4.23.2004

Mountainbiking
here is some history

from the perspective of Joe Breeze
another similar perspective
more of the SAME

here are some members of the Mountainbike Hall of Fame!
it is a great story
many of those people who were the founders are now the industry heads of today
as well as still being the leading designers
some are still stellar riders
keeping it real!
never losing the faith!

My Mountainbike History....
My first introduction to the mountainbike was from my brother. Marc was reading the scouting magazine Boy's Life and stumbled upon an article and called me into his room. His enthusiasm was clear, "this is the bike for you!" he said as he knew I had already been riding by British style 3 and 5 speeds on single track paths, off curbs, and through ditches. Paying the price and causing every nut and bold to rattle free, still sporting the classic fenders and rack with a milk crate bungee corded on the back to aid in the delivery of the now defunct Washington Star. With the magazine in front of me I looked at the pictures in amazement and allowed Marc to paraphrase the gist of the article (although I can read, for some reason I have always dodged it....not unlike swimming...sure I can swim, and I splash around, but don't expect to see me doing too many laps.) That concept of the mountainbike faded as soon as the magazine was put down. Then a lump of years after these two grade schoolers heard of this multi-geared machine I found myself in high school paging through a back of some cycling magazines with my friend Les. Les was convinced that if we got a handful of us together we could get a deal on some of these bikes. His budget was greater than mine and the others he had drawn into the mountainbike fantasy. Instead of buying that outrageously expensive 750.00 dollar bike I managed to find a Mongoose that suited my needs for under 400 bucks. That bike was going to give me pleasure and pain for years to come, I ended up breaking 7-10 of those things, each and everyone under warranty, never assembling the last free frame. Learning that I had to spend more money on bikes I stepped up and bought an SM600, a Classic Cannondale with a 26 inch front wheel and a 24 inch wheel in the back (this bike was still under 800 dollar, 1,200 may have been the industry average for the top of the line bike). I think that I bought if for the ascetic alone. For the first 15 years of riding mountainbikes I bought frames that were far too small for my 6'4" body, but I had some sort of BMX dream that I was going to be able to do table tops and ride long wheelies and do all that wild and wacky stuff....endos and 180's. Well, I could do some of that stuff, it was not my focus, but I did manage to do some of that stuff (never a table top barely even a bunny hop!), endos yes! sometimes on purpose....sometimes on accident, but for the most part I just liked to ride. And I rode everywhere all the time.
Mountainbiking was a hoot. We never trained, we just rode. Never put air in our tires, never put lube on our chain, we never tunned up our bikes, the wheels were always out of true and our brakes never stopped our bikes. Riding usually involved sets of sprints, rest, hang, chill, regroup, let the stragglers catch up, and then sprint again....
each person riding and racing for the front spot, stopping at each fork in the trail for each and everyone to take the turn and then forward and further. Helmets were less common than lycra shorts. It was just how it was done.
Then after college I planned a motorcycle trip cross country, well actually, I did not plan a trip, I bought an old KZ750, borrowed some panniers, loaded up some gear and headed west. The only real planning I did was to have Cannondale send a warranty replacement frame for the SM600 to a shop in Berkeley California rather than Cycles 90 on Solomons Island in Maryland not far from where I graduated from college.
I meandered across the country. It rained something like 9 of the 13 riding days that I took to get cross country. The motorcycle died in Chicago, caught fire in Wyoming, nearly threw a chain in Seattle (I had replaced the rear cog, the chain, but could not get the front cog off....this was after I removed some links from the chain in Wyoming borrowing a grinder on this guy's farm ((seems bikes and motorcycles are not completely similar, the shorter chain caused some dramatic wear to the cog/sprockets the teeth wore to be thin sharp pointed spikes rather than the thick dull rounded teeth that should meet within the chain link)) It was a glorious trip. The ride introduced me to parts of the country I had never seen before and have never seen since. Like I took a thousand steps forward in my personal evolution, I had grown.
When I arrive in Cali I got connected with my friend Gibby in Berkeley, he was living in a room with a family that owned two shops in downtown Berkeley, The Square Wheel. I was able to buy a bike at a deal, sell off the frame and parts I would not need, had some wheels built with some rims I had won in a race back east and found myself in Marin California the birthplace of the mountainbike. Got myself a place to stay in Mill Valley (that is a BLOG in itself), and rode the trails of Mt Tam everyday. It was epic. All taken for granted, as that was just how my life was going, but looking back it was epic. I was riding a fully rigid aluminum mountain bike scoffing at those hitting the scene with their suspension forks and their clipless pedals.
The stay was short, was in California for maybe 5-6 months and then headed off for Colorado. On the cross country motorcycle trip I had paid a visit to some friends in Boulder and Aspen and felt the pull of the larger mountains and the sport of snowboarding (having only been on backhills and golf course and never seen a chair life in operation before) Sold the motorcycle for the same price I bought it for, 4 hundred bucks. Flew back east, took everything I owned, filled up my beat up convertible rabbit and headed back out west. Again with little or no plan. Once in Colorado my life was mixture of beer and pool with many hung over rides; snowboards in the winter and mountainbikes in the summer, but always hungover, very very hung over.

That is the basic history. Well, just the skeleton. The details of it all are more interesting than the basic facts, but, maybe getting this on the page will dredge up some lost memories. Something to BLOG about later!

No comments: