Modern mountain biking evolved on the slopes of Mount Tamalpais in Marin County, California, over the bridge from San Francisco. Pioneers such as Joe Breeze, Gary Fisher, Otis Guy, Charlie Kelly, Tom Ritchey, Charlie Cunningham and others helped kick-start a bicycle revolution which rapidly spread around the world.
This fact is being celebrated in a new exhibition at the museum in SFO, San Francisco International Airport. Opening tomorrow and running until 3rd February 2013, the mountain bike exhibition will be staged in the departure lobby of the airport’s main hall.
The guest curator of the exhibition is Joe Breeze. He and some of the other MTB pioneers have supplied original ‘clunker bikes’ for display in the exhibition. These were modified Schwinn paperboy bikes, and used in the famous ‘Repack’ downhill race series of 1976-79, so called because the coaster brakes on the 1930s bikes had to be repacked with grease after every descent.
Repack served as the testing ground for a series of modifications and innovations crucial to the early development and evolution of the mountain bike.
In 1975, after a ride on Mount Tamalpais, Breeze had said to Otis Guy: "This sure is a lot of fun, but who else would want to do it?"
Breeze was especially surprised off-road cycling took off in Europe, which he thought was the home of bicycling.
While Fisher, Breeze, Ritchey and others are generally considered the fathers of modern mountain biking (there were mothers, too, such as photographer Wende Cragg and racer Jacquie Phelan) there were earlier Northern Californian innovators, such U. C. Davis professor John Finley Scott who, in 1953, produced his "woodsie" multiple gear balloon tyre bike. Santa Barbara riders and Cupertino’s Morrow Dirt Club members experimented with off-road bikes in the 1970s. But it was a core number of the Marin County clunker riders – and some enterprising Japanese bicycle engineers – who turned a hippy recreation into a global movement.
Gary Fisher and Charlie Kelly co-founded a company called Mountain Bikes of Fairfax, California, and this became the generic name for the new breed of fat-tyred bicycles.
Alongside the clunkers there are some newer bikes, too, including the 2010 Gary Fisher Superfly100 as ridden by US national champion Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski.
Main pic: Modified 1940s Schwinn with front and rear derailleurs, c. 1976, modified by Gary Fisher.
Pic above: Howie Hammerman, Otis Guy, Chris McManus, and Joe Breeze on top of Kent Rock, Mount Tamalpais, 1977. By Wende Cragg/Rolling Dinosaur Archives