Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Old School Mountain Bike Racing

Family and I took a trip back to the homeland last summer – a strange land known as New Jersey – a curious mixture of rural areas, toxic drenched zones, toll booths, wise-ass attitudes, traffic, good pizza, organized crime and Lyme Disease ticks. It’s better then Disneyland and only three times as expensive. Some parts are run down urban areas, other parts can match Vermont for natural beauty.

While we were there, visited some old friends, Kevin and Beth McGatha. They occupy a nice spread in a rural area of the state – complete with hundreds of acres of state woods at their disposal. Being old riding pals, they dragged out some photos during our visit, including the ones posted above – which I’ve never seen – and they later sent me.

This was old school mountain bike racing, circa 1987, in Wawayanda State Park, New Jersey. That’s right, Wawayanda – sounds like a fictional camp in some cheesy ‘80s movie. It’s actually a great riding area, like many in New Jersey. That’s right – hard to believe.

Racing back then was a pretty informal affair, with less crowds then today – or I should say less then the XC heyday of the ‘90s. Doesn’t everyone freeride now and have 9 inches of suspension travel? At least that’s what the bike mags have you believe.

In the ‘80s, most events had a XC race in the morning and a Observed Trials competition in the afternoon. This was cool, ‘cause I could suck at two events for the price of one.

Most people hung around for the trials and competed on the same bike they raced earlier. There were also some trials specialists mixed in there as well, on trials specific bikes. It all made for a fun day with fellow mountain bike cult members.

Pictures are of a much younger me, on my then very cool ‘86 Fat Chance. Dig the matching Vetta hard shell helmet – only used for racing.

Side note: In case you don’t know, Observed Trials events require you to ride through “sections”, without putting your feet down. Each “dab” of the foot gets you a point. Low score wins. It’s based on a motorcycle sport – Google it. Good trials riders, on motorcycles or bikes, can do things that don’t seem possible.

This concludes our little history test. Yes – it will be on the final.


  1. Great pics and stories, sir. The evolution of the tube sock is clearly shown here. As the 1980s progressed, the tube socks gradually shortened to the point that nowadays they're below the ankle.

  2. Little known bicycle fun fact: The tube sock shrinkage was to compensate for the increase of shorts length - from OP shorts to official bike shorts.

    This insured the same length of wimpy leg was exposed despite the sock shrinkage.

    Are we not men? We are DEVO.

  3. Yes, I should have said "the DE-volution of the tubesock."

  4. I played bass for Tubesock Devolution in the '70s. It was groovy....