Alex J. Rosborough

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Alexander Joe Rosborough 30 August 1865 – 8 December 1960


Highland Park Wheelmen

Big Wheels

Alex Rosborough continues his story of early-day athletes. Last week he told of yachting and crew competition. In step with these, other athletic activities came; the old time velocipede had developed into the big wheel bicycle, with its little wheel following behind (and even a reverse of this principle, in one called the "Star") and its introduction so successful that many bicycle clubs were being organized, like the Bay City Wheelmen, of San Francisco, and the Highland Park Wheelmen, of Oakland, and competition between the best riders in these clubs was very keen, which resulted in the arrangement of [[a 50-mile race, between the two, from Gilroy through San Jose to Palo Alto to be ridden by four men picked from each club, and the club winning to be determined by the total points obtained, on the basis of eight points for first man to arrive in Palo Alto, seven points for second, etc.: the prize: a big dinner, at Palo Alto, at the close of the race.

Fifty-Mile Bicycle Race

"There were no paved highways in those days, in some places the best to be had was a macadamized road, but the jump between these stretches was far. The members picked by the Highland Park Wheelmen were J. P. Churchill, who rode a 56-inch diameter wheel; Alex Ireland, with a 54; Alex J. Rosborough a 54 and Frank Blinn a 52; while the Bay City Wheelmen had selected a big and powerful-legged rider named Elwell, who rode a 58-inch wheel, (and as I remember Cooke, [Cook] Zeigler and Davis), each riding a 54. The general opinion seemed to be that Elwell would capture first place, but the Oakland boys figured that even if he did they could win on points. So the riders went away from Los Gatos to a good start and humping over the handlebars, got into the long grind. All went well as the big wheels pinged over a rock or a rough spot, until approaching San Jose, when Churchill, who was pressing Elwell hard, hit a rough spot and grounded. He waved all on, calling out that he was not hurt, and made his way to a watering trough to wash the blood out of his eyes, and then, though out of the race, came on to join at the fine banquet. When the jolly fine banquet was finished, Churchill, Blinn and Rosborough rode back to San Jose and then back to Oakland, making it 120 miles for the day,"

Big Wheels - Fifty-Mile Bicycle Race - The Knave - Sun, Nov 18, 1951 - Page 73 - Oakland Tribune

More Bicycle Information

Alex Rosborough's reminiscences about early day bicycle racing has brought two communications on the subject from Milton Charles Thomas and Carrie Elwell Pratt. [Carrie Pratt Elwell] Thomas writes in part: “I remember the days of the 100-mile relay race starting in San Francisco and ending at The Tribune. It was a 10-man team and I rode the first 10 miles for the California Cycling Club against riders from the Century Wheelmen and the Garden City Wheelmen of San Jose. This was about 1902. We would also make pleasure rides starting out on Saturday night and riding to San Jose where we would stay over night. The next day we would continue to Oakland, always stopping at the Estudillo House in San Leandro. We favored the Pierce bicycle. We also had 'home trainers' and held contests in Fisher's Theater in San Francisco. For these one roller was placed under the front wheel and two under the rear wheels. Percy Lawrence won the mile in a minute. It was exciting because each rider would face the other. Jimmy Britt was in his prime then and was our gym trainer.” In his story, Rosborough referred to a "big, powerful legged rider" and Mrs. Ewell identifies him as her husband, Frank D. Ewell. "He was then unknown to me," she writes, “but I learned that he was the winner of the described race by 20 minutes. The race was from Gilroy to Menlo Park. He does not remember the banquet Mr. Rosborough tells about. No wonder, that was about 68 years ago. He was the state champion racer on the high cycle and won several medals and trophies. Most club racing was done on a triangle in the vicinity of San Leandro.

The Knave - Sun, Dec 2, 1951 - Page 61 - Oakland Tribune