How Mountain Biking History Evolved

Today, mountain biking is common everywhere. Seeing cyclists on the weekend challenging themselves on new trails is no news. What might surprise you is that mountain biking history is rather recent. Learn more about how this exciting sport evolved into what we know today!

Mountain biking only dates back a few decades. It began as a recognized sport around the 1970s. But even then, mountain bikes were nothing more than modified street bikes. The truth is bikes as we know them today were only a dream at the time.

The sport quickly gained traction, with astonishing results. Mountain Biking today boasts unprecedented features and comfort. All of this, thanks to the development through mountain biking history.

It is worth remembering how the discipline has evolved. With these mountain biking facts we collected, you won’t take your bike for granted anymore.

mountain biking history
Mount Tamalpais

Who Invented Mountain Biking?

We can place the beginning of mountain biking history in California. Back to the 1970s. Many hardcore bikers used to go to Mount Tamalpais. The riders used old bikes modified for racing and raced back down the mountain. It is not an exaggeration to say that the slopes were challenging.

Despite the potential danger, riders enjoyed speeding down through obstacles. Safety was not an issue at the time. Mountain biking clothing or protective gear like the Fox Racing Chest Guard didn’t exist. Most riders used denim to reduce the abrasions caused by a possible fall.

Even with minimum protection, they all raced down at maximum speed trying to survive without major accidents. That was the beginning of mountain biking as we know it today. It didn’t take long for these to become popular.

All the races were rather informal. All changed when a rider, Charlie Kelly, decided to start an official event. Aware of the popularity of the sport, he thought an event was a perfect way to celebrate it. It also could attract even more people to join mountain biking.

The name of the event, “Repack”, was alluding to the fact that riders had to repack the brakes at the end of the race. That was because many racers finished the race with burned brakes as a result of racing down.

That should tell you how challenging the steep slopes of the mountain were. The official race created the opportunity for a hobby to becoming a recognized sport.

When was the First Mountain Bike Race?

It was for the sake of the race that Kelly sparked the creation of the first mountain bike. It was his need that changed the direction of mountain biking history for good.

This all happened towards the end of the 1970s. Charlie Kelly wanted a good bike for the race. He realized that the bikes they were using to race down the mountain could not last the strain posed by the trail. The terrain was rocky and sloppy and most bikes had to get repaired after a few rides.

Mountain biking history took a new course when Kelly contacted his friend, Joe Breeze. He asked him to design a bike that could stand the strain. Breeze accepted and created the first frame on top of an old Schwinn Bike.

He wanted to make his bikes tougher and lighter than the others. The idea was to make bikes that could go down Mount Tam without putting too much physical strain on the riders or breaking. To accomplish this, he made several modifications.

Firstly he used steel alloy tubing to make the bikes lighter. Also, he ran the lateral tubes diagonally to the frame, something that had never been done before.

The idea was that using a diagonal tube would allow the bike to better stand the impact downhill at high speed. What Joe Breeze didn’t know was that the tube also served to brand the bike. With its new tube, the bikes stood out from all the others.

He made 9 versions of the first bike and called it the Breezer. Needless to say, his Breeze (which he rode) won the race. The bike designed by Joe Breeze was responsive and tougher than any other in the race.

mountain biking history

In the 1970s mountain biking was a niche hobby. But not long after the race, it became a popular sport for many. What made mountain biking history take off was a TV show.

It featured the Repack race and starred both Kelly and Breeze. The show helped improve the image of mountain biking. The picture was of an exciting, dangerous, and fun sport, which attracted adventure seekers.

Mountain biking history would not have been the same without the Japanese company Kuwahara. With the rise of mountain biking, Kuwahara, a Japanese manufacturing company, also rose. It all started when they began to export mountain bikes to the US, which made the sport even more accessible.

Surprisingly, it was E.T., the movie directed by Stephen Spielberg that contributed to the popularity. The movie, in fact, features several Kuwahara BMX bikes. For much of the world, but for Europe, in particular, it was the first time they saw a BMX bike. The Japanese then released a successful special ET BMX bike edition.

Kuwahara’s bikes were chosen for several championships and events but became also popular among people choosing to go mountain biking as a hobby. For this reason, the Japanese company plays an important role in the history of the sport and on the popular culture around mountain biking.

mountain biking history


Mountain Biking is a recent sport with many passionate followers. Its history has rapidly evolved. Today there are several categories and specialties, making mountain biking even more complex. Under the umbrella of mountain biking, we now include several disciplines.

Trail biking, downhill, Enduro, and XC, all contribute to making the sport even more attractive and fun. Mountain biking is also known for being rather competitive and with reasons.

Nowadays, we count on several events and championships around the world for professional riders or beginners. Needless to say that the sport changed a lot from its early beginnings on Mount Tam.

Today, bikes come with many styles and designs depending on the discipline. Most importantly, safety today is much better than it was before.

Mountain biking is becoming popular and its popularity is growing: what are you waiting for? Jump on your bike and be part of mountain biking history!

Below is a Pinterest friendly photo… so you can pin it to your Mountain Bike Board!