Big balloon tyre bikes… not much changes then!

We couldn’t believe it either, but mountain biking is (semi) officially 40 years old today.

It was October 21 1976 when the first ever Repack Race happened, a neat point to officially declare the as the birth of mountain biking — so says the Marin Museum of Bicycling (MMB).

Incredible as it sounds, mountain biking has been going on for over five decades, after a dozen hippies in California started riding old coaster-brake bikes from the 1930s.

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The trailer from Klunkerz sums it up pretty well: “We were a group of stupid hippies turning the whole bike world on its ear,” Gary Fisher, the ‘hippie capitalist’ says.

What was Repack?

Repack was race series from the 70s, founded by Fred Wolf and Charlie Kelly, a time trial down a mountainous dirt road that plunged 1300ft in 2.1 miles.

Ten riders showed up to the race in Marin County, California, on bikes they called klunkerz. They had dodgy coaster brakes (they had to be repacked with grease after each run, hence the name), big balloon tyres and were modified with files and hammers in riders’ garages.

Those pioneers were nutters.


The first race was won by Alan Bonds, because he was the only rider not to crash, the MMB says.

After that the race became a magnet for riders from all around the Mt Tamalpais area, MMB says. So eager were they to compare handling skills on the treacherous course, the first nine Repack races were held on the average of one a week.

We got into the spirit of the Klunkerz a couple of years back too, see our £100 crap-bike-challenge.

The Repack series didn’t run for very long, in all there were 24 Repack Races and stopped in 1979, but it brought together the people who would grow the sport: frame builders, racers and bike nuts.

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By 1986 mountain bikes were outselling road bikes, according to the Klunkerz film, and big balloon tyres were everywhere. Funny how things come full circle isn’t it?