Klunkerz Movie Review

Joe Breeze bombing down the famous Repack downhill course.

I like history, I like to know why things are like they are.  For instance, you go to Wal-Mart to buy a bike they all have fat aggressive knobby tires, wide handlebars, and some form of useless pretend suspension.  If you’ve ever wondered, where exactly did mountain bikes come from and how did they take over the bicycle industry then Klunkerz is a movie you need to see.

Klunkers is a low-budget flick that documents the early history of mountain biking.  It consists almost entirely of interviews with the pioneers of the sport.  The interviews are peppered with plenty of grainy late 70’s 8mm film footage, and some nice still photos as well.  The interviews feel natural and relaxed and offer an interesting glimpse into the character of these larger than life individuals.  The film ranges from the early 70s road bike scene to the mountain bike pioneers’ early rides on their cobbled together bikes as they slide down dirt and gravel roads at break neck speeds  Overall it was very pleasant to watch and a well made documentary.

One of John Finley Scott's early mountain bike designs.

The question of who “invented” the mountain bike is brought up all the time and after watching the film I couldn’t help but be amused from what I learned, it wasn’t one of the usual suspects: Joe Breeze, Gary Fisher, or Tom Ritchey.  The inventor of the mountain bike was John Finely Scott, who rigged up a fat tire singlespeed in 1953 to ride across the Sierra Nevada’s, he was so far ahead of his time that no one seemed to notice or care.  Scott was a fascinating man and a major contributor to cycling.

A better question might be who created the sport of mountain biking, in which case a study for the answer might point you to Charlie Kelly.  Charlie organized the first mountain bike race and published Fat Tire Flyer the first mountain bike magazine, and was one of the founders of NORBA.  Kelly maintain’s a website that is an excellent source of information and pictures from the early mountain bike scene.

The truth is that no one person or even group of people were responsible for the sport of mountain biking.  Klunkerz illustrates that the mountain bike grew from the cross-pollination of several groups and individuals all trying their best to make a bike work on off-road terrain. 

My only criticism of the film is that it focuses too much on the 70’s era and doesn’t offer any bridges to the current era of mountain biking, or the past history of off-road cycling.  The film does briefly mention that Gary Fisher did some cycle cross racing.  The world wide explosion of mountain biking is continually referenced in the film, and it would have been nice to see more about how these hippie pioneers became the foremost authorities on what was undoubtedly the fasted growing sport of the 80s and 90s. That aside this is the ultimate film on the dawn of mountain biking.


About Matt Gholson

Cycling, school teaching, husband.
This entry was posted in Mountain BIking, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Klunkerz Movie Review

  1. martinsj2 says:

    Very interesting and I loved the links. I learned a lot!

  2. Billy Savage says:

    Hey There,
    I’m glad you enjoyed the film. There is one point I’d like to make clear, I didn’t try to make the case that J.F. Scott ‘invented’ the mountain bike, only that he influenced the Marin pioneers. J.F. Scott was murdered shortly after that interview, so many questions will remain unanswered. I had the pleasure of induction Mr. Scott into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame posthumously. I made a short film for the occasion, which I’ll attach at the bottom. It’s broken into several sections. What we do know is that mountain biking was popularized by a group, not an individual. I chose to end the film, basically, with the introduction of Specialized’s StumpJumper because that was the end of the backyard engineering, and that’s what interested me. Thanks for the kind words. See you out on the trails.
    Ride on,
    Billy Savage


  3. Matt Gholson says:

    Mr. Savage,

    I am honored that you would take the time to comment on my review, I can’t hardly believe it. Thanks for making such a great film!

    I should say that the film never makes any claims about who invented the mountain bike, or the sport, it instead presents the facts in a objective maner. I just couldn’t help but be amused by the fact that so much debate goes into the question of who created the first “fat tire” off road bicycle, when J.F. Scott had one 20 years earlier.

    The film does an outstanding job of illustrating how the machine and sport evolved in a melting pot of differenent groups and individuals who all made contributions. I have revised my review in response to your clarification and made it more in line with the movie’s presentation of facts.

    Again, thank you.

  4. Matt Gholson says:


    Thanks for the comments, I wonder if I might be nudging you a bit towards looking into a mountain bike. It’s a good time if you have any trails near your home.

    • martinsj2 says:

      If I bought another bike, I’d be divorced! There are lots of mountain bike trails around me. Quantico Marine Corps Base is only 10 miles from my house and it hosts dozens of trails by itself. Prince William Forest Park is about five miles from my house and it has almost as many trails as Quantico. If I really got the urge, I’d take my Crosstrail (with its Armadillo tires) onto them. I rode a couple of miles on one of the Quantico trails – nothing serious; all of it level – and was midly amused. Still, I am a history buff and I enjoy stories like Mr. Scott’s.

  5. Repack Rider says:

    That’s a pretty serious accusation, if you ask me.

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