Bike magazine a couple of days ago when I saw a photo caption identifying Gary Fisher's original clunker as “the bike that started it all.”
Now, I really hate to sound like a geezer but I do anyway, so I’ll carry on. Anybody who’s been a mountain biker for 15 to 20 years, like I have, has seen this sort of thing a hundred times. “The first mountain bike.” “The inventor of the mountain bike.” “The guy who ‘started it all.’”
These things are always attached to photos or stories about Tom Ritchey, Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, et. al. And it’s always bullshit. The caption in Bike magazine should be more along the lines of, “the bike first ridden by a guy who decided to sell a bunch of 'em by branding himself as the inventor of the mountain bike.”
No offense to all those guys and their marketing prowess, but they no more invented the mountain bike than George Foreman invented the grill.
The mountain bike wasn’t invented. It evolved. Sturdy, fat-tire bikes had been played with at different times in various parts of the world for decades before the Marin County crowd ever tried it. Some of the same magazines that often call those guys the “inventors” of mountain bikes should know better, because they have often published photos of 1940s- and 1950s-era bikes that could almost pass for one of today’s machines, especially now that so many masochists are eschewing derailleurs.
Those beer-fueled baby boomers in Northern California helped shape this sport by driving a major step in its evolution, but it would be a damned shame if their ad campaigns lead newcomers to believe those guys invented it.