During the epic flood of 2013, lifelong cyclist and Boulder artist Ann Whitehill had her collection of “cool parts for someday art projects” spread across the kitchen table. New additions to this collection were an amazing array of retired, high end, bike parts recently bestowed by longtime Boulder bike racer Bret Wade. Between bouts of bailing the basement stairs, Ann began to envision all sorts of new possibilities for these cool parts, and GearHead by mudwest, a collection of Bike Art, and GearHead Belts was born. Since the flood, Ann has been giving new purpose and life to the pieces and parts of our bikes that mostly get tossed into a cardboard box in the garage.
Ann is a lifelong bike rider/commuter. Coupled with being an artist at heart, she's always had a fascination for well-crafted, beautiful bike parts. It came as no surprise then, that this type of love for the bike runs in her blood. Around the same time as the 2013 floods, Ann learned she has a family cycling history that dates back 120 years.
In 1892, Ann’s great grandfather Harry Silverman hired Bobby Walthour, then 14, as a bike messenger for his tobacco store in Atlanta, Georgia. Harry quickly recognized Bobby’s innate riding talent and began to sponsor Bobby as a racer. Bobby Walthour went on to become one of the greatest cyclists and most popular athletes of all time, winning both the famous Madison Square Garden 6 day race (in front of 15,000 fans!) and two world championships. In 1897, inspired by Bobby’s success, Harry built a velodrome in Atlanta in order to bring big time bike racing to their hometown.
Bobby’s life (and Harry Silverman’s role in it) is chronicled in a the book, "Life in the Slipstream, the Legend of Bobby Walthour Sr." by Andrew Homan. [Editor's note: This book is a fascinating slice of cycling history, just in case you are looking for a good read.]
From the book's description:
“Life in the Slipstream chronicles Walthour’s rise from a lowly bicycle messenger in Georgia to a two-time national and international cycling champion. His career parallels the surging popularity of the bicycle in America, and this biography depicts his life against the backdrop of the bicycle craze that swept America in the late 1800s and early 1900’s… At the peak of his career, in 1904, Walthour earned more than $60,000, a staggering sum for the time. (Babe Ruth, by comparison, earned $80,000 in his highest-paid season with the New York Yankees decades later.)”
Each of Ann's designs are unique. With 25+ years of creativity in Boulder, she perfectly infuses her art with a Colorado vibe. Some of you reading this might have been fast enough to get one of her handmade belts at Cross Nationals back in January. Ann donated a handful as prizes for the non-competitive races on days 1/2.
Who knew that out of so much destruction from the flood, such beauty could arise? One thing is for sure, Ann's great-grandfather sure would be proud.