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History and Types of Mountain Bikes

Mountain biking is a relatively new phenomenon, dating back only several decades to the first appearances of mountain bikes and their predecessors. This was in 1970s America, in the mountains of California in Marin County; Mount Tamalpais in particular. However, the precursors for mountain biking go back at least several decades earlier.

Cyclo-cross is a form of bicycle racing where there are muddy tracks, hills and other obstacles. It is thought that this form of bicycle racing had some impact on the creation of mountain biking itself.

In France, in 1951 a group called the Velo Cross Club Parisian developed a bicycling sport that was similar to modern mountain biking. Just several years later, in 1955 in the UK, the Roughstuff Fellowship was a group of cyclists who focused on off-road and hard terrain biking.

History of Mountain Bikes

But truly, the sport began in the mid-1970s in California. Bikers, speedily racing down the mountain terrain of Mount Tamalpais, easily busted up their road bikes. The frames were too weak the brakes couldn’t maintain enough pressure and the shocks, wheels and handlebars were all wrong. The races they had down the mountains were called “repack races” because the bikers literally had to repack their brakes with grease after each and every race.

The bikers discovered though that old 1950s-era cruiser bikes made a much more suitable option. These bikes had wider, heavier and sturdier frames as well as thicker and more heavy duty tires.

Riders took off all the extra fenders and style accessories from the cruiser bikes and dubbed them “clunkers”. The clunkers were the first mountain bikes and were much more suited to rocky, bumpy mountain descent.

Soon the riders began to modify their clunkers further. Gears were added, enabling riders to go up mountains as well as down them. Motorcycle brakes were sometimes imported into the bike and other modifications were quickly evolving to better suit mountain biking, such as straight handlebars. It was in 1978 when the first, designed from manufacturer mountain bike hit the market.

The bikes they had to work with at the time were nothing special. They weren’t the sleek racing bikes because those bikes had narrow tires that had no traction in the dirt. They had to start with bikes with fat tires.

What racing bikes have that fat tired bikes didn’t have was a good range of gears. The first mountain bikes were hybrids. They took the derailleurs from the best racing bikes and added them to the clunky bikes they were using on the trails.

The upright handlebars of street bikes were no good for their new bikes. They started off by sticking straight steel bars on their bikes. Later, they added perpendicular pieces of steel to the ends, so they could pull back on the handlebars when they were climbing up steep hills.

When they had a pretty good idea of the basic design that worked, they started improving the designs and building bikes from scratch. They made the frames from the lightest possible materials and made further refinements to the frame designs. These sleek looking bikes caught the attention of people who saw them and pretty soon, they were building them for others.

Only years later did the big companies start making mountain bikes. The Schwinn mountain bike followed the earlier brands. As a result, those small manufacturers established names for themselves and were able to compete. Today, they still hold a large share of the MB market.

One thing that wasn’t cool looking about the early mountain bike riders was their choice of helmets. A black helmet designed for playing football in was both impractical and stupid looking. Helmet designers saw an opening and came up with great designs helmet made specifically for mountain bikes.

If anybody thought that the mountain bike was just a fad before, nobody does today. They continue to dominate the market and people ride them on the road even more than off the road. With all the improvements that the big parts manufacturers have come up with, you can now get a bike with 24 gears and disc brakes.

They may not have had the same impact on our lives as the personal computer, but MBs have a similar past. Both the PC and the mountain bike originated as a glimmer in the eyes of a handful of inventive and determined individuals. They both testify to what ingenuity and hard work can accomplish.

Types of Mountain Bikes

Mountain bikes today can be broken down into categories classes based on their suspensions. The first of these classes is fully rigid, which has a rigid fork, fixed rear with no suspension; to the hardtail which has a front fork and no rear suspension; to the soft tail which has a small degree of rear suspension; and finally to the dual (full) suspension which has a front suspension and rear suspension, as well as a rear shock and a pivoting rear wheel. Which style of suspension a biker chooses depends on skill, experience and comfort level.

There are also different mountain bike designs based upon the different races and styles of racing and activity that they would be used for. One of these is the cross country bike which is very light with little to no suspension, designed and used more for mountain climbing than racing a rocky downhill.

On the other side of the spectrum are the sturdy dirt jumping bikes which are meant to endure hard landings and all-mountain and freeride bikes which focus on durability.

There are still many other types of mountain bikes as well, all tweaked with different wheels, frames, suspensions and materials to give the biker the specifically tailored experience he is looking for.

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