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.
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.