Who invented the mountain bike?

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Monday, May 19, 2008
By Yokota Fritz

In this video, Charles Leadbeater talks at conference on collaborative creativity, in which he uses the creation of the mountain bike. Mountain bikes did not come from a big bike corporation or from a lone tinkerer, but from a community of young enthusiasts who got together to ride their "klunkers" down the hills of Marin County in California.

Consumers created a whole new category of bikes because the mainstream bike industry was not motivated to innovate and invent something that is now 65% of the bike market.

Occasionally I'll see something truly interesting from the big bike and component companies, but usually innovation tends to be more evolutionary than revolutionary - more gears, new frame materials and geometries, lighter components and so forth, but a lot of this innovation seems to be driven more by increasing sales rather than creating something truly new, fun or useful.

Even among amatuer enthusiasts, a lot of innovation is rejected by the larger world of bike geeks because we're all so conservative. I'm a dyed in the wool jersey roadie, and I finally got around to trying a mountain bike for the first time three years ago. There's not a lot of cross fertilization between mountain bikers, road cyclists, and utility cyclists. My short time riding technical singletrack has improved my road and street cycling skills significantly, and I think we could see some interesting things come about if different disciplines got together.

Part of the reason I love going to events such as Maker Faire is because I can look over the fence and meet the people who don't know the rules and see what kind of crazy stuff they come up with. Twenty years ago I might have sneered because We Just Don't Do Things That Way, but today I try to be much more open minded and see the possibilities.

One of my favorite blogs is Bicycle Design because James tends to cover some of the far out and the impractical that design students create.

What do you think of the state of cycling? Do you see anything truly interesting and new in the near future?

Props to Paul in Denver for that interesting video.

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The US market is (finally) starting to address this area (due to high gas prices?), but until recently utility bikes in the US have been nearly non-existent. What I see many people buying (cross bikes, road bikes, mountain bikes), and what is best for them to commute on (touring bikes, city bikes, etc) is like the bike-equivalent of the SUV craze. Mind you, I ride and own all types of bikes, but there's something to be said for the right tool for the job, and if you can only own one, a touring bike is the most flexible IMHO, if not the sexiest thing in the world. But a dedicated touring bike is overkill for most. Luckily you're finally seeing options like the Jamis Commuter 3.0: relaxed geometry, internal hub, decent looks, and a weight that's not soul-crushing. When shops start to put people on what makes sense for them (instead of pushing the "Lance" image), or gas prices hit $10 a gallon, maybe we'll see a greater exploration of cycling categories here in the US (bakfiets, for example). But even Lance is getting in on the game (Mellow Johnny's), so there's hope yet.
I recently built up a Cyclocross bike (Surly Cross Check) and started hitting the trails. I realized on my first off-road excursion that I was getting a little rusty with my trail handling abilities. I'm sure part of it was the last time I was off-road I had 4 inches of travel. On my next road ride I could really tell the difference in my handling abilities.

Incidentally, I'm now using the same bike for all my road rides (with road tires of course) because the handling and ride is truly amazing. This bike is the first bike I feel like I could ride all day long with no EXTRA pain.

I agree with dolan, if I had to choose only one bike it would probably be a touring bike or cyclocross bike (which are very similar). It seems like the performance of a road racing bike is overkill for most people on them. I will admit the dream of having a top of the line Pinarello Prince haunts me from time to time.
Innovation? How about the NuVinci hub? Not a new concept, as there have been inventors trying to do this for over 100 years (no lie), but hte first truly successful version. For the American market, the sudden influx of bakfietsen and european city bikes is definitely a breath of fresh air, too. Val
Innovation? How about the NuVinci hub? Not a new concept, as there have been inventors trying to do this for over 100 years (no lie), but hte first truly successful version. For the American market, the sudden influx of bakfietsen and european city bikes is definitely a breath of fresh air, too. Val
Yeah, a Cross-check is a pretty solid do-it-all.

As a Rohloff owner, the NuVinci is definitely interesting. I'd love to see it under 7 lbs, however. I'm not generally a weight weenie (my commuter is nearly 30 lbs and has a full dynohub setup), but a 7 lb hub is gonna be a killer, no matter how clever of an idea it is.
I think the recent trend of (really nice) dedicated commuter bikes will run into the lack of safe and/or secure bike parking.

I love the pretty commuter bikes like the Soulville and the Casseroll, but I can't imagine depending on one for transportation, since every time I locked mine up I'd be terrified of it being stolen.

Maybe it's just a big-city problem, but here it's a pretty big deal.
@sasha I feel the same way. I want to ride my bike everywhere but my biggest fear is coming back to a broken lock and a missing bike.
Bike Trees for everyone! :)
...good point, sasha...& thats why it's time for companies to start taking cycle commuting seriously...
...a secure site to park bikes needs to be factored into infrastructure so that any person willing to help w/ solutions to our present problems can feel protected w/ their choice of transportation...
...d'ya think you could just drive out of some office building parking lot in a stolen car ???...not likely & that's why they have actual personal to deal w/ that kinda thing...work in the same building & ride a bike & you're lucky not to leave it outside or only marginally protected...
...usually a double standard, even by companies who profess to care...
...fritz's company seems to allow riders to bring bikes up near the offices themselves & i say "bravo"...
Yahoo! provides bike lockers to people who ride more then 3 times a week. They also have bike lockers which you can use your own lock at both the Sunnyvale and Mission college campuses. Before I had my locker I brought it up to my cube.
Actually, I have secure bike parking at my job. To and from work is easy. It's when I want to stop and grab groceries on the way home, or go swimming, or have a drink with a friend or any of the other errands one needs to do on the way home.

I ride one of my "good" (which is to say, worth more than the lock I use to secure them) bikes to work fairly often. But when I do, I can't grab a quart of milk on the way home, or run to the bank at lunch. Ironically, riding a nice bike to work becomes a limiting experience, rather than the liberating one that even an hour's ride on a nice bike can be.

Interestingly, there are a few bars in San Francisco that provide safe indoor bike parking for customers, but almost no other businesses.

Employers are starting to recognize (if not meet) the expectation that they provide bike parking to their employees, but businesses generally feel like an unsupervised U rack on the sidewalk's enough for customers. That's something that'll have to change, I think.
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