Happy Birthday Mountain bikes!

Recently, we reached the 40th anniversary of the first timed races organized by Charlie Kelly in Marin County, CA. These are the legendary Repack races, so named because you had to repack the grease that melted away from the blistering fire road downhill.

A lot of people – myself included – would consider these races to be the birth of mountain biking as we currently know it in 2016.

There are people will argue this though, and that’s fine – but they’re wrong.

Let’s explore why.

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Gary Fisher

As many times as I’ve written about Gary Fisher, I’ve yet to actually talk about his vintage bikes. He’s often referred to as one of the fathers of the mountain bike, even though he didn’t actually weld the frames himself.  Even so, his bikes are highly sought after, innovative, and just plain cool as we’ll see.

Fisher Mt. Tam

Gary was an integral part of the Repack scene in California with Charlie Kelly, Joe Breeze, Tom Ritchey, and several others you probably wouldn’t know. In 1979 he started Mountainbikes with Kelly and Tom Ritchey. They only lasted until 1983, but Gary started his own company that same year. Unlike Ritchey or Breeze, he wasn’t making the frames himself, but he definitely knew what worked, so he got good people to make frames for him, like Tom Teesdale.

Fisher Montare

Things clearly went well for Gary, as he was importing frames from Taiwan by 1988. In 1991, he sold the company to Anlen of Taiwan, but stayed on as president. In 1993, Trek bought Fisher from Anlen, and ran them as a mostly independent line until 2010 when Fisher became just a name on a special series of Trek bikes. Then in 2014, Fisher the bicycle simply disappeared, with not one word from Trek – or from anyone else judging from the searches I’ve tried – to commemorate it.

A truly sad end to a truly cool company.

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New Bike

There’s only one scenario where getting a new bike is a bad thing, and that’s when you’ve had a bike stolen from you. Especially if it’s a bike you’ve built from the ground up. But, even considering that – new bike!

Of course I’ve had several “new” bikes in recent years, but they’re always been vintage bikes. Getting a brand new bike from a shop i haven’t done since I worked at Redbike about ten years ago.

Before I even started looking, I new there wouldn’t be that many for me to choose from. For starters, I wasn’t going to spend a lot on it – $2000 was my target. And I just don’t have any interest in a lot of the bikes out there now.

I’m sure trail bikes like the Rocky Thunderbolt and Kona Process/Precept are awesome, but I don’t ride enough to warrant a bike like that. I wanted a hard tail with a long fork and 27.5″ wheels. And it pretty much had to be steel. Aluminium is fine, but steel is just a better fit.

That really left me with only two choices.

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The Master Mechanic

I’ve always said that a mechanic becomes a Master Mechanic when he or she makes his own tools. Some bike repair scenarios require very specific tools, and it’s impossible to press others into duty. In the brilliant Hard on Equipment, Corb Lund sings;

Well it’s vise grips for pliers /
And pliers for a wrench /
A wrench for a hammer /
Hammers everything else.

That’s just not going to cut it when you need to replace a headset. Which you actually would use a hammer for…

Bad example.

Seriously though, if you want to do it right, and not destroy the frame, you need a headset presses. Similarly, you need starnut setting tools, bottom bracket facing tools, cone wrenches, and truing stands.

Though some brave souls will take matters into their own hands.

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