A mechanical engineer with impressive credentials (Porsche, Hewlett Packard, Stanford Linear Accelerator), he was something of an outsider to the bicycling industry, which allowed him to speak freely about tech issues and other problems he observed. He could be very outspoken. But he did contribute to the industry in numerous ways, and particularly through his work with Avocet, where he helped to develop their "slick" tread tires (they were dubbed Fasgrip, and they were good) as well as their cycling computer (the first, last, and only computer I ever used on a bike).
|Probably one of the most famous images of Jobst Brandt. It appeared in ads in all |
the bike magazines in the '80s for Avocet's slick tires, which he had helped to develop.
|This oft-published photo of Jobst on the Gavia|
Pass was turned into a poster sold through
Palo Alto Bicycles.
Jobst had a rare quality (I believe) as a mechanical engineer in that he not only had an incredible understanding of engineering and mechanical principles, but he also had an uncanny ability to explain them clearly to non-engineers with his commanding use of the English language. It's a testament to his writing ability that one of his jobs for Porsche was to translate their technical manuals into English -- a job he practically created himself because he was dissatisfied with the manuals as they were.
Another testament to his ability to put his engineering knowledge into clear instruction is his book The Bicycle Wheel, which many consider to be the Bible of the subject. Although one could use the book simply as a reference guide for building a wheel, it is actually much more. I've read the book cover-to-cover (twice) and won't build a wheel without reviewing it.
I don't know if it would be appropriate to call Jobst Brandt a retrogrouch (though I'm certain people did), and I don't know how he would have felt to be labeled as such. But I do know that many a self-proclaimed retrogrouch felt a kinship with him, and interpreted his views as testament to the cause. For one thing, like a good engineer, he took a conservative approach to new technology, was fiercely dismissive of marketing hyperbole, and generally favored designs that were simple, proven, and cost-effective.
Right after learning about his death, I pulled out an interview Jobst gave with Grant Petersen for the Rivendell Reader (RR-6). In it, he talked about such topics as . . .
"Most of the MTB's I see are not ridden anywhere where they have an advantage. Tourists who never ride in mud ride thousands of miles on knobby tires and in a riding position that is inefficient for road riding."
"It is the poseurs who have seriously damaged the road bike, with their attention to unobtanium, 27-speed gearing and disc wheels, none of which has anything to do with bicycle riding."
Tight geometry and ultra-short wheelbases:
"Excuses such as 'quick steering' and 'responsive' are used to cover the quirky handling of these bicycles."
"I use down tube shifters (seldom) and use a 6-speed freewheel because 5-speeds are dead. . . I'm not preoccupied with always being in the right gear or following some unwritten precepts on cadence and the like. I ride a gear that's about right and leave it at that. . . The range of gears hasn't changed much in the last 50 years, only the number of gears in that range. I don't believe they are useful, necessary, or any good for the design of the rear wheel. Five or six is plenty, nine is gratuitous hardware and multiple redundancy."
He sometimes ruffled feathers. He sometimes left people stinging when they made claims they couldn't support with facts and evidence. "He didn't suffer fools" was something I've heard many people say.
|Three of the Retrogrouch's icons. (left to right) Sheldon Brown, |
Grant Petersen, and Jobst Brandt in 2006. (photo from Sheldon Brown's site)
Between Sheldon Brown in 2008, and now Jobst Brandt, I feel like I've lost two of my icons.