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A 1970s Race In Marin Launched A National Mountain Biking Trend

A 1970s Race In Marin Launched A National Mountain Biking Trend 2020-09-15Leave a comment

electrical bike A Seventies Race In Marin Launched A Nationwide Mountain Biking Development

MARIN COUNTY, CA — On Oct. 21, 1976, a small group of cyclists and a canine named Junior gathered on Carson Ridge, which rises simply west of Fairfax. It was midmorning and the sky was brilliant blue, an exquisite day for racing 50-pound classic Schwinn Excelsior clunkers down Cascade Canyon Street, whose winding grime floor plunges 1,300 ft in lower than two miles, previous serpentine outcrops, low-lying chaparral, and scattered oaks on its strategy to the confluence of San Anselmo and Cascade creeks.

Among the many bike riders assembled that Thursday morning, at an hour when most people had been dutifully toiling at their boring 9-to-5s, was Fred Wolf, an early off-road bicycle owner; Charlie Kelly, a roadie for a beloved native rock band known as the Sons of Champlin; Larry and Wende Cragg, who carried her trusty Nikkormat 35mm digicam virtually all over the place; and an airbrush artist and vintage-bicycle customizer named Alan Bonds, whose recorded time of 5 minutes and 12 seconds that day (common pace, about 23 mph) was ok to take first place in a race that rapidly grew to become identified around the globe as Repack.

“It was type of a fluke,” stated Bonds immediately of his historic victory. “Not one of the actually quick guys like Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, and Otis Man had been there. I used to be principally racing in opposition to Fred, Charlie, and some others, though they had been the quickest guys I knew.”

For the file, Fisher would publish the quickest time on Repack (4:22 on Dec. 5, 1976), Joe Breeze would wind up second (4:24 on Dec. 19, 1976), and Otis Man would place third (4:25 on Dec. 12, 1976).

Repack was held 22 instances between 1976 and 1979, plus two extra instances within the early Eighties. In lots of respects, Repack launched mountain biking, though, strictly talking, it isn’t the place the then-nascent sport and leisure pastime was born. Nonetheless, the primary Repack race was early sufficient that riders didn’t confer with the bikes they pointed down Cascade Canyon Street as “mountain bikes,” because the phrase had not but been coined.

UC Davis professor John Finley Scott created a forerunner of the trendy mountain bike in 1953 when he constructed his first “woodsie,” as he known as it.

In England, starting in 1955, members of the Tough-Stuff Fellowship rode bicycles outfitted with fats balloon tires by way of locations just like the Chiltern Hills. And all through the Seventies, individuals in america rode bicycles off highway for enjoyable in Santa Barbara and Cupertino, in addition to in Crested Butte, Colorado, the place the Pearl Cross Tour endurance trip by way of 40 miles of rocky, high-altitude terrain was launched a month earlier than the primary Repack race.

These Repack riders on that first October morning weren’t overly centered on their place on this mountain biking historical past, however by 1976, all of them had been intimately aware of the dusty fireplace roads that snaked across the flanks of close by Mount Tamalpais, the place handfuls of cyclists had been using off-pavement because the mid-Nineteen Sixties.

For Fisher — whose identify has develop into synonymous with the game due to the mountain bikes he and Kelly in-built 1979 — the hills of Marin County had been an unsupervised playground, which he explored with a bunch of biking buddies from Redwood Excessive Faculty in Larkspur known as the Larkspur Canyon Gang, who rode outdated Schwinns and different modified clunkers.

“The scene was like, , exit into the mountains, drink some beer,” Fisher stated.

Wende Cragg, one of many few feminine cyclists within the early days of mountain biking, undoubtedly didn’t get into off-road for the pace.

“On my first trip out, I used to be terrified — my bike weighed about 55 kilos, so it was laborious to deal with,” stated Cragg, who was a neighbor and pal of Wolf. “I assumed, ‘God, I am by no means going to get again on this bike once more.’ Little by little, I acclimated to it. Earlier than I knew it, I used to be hooked.”

Partially, Cragg was interested in the liberty she felt using a bicycle within the hills. “I lived proper subsequent to an open-space space, so I had speedy entry,” she stated. “There was no motive to not make the most of it. None of us actually labored, and for a few years, that is all I did, actually, simply trip, trip, trip. We might pack a lunch and a Frisbee, carry the canine and a few bud, and go.”

For individuals like Cragg, mountain biking was a portal to communing with Mom Nature. For others, not a lot. “The explanation mountain biking is so fashionable,” says Kelly, “is that it is one of many solely methods in trendy life you could flip in your adrenaline pump, and depart it on for a very long time.”

In Marin County, among the best locations to get within the adrenaline zone was Cascade Canyon Street, which had been a favourite of the toughest of the hardcores because the early Seventies. In truth, even its nickname, Repack, which individuals like Kelly and Wolf began utilizing a while after 1974, was hardcore.

Coaster brakes obtained a severe exercise on the way in which down Cascade Canyon Street. By the point riders arrived on the backside, their bikes’ rear hubs would really be smoking from the pressures they had been subjected to, as sizzling as a frying pan to the contact. The smoke, after all, was proof of the lubricants contained in the hub vaporizing. Thus, in case you did not need your rear hub to grab up on you with out warning, you wanted to repack it with contemporary, cool grease.

“By 1976,” Kelly says, “a complete bunch of us had upgraded our clunkers to 10-speeds, with drum brakes within the entrance and rear. That is what I used to be using on the day of the primary Repack. In these days, a motorbike didn’t final lengthy sufficient below me to get too sentimental about it. I simply destroyed frames, repeatedly.”

Repack, then, didn’t mark the primary time cyclists in Marin County began using their bikes into the hills, nor was it the primary time cyclists in California had tricked out fat-tire bikes with higher {hardware}. However the aggressive nature of Repack drew consideration to mountain biking in a means that using round within the hills consuming beer along with your buddies didn’t. And as soon as individuals in Marin like Bonds, Breeze, Kelly and Fisher started to customise, after which construct from scratch, bikes designed to overcome Repack, the entire thing jelled.

To fulfill Breeze immediately, you would not peg him because the man who gained extra Repacks than anybody else, and whose personal-best time down Cascade Canyon Street (4:24) is simply two seconds behind the course file set by Fisher (4:22).

Fact informed, Breeze appears extra just like the curator of a bicycling museum in Marin County, which is what he occurs to be, than a calculating pace demon, which is what he as soon as was. Within the early Seventies, inspired by his pal Marc Vendetti, Breeze began using a 1941, balloon-tire Schwinn on Mount Tam, too.

“When fat-tire racing got here alongside,” Breeze says of Repack, “I used to be the No. 1 draft decide. I took it actually severely. I’d stroll up and down the course to map it out, to memorize it. I made a science out of it.”

Breeze seems to have been the primary individual to construct a body designed for mountain biking, though even he did not name it that within the fall of 1977 when he started work on his first Breezer. With its distinctive twin-lateral tubes, the primary nickel-plated Breezer was commissioned by
Kelly.

In all, Breeze made 10 Breezers between the autumn of 1977 and the spring of 1978. Breezer No. 1, the prototype, which Breeze rode in Repack No. 15 within the fall of 1977 for a profitable time of 4:25, is now within the Smithsonian.

Breezer No. 2 stays within the assortment of Kelly.

Breeze’s bikes had been unarguably superior, however Breeze was a perfectionist, which meant he did not precisely work rapidly.

“Gary was in search of somebody to construct him a customized bike, however Joe was going to take some time,” Kelly stated. “So Gary farmed the job out to a few totally different builders, together with Tom Ritchey, to see who may do it first. Tom Ritchey obtained Gary his bike first.”

Ritchey was a whiz-kid, lightning-fast body builder from Palo Alto.

“Tom thought, ‘Properly, these guys need frames, so I am going to make some extra,'” remembers Kelly, “however he did not actually need to construct out the complete bikes, as a result of that is an actual ache. So, in desperation, Tom stated, ‘Hey Gary, are you able to assist me eliminate these frames?’ And Gary stated, ‘Hey Charlie, are you able to assist me eliminate these frames?’ And from that minute on, I assume we had been in enterprise.

The entire thing was type of flawed and doomed from the beginning, nevertheless it did change the world, and who will get to do this? So, I am not sad about it.”

What Kelly is referring to is co-founding with Fisher an organization known as MountainBikes, which lastly gave a reputation to what he, Wolf, Bonds, Fisher, Breeze, Cragg, and lots of others had been using up the hills of Marin.

“In 1979, Charlie Kelly and I began an organization known as MountainBikes,” stated Fisher. “That was an unique identify on the time. Earlier than that, individuals known as all of them sorts of silly issues.

“What we did principally,” Fisher continues, “was make a number of bikes. The primary yr we made 160 bikes, the second yr we made 1,000. A thousand bikes! All these different guys had been dickin’ round, , making 10 bikes a yr. However I used to be like, ‘Man, you gotta make it occur!'”

The Kelly/Fisher partnership led to 1983, and a decade later, Fisher ended up promoting MountainBikes to Trek, which now has a model known as the Gary Fisher Assortment.

“Folks name me the ‘father of the mountain bike’ and all these items, and so they say to me, ‘Gary, thanks, thanks for making a mountain bike. You’ve got modified my life.’ And I say to them, ‘Hey, man, if it weren’t for you desirous to trip my bikes, I would be nothing, ?'”


*To learn the complete, unique September 2014 story concerning the historical past of mountain biking, go to Collectors Weekly. To study extra concerning the early days of mountain biking, decide up Charlie Kelly’s 2014 e book, “Fats Tire Flyer: Repack and the Start of Mountain Biking” and take a look at Billy Savage’s
documentary, “Klunkerz.” Additionally, assist the Marin Museum of Bicycling and Mountain Bike Corridor of Fame, which opened in Fairfax in 2015, when the Mountain Bike Corridor of Fame relocated from Crested Butte, Colorado, the place it was based in 1988.


By Ben Marks / Collectors Weekly

Copyright 2020 by Bay Metropolis Information, Inc. — Republication, Rebroadcast or every other Reuse with out the specific written consent of Bay Metropolis Information, Inc. is prohibited.

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