Bidwell Bump History
Nothing for sale here. We just thought you’d enjoy this hard-to-find hilarious story below about the First Bidwell Bump Race here in Chico!
”THE VERY FIRST OFF-ROAD BIKE RACE (MAYBE) Where Flat Tires Proved The Need for Fat Tires by Bodfish ( pg. 22, Mountain Bike Magazine, the Nov/Dec issue of 1985 or 6?) It was the first of August, 1976, and the average high temperature through July had been 102 degrees. This was my first summer in California’s Sacramento Valley. I was in Chico, a small college town, where if you vowed to live without a car and grow organic vegetables you could do quite well. My brain was fried. The day I printed the race flyer the mercury hit 118 degrees. Chico has a liberally shaded, 12-mile-long creekside park called Bidwell which runs northeast from downtown to the heart of a deep canyon. When it’s really hot many Chicoans hit the creek. But I’d been busy publishing the first issue of The PedalerlPedestrian Advocate. My long-term plan was to convince Chico’s motorists that they’d be better off walking, jogging, or riding their bikes to the park rather than driving their air conditioned BMWs. My flyer’s lead story announced: “The Great Chico Bike Race. The course begins in the upper park where the dirt road commences [this was radical, unheard-of stuff] . . . From there it goes up to Brown’s Hole, where you’re expected to jump in the creek and ride back to the start. Total distance: 9 miles, all on dirt.” Because I was writing a bicycle column for the weekly newspaper in town, the race received attention. Nine participants and twice as many spectators showed up. An awards ceremony was to be held that afternoon in La Salles, a downtown restaurant. This morning, though, the place was closed. Its owner, Fred, was straddling his all-Campy Cinelli at the starting line waiting for the whistle to blow. The racers weren’t sure what to ride. There were two Cinellis, four Schwinns (one Panther, one Spitfire, a Super Sport, and a 5-speed Sting Ray), a Firestone Monark, Raleigh 3-speed, and a mongrel bike with a Bendix 2-speed, blue-band hub, ridden by a guy named Rod who supposedly raced in Belgium one summer. The upper park road was heavily rutted and for most of the distance lay under a 3-inch blanket of dust. Then the whistle blew. The dust rose 4 feet off the road surface and hung there for several minutes. The race entailed 500 feet of climbing. Because of this, a women’s team was formed: Lisa was a good climber and Corinne was a braids-out downhiller. There was a lot of laughing, a few screams and, for two of the competitors, molar-grinding determination. This put them across the finish line an hour ahead of Fred, whose Cinelli had eaten its rear derailleur, pretzelled a few spokes, and flatted the front tire before being carried across the finish line. Rod, the determined Belgian racer, arrived first to set the course record of 29 minutes, 48 seconds. A 3-speed followed within seconds. Several minutes later a fellow named Callahan ran across the line with his Cinelli on his shoulder. He had two flat tires. Then, the second half of the women’s team showed up on the Spitfire. Later, Fred opened his restaurant for the race party and brought out several pitchers of beer. At least two prizes were awarded to each participant. I raised a brew high in the air and proclaimed, “To the Bidwell Bump. Let’s do it again next year!” The Race is still held in the upper park, but on a trail that features a craggy lava surface and 1,000 feet of climbs… and with fat tires instead of flat ones. ~ ”
Stay in Touch
Our monthly email is an ongoing bike conversation for creative people who spend a lot of time in their garage.