Riding Repack – A History Of Mountain Biking | GMBN Retro Week
Articles Blog

Riding Repack – A History Of Mountain Biking | GMBN Retro Week

October 22, 2019


(tv static) (electro music) (tv static) (rock music) (plane roaring) (air whoosh) – So, we’re here in Marin County just north of San Francisco. We’re going to meet a few
really interesting people and learn a lot about the
history of mountain biking. – Yeah, which of course mountain biking fundamentally started in Marin County way back in time. And we’re going to go and chat with three of those founding fathers. (pop music) – So, we’re now in Fairfax, which is home of the Museum of bicycling, but also for me it’s
a really famous place. It’s for Repack, the
original down hill track. – Yeah, but it’s kind of funny actually thinking of mountain biking, the original part of
it was downhill racing. – Yeah. – Technically, these guy’s pushing these old paperboy modified bikes up to the top of that mountain over there. – So, this is where it was invented but there’s some dispute of where people rode off road the first time.
– Sure. – (Neil) But, there’s no dispute this where people like Charlie Kelly, Joe Breeze, Gary Fisher. This is where the first bikes were made. – Yeah, and hopefully we’re going to see the very first bike released,
an iteration of that. – So, we drove around Marin, I call it Marin growing
up in the UK and the 90’s you see the bikes, but actually
it’s called Marin isn’t it? Of course.
– Marin County, yeah. – There’s loads of famous names from the bike company
like Palisades trail. – Bear Valley. – Muir Woods. – Yeah, They’re all here… – We recognize old names, – Yeah, it’s really cool to see. it’s almost the mecca of mountain biking. I’m going to take a look right. – [Neil] We’re 30 minutes
north of San Francisco, so it seems crazy to come
straight out of the city. You’re into this amazing landscape. Looks like some amazing trails
up in the woods as well. – Yeah, you can see why
it’s a lends itself so perfectly to mountain-biking. – It’s a little bit hippie. It’s kind of really affluent
around right here, but… – Very much so, yeah. – Loads of cool old camper vans, and stuff to drive
around, it’s a cool place. – A lot of those early
stories I heard where it was always an affluent place. – Yeah. – And it was almost frowned upon that these repack riders back in the day were doing something so against the grain in society. – There was loads of cool street art. I was in Fairfax when I saw that stuff. – Yeah, it was really cool. Loads of stuff detailing sort of the GPS coordinates of that original, right? I’m hoping we can go see that– – I really want to go. I used to race down hill as a pro. It’s like, this is where it all started, I’ve got to go and see it. I’d love to go and do a
flat down run down it. (mellow music) – So, it’s time for a history lesson. We’ve got a couple of
very important people to tell us all about mountain biking. – Somewhere we have always wanted to go. Let’s go check and it out. – [Doddy] Walking in, we were greeted by Charlie Kelly and given a tour of the fascinating bike history in the museum. Charlie Kelly’s a real character. Growing up in Marin County,
he was a keen cyclist, who helped organize the
Velo-Club Tamalpais. A roadie for the psychedelic rock band, The Grateful Dead,
organizer of Repack races and the co-founder of the
mountain bikes company, alongside Gary Fisher. – I was hanging out with
this Grateful Dead girl who said “Man, I know this
guy’s just like you… he’s this hippie bike fanatic, you know, and hangs out with the Grateful Dead. You’re the Sons of Chaplain roadie. You guys would just like
immediately be friends. And the day I saw him, he’s only the second guy I had ever seen on a soft tire bike. We introduced ourselves to each other and, you know, history and all that. But that’s how I met Gary. – [Doddy] Gary Fisher,
a fast young road racer, that was temporarily banned
for his hair being too long. He met Charlie through his shared love of the Grateful Dead. He was right there at the
start of mountain biking. In fact, he was considered, along with Charlie and Joe,
as one of the inventors of the modern mountain bike. – We’re riding down,
driving down the road, and here’s this kid hitchhiking and had a beard down to here, had hair down to here… We pick him up, you know? Slides in. And so we just became
friends from that moment on, you know, and of course,
as you can clearly see, we’ve been dear dear friends for 45 years. – Yeah. Joe Breeze, a bicycle frame builder that turned his hand
designing and building the very first all-new mountain bikes and amongst the fastest racers on Repack. – Gary and Joe are the two guys I’ve shared most of the adventure
in my life with, you know? There’s a bond there that
you just can’t duplicate. – [Doddy] Re-pack is the name of the race that took place in the
slopes of Mount Tamalpais, above the town of Fairfax. The down hill time trial
dropping 300 meters with an average grade of 14 degrees. The winners became legends around time. – The course was selected
for a number of factors. One… it’s here…right? Two, it’s really steep. It’s a super challenge. And third, when you’re
done you’re home, you know? The race really went on for about maybe three and a half years, the real heyday of that race. And by the end of that era, it was known to be the
best free show in Fairfax. – But this was a big deal, I’d walked through town and people would stagger out of the bars and say “You got to win next week Gary. My money’s on you.” You know, and all this stuff, and it was like people
would walk out there in the woods to see it, and when I go around… they go around looking for prizes. No problem. – Everybody knew when the race was and, in addition to all the participants, the girlfriends and the
wives and the friends; we’ll they’d hike into the bottom because that’s where most of the really hard turns were near the bottom anyway. Where all the photos were taken. Now, Joe was the immediate catalyst, but if it wasn’t him it was going to be somebody else because
the bike was going to evolve to deal with the environment and if the environment
is going really fast downhill on something rough, well you’re going to
come up with big tires. You’re going to come up
with a different geometry and Joe was the guy who did it. – Charlie Kelly, who
came to me, that one day and says “Hey, build me a new frame. I’m tired of busting these old frames.” And I’m looking at him like, “Well, aren’t we just having fun out here? You want me to get
serious about this now?” And so…. He says “Yeah.” And he starts waving about
$300 in front of me or so. And then I think well I could probably get tubing for 10 frames for that and that’s what I did. And I drew them up very carefully with a side view and a top view, make sure everything
was going to work out. This is the prototype. This Breezer… it’s the first time had a frame built specifically for what we’re doing, outfitted with all brand new parts. First shiny new mountain
bike, essentially. – The first few trips down it, we all were riding on coaster brakes. But, all the heat from that friction that you need to slow down all goes into something
the size of your fist, and that thing is just about white-hot because of the smoke just
pouring out of those hubs and the grease will be
running down the spokes there and if you let the thing cool off, it would just howl, you had to go home and
repack it with grease. Otherwise, it was howling and howling. – [Doddy] Legend says that this small group of riders actually
invented mountain biking. – We really changed people’s perception of what a bike is. I mean totally change their
perception of what a bicycle is and what it could do and everything. Once they try it, there’s no going back. – We didn’t invent the mountain bike. The bike is… Somebody invented the
bike a long time ago. What we invented, if anything,
was a new way to use a bike which is raced downhill on bad roads. But, I think… if anybody else had come up with the same idea of racing downhill; probably would have evolved similarly and we just happen to be the guys that live at the Waimea
Bay of mountain biking. – Sure. – You know, where those
guys sit on the beach and look at the wave every day. Every day all day. And and I say the guys who invented surfing didn’t drive to
the beach they lived there. You know? We live at the mountain biking beach. – [Doddy] Gary Fisher still holds the record time for Repack. Four minutes, 22″. Mountain biking eventually moved on and the local authorities made it more difficult to ride the trail. The last two Repack races in 1983 and 84 were a bit for old times sake. After the 1984 race, Marin County land and water managers made it clear that Repack,
the race, could be no more. There was little resistance. The races time had come and gone. But, could the time
theoretically be beaten? – It’s a good… I mean I did a good time on it, but it could be broken. There’s no doubt about it and somebody’s a faster
pedaler than I was. And the bikes are
certainly better, you know, then what we’re running. – Well it’s fascinating, oh man. – Go some good swaggers, oh. I’ll tell you what… I can’t believe I used
to ride that stuff… on those bikes, it’s ridiculous. – It’s only over there, Doddy. – I know, I haven’t got a bike, so… – I’ve got a good idea. Don’t worry. I’ve sorted us some bikes, just happened to pull straws and got us one. – Okay, I see where this is going. – This one isn’t even the shortest one. – Okay, pretty good condition that. Nice saddle, nice crispy orange chain,
wise control handlebars, stem like a tiller on a canal boat. Very good. – This is…. (car honks) (Doddy laughs) the very best beach cruiser. – [Doddy] There’s no brakes on that thing. – Coaster brake. – Ah. – It’s what the boys did back in the day, so if it’s good enough for
them, good enough for us. – Think most folks are bent as well. – Ha! I’m lucky. (laughs) – Well, at least my brakes
aren’t on the wrong way around. (heavy breathing) – [Cameraman] Why you
pushing your bike, Doddy? – It’s not optimum climbing
position kind of bike. I think you’ll find that the
guys at Repack back in the day used to push their bikes
all the way at the top until someone decided to put
twin chain rings on them. This has got one gear, so… think you’ll find I’m
exempt from climbing. But, it’s flat now. So I should probably go. – That’s it, we’re at Repack… Home of down hill mountain
bike racing for me. I’m so excited. – Slightly nervous. – I’m excited. (laughs) – All right. Laughing at bikes, but back in the day, their bikes probably weighed
as much as both of these. – Well (mumbles) – Well, original one was over 15, think. The Breezer a number one, well for them. This is not going to work like we thought. Well, not going to work
like he thought anyway. It might do for him, but I’m hoping he forgets his breaks in every way around, because that’s the only chance I’ll have. – [Cameraman] I think he’s changed them to the right way around. – Has he? Oh, damn. I’m genuinely concerned now. What you can’t see is there is
actually enough gradient here that as soon as you’re off
the brakes your in trouble and there aren’t any brakes except for the one that doesn’t do anything. (nervously laughs) Cool, at least I’m going to
look really good doing it. (tv beep) (rock music) (quirky flute music) (laughs) – I can’t even get my feet
in the right position. This is genuinely scary. It may not look at these
breakneck speeds, but… But, this is genuinely… (rock music) – [Man] What’d you think of that, Doddy? – It’s all right. – I do. Sorry you drew the short straw. And these corners have been a lot of fun, but I feel like I’ve got to go to the top. – Someone has to. – May never get a chance again. I’m going to push this
all the way to the top and do a full run of Repack. (murmurs) – Enjoy. (rock music) – So, while you’ve been up
there top of that mountain, I’ve been in here in Gestalt
Haus, local bikers pub, having a couple of beers. I’ve got to tell you I did
get a short straw there. – You did. – It wasn’t even
enjoyable, I’ve got to say. I have to come back another time. To be honest, it was hard
work on the bike I had, never mind yours. – How long did it take
you to get up there? – Took my about 40 minutes
to hike to the top. But, it was worth it. Views are amazing. It’s just really nice to be up there. Turned round, came back dying. I’ve got to say, it’s
pretty tamed by the trail, you know and a fire road, but once you come down hill fast. It’s blind roads and it’s
like a rollercoaster hallway; blind corners, fast, drifty. I loved it, it was amazing. They used to do it all on those bikes. That was incredible. They must have been fully– – So, they were fully tapped back then. – I’m impressed. – [Doddy] Wow, there you go. That’s pretty cool. Cheers. (oldies music) (tv static)

Only registered users can comment.

  1. I love biking and would love a bit of support growing my new channel for biking and a bit of gaming.

  2. It’s so weird I was born in fairfax and grew up there on rod my best friends was Gary fishers son so weird to see this

  3. Someone told me that TV 📺 was once in Black and white , incredible the fast moving technology of today great show guys

  4. Neil is such a dh lover from the old school himself. Awesome to see him get to rip down Repack like he wanted. #respect

  5. Great video, Doddy looks genuinely terrified there and I don’t blame him, would have been nice to see the boys do a run on a more modern bike though just for comparisons sake

  6. I'd like to see Neil take on Gary's record. I think he could do it pretty easily with a modern bike. Neil is a fast dude

  7. If people are interested in this they should see Klunkerz, awesome docu about this, check it out if u can!

  8. Hey guys thanks for visiting the bay area, a little gem we've got in annadel state park in Santa rosa. Used to be some amazing races there and the terrain is gnarly as all hell. You'll love it

  9. I was there last year and Fairfax is such a nice place to be. Joe and Charlie had lots of great stories to tell. One thing not mentioned in the video is the fact there is lots of great mountain biking to be done in and around Fairfax.

  10. To live close enough to Marin to ride these trails and get to know the history of them is awesome! Camp Tamarancho is another awesome place to ride right out of Fairfax, and I’m lucky enough to get to ride almost every day!!!

  11. Please tell us that you have longer versions of those interviews? Another great show from GMBN, thank you.

  12. I think it’s great to look back at the beginnings of MTB it gives you a real appreciation of how good we have it now with current equipment and doff of the cap to guys who got us here!

  13. This video brought back so many memories from my childhood. Always wanted to ride where the MTB was invented. Great video!

  14. During Mountain Mayhem quite a few years ago got to ride for about 5 mins with Gary Fisher. Everything you’d hope he’d be, super cool, totally chilled down to earth and friendly. And love of bikes and being with other riders just shone through. #legend. Ned Overend was there as well, but I couldn’t catch him up 😀

  15. Was lucky to have a guided tour around the Museum by Joe Breeze in 2016. What an absolute gent. I was in heaven for a couple of hours, grinning like an idiot.

  16. Gary fischer video and he's riding trek. Gary fischer gitchee gumee uncomfortable as satans cock and fast as satans cock

  17. "There are no brakes"
    Proceeds to lock up the rear wheel constantly…
    CLEARLY there are brakes on that damn thing! You just need to know where the limits are like they did back in the day.

  18. I've loved retro week. It's a great reminder of what you can do on an old mountain bike. Suspension is great and allows for riding some pretty gnarly terrain, but people have been having a fun shredding trails for 40+ years now on stout, rigid framed bikes.

  19. The unfortunate thing about riding in Marin is that due to politics 80% of the trails we can are fire road/ double track. It’s unfortunate that we are so restricted in the birthplace of one the greatest sports. And because of the lack of legal trails, poaching(riding illegal trails) is a popular choice for finding new trails to ride. So I guess our new generation has found a way to keep the rowdy sport alive.

  20. That is a steep ride and hike! I hope you guys took the opportunity to ride the trails a Camp Tamarancho.

  21. Man this one got me right in the feels. Took one of our best honeymoon pics right on Conzelman Drive there by the Golden Gate. Amazing vids recently guys. You’re really connecting with people. I live in Maryland but have loads of family in Sonoma County CA. Next time I’m out there I’ll stop by the museum for sure.

  22. There is another interesting bike history film called "The Bicycle Corps: America's Black Army On Wheels" here are the links on PBS and YouTube the you tube film only has the first half of the film but you will get the general idea,
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNnTSD219GA&t=1863s
    and this is the PBS full length but might be hard for you to view
    https://www.pbs.org/video/montanapbs-presents-bicycle-corps-americas-black-army-on-wheels/

  23. If anyone is interested, I made a video klunkin aint for sissies if you wanna see how you're supposed to ride a bike with a coaster brake;b

  24. This is where I first heard about repack and I highly reccommend watching it. "ride of my life"

    Yes it has Charlie Kelly and Joe Breeze actually riding down it. The wheel building scene is beautiful.

    https://youtu.be/leg9iYK-9E0?t=1756

  25. Fundamentally it started with me and my mates like others in the late 60s we took our old street bikes to the hills and blasted down it taking of everything that fell off 🤔

  26. All of a sudden , I want one of the special edition Greatful Dead Gary Fisher’s from the mid-90’s!!

  27. Excellent video.
    We had Schwinn "Stump Jumpers" in Santa Barbara County in the late 70's and early 80's
    in between surfing between Rincon Point to Jalama Beach park. Along with home made
    long board skate boards for Downhill & Slalom runs with comp wheels. Gary Fisher was a
    big time MTB maker even then.

  28. I hate shit like this. Proper "downhill mtb was invented on the northshore of bc. " those hippies were just riding bicycles down roads and walking paths lolololol. You Brits need to get your shit together and stop listening to crap Americans tell you. The first properly built "downhill tech trails started by guys in Deep Cove BC. These guys went to California and saw hippies riding crap trails and went home to bc and started to build REAL MTB TECH TRAILS THAT WE KNOW TODAY and suspensions. Fact! The first downhill mtb purposely built trail is in bc my friends. That's is where the scene really took off and bc made it into what it is today.
    Every tom dick and harry as a child went down hills on bikes in the 70s and 80s all over the world. To say people in California were the only humans going dow hills on bikes is RIDICULOUS! And unproven!!!.give me a fucking break

  29. This was awesome! Marin native here… born at Marin General, live currently in Mill Valley. It was SO cool seeing you guys came to our hood!

    Hey Neil… repeat after me, "Mah-rin."

  30. Didn't mention what time he got, must've been shit. Clearly they're not as good as they thought they were, need to listen to more grateful dead and grow more hair obviously.

  31. Fastest Strava times on Repack just barely beat the old race time record of 4 min 22 seconds. https://www.strava.com/segments/1129111

  32. Hmmmmm, No mention of BTU just across the Bay. Riding 26in. BMXer's Oak. Boss/Floval flyers/Little John/KOS cru./ Cooks/Champions/Lawell's 24/20'in. too. Down Side O' et al. RePack, Kamikaze…….. A Very Talented/Spirited/Impactful Group of Friends & Downhill Enthusiusts. One who should not be left out this Chapter of Off-Road/MTB Origins and Evolution. Berkeley Trailers Union, look them up.

  33. Let me just say: Geof Apps. David Wrath Sharman. It wasn't all about drypack downhill in the early days. Most people don't know the story of British offroad biking, which started around the same time.

    BTW I saw the Dead in Munich in 72 or 73m can't remember. That was a trip.

  34. Dude. You guys came to my home town of Fairfax. ??? Went to the coffee hut and Gestalt Haus. Shocked I didn’t see you. Hope you got a chance to ride some of our single track trails while you were here. There’s lots. 🍻🍻 cheers.

  35. Gary Fisher still claims to have invented the mountain bike. That's why he's a has been marketeer and Tom Ritchey is still in business.

  36. Here's a video project you GMBN can do. It's not Bay Area, but it is Northern California. Downieville Classic. You guys can do the race and film it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *