Petaluma has had an on-going love affair with the bicycle ever since it became a popular mode of transportation in the 1890s. Early cyclists in Petaluma enjoyed all the same benefits that we value today: a community of friends, healthy activity and extended outings in our beautiful countryside. Petalumans, like A.H. Overman, were early adapters of this new technology. Overman was the manufacturer of the then popular Victor Bicycle, and many trade publications referred to him as the “Czar of bicycle makers.” The local press reported frequently on “scorchers”, the name given to bicycle speed-demons.
Sonoma County riders soon organized into clubs known as ‘Wheelmen”. The earliest of these clubs were the “Healdsburg Wheelmen”, Santa Rosa’s “Empire Wheelmen” and the “PETALUMA WHEELMEN”.
An article from an 1895 edition of the Petaluma Courier newspaper lauds the success of the Petaluma Wheelmen’s 4th of July championship bicycle races, and describes the club's plans for a banked quarter-mile track to be built adjacent to the Petaluma street railway. Another Courier newspaper account from February, 1896 describes a Wheelmen club ride up to Santa Rosa:
“The entire day was one continued series of pileups, smashups, blowups, and upsets, but nobody was injured and nothing was ‘broke’ but bikes . . . Wheelmen Clarence Ackerman was the fastest rider, returning from Santa Rosa to Petaluma in a breathtaking 64 minutes.”
Fast forward to January 2005, when Rick Moeller, Dave Trumbo, Mike Borse, Michael Troy and Jim Janakes officially reincarnated the Petaluma Wheelmen - complete with a Board of Directors, a website, a regular ride schedule of A, AB, B and C paces and a growing membership of women and men. One thing remains in common with those Wheelmen from more than a century ago: our main goal is to provide a cycling community for all those who share a passion for exploring the world on two wheels.
Learn more about the women who participated in the cycling history of Petaluma:
Photos: Sonoma County Library Digital Archives
Petaluma Wheelmen: Cycling Safely since 1895