Revelations, realizations and random thoughts hit at the strangest of times in the oddest of places, like a windowless, non-descript meeting room in the bowels of the Sands Convention Center in Las Vegas.
Maybe the thought was lubricated by the pint of New Belgium Brewery brew in my hand that was quickly going to my head. Perhaps the notion was emphasized by the knowledge that above me on the floor of the Interbike tradeshow there was literally millions and millions and millions of dollars worth of bicycle merchandise.
The “ah-ha” moment could have been spurred by something Joe Breeze said in that gray little room during the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame induction ceremony Wednesday evening about how fat-tire cycling got rolling back in the day on Marin County’s Mt. Tamalpais.
After draining my gratis brew and looking around the room filled with beer-drinking, laughing, sun-worn, longtime cyclists and, literally, trail blazers, the random revelation revealed itself more clearly: At a tradeshow in Las Vegas full of people I have never met before, I had come full circle.
The randomness, however, wasn’t so random. It is Interbike, after all. I am the editor of Singletrack.com, a mountain biking web site, and I was covering the induction of French downhiller Anne-Caroline Chausson and some pioneers of the sport into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.
But it was the talk of the early days – of Tam and full-tilt, Vibram-sole-melting fireroad power slides – that put me in the way-back machine that, ultimately, lead me to my Interbike revelation. My epiphany sounded like so: “Damn you, Fisher!”
You see, my formative years were spent in Marin in the mid-1970s. Granted, I was probably 10 years younger than the original rippers in the Larkspur Canyon Gang (MTB Hall of Fame inductees 2009), but my older brothers were prototypical Marin stoners, therefore I wanted to be like them (or to be exact, we were Corte Madera delinquents from the wrong side of the tracks, as there was actually an abandoned line that paralled 101.) On one side the Larkspur, Greenbrae, Kentfield, Ross and San Anselmo kids, as well as those from over the hill in Mill Valley, got Mt. Tam, we got Richardson Bay and “The Ridge,” which I learned 25 years later is actually called Ring Mountain.
Suffice to say that when my dad brought home my first “real” bike in the back of our canary-yellow VW convertible, I was crushed. It was a friggin’ Huffy Rough Rider with a banana seat and wussy chainguard. Hell, it may have even had tassels on the grips.
It was then – and later to be repeated this week at Interbike, thanks to that damned Fisher – that I experienced my first near-debilitating case of bike lust. My cool older brothers scoffed at banana seats, building up their Stingrays with a saddle, Bendix hubs, knobbies and cross bars. From my perspective they were mini-Roger Decosters tearing it up on AJS four-strokes. I was the weenie on a Trail 70.
The seeds are sown
Around that time I remember watching even older, and therefore infinitely cooler, guys race bikes. These were not BMXers, but tricked-out “adult” bikes tearing around some open space off Paradise Drive. Although I can’t say for sure, but my guess is that some of those giants (in the eyes of a punk kid) were Breeze, Tom Ritchey and Fisher.
And as we all know, thanks to those guys and others, bikes became more bitchin’. Frame gussets, Ashtabula cranks (stamped, of course), freewheels and cro-mo Cook Bros. tubular forks were all part of the progression that includes Ritchey, Specialized, Breezer, that damned Fisher, and, well, my ass sitting in a conference room beneath Interbike and a worldwide industry.
As the editor of a two-month-old mountain-biking publication and my first time at Interbike, I’m like that kid in Marin 30 years gone envying the cherry bikes. But instead of yearning for what was then an unattainable, bomb-proof ballooned-tired bike ridden by the cool older guys, I’m lusting again after one of those same cool Marin guy’s equally unattainable bike — the sweet carbon Superfly 100.
Damn you, Fisher! And thanks for keeping it going.
Jamie Bate is the editor of Singletrack.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org