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Old days, new days

Tim OmarzuAl DeVico (left) shows off some old, woolen biking jerseys worn by the Nevada City Wheelmen while Charlie Aron sports the club's current jersey.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Forget Lycra. Think wool shirts and the 1979 bicycling film “Breaking Away.”

Tonight, the Sierra Express bike club will revisit its 1970s roots. Club member Jim Rogers will talk about Nevada County bicycling history, including the Nevada City Wheelmen, the current club’s progenitor, created in 1971.



Back then, Rogers and his best friend Ron Miller were a pair of teenage bicycling prodigies.




“We were best buddies,” Rogers said.

Rogers was 13 and Miller was 12 when they opened the original Tour of Nevada City bike shop in a building Miller’s parents owned.

The friends both raced professionally and did well in the Tour of Nevada City Bike Classic race, the internationally-sanctioned event held downtown each summer around Father’s Day.

Rogers participated from 1971 to 1981 and broke the “Nevada City curse” in 1972 by being the first – and still the only – local cyclist to place first.

But that wasn’t much of a race, Rogers said; it was a only a seven-lap event for youths aged 14 and under.

Miller, who died of cancer in 1985, was going to win the big race in 1977, Rogers said.

But he crashed on the last lap when his bike slipped on some loose hay from a wall of hay bales between the cyclists and the crowd.

“He wound up flying. He couldn’t even get up and run across” the finish line in time to beat the other racers, because his bike was so mangled, Rogers said.

Miller was a skilled frame builder. A bicycle he built as a high school art project now hangs from the ceiling at the Tour of Nevada City bike shop.

“If Ron hadn’t contracted cancer, he would probably have a brand of bike out, like Tom Ritchey or Gary Fisher,” Rogers said. “He was sort of an artist.”

Club members will have old bicycling memorabilia on hand for tonight’s talk, including old yellow-wool bicycling shirts adorned with the words “Nevada City,” short for Nevada City Wheelmen.

That original club petered out in the late 1970s, but was born again in 1980 when a group of cyclists led by Cliff LaMoure formed the Sierra Express bicycle club.

It later went dormant for a while but was re-established in 1999.

The club is going strong now, with regularly-scheduled evening rides and around 100 dues-paying members ($15 annually for individuals, $20 for families).

Beginners are welcome, said Al DeVico and Charlie Aron – two founding members of the club’s current incarnation.

“We’ll always wait,” for the slowest rider on club rides, Aron said.

Two years ago, the Sierra Express bike club began hosting the “Burn of the Century” a 108-mile ride – not a race – stretching from North San Juan to Lake of the Pines which attracted 70 people the first year and 140 the next.

It dates back to the days of the Nevada City Wheelmen.

This year’s century ride – which also features a 45-mile and a 75-mile route – will be held Saturday, June 15, the day before the Nevada City Bike Classic.

— Wanna ride? The Sierra Express bike club hosts rides just about every day of the week, including a beginner’s ride that starts every Monday at 5:30 p.m. at Tour of Nevada City bike shop at 457 Sacramento Street.

You don’t even need to be a club member to participate. Just show up (bike helmets are required). For information, check the bike club’s Web site at http://www.sierraexpress.org

Know and Go

What: Sierra Express bike club meeting and talk about the club’s history

When: 7 p.m. tonight

Where: Citizens Restaurant, 221 Broad St., Nevada City


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