Mountain biking heritage

As part of our mission, we want to inform visitors about the history of mountain biking and keep this history alive. In the museum, you can find some of the very first mountain bikes ever made. Throughout the museum, we have created a timeline where you can see the development of equipment over time. On this page, you can read about the development of mountain biking over the years.

Mountain biking originated from a hobby that turned into a passion. The 2007 film 'Klunkerz' explains this. The film describes the people who first began mountain biking and how it became such a popular sport.

Marin County, Northern California

There is no single person who invented mountain biking. There have always been people who rode off-road. What is a fact, however, is that mountain biking as we know it today originated in Marin County, in northern California. In the 1970s, a group of cyclists began experimenting with bicycles and bike equipment. Gary Fisher, Charlie Kelly, Joe Breeze, and Tom Ritchey are well-known names from this group. The friends had no idea that they were starting a sport that would later become Olympic! The hills north of San Francisco were ideal for this sport. Here lies the most famous mountain in mountain biking: Mount Tamalpais, a mountain 800 meters above sea level.

Mountain biking: off-road cycling

In the 1960s, people were used to riding bikes on asphalt and other accessible roads. But for off-road riding, different tactics were needed. A normal bike did not have the grip or good construction for dealing with sand, roots, mud, grass, and gravel. You could ride down a hill in the forest once and then have two flat tires. Something had to be done about this! The men decided that they needed heavier bikes that could take a beating. They started with old Schwinn Excelsiors from the 1940s, which they also called 'Klunkerz'. They found old bikes and removed the fenders, chain guards, and tank (this tank had no function but was purely for decoration). They noticed that the heavier and more solid a bike was, the more places they could go simply because the material allowed it.


The Larkspur Canyon Gang were the very first to ride on Mount Tamalpais. The group saw Mount Tamalpais as their playground. They grew up in the area and played in the woods regularly. Eventually, as teenagers, they started building huts and bringing their bikes. They got a kick out of riding down, but their bikes were not suitable for the forest trails. They also tinkered with their bikes, but not as fanatically as the boys from the aforementioned clubs.

In 1972, the Marin County Velo Club Tamalpais was established by the aforementioned men. Gary was a class 1 road rider at the time. One woman, Wende Cragg, was also a member of the Velo Club. She was known as the queen of mountain biking because she was the only woman involved in the sport at the time. Wende provided camera footage in the form of photos and film for every ride. She had no idea she was documenting history!

The Morrow Dirt Club emerged during an organized cycling event: a club that had further adapted their bikes. They also had fat tires but added derailleurs, front brakes, gears, and sometimes even a motor. With these, they could do much more with their bikes than the men of the Velo Club. The Marin County Velo Club had never seen such bikes and found them fascinating. They especially enjoyed that someone outside their familiar area was also working on adapting bikes. Joe Breeze had long been trying to find The Morrow Dirt Club, but the club had already fallen apart. Joe started using the same mechanics as them. Because The Morrow Dirt Club could not be found, they only received recognition 20 years later for adding derailleurs, front brakes, and gears.

For us, mountain biking was liberating. It felt like flying.

Otis Guy, 2007