Local Riders Q&A - Ray Hosler

Ray Hosler is the author of Bay Area Bike Rides, which has been in print by Chronicle books since 1990. He was the weekly bicycle columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle from 1987-89. Prior to that he was an editor at Runner's World magazine. A life-long cyclist, he rode his bike to work nearly daily for 45 years. His cycling reached new heights when he worked at Palo Alto Bicycles in 1979 and started riding with Jobst Brandt in the Santa Cruz Mountains. He has ridden in France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Thailand and the Philippines.

It gives me great pleasure to have Ray answer our Local Riders Q&A. Many thanks to Ray for taking the time and sending over these amazing images. 


What do you love the most about riding your bike? 

I was asked that same question by Dale Saso recently. He's a frame builder who built me a bike in 1987 and has repaired it several times. I think it's all about giving a person freedom, self-reliance. I've ridden my bike in places unimaginable to most people, experienced nature in all its glory while enjoying the outdoors. The bike is easily the most efficient form of human transportation, an engineering marvel. And I can maintain it.

Which are your favourite stretches of road to ride on locally and what is it that you like about them?

I put together a list a while back: 


For day to day riding though, I can't get enough of Summit Road between Highway 17 and Black Road/Skyline Boulevard. As for off-road, my favorite is Loma Prieta Road between Summit Road and Mt. Umunhum. It's off-limits now, but one of these days it will be open to the public. Spectacular views of the ocean and Santa Clara Valley.

The same question for roads anywhere in the world?

I enjoyed the Dolomites in Italy and all of the foothills leading up to them. I like narrow, winding roads that climb and have no cars. I think you could spend a lifetime riding through Italy and not see all of those roads. Magical.

What is your most memorable moment on the bike or involved with cycling?

In my book Once Upon a Ride there's a two-page spread of Jobst Brandt looking from Butano Ridge Trail toward the ocean (pg 26-27). That pretty much sums up the experience of riding with Jobst over the years. He made the rides come alive, giving history lessons, calling out birds. It never grew tiresome. There were so many moments, I knew I had to capture them on paper after the rides so I wouldn't forget. Another fun time was when we rode through a swarm of lady bugs on Highland Way in the Santa Cruz Mountains. One with nature...

Do you approach riding, or ride your bike, differently now compared to when you first got into cycling?

I rode a bike before 1979, but that was the year I really learned how to ride, working at Palo Alto Bicycles. We hammered all the time. Riding with Jobst in 1980 the fast pace continued unabated. I couldn't ride every weekend. It was just too much. Jobst rode with the local racers and the rides were always 100 miles or more. Brutal. Now I'm old and I ride at a survival pace, always. I avoid traffic. Long rides are more difficult, but I still do 100-milers. Not so much dirt these days. The mind is willing, but the body is not. 

Do you enjoy a cafe stop or do you prefer to ride straight round?

I only stop to take photos or enjoy a view. Jobst always stopped at stores on his rides and we'd pass the time of day. As he got older he did that  more frequently. 

What is your favorite piece of cycling kit (either something you currently own or have in the past)?

Silca frame-fit pump with steel Campagnolo head. I still own one and use it. It's the best pump ever made. Nothing else compares. 


(I think I know the answer to this one!) Do you prefer to get your head down on main roads, keep a good tempo going on the ‘B’ roads or get onto the back-wacks? What about the rough stuff on your road bike?

These days I avoid all heavily trafficked roads. I have found side streets that take me through Silicon Valley way faster than the main roads. I pretty much do the same rides I've been doing for the past 35 years, only slower.

Do you have any cycling pet hates?

Car back.

Are there any cycling traditions that you think have been, or are being, lost as a result of changing attitudes and behaviour? And are we better off or worse off as a consequence?

Nobody rides off-road on a road bike. If you don't have a mountain bike, it can't be done, they say. 

Cotton cap or helmet?

Helmet. I always said, "People who wear helmets need them." That's me today. 

Frame pump or mini pump?

Silca frame-fit all the way.

What do you like to talk about when you are on a ride with friends/team/club mates? Do you prefer to keep the subjects lightweight or get your teeth into something contentious or controversial?

We talk about past rides with Jobst. Otherwise we talk about everything under the sun. We all have similar interests and values, so there isn't any contention.

You rode a lot with Jobst Brandt, he had a reputation for straight-talking on rec.bike. What was he like in person? 

Jobst was an extremely complex person. In general, you shouldn't pigeon hole people, especially Jobst. People have many sides to them that are not visible until you've spent time with them, and even then they may act differently depending on who they're with. I always got along well with Jobst. He could be harsh in his condemnations, but he was a loyal friend who would do anything to help you with a problem. You'll have to read my book, Once Upon a Ride, to get a better picture. 


He was one in a million, the smartest person I ever knew as a friend.

I’d like to know more about your friendship and riding experiences with Jobst, his influence and legacy but I’m not sure of the best questions to ask. Do you have any suggestions? 

Nothing quite captured the essence of life and friendship as starting from Jobst's house on a Sunday ride. I met a lot of carefree riders with diverse personalities, united by a common love for cycling and heading off-road with Jobst. There was a camaraderie that can't be replicated. I know this is trite, but I suppose it's the same way military veterans feel about those who they served with.


Leave a comment