Table of Contents
Time to Ride!
The Roots of Mountain Biking
No-Tech to High-Tech
The Ride Evolves
Where Rubber Meets Dirt
Rides and Races
Breathe Hard and Have Fun
Mountain Biking's Public Faces
Mountain Bike Madness
by J. P. Partland, photographs by John Gibson
pages, 80 color photographs
U.S. $14.95 / Can. $23.95
Three Guys in Eden: The Roots of Mountain Biking
Even though the "mountain bike" first made its appearance about 25 years ago, the creation is already steeped in myth. The stories have you believe that three wise men found it and nurtured it in an Eden. The truth is far different.
Off-road riding began with the creation of the bicycle, as roads were largely unpaved. What really started the bike revolution was the pneumatic tire. Patented in 1888, it was a huge step forward. The air-filled tire made bicycles with chain drives and identically-sized front and rear wheels the winning bike design. Paved roads would make cycling easier, more practical, and even more popular. So the League of American Wheelmen, the bike lobby, pushed for paved roads. Unfortunately, the paved roads helped cars take over.
The most obvious parent of the mountain bike is the cruiser, which debuted in 1933. The bike was comfortable and durable, and a hit. When the cruiser came about, there were already drop-handlebar racing bikes with narrow tires. Gears were even starting to make an appearance in Europe. Possibly one of the cruiser's curses is that it was sold as a kid's toy.
The bikes were incredibly heavy. Cruisers were often gussied up to be as motorcycle-like as possible. Huge fenders, fat tires, large fake gas tanks, a mega-seat, and a heavy rack, were often standard. Eventually, bike technology progressed, and the newsboy was relegated to the back of the garage, then the junkyard.
When the cruisers found a way out of junkyards as klunkers, they needed serious work before being deemed dirt-worthy. In order to convert the cruisers for off-road use, the bikes were stripped down. Everything that wasn't necessary was removed. Joe Breeze explained, "All stripped down, after shedding the faux gas tank, etc, from 65 down to 50 pounds."
When the coaster brakes proved to be a limitation, the early mountain bikers theorized that brakes designed for touring and cyclocross would provide better stopping power. Cantilever studs were brazed on and cantilever brakes were mounted. One problem solved.
When the frames were breaking, the early riders looked to modern frame tubes and the latest in brazing technology. When parts broke, the latest road parts were installed. Triple-cranksets and wide-range derailleurs were put onto the bikes to handle terrain changes. Since the riders were used to fast-handling road bikes, designers tended away from the slack frame geometry of cruisers, in favor of more upright angles.
Enter the Mountain bike...