In 1896 Buffalo Soldiers used a modified fat tire bike to travel on rough terrain. In the 1960s riders in San Francisco began to make a fat tire off-road bike that were the first mountain bikes.
People have always ridden off-road as well as on it, but the history of mountain biking begins more than thirty years ago, in the 1970’s. Modern bike designs have made the sport more accessible to more people, and the history of mountain biking certainly shows it is now even more popular than ever.
But although mountain biking is now enjoyed all over the world, it began life in California, America. A group of cycle enthusiasts decided to try out some downhill runs on bikes that would now seem antiquated to many of us. The dirt tracks were much the same as many mountain bike race courses today, but the bikes have changed considerably over the intervening years. Those races became famous, and before long similar races were taking place along tracks at locations in many different countries.
As new materials and ways of building bikes have come into existence, it has become easier to build a bike that is capable of withstanding everything a rough off-road terrain has to throw at it. Stronger lighter frames and better gears have made mountain biking easier for more people to attempt. The history of mountain biking shows that the earliest riders began to adapt their bikes to get the best from those downhill runs and routes, and so the mountain bikes that we know today began to evolve.
At the time, the only type of bicycle you could buy was intended to be ridden on the road. Although people did ride off the road it wasn’t popular enough to warrant a bike designed specifically for that use. But the bikers in California changed all that. The history of mountain biking began with them, and they began to rethink the way that bicycles were made to create a design that could handle all the obstacles and conditions the off road trails could throw at it. So the next time you grab hold of your mountain bike and go for a ride – perhaps across a muddy field, or down a steep slippery slope on those knobbly tires – you should think of the pioneers of the 1970’s.
Busy and Hectic Lifestyles led San Franciscans away from their country and into the Marin County which marked the origin of the sport of Mountain Biking. What started as a mere sport became a passion as the sport made a niche in history and even bikes were modified to suit the sport.
Mountain Biking used to be the passion of a selected few until it became widely accepted as a competitive and enjoyable sport. The reason for this change was due to three factors. These factors were the individuals who used the extreme sport of Mountain Biking to fulfill their passion, the location or geographic aspects and the construction of the Mountain bike.
The late 1960s marks the beginning of the history of Mountain Biking when San Franciscans getting tired of their extremely busy and frantic lifestyles moved away from San Francisco and into the Marin County. Life in the Marin County was less hectic and metropolitan thus bringing the much sought after tranquility that the San Franciscans were looking for.
The Marin County’s were famous for their mountainous terrain and San Franciscans who loved bicycling developed a passion for competitive bike races. Initially, it started as a 3-mile fire trail bike race in the city of Fairfax. The race included a downward slope extending over 1600 feet. This race gradually became a craze with bikers who wanted to break records and thus vehemently took part in the competition.
The race grew immensely popular because of its competitive and entertaining nature. However, racers were unable to comply with the Insurance requirements, and since the competition was highly risky and dangerous, the result was the cancellation of these races.
Location or Geography
Termination of these races did not affect its popularity, so much so that the biker community endeavored to establish the birthplace of modern-day mountain biking. Mount Tamalpais in California won this honor.
Initially, the only races held on Mount Tam would involve bicyclists racing down the mount and once down they would get their bicycles transported by various methods to the top of the Mount. Over the years, the races became more competitive and extreme, and bicyclists not only raced downhill on their bikes but also cycled back to the top of the mountain.
The transformation of the bicycles began at Mount Tam where they acquired their present-day appearance as well as the inclusion of the balloon tires. Safety emerged as the top priority, and as a result, the ordinary bike was modified keeping this aspect in mind. Thus the transformation of the mountain bike also made a place for itself in the history of Mountain Biking.
These modifications included the installation of light as well as strong breaking mechanisms like the cantilever breaks. The breaking device in ordinary bikes was not good for rough and dangerous terrains. The cantilever breaks served this purpose due to its light yet strong characteristic.
Another significant modification was the use of additional gears on the mountain bikes. Riders scaled mountain heights and precariously traveled across terrains, and these additional gears greatly benefited them.
The History Of Mountain Biking
There is a lot of history and information out there
in regards to the history and origins of mountain
biking, with some being recognized and some that
depends on who has the best firm of public relations.
Some say that mountain biking began with the Buffalo
Soldiers, which was a turn of the century infantry
who customized bikes to carry gear over the rough and
tough terrain. They began in August of 1896, over the course of 800 miles. Their mission was simple to test bikes for military use in the toughest of terrain.
Others say it was the Velo Cross Club of France
that started mountain biking. The club was comprised
of 20 young bikers from Paris, who between 1951 and
1956 developed a sport that resembles present-day
It could have also been John Finley Scott, who was
the first mountain biker in the U.S. In 1953 he
constructed what he called a “Woodsie Bike,” using
a diamond frame, balloon tires, flat handlebars,
and cantilever brakes. He was more than 20 years
ahead of his time. Even though he remained an off
road enthusiast, there were many at that time who
didn’t share that same passion.
Today, we believe that the history of the mountain
bike is most apparent in Northern California. There
are a few areas that claim to be the first community
for mountain biking, although every history
book will tell you Marin County.
The sport of mountain biking has taken many twists
and turns over the last several hundred years. Even
though many say different things about
the history and the beginning, we know one thing
for sure – one thing has led to another and the
sport of mountain biking was born.