Mountain bikes: the perfect way to see the best nature has to offer. Loved for their durability and ability to take on all sorts of rough terrain, these bikes are the go-to for any adventure-seeker. While many are aware of the different features that mountain bikes have compared to regular bikes, few know the rich history of these bicycles. In fact, their history traces all the way back to the 1800’s in North America, and they continue to be transformed to this day. Check out this list below for 11 fascinating historical facts of mountain bikes:

1 – Mountain Biking Found Its Start in 1896

Source: Wikipedia – Chr. Barthelmess / Public domain

The first known use of bicycles used for riding on mountain terrain was in 1896 by the 25th Infantry U.S. Army Bicycle Corps, or “Buffalo Soldiers.” This group of soldiers departed from Fort Missoula, Montana and rode all the way to Yellowstone, a distance of 500 miles covering various rough terrain. This was a first for the U.S. Army at the time, which usually opted to use horses for traveling long distances.

2 – The Early 1900’s Found Another Use for Mountain Biking

The first few decades of the 1900’s saw a transformation in biking on mountain terrains. Professional cyclists began training off-road rather than on-road as to improve their fitness and ability to withstand rough conditions in the winter time. Out of this practice came the sport of “cyclocross.” In this sport, bikers spent half the time biking and the other half carrying their bicycle across unrideable terrain such as woody areas or uneven pavement. By 1940, cyclocross became a cemented sport and even held its own championship!

3 – 1955 Saw the First Coming-Together of Mountain Bike Lovers

Source: www.rsf.org.uk

Bill Paul of Liverpool, England loved off-road biking so much that he began The Rough Stuff Fellowship in the 1950’s. He invited any other individuals who loved riding their bikes around mountains to the group and soon, dozens had joined. The group continued to blossom and inspired people across the world to begin their own mountain biking groups in their respective cities.

4 – 1966: Mountain Biking Found Its Name

Back in Oregon, one off-road lover, D. Gwynn, constructed a bike specifically designed for riding in rough terrains. He gave it the title of “mountain bicycle,” and said it was a work-in-progress. Regardless, cycle enthusiasts were on board and began experimenting with bike construction on their own.

5 – Construction Continues in the U.K. for 11 years

Source: By Carlton ReidFlickr: Geoff Apps; Range Rider: ahead of his time, CC BY 2.0 Link

The further development of mountain bicycles continued in the U.K. with biker Geoff Apps. Apps worked from 1968 – 1979 to construct the ideal bike for rough terrains. By the end of his experimenting, he had constructed a lightweight bicycle that was meant to withstand particularly wet or muddy conditions, using snow tires and exploring different sizes.

6 – The 1970s Changed Everything

Source: Flickr; CC Lisence

The 70’s decade saw the most progression when it came to the development of the modern-day mountain bike. Several groups around America began tinkering with various kinds of bikes, hoping to make the best mountain bike yet. In California, one group worked with decades-old Schwinn Cruiser Bicycles, modifying the brakes, handlebars and tires to better-suit mountain roads.

7 – Joe Breeze Becomes a Household Name

Source: Copyright 1984 Alba Vasconcelos / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

In 1978, bike-lover Joe Breeze introduced the “klunker,” or the first bike to be manufactured and sold as a mountain bike. He went through 9 different frames, experimenting with fat tires that could ride down mountains smoothly and more easily for the rider. His partners, Gary Fisher, Tom Ritchey and Charlie Kelly also contributed to the construction of the bikes and were credited with making the mountain bikes marketable.

8 – The ‘80s Brought Mountain Bikes into Homes

The four aforementioned, “pioneers” of the mountain bike movement sold the first mass-produced mountain bikes, named the Specialized Stumpjumper and Univega Alpina Pro. Hobbyists began buying the bikes and in 1988, the first mountain bike movie was released, titled The Great Mountain Biking Video. The video acted as both an instructional manual to new users and an introduction to the activity.

9 – The End of the Century: The Mountain Bike Boom

It took a good ten years for mountain biking to truly take off. All sorts of things were happening to make this happen: the production of mountain bikes in Taiwan, the selling of mountain bikes in supermarkets and the introduction of bike parks with fun obstacles for mountain bike riders. Thanks to a more global reach, the sales of mountain bikes began to really boom, leading to the invention of the phrase “The Bike Boom.”

10 – Mountain Biking Finds a Place in The Olympics

Olympic symbol isolated on white background

In the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, mountain biking was introduced as a sport to much fanfare. Over 60 bikers participated in the competition, with Dutch and Italian bicyclists, Bart Brentjens and Paolo Pezzo taking home the first gold medals of the sport. Mountain biking has remained a popular part of The Olympics to this day.

11 – The 21st Century: Bigger and Better

Over 100 years later, mountain biking remains one of the most popular off-road sports. In 2007, a documentary about the history of mountain biking was released, named Klunkerz: A Film About Mountain Bikes.. The film was played in festivals worldwide and won a number of awards, recognized as an important contribution to the history of the sport.

Wrapping Up

As mountain bikes continue to involve in technology and structure, there are sure to be even more intriguing developments in the bike and sport itself. The 2020’s may be the best decade for the mountain biking yet!

1 thought on “The History of Mountain Bikes – 11 Fascinating Facts!”

  1. Hey There,
    Thanks for the kind words about my film, Klunkerz. I really appreciate it.
    Billy Savage
    KLUNKERZ: A Film About Mountain Biking

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