Saturday, June 16, 2007

Clunker bikes, "inventing" mountain bikes and cyclocross

So, I stumbled upon this link to a website dedicated to the men who first "invented" mountain biking. I use quotations around invented because, in all of the articles I've ever read about the birth of mountain biking, there is never a mention of cyclocross.

The link above is cool and tells a great story. But again, that story always fails to remember that what they did in Marin County in the 70's was already done in Europe in the 20's.

Cyclocross was born many decades before... mountain bikes ever came along. Originally, they were a hodgepodge of hand me down road bike parts and results from the scavenging of a rider's road bike. They were creations to be muddied and ridden hard. They were frankenbikes.

Sixty years later not far from where I was born in Northern California, some guys took some cruisers with coaster brakes and modified them to be ridden in the dirt. And a "revolution" was born.

It is cool to hear about the guys that first "invented" mountain biking, guys with last names like Fisher and Bontrager and the like. Here's a direct quote:

A revolutionary moment in this history occurred three or four years ago, when Gary Fisher got the idea of putting a ten-speed dérailleur assembly on a balloon-tired bicycle. (Gary, who is acknowledged in these parts as being the first person to create such a hybrid, is a lightweight bicycle road racer, who also happens to hold the record time on the local clunker downhill race course, the Repack.) It took some fiddling, of course, European dimensions vs. American, but when it was finished, the result was a bicycle that not only would roll down the hilly dirt trails, it could also be pedaled back up them. It could be ridden over deer and cow trails, and unlike dirt motorcycles, it could easily be carried over fallen logs and gullies. And it was quiet!

Sounds like a cyclocross bike to me. A bike that can go down hills, over cow trails and can be lifted over logs? Thats a cross bike dudes! Surely 27" wheels roll down a hill just as fast as 26" ones do.

Today, if you browse over to the Fisher website, the concept of the 29'er bike is all the latest rage. Wow! All hail the mountain bikers who once again reinvented the cross bike, again.


Repack Rider said...

That would be my website you linked to. I hope you took the time to look at the rest of my website. Here is my comment on cyclocross v. mountain biking.

Gary Fisher was my roommate, and had raced cyclocross as a teenager and as an adult. We were well aware of cyclocross. Joe Breeze and I raced our new "Breezer" bikes in the 1978 Tilden Park cyclocross, while Gary Fisher rode a traditional 'cross bike in the same race. Perennial cyclocross champ Laurence Malone won a race I put on in 1980, but on a mountain bike.

Mountain bikes are not 'cross bikes, and we designed our races so that 'cross bikes would not be competitive, but we didn't make any rules about whether they were legal equipment. We just made a rule about not being able to have spare equipment, and without spares a cyclocrosser is at a disadvantage.

Mountain bike races started with downhill races, and 'cross bikes were not at all competitive in downhill races. No one said you couldn't ride one, but you weren't going to win on one.

In 1980 there was a showdown between Ron Skarin on a 'cross bike and Gary Fisher on his new Ritchey, 15 miles of dirt road over a ridge in a race called Reseda to the Sea. Skarin pulled ahead on the climb, and got smoked on the other side, and that's why cyclocross bikes didn't take over the world.

jeremyb said...

Sweet, thanks for the comment. Love the site and spent a good amount of time reading and perusing before making this post.