THE CYCLING WORLD - OLD TIME RACING MEN. - San Francisco Chronicle, Sat, Jul 8, 1893

From Wooljersey


Cracks Who Won Their Spurs Before the Safety Bicycle Appeared.

At this time, when so much interest is being aroused in cycling and cycling racing and in the champions and pseudo-champions of the sport, it may not be amiss to glance back over the pages of history and to note the men who in the past have been prominent on the racing path.


In the early part of 1879 one of the first races was held in this city at Twenty-fifth and Folsom streets, and was won by Mr. Searles, with G. Loring Cunningham second. [Prize; bronze dogs. - MF] But very few races were held, however, until 1883–84. It was in the latter year that Fred Russ Cook made his appearance, winning the one-mile maiden race at the Olympic Club games on May 30th in 3 minutes and 17 1/2 seconds, Mr. Cook was one of the most noted of the early riders. A magnificently built-man, devoted to athletics, he trained himself in splendid shape and won almost all the events in which he competed. At one time he held the world's record for one-quarter of a mile of 37 3-5 seconds, made on a horse track at San Jose, and held the twenty-four-hour record of America of 207 1/2 miles. His last appearance on the racing path was on January 1, 1889, when he competed in some of the races held by the Bay City Wheelmen at the Haight street grounds in this city. He is still actively engaged in bicycling, being one of the directors of the Bay City Wheelmen, but confines himself merely to little jaunts on the wheel, the racing path seeming to have lost him for all time.

Henry C. Finkler was one of the old-time champions riding under the colors of the San Francisco Bicycle Club. He first commenced racing in 1882-83, and during those years won all the prominent races. One of his most notable performances was at Santa Cruz on the occasion of the first league meet July 4, 1887. Here, in a ten-mile race, which was the event of the day, he set the pace for nine miles at a terrific gait, and was only passed during the ninth mile by Charles E. Adcock. Since that time Mr. Finkler has not raced much, but has devoted his time and energy toward encouraging others and to giving them the benefit of his experience.

Charles E. Adcock was one of the most remarkable men that ever came on the path in California. Exceedingly thin of person, it seemed remarkable and almost incomprehensible that he should be able to attain such speed as he had done, and many an old-time novice has been led into a long and weary chase only to find himself left at the end of it, with but a dim recollection of a thin shadow fading into distance - as Adcock's old brown hat and red jersey went out of sight over the brow of some hill. Adcock to the present day holds the ten-mile ordinary record of California, made at Santa Cruz July 4, 1887, but has not competed in any races since 1888. During the time of his riding he was surpassed only by F. D. Elwell.

W. G. Davis, ex-San Francisco Bicycle Club, was, before the advent of Elwell, the greatest spurter of the coast. He was a very pretty rider, seeming to move along without any apparent exertion. He has not held many records, but has won innumerable races. On July 4, 1888, at Stockton, Davis made the best race of his life, riding second to Elwell in the mile championship in 2:48 1/2. So very close, however, was he riding that many thought he had won the race, and great excitement prevailed until the decision of the judges was finally announced, giving the race to Elwell. Davis is one of the very few men who has ever defeated Elwell.

Frank D. Elwell was pre-eminently the racing champion of California. With a magnificent physique, the ambition of youth and the advantages of good training, and the experience of older riders, he won almost every race in which he competed during the years of 1886, 1887 and 1888. His first race was a road race from Gilroy to Menlo Park, February 27, 1886. He came in first in 3h. 30m. 50 4-5s., being more than half an hour ahead of the next man. As a member of the Bay City Wheelman's racing team, in the races held over the San Leandro triangle under in the auspices of the California Inter-Club Racing Association, Elwell rode first in every race, captaining the team and bringing his men through in first, second and third-order in two of the events and close up to the front in the others.

His spurt is simply phenomenal. In the one-mile championship at Stockton, July 4, 1888, he made the most remarkable ride ever witnessed in California. The pace had been comparatively slow until the last lap. About 200 yards from the finish, Davis and Elwell passed another contestant like a flash and came neck and neck for the tape. Elwell checked momentarily, and Davis, going at an awful gait, almost made it, but Elwell had won by inches in 2:48 1/2, beating the coast record of 2:50 1-5. When the three judges decided unanimously that Elwell had won the Bay City wheelmen went nearly wild with excitement, and such a scene as transpired then has never before nor since been witnessed on a bicycle track.

From the 200-yard mark it was impossible to see Elwell's feet, so rapidly were they going. It seemed almost as though he were flying through the air instead of pedaling over the smooth ground, but not in this race nor in any other was Elwell ever pushed to his full capacity, so that nobody really knows how fast he can go. "Senator" Morgan, the noted professional race promoter, who has seen Elwell ride, has declared that he is the most remarkable rider in America, as he combines with his spurting abilities most remarkable staying qualities. He is at the present time the official handicapper of the California Division League of American Wheelmen, and is not engaged in racing.

Charles P. Fonda, Charles B. Wheaton and Sanford Plummer are among the more recent old-time riders. Wheaton holds a record of 2:52 for the mile on the ordinary bicycle, a most creditable performance. Fonda devoted himself to safety racing and was a good man in his day. Plummer was noted principally in the road races of the Inter-Club Association, but has made some good time on the safety, his best performance being at Stockton, July 4, 1889, when he rode a mile on all solid-tired safety in 2:59 3-5 without any training or preparation whatsoever.

It would indeed be interesting to see some of these old-time men get themselves into shape and compete with the modern flyers. The opinion is pretty generally entertained that if Elwell, Davis or Plummer could be prevailed upon to get themselves into condition they might make it pretty warm for some of the latter day riders.


The Record for the Great Annual Road Race Lowered.

The great annual road race from Los Angeles to Santa Monica took place on the Fourth of July, H. E. Rea of Riverside, with five minutes start, finished first, but William Jenkins covered the distance in the fastest time and won the time medal. The distance, about eighteen and one-quarter miles, was made in the fast time of 58:19 4-5.


Jenkins is of slight build, but is a gritty little rider. He is one of the best of the Los Angeles race men. Fifty-four riders is started in the race, and there was only twenty-two seconds difference between the first and second man.

Cycling Paragraphs.

Sam Dewey, a prominent member of the Los Angeles Athletic Club, is of the opinion that W. A. Burke is now the fastest bicycle rider in Los Angeles, and that he can defeat D. L. Burke, the former State champion.

The Bay Cities are arranging for a race at night by electric light.

George A. Alexander and Clyde Carmen of Oakland and Alfred O. Rulofson of San Francisco recently rode from San Rafael to Cazadero and return.