many photos of his exploits over the decades, probably more than 10,000 slides. He had a unique ability to capture great photos with his Rollei 35. A few of his photos were made into posters and sold by Palo Alto Bicycles.
"I could go on about Jobst, but it would require a book-length blog. I’ve published some accounts of past rides here (Once Upon a Ride) and they’ll have to do for now.
As Jobst was always fond of saying, “Ride bike!”