The History of Mountain Biking

There’s a lot of information on the history of mountain biking on internet, film and press. However, not all of them are true and based on actual facts.

​Original mountain biking has existed since around the 19th century. Buffalo Soldiers or the 25th Infantry U.S. Army Bicycle Corps rode from Missoula, Montana to Yellowstone National Park and all the way back. They were mostly black soldiers, and a white lieutenant who rode for 1900 miles to St Louis. Their task was to test run the bicycles for military use.

The next example of mountain biking is when road racing cyclists started cyclo-cross to stay fit during winter. However, cyclo-cross became a sport itself in 1940s, with the world championship first won in 1950. About 21 young cyclists from all around Paris were comprised by the VCCP, The French Velo Cross Club Parisian and they developed the sport between 1951. and 1956.

The first use of the term “mountain biking” was probably used in Oregon, in 1966 when D. Gwynn built a rough terrain bicycle trail. Couple of years before that, in 1955, off-road cyclists in the UK established The Roughstuff Fellowship.

1968 was when Geoff Apps began designing off-road bicycles. By 1979 he designed a lightweight bicycle suitable for wet and muddy conditions of south-east of England. These bicycles were sold by Cleland Cycles brand until 1984. English Cycles and Highpath Engineering sold the Cleland design as well, until the early 1990s.

In USA, there were a few groups of riders who entered history of this sport. Crested Butte, Cupertino and Colorado, California riders adapted bikes to the rough surfaces of off-road biking. In the mid-to-late 1970s in Marin County, California, modified cruiser bicycles were used for freewheeling down mountains. Fat tires and better brakes were featured, while bikers used The Schwinn Excelsior bike frame. Riders would mostly race down mountain, making the hub brake to burn the grease. In this case, riders had to repack the bearings. They used to call these Repack Races. This caused first interest of the public in mountain biking. Mountain biking originated on Marin County’s Mount Tamalpais.

Bicycle companies started to make mountain bikes using lightweight materials sometime in late 1970s and early 1980s. Joe Breeze introduced the first mountain bike in 1978. Gary Fisher, Tom Ritchey and Charlie Kelly partnered together to form a company called MountainBikes. Eventually, the partnership broke off and the company became Fisher Mountain Bikes. Tom Ritchey went on to have his own frame shop. These first mountain bikes were road bike frames, with a wider frame and fork. The handlebars were straight, transverse-mounted handlebars. A few other people who contributed were Keith Bontrager and Otis Guy. Specialized Stumpjumper and Univega Alpina Pro were the first two mountain bikes sold in 1982.

From 1990 to 2000, this sport became quite a mainstream activity. At this point, you were able to buy mountain bike gear at standard bike shops. By the mid-2000s, there were many mountain baking resorts opened. Most of the time, they resemble ski resorts and platforms. Mountain bike parks are usually a summer season activity at ski hills including trails, bicycle rental facilities, and chairlifts.

In the future, we can only imagine what technology will bring to mountain biking since it’s changing so quickly.

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