The Roots of Dirt: How Mountain Bikes Went From Clunkers to Global Phenomenon

About 40 -odd years ago, a knot of young California misfits changed the world with new technology. Oh, youve hear this before? Well, it wasnt personal computers. It was bikes.

Mountain motorcycles, to be precise. Now, its genuine that beings have been travelling on rough streets and dust-covered directions from the earliest days of cycling. But a perfect mingle of race, speedy technology development, and commerce strategy propelled what mountain bike colonist Charlie Kellycalls a goofy hobby into global phenomenon and a new Olympic sport.

Those athletes will roll up to the starting line in Rio astride the latest ultra-light carbon fiber machines with accuracy shifting, potent disc restraints, and responsive dangling. And their bicycles will look nothing like what the world’s first mountain bikers razz onMount Tamalpais just north of San Francisco in Marin County, California.

In the early 1970 s, cyclists in and around Marin County started making clunkers use salvaged paper-boy bicycles from the 1930 s and’ 40 s and bombing down Tam’s footpaths and burn superhighways. In the video above, Kelly and fellow innovator Joe Breeze of Breezer Bikesdescribe those early days, and how the mountain bike progressed from junkyard bird-dogs to purebred rock- and rut-eating riggings with full dangling and rates that can reach well into five figures.

Now, when it is necessary to mountain biking, it isn’t enough to ride. As Kelly justifies, someone eventually claimed responsibility for the fastest, and there’s only one style to settle an statement like that.

In the drop-off of 1976, Kelly organized the first of a series of downhill races he and his crewcalled Repack, named for the maintenance asked after skidding through 52 turns on a coaster restraint. By the time you got to the bottom, the grease would have burnt into a contrail of cigarette, Breeze adds. Youd have to go home and re-pack the hub.

Brakes weren’t the only event that took a thumping. Kelly ended so many frames that he eventually questioned Breeze to build him something stronger. I required a secret weapon ,” he says.In 1977, Breeze built the first of ten frames inspired by his 1941 Schwinn’s magnitudes. He expended steel composite tubing, and strengthened them with distinctive twin lateral tubes running diagonally in the various regions of the frames. Then he outfitted them with brand-new percentages, generating the world’s firstly new, purpose-built mountain bikes.

Breezes first frame, which he went to victory in a Repack race, sits in the Smithsonian Institute. Breezer No. 2, which Kelly rode, is a member of the collection at the Marin Bicycle Museum and Mountain Bike Hall of Famenot far from Mt. Tam.

Breezer No. 2 on display at the Marin Museum of Bicycling in Fairfax, California .

The museum is a shrine to the days before Lycra, helmets, and sick GoPro revises. It was team Levis enunciates Breeze, pointing to a photo of him at the museum garmented intelligence to toe in denim. The bikes were heavy, too–Kellys first goes weighed 38 pounds, roughly twice the weightof a modern cross-country racer.

Still, Repack, which Kelly recounts in Fat-Tire Flyer: Repack and the Birth of Mountain Biking , pushed the tech forward. Then a TV crew documented a Repack race. Clunking subculture soon spread, and is asking for bikes spiked.

Mountain biking really spawned a lot more interest in metropolitan riding and the utility of bicycling.Joe Breeze

The museum peculiarities beautiful examples of steel-framed machines from early craftsmen like Tom Ritchey, Mert Lawwill and the Koskis as well as early aluminum chassis built by Charlie Cunningham, who also designed numerous early off-road-specific parts.

By the early 1980 s, Specialized Bicycles was mass-producing its Stumpjumper mountain bike. Others responded with MTB-specific components and tires. By the end of the decade, many offered bikes with motorcycle-like suspension; disc brakes weren’t far behind. In 1996, 20 years after the first Repack, mountain biking debuted at the Atlanta Olympic Games.

Racing still pushes engineering and pattern. Earlier this year, Sea Otter 2016 hosted the first electric mountain bike race. But the lasting influence of the mountain bike, with its cushy tires, upright handlebars and sturdy chassis, Breeze supposes, may be the millions who took to them , not for hopping rocks, but for commuting and runningerrands around town.

It certainly spawned much more interest in municipality riding and the utility of bicycling for everyday, he says.

For Kelly it was all about Repack, which is hallowed floor, as much as is hes referred. The racing started us on this travel that is so far on, he mentions. This drop, on the 40 th anniversary of the first Repack, a group of cyclists will reap at the top to celebrate how far their goofy hobby has come.

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