The relatively recent, impactful history of the bicycle catches many by surprise.

In the 19th century the bicycle became known as the “freedom machine”, allowing people to travel further and catalyzed women to gain civil equality.  After women experienced what it was like to cycle, necessity caused them to develop more functional clothing, beyond the gigantic fluffy dresses.

Before World War II, the United States had cruiser style bicycles which were mostly single speed.  Faster racing style bikes were being produced in Europe with internal hub and derailleur gearing.

Dr. Clifford Graves was a surgeon and cycle tourist who founded the Great Western Bicycle Rally in 1965. He purchased a European bicycle in France during WWII when he was serving as doctor in the American Army.  In 1944 Dr. Graves found himself in the path of advancing German soldiers when he used the bicycle to ride to safety through the countryside.

 His passion was displayed further by his work and philanthropic creations including founding the International Bicycle Touring Society and the La Jolla Symphony Association, and two books including My Life On Two Wheels, and Front Line Surgeons.   Dr. Clifford Graves is pictured second from right.

In more recent times the festival chair positions have been passed on to other inspiring folks in the cycling world - Robert and Josephine Panzera of CCSD are the chairpersons, bringing extensive cycling and organizational experience to the event attracting cyclists from all over the country.  

The present and past chairs have developed relationships with the Paso community and partners, and the event significantly increases the local economy as a whole. It’s great to see thousands of cyclists exploring the region and interacting with community members, farmers and wineries, developing relationships that will serve us all for decades to come.

There’s something exciting for everyone in the family at the Great Western Bicycle Rally in Paso Robles.  Come visit Paso for a celebration with others who enjoy using freedom machines for fitness, fun, travel and racing.   The Great Western Bicycle Rally features events from Friday May 27th through Monday May 30. Sign up today and come with your freedom machine!