A graveside service for bicycling innovator and local cycling legend Dan Henry, 98, is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday at Oak Hill Cemetery in Ballard.

“Dan was the king” of local bicyclists, said his friend and fellow rider, John Sherman.

Henry died March 7, just four days before his 99th birthday and two days before the arrival of thousands of amateur cyclists for this year’s Solvang Century ride.

He was born March 11, 1913, in Derry, Pa., near Pittsburgh. He will be buried next to his wife Trudy, who died in 2007 at the age of 76.

The couple, who married in 1975 after dating for 15 years, could be seen frequently throughout the Santa Ynez Valley riding their tandem bicycle. 

They met in 1960 at the New York Cycling Club and moved from Connecticut to Solvang, where they could cycle year round.

An early advocate for biking facilities in Santa Barbara County, Dan Henry’s enthusiasm for the sport and impact on the local cycling community is reflected in the bike route on Alamo Pintado and Grand Avenue in Los Olivos being named after him.

Henry wrote poetry about the joys of cycling, which he would hand out to strangers. He also designed and built a road bike with front and rear suspension, for which he received a patent, as well as a hammock-type “sling” seat that he found more comfortable than a traditional bicycle saddle.

He spent 25 years as a pilot for American Airlines, which fired him three times because of his insistence on bringing a bicycle along on his flights so he could ride it after landing. Each time, the pilots union had him reinstated, but after the third episode in 1963, he retired the following year.

He was Pilot Number 255 at American, with numbers assigned by seniority. Pilots now receive numbers higher than 10,000.

Besides his local exploits, he participated in and led cycling tours throughout the United States and Europe with the International Bicycle Touring Society.

The League of American Bicyclists gave Henry the prestigious Dr. Paul Dudley White Award in 1992, recognizing his efforts on behalf of cyclists. Other recipients have included Greg Lemonde and Lance Armstrong.

The painted pavement markings indicating the route for the past weekend’s Solvang Century event and other rides were his creation. They are now called “The Dan Henry Marking System,” adopted by the League of American Bicyclists and many local cycling clubs.

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