I was deeply saddened to find this obituary. Phil Wood has died of pancreatic cancer at age 86.
When mechanical engineer Phil Wood took up bicycle racing at San Jose's velodrome, he became frustrated by wheels that quickly became wobbly. He had to clean and repack the ball bearings with grease after every race.
"He thought that was crazy," said his daughter, Donna Williams, of Roseville. "He asked, 'Why doesn't somebody invent a wheel hub that doesn't need maintenance?' "
That somebody turned out to be Wood, and the company he founded on April Fools' Day in 1971 still churns out the sealed hubs that revolutionized the bicycle industry by ushering in an era of high-performance, low-maintenance equipment.
Wood died earlier this month of pancreatic cancer in Roseville. He was 86.
According to Peter Enright, who bought Phil Wood & Co., in 1991, bicycle hubs and brackets had not changed much in over a century. They were basically ball bearings placed in a cup and held in line by a pressed-in cone, which loosened easily. Wood invented a grooved hub in which ball bearings could be held in precisely by a screw-on cap. Except for the cheapest bikes, most bicycles today come with sealed hubs and bottom brackets that keep in lubricants and keep out water and grime.
However, Wood did not patent his invention and never got rich.
"My dad was an inventor," Williams said, "but he was not a businessman. He didn't care about those things. He just wanted to improve his inventions even more."
Phil Wood was born in Knightstown,