Mountain Biking

How did it all begin?

The first successful fat-tyre bicycle was built in Marin County, California by Joe Breeze, who rode down the rocky trails of nearby Mt Tamalpais.

They used balloon-tyre single-speed ‘clunkers’ from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s to go down these trails with pedal-back brakes. One of these trails acquired the name “Repack” because one descent was enough to vaporize the bike’s grease, requiring the hub to be re-packed with grease.

Joe Breeze, Otis Guy and Gary Fisher were all top category USCF riders. Many of the Mt Tamalpais riders were members of the road club ‘Velo Club Tamalpais’, and wore a blue and gold jersey with a mountain logo.

In October 1977 Joe built a fat-tyre bike made out of lightweight tubing that was previously only found on high specification road bikes. Joe had built ten of these first ‘Breezers’ by June 1978 and the first Breezer has been on permanent display since 1985 in the Oakland Museum.

Mountain Bikes In The Late 70s

In January 1979 Joe and Otis, visited Tom Ritchey, who was building their tandem frame, and brought along Joe’s ‘Breezer’ mountain bike. Peter Johnson, who was another acclaimed frame builder who happened to be present, was very impressed with its features, as was Tom who also sensed the importance of the new concept. Gary Fisher heard about Tom’s interest in fat-tyre bikes and asked Tom to build him one.

They built nine more frames later in 1979, but Tom couldn’t find buyers for them locally, so he asked Fisher if he could sell them in Marin. Fisher and Charlie Kelly gathered together a few hundred dollars and started “MountainBikes” which became what is today ‘Gary Fisher Bicycles’. It was the first specifically mountain bike business. It was Tom’s bikes and Fisher and Kelly’s business that made the introduction of the mountain bike become popular. There was an obvious niche in the market, with most builders focusing on road bikes so this left plenty of scope for innovation.