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Breeze-Guy Tandem #6

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Breeze-Guy Tandem #6


Breeze-Guy Tandem Tour


From Wende Cragg: Scan of a newspaper article regarding Joe Breeze and Otis Guy's second attempt to break the record for crossing the United States on a bicycle, specifically a tandem bicycle. By Richard Steven Street. Pacific Sun, Sports section. Week of June 8-14, 1979. Page 21-22.

Accompanying photographs by Richard Steven Street.


Wende Cragg


Pacific Sun


Added by Natalie King





Document Item Type Metadata


Section: Sports

Title: "Cross country on a tandem bicycle"
Byline: By Richard Steven Street

Text: [page 21] "On Tuesday, June 12 at 4am Joe Breeze and Otis Guy will mount their custom tandem bicycle and attempt to pedal across the United States, from San Francisco to New York City, in 12 days or less. If they succeed, they will have established a new standard for bicycling. They will also have added their names to the Guinness Book of World Records.

The current cross-country record is held by John Marino, a southern California biker who made the trip in August 1978 on a single bike, covering the route in 13 days 1 hour 40 minutes. Many bicyclists believe this time is unbeatable, especially on a tandem bike where two riders must work together in perfect unison.

But Breeze and Guy are not your average bicyclists. Indeed many people call them the top tandem road racers in the country. Certainly their records are impressive. They include a Category I United States Cycle Federation classification -- the highest in bikedom and the classification required of all Olympic riders -- as well as the National Twelve Hour Time Trial Record of 254 miles over an Oregon course (a record which broke a 20-year-old mark). But the achievement of which they are proudest: their record time of 8 hours 59 minutes in the grueling Davis Double Century ride -- a tortuous trek that goes from sea level to 3500 feet and back down to sea level again over a course that stretches 200 miles from Davis to Clear Lake and back to Davis.

The Davis race, which the two have won for five consecutive years and which this year was dedicated to them, in many ways marks a watershed in their bicycling career. When they entered it for the first time in 1975 both were unfamiliar with tandem bicycling, although each had been solo biking and racing for years. A tandem had never done well at Davis, which was then attracting nearly 800 distance riders including 100 to flight athletes. But Guy and Breeze had performed well in a training race from Pescadero to Santa Cruz. At Davis their improvement continued. They won the event, shaving 59 minutes off the old record, despite a rainstorm, the loss of a wheel (they finished on a borrowed wheel) and their inexperience.

After that it was on to bigger and even more demanding races. Guy recalls: "We were not fast enough to be Olympic class racers at the shorter distances but we seemed to have more stamina and strength than most of the long distance riders. We began wondering what it would be like to ride the next day and the next day and the next. So we just began riding long distances."

It was in 1976, after two consecutive wins at Davis, that Guy and Breeze made their first attempt at the continental record. Operating on a shoestring budget ($3000 in savings), with a volunteer pit crew, a van and spare parts loaned from Cove Bike Shop in Tiburon, they set out for New York City on June 22. The first day they pedaled 260 miles, reaching Reno in 16 hours. By the sixth day they were nearly 24 hours ahead of schedule. On the high plateau of Wyoming they caught some incredible tail winds and on one gently sloping two-mile stretch of Interstate 80, they clocked 50-60 mph and moved into the fast lane to pass a slow V.W. "We were actually laughing," recalls Breeze. "The V.W. driver looked up, looked at his speedometer, looked at us, and started accelerating."

But there were major problems. For one, the bike frame was too short for Breeze (who rides the back of the tandem). Pedaling up the Sierra Nevada Mountains, he banged up his knees on the handle bars and was forced to stand and pedal. This strained his knees even more. The strain grew worse going across the Salt Lake desert, as the two pushed hard to move ahead of schedule. This plus the considerable time and energy devoted at the end of each day to searching for food and cheap lodging cut into Breeze's healing and rejuvenating time. Result: near Lincoln, Nebraska, the muscles in his knees began separating and the trip was aborted.

When they folded up and headed home Breeze and Guy knew they could crack the old record; at Lincoln they had been nearly 24 hours ahead of schedule. With this in mind the two began training and organizing for a second attempt at the cross-country ride. It would take them nearly three years to prepare. Riding whenever and wherever possible, they built up their endurance and got themselves in the best shape of their lives. Above all, however, they learned to work together in perfect symbiosis.

Most tandem bike teams are defeated by the little aggravations that build up and multiply over the course of a long ride. Breeze and Guy, however, have overcome this seemingly small but nevertheless significant obstacle. Guy explains it this way: "We have learned to concentrate on every pedal stroke. It is a strain on the body and mind, and sometimes if you lose concentration you go into a daze and forget long stretches of a race. Most of the time, though, you are concentrating, getting the maximum out of yourself, the right cadence (about 80 pedal revolutions per minute) and the correct pace for the distance."

But the key to this year's cross-country attempt is not conditioning or technique or the bike; it is the sponsorship of Anchor Brewing Company. This occurred most unexpectedly when, in late 1978, Fritz Maytag, president of Anchor Brewing Co. (himself an avid bicyclist who had once ridden across the continent), dropped by Breeze's Mill Valley shop -- a machine shop he operates out of his garage -- to purchase a lightweight frame. The two got talking and
[page 22] Maytag, whose company annually sponsors similar though less extensive endeavors, asked Breeze to send him a budget. Maytag liked what he saw and agreed to underwrite the entire cost of the supporting crew and vehicles. This plus the support of Earl and Lillian Koski and their Cove Bike Shop in Tiburon (they are coordinating and planning the attempt as well as donating tools and parts) are the reasons why Breeze and Guy will finally be able to make their record-challenging ride.

Breeze and Guy plan to ride a route that generally parallels U.S. Highway 80 (although road regulations, which vary from state to state, will force some significant detours). They will aim at a pace of 250 miles per day. They intend to ride 15 hours at a stretch and eat (mostly fruit and liquids) while on their machine, stopping only for a 20-minute lunch break plus two five-minute stops to exchange sweat-drenched clothing for clean and dry clothing.

The toughest parts of the trek will be the climbs up the Sierra Nevada mountains and later the Wassach mountains in Wyoming. Then there is the Nevada-Utah desert, scorching hot in mid-June. Breeze recalls of the desert crossing during the 1976 ride: "The mile markers were crawling by; you knew how many you had to pass; in the desert you could see them for miles ahead. It was like riding across a white mirror."

Accompanying Breeze and Guy will be a support crew consisting of Alan Wulzen, Andrew Ritchie, Wende Cragg, Tony Tom and Sandi Davison. They will be equippped with a mini-motor home, a scouting motorcycle, a van, two spare bicycles, all conceivable bike tools and parts and two dozen tires.

"The support crew is why we are going to make it," explains Guy. "The ride is simply too demanding to attempt without someone to map the course, feed us, rebuild the bike when it breaks, find us lodging and keep us from being run over while pedaling through Omaha. It all really takes a load off our minds. We don't have to worry about anything except doing our job. Man, all we want to do is get on that bike and ride as far as we can."

The last leg of the trek will take Guy and Breeze from Lewistown, Pennsylvania, over some steep, narrow mining roads into New Jersey, then, on June 23, through the Holland Tunnel and into New York City. Fellow bikers there are working out plans to have the tunnel shut down and vented for five minutes before Breeze and Guy pass through via police escort. After the tunnel it will be an easy glide to the city hall, where the trip will officially end.

What do Breeze and Guy hope to gain from the record? There is some talk of endorsements, maybe a story on the ride, but basically it is not a commercial venture. It is what happens when determined people latch onto a goal. It is the fulfillment of a dream dating back to 1972, when Guy bought the tandem bike and began looking for someone with the same dream and the ability to act on it. Above all it is a demonstration of what a bike can do.

This week the two begin their final tune-up. On Monday they rode around the bay (a distance of 155 miles which they covered in 8 hours). Next week they will undertake rides of 200 miles or more. Then they'll ease up and begin storing energy. They hope to come up with some needed donations: 50 gallons of bottled water, some crates of navel oranges, two C-B radios and a cassette tape recorder. On June 12 they will head out. They say only unexpected calamities -- a bad stretch of weather in the Midwest or a brakeless coal hauler on a narrow Pennsylvania road -- can stop them. Whatever the outcome, the two men intend to have fun. "Cycling is just the greatest," says Guy. "The speed, the feeling of being in shape -- I just love it." "

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