In high school and college, my sole means of transportation was my bike. Apparently, I was destined to end up in Rainbow Cyclists, but what possessed me to appoint myself Historian? Challenge? Dementia? Although I’ve been a member for over seven years, suddenly I was curious to know how our club arrived at this particular spot. And so it begins. Read, and hopefully, enjoy. Many thanks to Russ Clarke, John Lueders, Rich Weseman, Duane Wood, Dan Gerken, and Frankie Brown for countless interviews.
The genesis of what is now Rainbow Cyclists began in 1973. At that time, a group of avid cyclists was hanging out in the basement of a house near the UNI bookstore. Among them were Russ Clarke, Randy Gaffney, Jeff Bock, Joel Barry, and Russ and Cindy Dodd. European Imports started there as a bike store, and a year later moved next to the bookstore into an area vacated by a bowling alley. Bob Beach, who owned much of the property in that block, re-named the shop Europa. The cyclists who frequented the store rode together out 27th Street in Cedar Falls, and Kimball Avenue in Waterloo, devising time trials to compete against each other.
Meanwhile, a group of local junior high and high school students were interested in forming a bike club, so they ran an ad in the Courier. John Lueders, who was already biking a lot on his own, saw the ad and attended the meeting, which was held in a room at the RedCross building. A coworker of his, Clyde Teeter, came along. The kids held a vote for a leader, and so Clyde nominated John as the first official president. John remembers that the group had humble beginnings. No helmets. No sophisticated bikes. They planned a ride in Wisconsin and only two people showed up! But, John adds, it must have been a success, because they held it again the next year and three people came!
The group of people who were racing together from Europa heard about the other newly-formed group, and discussed combining their racers with the bicyclists who were interested in touring and recreational rides. They also called the local chapter of Rails-to-Trails and invited any interested members to attend the first meeting. John Riley followed John Lueders as president of the loosely-formed group and remembered how antiquated things seemed then. Since Europa didn’t even sell helmets, many members drove to a bike shop in Ames to buy theirs. Joel Barry had a tandem, which was very rare. Jeff Bock built several of the bike frames himself. Europa sponsored a race called the College Hill Criteria, which was a loop around the Hill. RAGBRAI© had started in 1972, and a few of these local riders rented a van amongst themselves to take them out to the start and pick them up at the finish a couple years later.
When the two groups connected, organization fell into place. Until this time, they had no formal meetings, funding, or checking account. Russ Clarke decided to make it a viable club, and several of the early meetings were at his house.
Rainbow Cyclists got its name from Rainbow Drive, because that was the main biking route between Waterloo and Cedar Falls. Ironically, the same route we avoid today. The road, incidentally, got its name from a World War I brigade called the Rainbow Brigade, who actually laid the brick that is still under the pavement (and can be observed in the potholes at any given time).
The first Rainbow Board consisted of Duane Wood, President; Bill Boss, Vice- President of Racing; Bill Holston, Vice- President of Recreational Rides; Rich Weseman, Vice-President of Touring; Linda Holston, Secretary; and Janet Long, Secretary. Duane Wood designed the logo and invented a publication – “The Spoke ‘n Word”, along with designing the masthead. He would write the newsletter out of his home and take it to Back Alley Printers. The meetings progressed to such spots as Lookout Park, Hawkeye Tech, the Waterloo Public Library, IPS, and Schoitz Hospital. Dave Burman was one of the early members and his mom, Millie, who didn’t actually ride a bike, nonetheless attended the meetings with hot tea and cookies for everyone.
By this time, the original group of racers from Europa had become sanctioned. They needed to be sponsored by an organization for a year, namely Rainbow, before they could race wearing a jersey with that logo on it. Through Rainbow, they had also met the insurance requirements for the time trials, which had been held unofficially on Thursdays for years. Trek, which was then a small company, actually sponsored Rainbow for a year.
The first board set up 1/3 of the club for serious racing, 1/3 for touring, and 1/3 for recreational rides. The first short rides were to Eagle Center and back to Shakey’s for carbo-loading. On Saturdays, Breakfast Rides went from Hudson to the Barn Restaurant in Dike and back. The racers continued their 10-mile time trials on Union Road in Cedar Falls. The first board can also be given credit with the My Waterloo Days Ride, Sturgis Falls Ride, Century Ride, and the People’s Bank Races at Byrnes Park, which Duane Wood ran for the first five or six years. Rainbow also sponsored the Citizen’s Races which were held every Wednesday, usually at River Hills’ parking lot. A few of the rides were held in the Crossroads Mall parking lot and were so popular that Don Jacobusse and his son drove back and forth from Algona each week to attend. These rides were also the scene of several dislocated shoulders over the years.
The Pine Lake Tour was Rainbow’s first annual ride. Camping was at the actual lake, instead of Steamboat Rock where it moved to in later years.
Linda Holston became the first female President of Rainbow. During her tenure, the club had differing opinions on which direction to go. Part of the riders wanted to continue their pursuit of serious racing, and the other part became the nucleus of Rainbow’s first fringe group, the Saloonatics. These seventeen riders felt that stopping at taverns was an integral part of touring and recreational rides. Rich Weseman designed the logo and Pickle (Dan Gerken) invented their slogan, “Bar to bar is plenty far.” They only had twenty-five shirts printed up back then, a few of which can be sighted, faded and threadbare, every now and then.
In 1985, Rainbow quit sponsoring the racers, and so they joined the Central Iowa Cycling Club, which was sponsored in part by Sunshine Cyclery in Hudson. Three years later, the racers formed Cedar Valley Wheelmen, and in 1989 that named changed to Cedar Valley Cyclists. Todd Hunemuller was the first President. Today, they are still a USCF sanctioned team, and usually have fifty to sixty members from year to year.
From this point on, Rainbow has existed for the sheer pleasure of touring and recreational rides (or non-rides).