Bob Brooks - The Grand Old Man of Cycling

By: Nancy Dooley

   Recently, our cycling community lost a legend in our sport. Bob died in his sleep at home, a shock to all those that knew him, but a fitting end to the grand old man of cycling. Passing away in your sleep without the pain and suffering of a long illness is a blessing.

   I was not a close friend of Bob's, but I had known him for over 30 years. In 1986 I first became aware of him when Ken Tanaka persuaded my then husband and me to ride in a time trial being held from Lost Lake around the Circuit.  We had just purchased bikes and were just getting into this fun pastime. The group gathered at Lost Lake were obviously the real thing – sleek racer type riders with their light-weight bikes. Kent pointed out one of the riders, “There’s Bob Brooks, the National Masters Champion!”  I thought to myself, “What are we doing out here?”

   The next time I ran across Bob was in February of 1989.  He had opened a bike shop just north of Herndon Ave near Clovis Ave.  I was now divorced and had used cycling to keep myself grounded.  I’d ridden my heavy Nishiki Sport all over the mountains and on a few bicycle tours and decided that I was in this sport to stay. I decided to buy myself a “real” bike. So, off I went to Bob’s bike shop. He set me up with a beautiful sleek Team Miyata!  It was mainly white with patches of turquoise with a spot or two of orange (appearance does matter to a woman).  But the main advantage was its performance.  It could really climb those hills!

   It was about this time that I had joined Fresno Cycling Club and began leading rides.  Every weekend I would be out there climbing the hills with a group of like-minded riders. What fun!  I would see Bob out there from time to time.  We both seemed to love riding.

   About this time, Bob was the presenter at one of our club’s general meetings.  He gave a talk about how he had gotten into cycling.  We all sat with rapt attention wondering how this National Master’s Champion had begun.  He said that he had been working at Cal Poly as an Architectural teacher.  He was overweight and wanted to get “into shape.” So, living up at Alder Springs above the four-lane, he decided to ride down to the bottom and climb back up on his bike for his first foyer into this new endeavor.  Well, as we all know, the four-lane is not for beginners, especially if they are carrying a few extra pounds!  He said that it took him almost all day to get back up to the top!   He went on that night to tell us how he had been invited to Russia to ride with their national cycling team.  Quite an honor.

   For over thirty years, I have met Bob out there – whether up by Mountain House or riding up out of the canyon from Boydon Caves, or at Courtwright, at my water stop, or just this past summer recently at Shaw and Academy.  He has always shown an interest in what I am doing.  I have always been impressed by this unpretentious man, a true gentleman and advocate for the sport that he loved.  He will be missed.

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