Wende Cragg has been a part of mountain biking since the beginning of the sport in California in the 1970s, racing and photographing the early Repack races down Mt. Tam. She was inducted into the mountain bike hall of fame in 1989 and curates the Rolling Dinosaur Archive which chronicles the birth of mountain biking.
- Tell us a bit about your introduction to mountain biking. Was it love at first ride?
- Which aspects of riding a bicycle off road were most appealing to you? How would you describe the feeling of those first rides?
- What was your motivation for taking photographs in the early days of mountain biking?
- What was it like connecting with riders in Crested Butte who were sorta discovering mountain biking in parallel with you and your friends in the Bay Area?
- How was their idea of mountain biking different from the one being developed in California?
- Were you surprised to see mountain bikers banned from riding on Mt. Tam in the early 80s? How did you react?
- Did you get frustrated with the early bikes?
- Do you think today’s mountain bikes make the sport more appealing or accessible?
- How do electric mountain bikes fit in?
- What do you hope people get out of seeing and experiencing the Rolling Dinosaur Archive?
- With so many styles of riding within mountain biking today, which intepretation do you think gets closest to that original ethos?
Check the links below for interviews with more mountain bike pioneers including Joe Breeze, Gary Fisher, Charlie Kelly, and Tom Ritchie.
A full, automatically-generated transcript of this podcast conversation is available to Singletracks supporters.
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Hey everybody, welcome to the Singletracks podcast. My name is Jeff and today my guest is Wende Cragg. Wende has been part of mountain biking since the beginning of the sport in California in the 1970s, racing and photographing the early repack, races down Mount Tam. She was inducted into the mountain bike Hall of Fame in 1989 and curates the Rolling Dinosaur Archive which chronicles the birth of mountain biking. Thanks for joining me, Wende.
I’m honored to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me.
Well, tell us a bit about your introduction to mountain biking Was it love at first ride when you went out?
Quite the contrary. I was coaxed unwillingly into mountain biking and it wasn’t even called Mountain Biking then it was called clunking. So that kind of gives you an idea of our primitive machines. My first bike weighed, my first bike weighed 56 pounds, it had five gears, oh my goodness, drum brakes. It was state of the art for what it was. And my first ride was not the most pleasant in the world.
It was it was in the middle of a hot August afternoon. And the first section was a single track that was so scary. I tried to ride it. And I was just terrified that I was going to fall off. The second half of the ride was on the on a fire road that was just like being on a broiler pan of a scorching hot oh man. And I think my my total mileage for that first ride was two miles, and I swore I’d never ride again. I just I hated it. Oh, wow.
And unfortunately, or fortunately, I lived next door to Fred Wolf, who was good friends with Charlie Kelly. He was good friends with Gary Fisher. So there was this whole network of mountain bikers that were coming in and out of reds house constantly. And it was pretty much bread that coax me back on to the bike. And we shared a love of wildflowers. And we live right next to open space. So I could literally walk, walk or ride right out my front door. And within two or three minutes, I’d be to be in open space.
So Fred, being the naturalist that he was, he knew where all the wildflowers were out there. So he convinced me that it would be so much faster getting out to that particular spot on a mountain bike. So let’s just try it. Let’s try it, you know, and he was so patient with me. And so we’re all these other guys that were mentors and coaches. They were just, they were like brothers, you know, they included me in all their group rides. They made me feel like a sister, and they never demean me in any way. They just wanted me to be inclusive in the group in honestly, Gary Fisher coached me in several mountain biking venues, cyclocross road racing, so it was a crossover, they were all pretty much into cycling to begin with. So they had that history. I had no history of cycling, I was a real newbie.
Not only was I a newbie, to cycling, but you know, this mountain bike thing was a brand new experience for all of us. So we kind of experienced it together. And after a little more than a year, I decided to get a camera to record the wildflowers. And before I knew it, the camera got pointed got focused towards the people I was riding with. And that included a huge, diverse group of people. I just, you know, it turned out it was all those guys that were doing the technological advancement of the sport for its time. They were making great strides and just they created this. This counterculture, you know, that became the mountain bike. It wasn’t even like I said, it wasn’t even called the mountain bike back then. So it was definitely an evolution it was it was kind of like an evolution of man and oh, hey, you know, it was like we’re all hunched over riding these you know, pushing these gigantic machines uphill. You couldn’t really ride the bikes back then. I mean, five speeds barely got Yeah, you know, we, we grunt and push and just do what it it took to get to the top of these climbs.
And then we get to the top of each climbs and we’d have this great party to celebration, you know, it was a it was a group effort that we all celebrated that was and then of course, the ride down, you know, it was a thrill in itself. But for me, it was always that group effort and getting to the top and feeling almost like you’d conquered Mount Everest, you know, because it really was, a lot of times we’d be out there all day, you know, just focusing on the next adventure, you know, what road what fork in this road? Are we going to take? You know, what is this? Because we had no GPS, we had no cell phones, you know, we just went by instinct, you know, are we going north, south east, west or whatever, let’s, you know, venture off this trail and try this. And so it was all an experiment. For us. It was just a gigantic counterculture experiment.
So yeah, we had a great, great time and, and in reflecting, it even occurs to me more and more as we get nearer, whatever is going to be the 50th anniversary, I’m not exactly sure when that’s going to be celebrated. Because no one has a timeline to show. This is the exact moment that the bike was created, because it was such a Genesis, you know, like an organic soup. Then, fortunately, we had this Marin County is such a hot spot of creative minds, idealists, visionaries. And together it just kind of formulated and just became what it is. And it kind of blows my mind, you know, to think, to step back, and realize that I was part of that in some way. And I used to say, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, because I really, I never wanted that kind of attention.
But realizing what those photographs chronicle is astounding to me, because I captured not just the people and the places, but this feeling. I was able to just capture that childlike innocence that we were able to, we had no restrictions at all, we had the whole place to ourselves, and no one knew what a mountain bike was, you know, there were maybe collectively a couple dozen in Marin County, you know, throughout the whole county. So there were little nucleus nucleuses of writers in Larkspur and Ross in that area and then others in Tiburon and Mill Valley, so it was spread all over the county.
But we really didn’t know much about where, you know, the others were or what they were doing until we pack. And I think I heard Charlie, you say that was repack that really gelled, the community, the little mountain biking community, the clunker community together. And we quickly realized that we were not the only people doing this, you know, what they were taught, you know, we’re they were doing basically what we were doing. So it was it was an eye opener, definitely. And then especially when we went to Colorado, you know, and as we branched out, we learn more and more that, boy, this is this is something that could eventually catch on. Of course, none of us realized how much it was going to catch on or that it would even be of the international scope that it is today. I just, it’s a jaw dropper, you know, you know, because like Charlie said, it was kind of formulated right here in Marin County. It’s probably been happening. Well, it has been happening because people always rode on the dirt because there was no pavement back in the day.
But to see that it actually was something that caught on like it did it really caught fire here in Marin County. And most people were riding what I probably would describe as woodsy bikes, which are the appropriate term but but the mountain life specifically was what we needed to conquer our mountains because we had some killer climbs, you know, and we were just hippies when we’re, you know, going out and wanted to explore nature and, you know, and fire up the bong and throw out a little frisbee and we always had dogs with us, you know, we always we always looking at like, this giant playground and amusement park for mountain bikers. And we truly had it all to ourselves.
Yeah, that’s, that’s so cool to imagine. And, you know, you mentioned those photographs that you took, and you know, I mean, now those are iconic pieces of mountain bike history. I mean, that’s, that’s how we can kind of imagine what it was like back then. Your time between those photos, did you just imagine those were like, you know, for you personally, maybe you share them with friends? Or did you think maybe there would be a wider audience or interest in it eventually?
It never occurred to me that there might be this kind of attraction and excitement about this. I was definitely taking them from my own personal use, and just as a little memento, you know, to have for myself and repack kind of cemented the whole photograph, photography thing for me, because it became a weekly event. And people clamored to have their picture taken. So we became kind of a popular, yeah, audit team, you know?
Did you I mean, did you think of yourself as like a journalist at any point where where did you finally kind of flipped the switch and say, Hold on, like, this is getting pretty big, and I want to document it? Or was it always just just kind of for your own personal gratification?
It was pretty much just sheer among our small group, you know, it never occurred to me that one day this might really take off and a beat, you know, might be of some historical value. It never once occurred to me. Yeah. But as, as I look back, it’s like looking through a fisheye lens, and seeing Wow, not only were these photos significant, but some of the people that are caught on film, that are no longer with us, you know, that’s a real valuable asset to me to have that. Because they contributed so much to our sport. And they, a lot of times, they weren’t given the credit where credit was due. So I’m glad that I got those people on film to show that they really were there.
Right. Yeah. Well, yeah. I mean, it’s so cool to me that we’re at a point in our sport, where we can still talk to a lot of the people who were there and you know, we have these color photographs and everything. I mean, it really is. It’s pretty amazing for mountain biking as a sport to have that.
Well, you know, I’m living in Marin County. We have the bike museum here. And like I said, I visited yesterday, but we also have a lot of these pioneers that live within five miles. I’m talking Charlie Cunningham and Charlie Kelly and Joe breeze and Jackie Phelan and Otis guy, and just scads of people. So my, my goal in the very near future is to have is to coordinate with the bike Museum and do something called a speaker series, called chewing the fat. Oh, cool. And getting all these old diehards together just for a couple of series of just recollecting and remembering what it was like and telling their stories and telling their reason for staying with the sport. There’s a lot of them that are still writing today. And they’re still involved deeply involved, you know, either with education or just nonprofit, they’re just doing their share. They carried on that love that passion like Charlie Kelly, or Joe breeze, and I witnessed and all these people are doing this volunteer stuff to educate the public about what it was like, and it just didn’t evolve from nothing. You know, there was a lot of work involved. And it should be known that these people, you know, they’re still, not only are they still here, but they’re still just kicking in rolling on and doing what they would always do. And so yeah, it’s encouraging.
For sure. Yeah, it’s a lifelong sport and one that you know, yeah, people don’t get tired of it. They want to keep doing it.
So life changing, you know, I was trying to put out actual word and agitative on that feeling that you get, not necessarily I would almost call that a rapture. Oh, yeah. You know, you get caught up in this feeling that you can’t really describe, it’s almost like a it’s a spiritual kind of feeling when you when everything coincides. And say your, your writing just with your, the cadence of your pedaling, and your heartbeat, just kind of rhythmic in almost like a dance. And you’re out in this amazing, beautiful wilderness area and you’re hearing the birds and the wind and the wildflowers and the grass and the trees and it is a spiritual experience and I think a lot of that kind of got lost in the the quest for the downs. Part of it. So my goal really is to provide a little insight into what it was like on the softer side, because a lot of us really were into that Mother Nature part, you know, and just for the joy of writing and and although the downhill was definitely part of it, it was also that community spirit too, and just enjoying it and sharing it together with other people. Of course, I always like to ride by myself to for that solitary kind of inward reflection that you get. But, but what a joy it was to ride with people that were like minded and just even for the that that primal pain that we got from pushing up hill, you know, is still a reward to get it was a reward that adrenaline rush was, you could cut it with a knife, you know, and the joy that we felt when we got to the top.
Yeah, yeah, that’s a great description and such a great perspective. I read that you were the first woman to ride the pearl pass route between Crested Butte and Aspen. And you kind of have mentioned this earlier. But what was it like connecting with other groups of riders who are sort of discovering this idea of mountain biking in parallel with with you and the folks in the Bay Area? Well,
we’d read about the Crested Butte, folks, and we didn’t really know it takes us back we thought we’re gonna find some hardcore, dedicated riders, you know, and instead, we found Well, the first trip out there was kind of comical, because like I said, we thought we were in for a fight, when we thought we’re going to be showing our stuff then. And instead we we just kind of fell in with this group of when they were laid back town. Geez, you know, they were they were hard drinkers. And they would have been more probably more appropriate on motorcycle going over. They’re interested in Prakash. Yeah, they were obviously passionate about mountain biking, small group, you know, maybe eight to 10 of these guys. That’s that’s what they were into. They were x forest fire fighters in forest fire. Oh, fighter. So they already had knowledge of the outdoors in the high country and stuff. So yeah. But when we when we encountered them, we thought in a way that this has got to be a joke. And they were so impressed with us. When he became instant stars to instant we drove into town. It was like, We got interviewed on the radio within an hour, and we were on the front cover of the newspaper. The next day is like, Oh, they thought we were the hot stuff.
Wow. Why did they have that impression? I mean, they had heard about you through various media, or was it like the bikes you brought? Or what was it that impressed them?
It was everything that bikes we brought our, our will, obviously to show up. To drive that distance, you know, that was we had to rent a car. It’s just the three of us. And then we met Gary Fisher at the airport. And it was, you know, the California contingent was a strong one, you know, there were, there were some hardcore, you know, of the four or five Ms. There were some hardcore writers then, it was kind of funny, because I think it was the first or second time we did Pearl pass. And the night before the tour, Joe and Charlie and I think uri Was there. We’re cruising around on our bikes through town. And there were a couple of guys from Texas. And they’d heard about the tour. And they saw me, and they quickly assumed that I wasn’t going to be writing it. So they they were a little buzzed. I think they were drunk. I’m sure they returned, but one of them insisted that he was going to rent my bike and do it himself. Because there was no way in hell that I was going to ride that if anything, I might have made it to the Cumberland pass and you know, the the base camp, maybe. But But I think that those guys were sort of impressed that I had made that sense because it was not easy. It was not easy at all. Surely no error up there. Yeah. He was impressive. Those
Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, what did you think when when that guy was saying those things that make you angry or, or did you just kind of brush it off?
Oh, no, we just laughed. We’ve totally laughed it off. But that was The truth is, the more I laughed at him, the more insistent he became. And I think he wanted, he was losing face in front of his other drunk friends. And so he got more a little more insistent, and a little. A little more, maybe disrespectful. But I think it was all in jest too. So I laughed it off. I, I knew there was no way in hell, I wasn’t gonna ride. So that didn’t really affect me. So well.
Yeah, I mean, you mentioned those early rides, and a lot of the guys really encouraging you to come out. And it seems like you know, here you are 40 years later, and a lot of people are still trying to make mountain biking feel inclusive for everyone to join in. But, you know, there’s challenges to that. So why do you think that is still such a challenge and a thing that that we really have to work out?
Well, to be honest, I’m seeing more and more hardcore women getting into it. And I mean, hardcore, like Red Bull type hardcore and
right, yeah, the Red Bull formation, right? I am
astounded, and I am so encouraged and impressed, and really just blown away. And I get a little wistful, I feel almost like, wow, look what happened. You know, this is astounding to me that, that women are taking that pedal power and just really moving forward with it and calling it their own. They’ve, they’re like grouping up and you know, just so I was shocked, yeah, in a way, but totally impressed. Only impressed. We had Jackie Phelan, she didn’t come on board until 1980. But when she came on board, it was like, Well, we were all in the middle of the appetite seminar at the time that she showed up. And she’d already written her. I think it was a three speed women’s bike from the city, which was already 20 miles up to the top, and then joined us, we thought we were seeing a unicorn. It was so astounding to us that and then she continued on the ride. And it was almost like, no one wanted to acknowledge her, because we weren’t really sure that we are seeing what we were seeing. And to this day, it still shocked me that she did that. Yeah. And from that day on, you know, a lot. A lot of the guys that just not they would not even give her credit, you know, because she was a woman, I guess. But she knocked the socks off those guys. She She proved her mettle within the first week, honestly. Wow. So that was I thought, wow, finally, because I could never have done that. You know, I could never have conquered. You know, those guys. And she definitely did. So. Wow. More power to her. Yeah, maybe
they were just a little embarrassed or Yes. Shocked. At the very least it sounds like well, they
were very, they were very competitive among each other. So then this woman shows up and she takes them on and away and they didn’t know how to respond. You know? You’re so shocked by it. Yeah, she was just a fine example of the power that women have on on a bike. You know, she she just put them in her put in their place immediately.
Well, yeah. And then obviously, you and Jackie and many others laid the groundwork for you know, these amazing athletes like K coordinate from Marin County. Yes. Today. Yeah. Yeah. Hey, cool. So, yeah. So you also mentioned in those early days, just the freedom to ride bikes pretty much anywhere around Mount Tam and the area. Really surprised to see mountain bikers eventually get banned from riding on mountain in the early 80s?
Well, to be honest, there were two schools of thought. One was we wanted to share this among our friends, you know, whoever was willing to come on board. We were willing to share but at the same time, Oh, this guy was always saying don’t tell too many people. Yeah, because you’re gonna we’re gonna ruin it. And there was a fine line. It was like a razor’s edge of how do you share this but at the same time, keep it somewhat private? Because for maybe the first five years, we had the freedom and total access for every single track, every fire road, everything in Marin County and beyond. And then eventually, the law caught up to us. You know, we mostly had run ends with equestrians are the Sierra Club. They were our two main foes. And their point of view was that it was a motor powered, you know, vehicle accessing where we shouldn’t be. And so we had to start fighting, you know, the water district and mount tam watershed and just all these areas became so political after a while and, you know, going into the 80s. And like I said, the more people that came on board, the more political it got, because we had these groups fighting among themselves. And it was like a boy took all the air out of tires, you know?
Yeah. I’m sure that was that was frustrating, especially because, yeah, you had been able to do exactly what you wanted to before that, and yep. Yeah, it seems it seems strange. So tell us a bit about those early mountain bikes. You mentioned, the first bike you rode was 56 pounds.
We do six rounds. Yeah, it was an old JC Higgins frame. And I think I probably wrote it for the first six months. And then I upgraded to an 1848, Schwinn Excelsior and my birth year, so I was really excited about that. Except it got ripped off within a month or so. From Charlie Kelly’s front porch, and I was really upset about that. Oh, my goodness, my third, my third. But my third bike was a custom 1938 Schwinn world that Alan Bond’s painted for me, he was the master. He was the fine craftsman, you know, airbrush, and he just had that master. He’s such an artisan, and I was just, oh, I was over the moon with that bike. And I rode that until I was one of the fortunate ones who got one of the custom Breezers that 10 originals. So I got my custom Breezer. And from then on I that was my bike. You know, I just I rode that bike, even though it was at least a size and a half, two sizes too big for me. I wrote it over 50,000 miles. So just put on, you know, wow, yeah. Nothing stopped me as long as the wheels runner. I tell people, because I never, I never really paid much attention to the mechanics of the bike, which is a bad idea. I should have learned, you know, how the the drive mechanism works and all that that drive train. And you know, I’d go out on these rides by myself and I keep both fingers crossed, because I was afraid if anything happens. I don’t have a cell phone, I don’t have any of the wherewithal to, you know, I could change a flat and that was it. But if my chain broke or something, or if I had gearing problems, I was screwed. So like I said, I always rode with both fingers crossed. And you know, if I only with if only when I was by myself otherwise, I was pretty much assured that one of those guys knew how to he had a chain. Whatever. So
Unknown Speaker 28:19
yeah, actually ranch had the tools and the skills. Yeah, the skills. Exactly.
Yeah. Well, was that Breezer bike that you bought that you put 50,000 miles on? Was it expensive at the time? Like was that a big investment?
Yes. $750, which was a lot of money. My ex husband and I both got one. And I heard Charlie saying that he had number two, I’m not sure. I think I had number six. Okay, possibly. It could have been a little further down the line though. But all the guys that those bikes went to, they fit them perfectly, you know, because they were big guys. And here I was this little, you know, five foot 456 or whatever I am. And it was way oversized for me, but it didn’t stop me. Yeah, yeah. And I love that bike. I don’t even know where that bike is now.
Oh, no. Oh, hopefully it survived. Why it did survive.
It’s it might be touring in some international bike show or something. You know, I have to ask. I’ve should ask Joe where that bike went? Because, you know, the the I think the proto bike is in the Smithsonian, I believe. Oh, wow.
Wow, what an honor. I
think it is. I think it is. Yeah.
Do you think that today’s mountain bikes make the sport more appealing or accessible for people than than some of those early bikes?
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. It was. It was almost impossible to get a woman on board back in the day. I was the only woman for the first three or four years and As as hard as we tried, we couldn’t really get it to stick with any woman, she just would fall off. And, you know, of course, if we didn’t make it easier, you know on on them by starting them out on the easier. We only started you know, like, Let’s ride up Mount tam for your first ride. No.
There were no shuttles. I mean, I guess you couldn’t like drive to the top and let somebody just coast down? No, no.
Well, we did that in the beginning. We didn’t have that luxury in the beginning. But then, eventually, at least for me, it was more of the reward to get there yourself. You know, you valued the experience a lot more if you had to suffer for it. I thought suffering was part of the whole plan. So yeah, a little suffering 50% suffering 50%. Pleasure. So yeah, it was it was a mixed bag.
It’s a good mix. Well, that leads me to my next question, which is, what do you think of electric bikes? I mean, obviously, that’s meant to eliminate some of that suffering. You think you think that’s a good innovation? Or is that not really necessary?
Well, I’m kind of on the fence about this, because I, I want people to get out and out of their cars, right. And I think that’s really healthy and beneficial to the planet. But at the same time, I think people need to have basic mountain biking skills. And I think if you jump on an electric bike, he just automatically think, oh, you know, I can do whatever these mountain bikers are doing, you know, and I got the power to do it. So I haven’t really made up my mind. I’m just kind of, well, I’m just gonna wait it out and see how it goes. It’s getting really big and Marin County. So
yeah, have you written one? No,
I’m kind of stuck in the overworld. You know, I’m stuck. My my, I think I have an 86 custom Breezer which is my my go to bike. I mean, I want that bike.
So you still ride that bike?
I love that bike. Oh, yeah, that’s my go to bike. And I also have a I also have an upgraded the high tech Breezer. And I haven’t really put much, much mileage on that bike. I’m kind of intimidated by it. It’s too almost almost too high tech for me. I’m old school. I like you know, my my Breezer is for me my own. That’s, that’s my ride. Yeah.
Well, that’s really cool. Well, so obviously, a lot of the folks you rode with in the 70s went on to start mountain bike businesses, Gary Fisher, Joe Brees. What was it about those those guys? Were they like entrepreneurs beforehand? Was this like, this makes sense for them? Or was it kind of like, you know, they found themselves there and then said, Hey, like, maybe we should do something.
I think it was a slow start. I think it was a an eye opener. Only after they had put in a couple of years. You know, and, and maybe step back a little and saw where it was going. It’s kind of funny, because I always like to think that because Joe and Otis and Gary were also road riders, and racers, right? And I was a road right rider racer, too. And when Joe first made his product, mountain bike, we would take it, he would take it, he would bring it to these races. And after the race, he rip it out of the van. And people would kind of look at it a little bit. But they weren’t really acknowledging the bike. They were looking at it from a distance, kind of like we’re sort of interested, but it’s too wacky for us. Yeah, you know, and it’s two wire, what are you doing? And to see and then, and then to see them kind of slowly coming into our camp. And really over the years, it was the elite cyclists to got into it, the earliest. And they they kind of advanced the sport when they started racing. And we got promoters and you know, became big bank. So I think that really kind of influenced the whole process of how it evolved into what it is today. Just it’s it’s not at all. What we were riding back in the day. So
yeah, was that ever? Were you ever interested in sort of joining the bike industry or like working for a bike company or any of that stuff? Or was it always just just more of a hobby for you?
I actually worked for fishing mountain bikes by Fisher Kelly mountain bikes back in the day ate for a couple of months, I did their shipping and receiving okay. And then I ended up moving to Hawaii for a short time. So I quit that job. And I also worked for white industries for a short time. So I’ve kind of delved into that a little bit, but I’m finding that possibly the real deal might be in my images in the collection of the archival collection, because it’s gaining momentum, the further we get from, you know, the origins of the sport, people can be more and more interested in how this happened. You know, it didn’t just overnight, you know, evolve into what it is today. And a lot of people think it just kind of happened. But it didn’t just kind of planting a seed and then watching it germinate and all these different ways, you know, it kind of sprouted here, and it sprouted there. Oh, I’m sorry, again. So it was it was like a pet a Petri dish. It was just almost a scientific experiment. To see, you know, what, what these guys are doing here and then see what these guys are doing here. And as we got more, the network got bigger and bigger than, you know, we brought in, or they came by themselves. We didn’t bring them in, they just became these visionaries in themselves, you know. So they contributed highly, they contributed highly. And I like to see the chronological timeline of how this happened, you know, and we had such creative people involved, and they were just doing their own little thing, and advancing in their own small, little way, you know, and just kept increments of creativity that got bigger and bigger until, wow, before we knew it, the mountain bike as we knew it doesn’t even exist today, you know,
right. Yeah. Yeah, that is really interesting to think about how people were working on so many different parts of that and solving different problems making bikes lighter, or, you know, more rugged or even, you know, now people talk about trail building. I mean, I’m sure that wasn’t on anybody’s radar in the early days of saying, how should we build trails for bikes, because it was really just about let’s, let’s ride the things that already exist. And so, yeah, it’s been a real explosion.
Well, actually, actually, back in the day, we kind of did do a little bushwhacking of our own, and it was, we’d go out there with the hedge clippers, and Fred would bring his chainsaw occasionally, and we’d build our little trails, you know, but they are mostly like little mini connector trails that would get us from one trail to the other. They weren’t major advance networks like there are today. I live right next to Tim Rancho. And four years ago, the trails that are out there now did not exist. The mountain bikers put in a 7.2 mile network of mountain bike trails single track, that is astonishing. I mean, people come from all over the world to ride in my backyard, right. And it’s some of the best riding you can do. The flow trail is so much fun. Yeah. We never had that we never had that back in the day. I mean, we had, we had trails, and we had all these different nicknames for the meno, the dead hapur and the broken wrist trail and The Hobbit trail. And we had our own little nicknames for these trails, but now they’re on the map as being, you know, officially, you know, part of the whole legal network. So I like to ask people, where are you from? And I have run into groups from all over the world, all over the world. It’s just become an international thing to come to welfare facts, you know, and ride where the pioneers began at all. I. In fact, I’ve recently gotten a little flack on my Facebook page, because I post twice a week about the old days. And I got this flack from this one guy you got it was all self promotion. And that’s really not my goal at all is to self promote. I, I just want to share, because it’s so amazing, you know, and it’s just so interesting, and it’s so enlightening.
Yeah, that that definitely comes through for me, for me, yeah, just seeing your enthusiasm. You know, I mean, 40 years later still advocating for biking and what? You know your description of, you know, this feeling of Rapture. I mean, I think mountain bikers everywhere can identify with that. And, yeah, it’s completely genuine for sure.
Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, it’s kind of funny because when I first came on board, I had a real dilemma, I had already spent several years creating my own business. I’m a textile artist. And so it became a real challenge for me, how am I going to ride my bike? And so, you know, what am I gonna do?
Not enough time to do both and the day, not enough time
to do both, I need to be cloned in some way or something I had, this is a real problem. And at one point, I, I actually kind of semi imagined that I could take my sewing machine, on a trailer on the back of my bike out to some beautiful, you’ll have a little compressor, what a fantasy, you know, you wouldn’t take me all day to haul that stuff that bar to sit out in the mood elderness, I’m trying to get away from it all, and had my sewing machine and the compressor go on or whatever. I mean, I was out there, you know. But eventually, eventually, like, just solved the problem by, I would get up every day. And I can just look out my window and see to the west. So I’d know what the weather was doing. And my whole day was focused around my ride. I did that for 30 plus years, I just rode like a maniac. But the first, probably the first five years when I was, you know, initially introduced to the mountain bike, I took it and just ran with it. And I was so excited. Especially if I was able to get up by myself, I really felt felt like Amelia Earhart or something, you know, I felt like, boy, I am empowered, I can do this all by myself. And I, I have a topo map of Marin County, and I have all the trails, all the fire roads highlighted with a yellow marker, you know, highlighter, and the whole map is filled, the whole map is filled. So every single day was an adventure for me. And when I got that, that feeling of empowerment, you know, I was off i You couldn’t keep me home, I was just out there for hours and hours a day. But then I’d come home and I do my textile art, you know, and I just kind of found the nice balance. And it actually the mountain biking, energize me, you know, and it almost almost was a problem solver in some ways. Because if I had a difficult project I was working on, I just stop and let it go and go mountain biking. And then eventually in my head, I’d solved the problem, right. And it was like therapy on wheels. I always I’ve always said that this is like therapy on wheels. This is your own private shrink. Portable, and it’s free. Yes. I use my mountain bike for so many stresses and psychological breakdowns. You know, I, you know, in the, in the beginning, I just had a lot of my brother died and I got Boris and then my house was being remodeled. I just had so many issues going on at the same time I was overwhelmed. I found I just get on my mountain back and it would just all melt away. And I just cruise for hours and hours. And that was the last thing I thought about. I would just listening to the birds, you know, and, and listening to that cadence, you know that heartbeat and just kind of finding my center and restoring myself. So I’ve always advocated for that certain aspect of the mountain bike was it was a rejuvenator. Yeah, yeah, I’m still advocating for the mountain bike. I just think, Well, personally, it changed my life in every single way I can imagine. It was the last thing I ever thought I would, you know, I was into I was married to a musician. And I left home at the age of 16. Because I love music. I love music. So I go to all the rock shows in the city, you know, and it became a big part of me, although I don’t play any instrument at all. But it’s funny that my passion for music morphed into my passion for the mountain bike and it just it overwhelmed me it became such a way of life for me that I could never go back. You know, once you get hooked on the mountain bike you’re you’re you’re hooked for life and I found that among my Friends who? It’s their it’s a vocation, you know? Yeah, it really is. They’ve they’ve, they’ve lived it. And they’re still living it that’s that really impresses me that these guys are and they’re still writing. Charlie wrote down repack yesterday. Yeah.
Unknown Speaker 45:22
That’s amazing. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Well, it’s
interesting, because everything that you’re saying is, I think what, you know, even the newest mountain bikers today, they get that same benefit from it. And they, you know, you’re talking about having your map, or you’ve highlighted all the places you’ve been on your mountain bike. And, you know, again, people are doing that today. They’re, you know, maybe using technology to do it. They’re using a smartphone app or something. But yeah, I think it really connects with what we all we’re all still getting the same stuff out of mountain biking gear, 40 years later, it’s really cool to see how that all connects.
Well, it’s a genuine human connection, you know, we’re all connected to Mother Nature. And we’ve kind of turned we turn that off, you know, we’ve become so already oriented to today’s technology that we forget that we’re really just basic human beings, and we need to reconnect with, with where we came from. And that’s Mother Nature. I’ve always advocated first and foremost, for mother nature I went to school to, in the end studied in the earth sciences, I wanted to be an oceanographer and marine biologist. And that didn’t work out because I got caught in some Undertow in, in Mexico, and that kind of oh, well, and eliminated my my desire to be an oceanographer. And then I wanted to be a forester work in the Forest Service. And I was the only woman in a class of 64, guys. And the first day, my professor took me aside, and he said, I have to be honest. And we’re talking about 1967. He said, I have to be honest with you. There are no positions for women, oh, you’re either going to be a secretary, you’re going to clean the latrines, or you’re going to be a cook. There’s nothing else for you. He said, I have to break the news to you. That’s just the way it is. It’s a man’s world. And I just was shattered. i Oh, Jesus. Here I am back to square one, you know, but I’ve never lost my love for the outdoors. And that, that high country experience. I’m one of those people who, who loves the high mountains and the pine trees and that, oh, god that, you know, that crystal clear alpine lake that just, that’s beyond my expectations of nirvana? You know, I know some people like the desert or the ocean or something, but it for me, it’s the Alpine. So this suited me perfectly. Yeah. And, and in spite of how difficult it was, and the pain involved, it was just you were it was an enchantment. It really was to have that experience. And just it was almost like you were gifted. And we were gifted, that we were almost the special ones. In a way we were we were we were the chosen few were the chosen year, the golden ones. Yeah, I hate to say, you know, it sounds elitist. But we all just happen to be in the right place at the right time. And it just gelled. Right, there wasn’t there was no form or function and what we were doing it just kind of happened all by itself. You know, just it was I don’t want to say it was a mistake, but it was. It was it was a beautiful thing that happened. Yeah, yeah.
I mean, I always have said to like in talking with with Joe breeze and Charlie Kelly and some of those folks, you know, I asked them, Is it could mountain biking have been born anywhere else, you know, like, it seems like the that Bay area, there is just something you know, it’s the nature, it’s the people. You know, I mean, a lot of things have come out of there. The whole technology industry kind of came out of the bay area as well. And so it seems like does seem like there’s something in the air. That’s the special there. And, yeah, hard to kind of put your finger on. Yeah, it’s
a real hotbed for, for creativity here. I just see it all the time that whether it’s, you know, artists, musicians, it just happens to be a great place to live. I’m born and raised. I was born in Berkeley, so I haven’t Okay. gotten too far, you know, just across the bay, you don’t really need to leave this area because it’s just so unique in its uniqueness. Murnane counties specifically, you can go from the redwoods to the ocean, to mount Tam, to the lakes. You just such a wide variety of, you know, natural beauty that you’re not left for anything. You know, you don’t want any more. So we were satisfied in every way, you know? Yeah. We got a little of everything. Yeah.
Yeah. Well, what do you hope people get out of seeing and experiencing the rolling dinosaur archive your project that is online, but it’s also in person, right. You’ve done some exhibitions? What do you hope people get out of that?
Well, it’s amazing. The slides. The images have been used all over the world. They’ve been used in the Olympics, CBS News, Walt Disney. They’ve been used in so many different publications, of course, clunkers the movie close was great. And Charlie Kelly’s bad tire flyer, I always recommend those two flat tire flyer in the corners. Those two, the publication and the film now, they tell the story beautifully, I think. And they both use my images. So the narrative plus the images, and just you can feel the passion. And both of those, you know, the media, the love for the sport and how it just engaged us. And I think we were made better people. I do I think we just gained such insight into something so valuable and so simple. And my greatest pleasure is that it reignite that childlike flame, because I didn’t get into it until I was 27, which seems kind of old. But I was already a kid at heart. And it didn’t take much for me to just, this is this is great. No, this is. This is really fun, though. Yeah, it just kindled it now. Yeah, it was already there. It just kind of re sparked.
Yeah, that’s great. Well, looking at sort of where the bike world is today, what do you see like the most connection with sort of the initial parts of the sport? Is it? Is it still pretty close to that ethos from when you were getting started? Or if things changed in in maybe a good way or a bad way?
Wow. Well, it’s hard to say I see it in both directions, I see that the downhill is getting really radical. I mean, it is so it’s beyond anything is beyond the scope of what we could possibly have imagined. Any bike could have done. I see these guys on the Red Bull side. And it just it seems superhuman, right and physically impossible to do what they’re doing. Right. But at the same time, it it negates I think the true purpose of where we were headed back in the day. I know that I know that it was focused a lot on the downhill, and repack and all that. But the true essence of it was really, I think the softer side of it is just getting out there and connecting not just with yourself, but with you know, like I said, Mother Nature and it was the simplicity of the age, you know, we just Yeah. And we we were fortunate that we were able to realize at the time what we had, and we just kind of ate it up, you know, we benefited greatly.
Yeah. Yeah. That’s great. Well, Wendy, thank you so much for taking the time to chat and for sharing what those early days of mountain biking were like and your passion for the sport. So yeah, thank you.
Well, it’s been my pleasure. I was a little hesitant to, you know, do a podcast, it’s my first, it may not be my last but I had a really good time. I had a really good time. And there’s that there’s interest in the possibility of a film. So I’m scoping that out right now would be a film about my my images, you know, and how they impacted the history telling, you know, because without those visuals, it would be hard to explain to people what we experienced, it was so rare, and he just can’t describe it in words, you know, except for the rapture,
right? Yes, well, yeah. Thank you. We’re also so lucky that you were there and that you have have had that camera and the foresight to, to photograph at all. Well, indefinitely Keep us posted on the film project and you’re rolling dinosaur archive.
Yeah, definitely. Well, thank you so much, Jeff. I really appreciate you taking the time and expanding on my, my horizons here and letting people know about what I have to offer.
Yes. My pleasure. That’s all we’ve got this week. We’ll talk to you again next week.
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Many of us were a part of the rebel movement in cycling dating back to the 60’s. Times were better than good! Sure wish I had kept some of the bikes that pioneered the trails of the era. Pfft! Did without the many gears. A kickback two speed was a happenin’ item! Coaster brakes were the standard.
Still have an early Cook Brothers Racing in my extensive bicycle collection.
Check the links below for interviews with more mountain bike pioneers including Joe Breeze, Gary Fisher, Charlie Kelly, and Tom Ritchie?