Petaluma Wheelmen: 2005 

Dave Miller’s bicycle shop, Sonoma Mountain Cyclery, in the Gateway Shopping Center in Petaluma, had quite a few regular customers, who began to to accompany him in the early mornings for a nice 30-mile spin before the store opened.IMG_4035.JPG  This turned into a regular group, and you could usually find  Rick Moeller, Dave Trumbo, Mike Borse, Michael Troy, and Jim Janakes out cruising the back roads with Dave between 8 and 10 a.m. several times a week.

For Father’s Day, 2004, Jim received a booklet of old Petaluma photos from his wife, Carol.  In it he found a picture of the original Petaluma Wheelmen Cycling Club, who raced around the local roads between 1895 and 1897 (see below).  He brought a copy of it to the gang one morning, and the wheels started turning before they even clipped into their pedals.

By December, the Petaluma Wheelmen were officially reincarnated, and the expanding Tuesday/Thursday morning cycling group settled into the Apple Box for early morning pre-ride coffee.  By the end of January 2005, the Petaluma Wheelmen boasted almost 50 members and became an organization complete with a Board of Directors and a web site.

There are now over 200 Petaluma Wheelmen and women, whose main goal is to provide a cycling community for Petalumans who share a passion for exploring the world on two wheels.  

Petaluma Wheelmen: 1895

In Petaluma in the 1890s, the bicycle (a.k.a. Velocipede) was King of the Road. Local newspapers from this time carried quite a few stories about outraged pedestrians complaining about “scorchers,” the name given to bicycle speed-demons. On New Year’s Eve of 1895, Officer Charles Myers, Petaluma’s one-man bicycle squad, reportedly hauled in a few young ‘partiers’ on his patrol. The manufacturer of the then popular Victor bicycle, whom many trade publications deemed “the Czar of bicycle makers,” was none other than A.H. Overman, one of Petaluma’s Overman brothers.

Early cyclists in Petaluma enjoyed all the same things that cyclists value here today, from extended outings in our beautiful countryside to healthy competition. IMGP0139.JPGLocal riders organized into civic groups known as ‘Wheelmen,’ who staged frequent rides, races, and other social events. The Healdsburg Wheelmen, Santa Rosa’s Empire Wheelmen, and the PETALUMA WHEELMEN were extremely prominent. (You can just make out the Wheelmen logo on shirt of the young man in the lower right front of the photo.  He was 10-year-old Malcolm Byce, the Official Mascot of the Petaluma Wheelmen!)

There is evidence that the Petaluma Wheelmen also constructed a track for bicycle races. An article from a July 1894 edition of the Petaluma Courier newspaper lauds the success of the Petaluma Wheelmen’s championship bicycle races on the 4th of July that year, and describes the club's plans for a banked quarter-mile track to be built adjacent to the Petaluma street railway.

Another Courier newspaper account  from February, 1896 describes a Wheelmen club ride up to Santa Rosa. According to the article, “The entire day was one continued series of pileups, smashups, blowups, and upsets, but nobody was injured and nothing was ‘broke’ but bikes…” The Courier also reported the fastest return rider from Santa Rosa to Petaluma taking 64 minutes (one Clarence Ackerman). Early Petaluma Wheelmen also included Lieut. Will Newburg, Carl Dies, Roy Crawford, O.C.Hopkins, Joe Stieger, Mark Simmons, and Captain Fox (of the good steamer Gold).

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