Monday, January 25, 2010

Klunkerz - A Film About Mountain Bikes

My recent post on Breezer bikes and Joe Breeze got me thinking about Klunkerz - the documentary about the early days of mountain biking. I picked up this DVD about two years ago at the local shop, uBRDO, and have watched it several times since. It's been about a year since I've seen it, so last weekend, son Ian and I fired it up. A little bit of Saturday night movie action for the two of us.

I dug this viewing as well. It's a really well done film that chronicles the birth of mountain biking - the sport itself and the machinery involved - told from the mouths of folks that spawned the whole shindig.

I've been mountain biking since 1984, so I'm familiar with the tale and even recognize some of the pictures and magazine covers featured in the film. Still, that's nothing like hearing the story from the people themselves - Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, Tom Ritchey, Charlie Kelly - and other folks you may or may not be familiar with - that were key in the foundation and development of mountain biking. A special note of honor should go to Wende Cragg, the only girl of this early bunch of off-road bikers. Not only for the fact she kept up with this crowd, but documented much of it with a 35mm camera. Without her, many early images of this era wouldn't exist.

The film starts with the convergence of people who started this whole thing rolling - road racers looking for casual off-road fun, mixed with pot smoking hippies having a blast out in the woods. First on single speed Schwinn cruiser bikes, slightly - then heavily modified with multiple gears and beefier brakes. Eventually custom frames are crafted to replace the tank like Schwinns and the rest, as they say - is history. This was also the birth of an industry and the term "mountain bike". Hearing Gary Fisher, Charlie Kelly and Tom Ritchey describe the early days of business was interesting. As was Mike Sinyard of Specialized taking a Ritchey to Japan to be copied, to create the first production mountain bike in 1981 - the Stumpjumper.

The famous Repack downhill race is also featured, and really, when it comes down it, is the birth of mountain bike racing as well. Cool stuff indeed. Still, the piece I get the biggest kick out of is hearing about other groups in Northern California, who were doing basically the same thing - with no, or just fleeting knowledge of each other. Pretty wild, must be something about that area and the people in it. These groups of bike nuts, The Cupertino Riders and Larkspur Canyon Gang, look just as crazy and fun to ride with as the more famous gang of riders credited.

That brings up the question as to who really invented the mountain bike. Previously and in other parts of the riding world - people modified bikes for dirt riding - no doubt about it. However, the crowd documented here, without a doubt, started mountain biking as we know it today. If you dig mountain biking, some respect and admiration is due. Lucky for us, everyone involved seem to be incredibly cool people that would be awesome to ride with. They are one of us, since the mountain biking DNA originated with them.

The essence of this film is the way it captures the fun and free spirit of mountain biking. Playing in the woods on two wheels is coolest thing ever. If you ride mountain bikes, you already know that.

If you're a surfer, you have Endless Summer. If you're a dirt biker, you have On Any Sunday. If you're a skater, you have Dogtown and Z-Boys. If you're a mountain biker, you have Klunkerz.

That about says it. If you consider yourself a mountain biker, it's a must see.


  1. Dan-O,
    Thank you so much for the kind words. It really makes me feel good to know that you still found the film entertaining after so many viewings. Have you checked out the DVD extras? There's a some very cool connections between our Klunkerz guys (and gal) and the Dogtown crew. I haven't updated the website in awhile, but you might find a few things on there of interest, as well. Also, I made a short film about J.F. Scott for his induction into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in '08. He's the man who was murdered shortly after I interviewed him for Klunkerz. I dedicated the film to his memory. You can see some of the tribute film here.
    Finley Pt. 1
    Pt. 2
    Pt. 4

    Thanks again for all the support.

    Ride on,
    Billy Savage

  2. Billy - yeah, I have checked out the DVD extras. Pretty amazing that guy (don't recall his name at the moment) captured some of the early skateboard and mountain bike scenes on film. I skateboarded some in the '70s, read Skateboarder magazine and knew about the Dogtown crew through that mag.

    I'll check out some of the links you mentioned.

  3. As somebody who first learned to bike 50 years ago, and loved it ever since. I stand in admiration of those that layed the groundwork, developed the changes, and made the "ride" all that it is.

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed the Klunkerz movie. For a nice double feature, combine that with Race Across the Sky, (preferably in IMAX).

  5. That Dogtown guy is Ray Flores. He was the elder statesman of the Dogtown crew. He was World Champion skateboarder in 1963 and never stopped! He supplied the archival footage for Dogtown (and Klunkerz). He's pushing 60 still ripping, skating the pools in Venice, CA. Amazing guy.

  6. Ray Flores - cool. On the DVD extras, he seems like a colorful, cool guy - telling how he shot the early Klunker action - one handed, while riding a girls bike - so he jump off quickly and continue shooting.

    Heading towards 50 myself (yikes), I love to hear about "old folks" still ripping it - riding, skating, surfing - whatever your "thing" is.

    50 is the new 30.....