Arizona’s Original Gravel Grinder: The 1921 Tucson-Phoenix Bicycle Race

Arizona Rebublic Headline: Tucson-Phoenix Bicycle Race ‘To Be Real Try-Out The Tucson to Phoenix bicycle race to be held May 1, 1921.

The Tucson-Phoenix Bicycle Race was held on hilly roads of the old Borderland Highway over a course of 140 miles and was claimed, at the time, the longest bicycle road race in the US. This event was considered to be the most grueling trial for bike riders ever staged and was strictly an amateur event. The Phoenix Bicycle club staged the race and business men of Phoenix, Tucson and the cities through which the race passed donated merchandise to be given to the winner and runner up. Hube

The rules were as follows:

– No outside mechanical help or support but riders could assist each other.
– All riders must check in at Florence for one hour’s rest, repairs can not be made at Florence during that time.
– Pacing, riding or Hanging on passing vehicles will not be permitted, riders can pace each other.

Sixteen riders started in Tucson at daybreak from the corner of Congress Street and Stone Avenue. The riders proceeded directly to Florence using the old Borderland Highway, a washboard gravel path, which partially followed what is now State Route 79 north to Florence. Each rider carried a large canteen and they needed it as the temperature soared into the 90’s. Hubert Yates took the lead from the start and set a grueling pace; dropping many riders before the halfway point in Florence.

Yates was the first into Florence with a time of 3 hours, 54 minutes and 20 seconds. After the mandatory hour break he took off where the route merged with the Superior highway then turning off to the Gilbert and Chandler road and down the rough grade into Mesa and finally along the pavement through Tempe into Phoenix finishing in front of the Arizona Republic office. Not a single accident occurred during the entire race, the riders dropping out because of the pace set by the leaders and not from accident. Automobile and motorcycle patrol kept in touch with the riders along the route, ready to render assistance if needed. The autos picked up the riders who dropped out and transported them Into Phoenix.

Hubert Yates easily won the event with a time of 8:50:45, including the mandatory hour stop in Florence. On a single speed road bike! Only two other riders finished the entire course, Rorex and Lyall more than an hour behind. All three were riding Iver Johnson Trus Bridge Racers. Pre-race favorite Warren Stone went out of the race 15 miles from Florence and local cycling greats Bill Friend and Stuart Treadwell were eliminated 12 miles from Mesa. Stanley Feuerriegel, also figured as a possible winner, dropped out at Mesa. Yates won $125 in merchandise, James Rorex won $75 in merchandise and Lyall won $50 in merchandise. 1910s_iver_johnson_09

The Arizona Republic reported that “Yates finished strong, showing little evidence of fatigue after the long hard grind.”

Partial start list (missing two riders) with the bike manufacturer:

1. Warren Stone, Iver Johnson
2. Stanley Cronin, Iver Johnson
3. Harry Feuerriegel, Indian
4. Harold Wheeler, Iver Johnson
5. Sid Newman, Indian (14 years old!)
6. Emile Lyall, Iver Johnson
7. William Rosser, Iver Johnson
8. Norman Stoddard, Excelsior
9. Hubert Yates, Iver Johnson
10. Willie Priest, Iver Johnson
11. Jerry Rozine, Indian
12. Stuart Treadwell, Yale
13. Bill Friend, Pierce
14. James Rorex, Iver Johnson

Hubert Yates went on to represent Arizona at the World Bicycle Championships held in New York that same year and won three state championships in the 1920’s. He became a City of Phoenix Firefighter and in 1931 he received the Carnegie Medal of Honor for rescuing a man from the flooded Salt River. The book “From Thunder to Breakfast” by Gene K. Garrison covers the unique life of this Arizona original.

Landis Cyclery circa 1921

Landis Cyclery circa 1921


Landis Cyclery
Phoenix Cycle
J. M. Stewart
King Brothers
Bird Tailoring
White and Wesley
B. F. Goodrich Rubber
Monrad Cycle
The Berryhill Company
Pinney and Robinson
Palace Hardware
Sheldon Jewelry
City Cleaners
Ford-Lew Company
Leon R. Gass
Phoenix Hat
Sanitary Cleaners
Vic Hanny Company
Chocolate Shop
Bear Drug Company
C. and H. Taxi
Talbot and Hubbard,
Funk Jewelry company,
J. C. Penny company,
D. M. Johnson Shoe company.
Ramona Drug company.
Valley Clothing company,
S. Ballsum Clothing company,
Vaughn and O’Conner.
American Cleaners,
Empress Cleaners.
El Paso Store,
Star Clothing company,
L. Rosenzweig.
Mitchell Candy company.
Kimted Drug company.
Arizona Cigar and Lunch

Posted in bikes, Chino Grinder, dropbar mountain bike, gravel, gravel grinder, gravel racing

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