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Welcome to Charlie Kelly's Mountain Bike HubSite.

 I was fortunate to participate in some of the important recent events in cycling history, and I have assembled some of my library of unique cycling material for your inspection. Because there is too much to put onto one page, there are a lot of other pages, so click the links as you scroll down. Some of the best material is at the end of those links.

The posters at left and below are examples of the underground advertising for Repack races.


Poster art by Pete Barrett

Click the poster for the story of the legendary Repack Downhill, the race that changed bicycling forever.


A strange bicycling event called "Repack" changed my life, starting in 1976, when the first downhill off-road race took place on a road a few people called "Repack" road, just outside Fairfax, California. I promoted clandestine races there starting in 1976 and ending in 1984, the beginning of what has become a world-wide sport of downhill mountain bike racing.

The story of mountain biking is partly about the bike, but that does not explain the phenomenon. Marin County is not the only place where the mountain bike was invented, but it is the birthplace of the sport of mountain biking.

People had ridden bikes on dirt long before the first MountainBike went on sale in San Anselmo in 1979. Cyclo-cross riders invented cross country bicycle racing, and millions of kids took their balloon tire bikes off road before I was even born. Earlier tinkerers had come up with the combination of fat tires, flat handlebars, better brakes and multiple gears that separated mountain bikes from all others, and had done so before I learned how to ride a two wheeler.

It was the downhill racers in an insane competition on a hill with a unique name who made the invention of the modern mountain bike a necessity. The Repack Downhill initiated the biggest change in cycling of the 20th Century, and helped turn a quaint hobby into an Olympic sport. And that was only the start.


Now that downhill racing is a mainstream sport, there will never again be anything remotely like the Repack Downhill, a pivotal event in the development of what we now call mountain biking.


Left, Repack 30th Anniversary citation from the Czech Republic


These activities and the associated bicycle engineering efforts started me on a fifteen year odyssey through the bicycle industry as I took part in the development of mountain biking, owned a bike company that named the sport, published a mountain bike magazine, wrote a book, took part in the formation of the National Off-Road Bicycle Association (NORBA), and helped write the worldwide rules for off-road bicycle racing. In 1988 I was inducted as a charter member into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.



Below, a 2009 cover from the Discovery Channel Magazine.


Mount Tamalpais


In 1977 a hand-modified, 50-pound, '30s-vintage Schwinn Motorbike frame was the state of the art in off-road bicycles. Although "Excelsior" was only one of several brand names used for bikes sold with the Motorbike frame, that became the common, if somewhat inaccurate descriptor among the klunker set for all frames of this type, which included bikes sold by BF Goodrich, Schwinn and others. Here are five proud "Excelsior" owners after a Repack event, Alan Bonds, Benny Heinricks, Ross Parkerson, Jim Stern, and myself. Alan, Ross and Jim are wearing t-shirts sporting the Excelsior logo, printed by Alan Bonds.

A bike like this cost about $400 to put together at the time. You had to find a pair of drum brakes and assemble the wheels, and there was an arcane science to the bending and reshaping of the old frame to accept the wider hubs while remaining straight. A good fork was hard to find, and we used "fork braces" to try to keep them from bending. A bottom bracket conversion kit was necessary to use a modern crankset. Seatposts had quick-releases to lower the saddle because the long seatposts were subject to bending on a rough road.

My bike had a distinctive Alan Bonds paint job. I didn't use a pair of thumbshifters on this bike. Instead, I used a cheap ten speed "stem shifter"on the right handlebar, with one shift lever under the bar and one over it, but both shifted by my right hand.



The somewhat fuzzy image at the left is the only known photograph of the very first attempt to create a modern mountain bike.

By the time downhill racing started at Repack in 1976, many of the local off-road riders had already modified their old one-speeds by adding front and rear drum brakes and derailleur gears. We had taken the bikes as far as we could on the frames we were using, and we had run into the problems with using old frames for off-road riding. The supply was limited, they were not very rugged, and they were two or three times as heavy as they needed to be.

I broke a frame every few months, and I realized that whatever it cost to have a special frame built, it would be cheaper in the long run if I didn't have to replace it two or three times a year. The price of an undamaged Schwinn Excelsior frame in Marin County was suddenly through the roof, if you could even find one to buy.

Craig Mitchell built the frame in the photograph for me in 1976 and I raced it at Repack a couple of times. It was a standard diamond frame made of straight-gauge chrome-moly tubing, and it weighed about the same as a road frame, a saving of four or five pounds and a dramatic improvement in strength. It is remarkably similar to the Ritchey frames that would become the basis for the industry starting three years later. The components are moved straight over from my Excelsior frame, including the drum brakes and motocross bars.

Unfortunately for my collection, I wasn't happy with the bike and eventually Craig took it back and sold it to someone else. The frame has long since disappeared, and Craig Mitchell is now deceased, so it is lost to bicycle history except for this photo. Since I still needed a frame, I then asked Joe Breeze to build me one, which is shown further down the page.

The oversize jacket was intended as protection from falls, along with the kneepads, boots and work gloves, but it was obvious to me after this run that the speeds were high enough so this aerodynamic disaster slowed you down too much. After that I switched to elbow pads.

(Larry Cragg photo)

Repack, 1976. Because I was also a skateboarder, I used my skatepark safety gear. Kneepads, elbow pads and thick leather gloves had just saved me from injury in a crash that tore my jeans and left dirt all over my jeans and shirt. Only a few riders wore helmets during any of the early races. Helmets were not required for any Repack races before the 1983 NORBA sanctioned event that was the first sanctioned downhill mountain bike event in the world.

 (Larry Cragg photo)

Fall, 1977. This photograph was taken in Fairfax by Jerry Riboli before the start of the first cross-country
"Enduro" race, promoted by Alan Bonds. From left, Fred Wolf, Wende Cragg, Mark Lindlow, Robert
Stewart, Chris Lang, James Preston, Ian Stewart, Charlie Kelly, Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, Eric Fletcher,
Craig Mitchell, John Drum, Roy Rivers, Alan Bonds.

What a difference a couple of years made.

By 1978 I was riding a custom-made off-road bike, built by Joe Breeze. In 1977 I had seen Joe out riding on the street, and I had asked him what it would take to get him to build me a frame. He named a reasonable sum of money, and I gave it to him on the spot. Joe spent months designing and then a few more months doing the work, and eventually built ten of these bikes, delivering mine in early 1978. His, of course, was number one, and mine was number two, probably the most collectible and influential bicycle of the twentieth century. This was the first balloon-tire bike designed from scratch and built for high-performance cross-country riding, not just downhill. It had multiple gears and the best brakes we could get, which weren't very effective, and the frame was bullet-proof.

These photos of Breeze #2 were taken in 1978 by Arne Ryason.
Steel Schwinn S-2 rims, heavy and very slick for Weinmann cantilever brakes. TA crankset.
Tires are UniRoyal "Nobby." Fork is Redline. ttt stem with custom adaptor to fit Magura handlebar. Magura motorcyle brake levers.
Seatpost is Campagnolo MicroAdjusting, with custom adaptor to fit Brooks B-72 saddle.
Campagnolo seatpost quick-release clamp.
Suntour thumb shifters. Phil Wood hubs with allen-key end bolts.
Frame is nickel plated. Some tubing is Columbus, some is straight-gauge.

The huge Magura motorcyle levers were vital when trying to use a cantilever brake on the slick steel rims that were all you could find for a 26-inch tire. You needed all the leverage you could get, and riding in very wet conditions was sometimes exciting. The SunTour thumb shifter was originally made for a cheap five-speed touring bike, so it only came in a right hand model. You had to turn one around and use it backward for the left shifter.


These Mike Castelli photographs show the state of the art in off road bicycles in mid-1979. On the left, representing the end of its era is Alan Bonds' converted Excelsior with aftermarket forks, motorcycle brake levers and drum brakes. Next is my Breezer as shown further up on the page. Next to that is Mike Castelli's Jeffrey Richman, and Gary Fisher's Ritchey #2. Gary's bike was built before Tom Ritchey began using one-piece "Bullmoose" handlebars, and uses a standard bar and stem.


This is the first poster for any modern off-road bicycle event, this one advertising a race held in 1978. As you can see, it shows a diamond frame, fat tire bike with a derailleur, the first advertising image of what became the standard model of mountain bike.

The "Repack" Downhill was the first regularly scheduled, organized off-road fat-tire race I know about. The first race was held in 1976, and the last in 1984. This first advertised race was held in the fall of 1978. The posters went up in key locations, and anyone who understood them would be alerted to a race. People who didn't understand the poster didn't matter.

All Repack posters were drawn by my roommate, Pete Barrett. For a larger version of this one, click the image.

My first magazine sale concerned the race that started it all, at least in my life. I wrote most of it in a motel room in San Diego in 1977 and my roommate Gary Fisher, who was at the time working for Bicycling, helped me submit it to that publication, where it ran in January 1979. A little breathless, it captures a microscopic moment at the birth of a sport. My experience at Repack had a lot to do with my approach to writing the original 1983 NORBA rules for mountain bike racing (with Tom Hillard).

Because they represent such a precise record of the absolute beginning of what has become a worldwide sport, I have scanned the original documents of mountain biking, the first Repack results, on this page. Joe Breeze has compiled the complete Repack statistics for mountain bike historians and I have added a lot of graphics and photos for the page.

Billy Savage's film "Klunkerz" is the definitive film on the activities surrounding the beginnings of the sport of mountain biking. Many of the images used in the movie, including the photo on the poster, are found on this page and the pages linked here.

Click the poster image at the left to go to the film's official website, where you can watch the trailer and order the DVD.




Alan Bonds shared the house on Humbolt Street with Gary Fisher and me. He built the most beautiful "clunkers" ever and does not receive nearly enough credit for his early contributions to mountain biking.

I took this photo at dawn on top of Mount Barnaby during a sunrise ride.

Click on the image to see a few of Alan's creations.

I took this photo because I knew someone would steal this sign. Still it lasted at the top of Repack for quite a while before it disappeared. I hope you're happy, whoever you are.

This shirt was printed by Steve Boehmke for the last-ever Repack in 1984, attended by 96 riders under a NORBA sanction. The last two Repack races in 1983 and 1984 were the first sanctioned downhill events held for mountain bikes.

Click the image above to see the Co-Evolution Quarterly article.

The first written mention of the new sport of off-road bicycling appeared in the Spring 1978 issue of Co-Evolution Quarterly, published in Marin County. Getting our activity into print legitimized what had been up to that point a silly exercise by immature adults. Click this or click the picture to see the article. Knowing what we know now about what followed this initial recognition, it makes fascinating reading, but even if you don't care to read it all, scroll down through the photos. They're priceless.

The Fat Tire Flyer was the first publication for mountain bikers. I wrote, edited, drew, photographed, laid out, published, mailed, and loved it from 1980 until 1987. It is the most artistic statement I'll ever get to make, and it is also the only printed record of that important era of cycling history. Click on the logo for more about the first mountain bike magazine.

Between 1979 and 1983 I was part of the first company to make nothing but off-road bicycles when I joined forces with my former roommate, Gary Fisher, and a 22-year old frame builder named Tom Ritchey.

At first we just called ourselves "MountainBikes," but everyone else started using that term to describe all off-road bikes. Our ideas turned out to be pretty good, because every major bicycle manufacturer duplicated our design for their first entries into the new field of mountain bikes.

This is the logo for Kelly-Fisher MountainBikes, which became Fisher MountainBikes after I left the company in 1983.

Click the image

For a history of the MountainBikes company, early photos and samples of our advertising, click here.

For more on the origin of NORBA, click the image

The National Off-Road Bicycle Association (NORBA) grew in part from my experience in promoting off-road races between 1976 and 1983. As a moderately dangerous sport, mountain bike racing could not be legitimate until we were able to secure insurance coverage for riders, and we would never have a racing circuit or a national championship until promoters agreed on how mountain bike races should be conducted. Of the founding members of NORBA, only Tom Hillard and I had any experience in race promotion, and it fell to us to write the rules for our sport. The rules we wrote in 1983 eventually became the international rules for mountain bike racing when the UCI recognized the sport. Mountain biking became an Olympic sport only thirteen years after the first rules were written for it.

Here is my pass from the New York bicycle trade show where in 1983 the formation of the National Off-Road Bicycle Association (NORBA) was announced to the cycling world by a contingent of California mountain bikers including myself, Joe Breeze, Gary Fisher, Barbara Edelston, Denise Caramagno, and Jack Ingram.

NORBA was the first sanctioning body in the world for mountain bike racing, and it was the first cycling body to recognize downhill racing as a sport. NORBA turned 20 years old in 2003, and sanctions all mountain bike racing in the United States toward the U.S. National Championships, and makes selections for Olympic and World Championship mountain bike teams.

Click this link or the exhibitor pass at left for a history of NORBA.

My NORBA racing license from 1983 is license #14 from the first year of sanctioned racing. I don't know how I got such a high number. The original birthdate, which has been crossed off, is correct.

Why am I in The Mountain Bike Hall of Fame FAQ

In spite of the fact that many mountain bikers have never heard of me, I am a charter inductee to the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. I have put together a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) to explain my presence there.

Collectible now because no one bought it then.

Don't buy this book just because I wrote it. Don't buy it because it is laughably out of date, published in 1988, and because you won't be able to find it. I'll sign your copy if you do.

Hey mom, I'm on a magazine! Bike World, April 1974. Myself, Steve Wilde and Gil de la Roza riding in a pre-helmet bike world.

 Joe Breeze won the $25 third prize in a Bicycling Magazine photo contest for this shot of Wende Cragg and me near Kings Canyon in the Sierra Nevada. Of course no one would be permitted to ride this trail today.


Pearl Pass, Colorado, elevation 12,700 feet, September 1978.
Wende Cragg photo

From left, Wende Cragg, Neil Murdoch (Richard Bannister) Richard Nilsen, who wrote the article about these bikes for the Co-Evolution Quarterly, Charlie Kelly, Joe Breeze, Jim Cloud, Bob Starr, Richard Ullery, Gary Fisher, Archie Archuleta, Chris Carroll, Albert Maunz, and Mike Castelli, who took the photos for the Co-Evolution Quarterly article.

Click here or click the photo for the story behind the picture.


Click here or click the image to see the original Crested Butte newspaper articles about the 1978 Crested Butte to Aspen Clunker tour.


In 1999, 21 years after this photo was taken, Mountain Bike Hall of Fame charter member Neil Murdoch, second from left, was identified by the FBI as a federal fugitive named Richard Gordon Bannister, who had been living in Crested Butte under the assumed name Neil Murdoch for decades after jumping bail during his trial. He was arrested in Taos, NM, in the fall of 2002 and is now serving a federal sentence.

Richard Bannister could hardly have imagined that he would become famous under his alias, and that the sleepy backwater where he chose to disppear would come to be written large on some maps.

A year after the previous Pearl Pass photo was taken, the crowd has grown. I'm on the cover of Bicycling along with a lot of other people in this photograph from the top of Pearl Pass in 1979, wearing a blue sweater and yellow hat fourth from the left. Next to me is Wende Cragg, then Chris McManus and Joe Breeze. Gary Fisher is fifth from the right and Alan Bonds is on the extreme right.

By 1980 the top of Pearl Pass was becoming distinctly crowded. I'm in the left half, wearing a Velo Club Tam jersey.

I made the cover of Bicycling in June, 1982, the unrecognizable guy on the red bike. Dave Epperson took this photo in Crested Butte.

This is reproduced from an article in a Dutch magazine. The photo was taken during a Repack race in 1978 and given to me by whoever took it, but I can't remember who that was.


This photo by Gary Fisher appeared in a 1979 article I wrote for Outside Magazine. This was the lead group from our first cross-country off-road race, held in 1977, also shown in the lineup photo above. Robert Stewart is in the lead with a one-speed, followed by me and then Roy Rivers. Alan Bonds, the eventual winner, is not in the photo.

Dave Epperson took this cover photo in Crested Butte of Richard Cunningham (right) and me. Richard built Mantis frames at the time of the photograph, and is now the editor of Mountain Bike Action.

This is what happens when the art director and the photographer design the cover and pick the worst shot from the entire photo shoot. You get your picture on a magazine, but you don't want to tell your mom about it.

My "World's Foremost Authority" status has eroded somewhat in the last 20 years.

Velo-Club Tamalpais

During the early 1970's the hub of my cycling society was a bicycle club called Velo-Club Tamalpais. The club was formed in 1972 as a reaction to the more traditional cycling clubs, and attracted the type of people who would be part of the mountain bike explosion. Among the members were Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, Otis Guy and Marc Vendetti, whose competitive natures led to Repack and beyond. Pete Barrett, who drew the Repack posters, was a member. I served as president, and Gary Fisher also filled that role, and the house Gary and I shared was the unofficial clubhouse. This club logo was designed by Kevin Haapala.

In 1974 a tandem criterium event was held in connection with bicycle races in Santa Rosa. Representing Velo-Club Tamalpais were from left, Joe Breeze, Otis Guy, Charlie Kelly and Victor Pritzker. Note the "hair-net" helmet, required when there was that much hair. Guy and Breeze took first, Pritzker-Kelly third.

Fairfax Criterium 1974

Fairfax Criterium, 1974 (Phil Brown Photo)


The objects below are a few of my treasured trophies, the completely non-prestigious "Clunker Awards," which Marin mountain bikers presented to each other for arbitrarily defined contributions at the annual "Clunker Awards Banquet." Beyond the memories they hold me, they are great bicycle folk art.

1978 "Clunker Award"

Soft sculpture by Wende Cragg

1979 "Mr. Repack" trophy

Made from my broken crankarm
by Craig Mitchell
Inscription reads:
"C.K. Mr. Repack 1979"

1979 "Clunker Award"
"Captain Repack"

Ceramics by Bob Klock
Glazing by Pete Barrett
Embroidery by Wende Cragg

Weird Bike Stuff


Click and see



For a few years during the '80s I had the opportunity to travel in the United States and several other countries in order to write about bicycling events for magazines. I have many photos from that time, but unfortunately, the photo hosting site where I kept them has disappeared. As soon as I have a new host, the photos will be back.

This is one of my all-time favorite photos. I took it near Crested Butte, Colorado in 1986.

Jacquie Phelan leads Cindy Whitehead, 1986

This is what a press pass from the Giro d'Italia looks like. A deer in the headlights. I spent everything I got paid for this article on the trip to Italy. Totally worth it. All I had to do to pay for my Italian vacation was to go to the biggest bike race in Italy with a press pass that got me all the goodies, take some pictures and write about it. How hard could that possibly be?

Here's one of the pictures I took on my
Giro d'Italia vacation.

This is the aftermath of a crash during a sprint in the Giro. No magazine would print this one, so here it is anyway. Yeah, that's blood. Lots of it. Check out the front wheel.

More Photos Coming (back) Soon




In 1991 I helped put together a booklet that accompanied an exhibit called The Pioneers of Mountain Biking at the international bicycle trade show. The exhibit had bikes, souvenirs and cool stuff to look at, and the booklet had photos of that stuff. So I scanned the booklet for your amusement.


Click on the image to see more images.

Click the image

The Thanksgiving Day Appetite Seminar in Fairfax, California has taken place every year since 1975, the longest running annual event in mountain biking. Here are the history and a few of the early images as well as Darryl Skrabak's 1979 City Sports article describing one of the rainier rides.


Appetite Seminar

Working Up an Appetite






SMITHSONIAN Magazine published an article about mountain biking in 1994.


Here's Joe Breeze on the cover. Click the link or the cover to read the article, reproduced with permission of the author.




The Art of the Mountain Bike




From December 1989 to January 1990 the Braunstein-Quay Gallery in San Francisco hosted a show called The Art of the Mountain Bike. Mountain bike frame builders from Northern California were invited to build bikes showcasing their most artistic approach to mountain bike construction. Click the link to see the incredible photographs. (Dial-up users prepare for a long download.)





This is a collection of articles and photos that have appeared in various publications. The common thread? I wrote them all and took all the photos. Most, but not all, concern bicycling in some way.


Click the image at left. Or Click the title at the top of this box.


These links open documents on the "Old Mountain Bikes" website in a new window.

The kids got it first. Before any consumer magazines picked up on off-road bicycles, the BMX magazines were all over them. The magazines written for adults took a little longer to become enthusiastic, but as soon as they started selling ads for off-road bikes, they came on board. Cautiously.

Working Up An Appetite

This December, 1979 article in City Sports is one of the great ride stories of all time, and includes the frst printed use of the term "Mountainbikes," used in connection with the bike company Gary Fisher and I had just started.

Full Bore Cruisers

This article appeared in the January, 1980 issue of Bicycle Motocross Action.

The Richey [sic] Mountain Bike

Tom's name is misspelled in the title of this review that appeared in the February, 1980 issue of BMX Plus! Note that throughout the article the term "Mountain Bike" is used as the brand name for our product.



Back to Basics

The December, 1981 issue of the trade magazine National Outdoor Outfitter News is the first notice by the bicycle market of the phenomenon. The author is optimistic that there is a small subset of customers who would buy these bikes.

The Klunkers of Marin

The first mainstream consumer magazine recognition of mountain biking came in the June, 1982 issue of Bicycling. The author goes out on a limb to suggest that "serious" cyclists might even enjoy these bikes.

Clunker Capital of the World

The Marin County weekly Pacific Sun thought the crazy guys building bikes in San Anselmo and racing them downhill were worth a local-interest story in July 1980.

Bike Test: Ritchey Mountain Bike and Specialized Stumpjumper

In July, 1982 the Bicycle Paper from Seattle reviewed all the off-road bikes they could find. Both of them.

Miscellaneous Mountain Bike Links

The best current mountain biking magazine is Dirt Rag

The Mountain Bike Hall of Fame

Gordon Bainbridge shot mountain biking photos between 1983 and 1987. His site is called Mountain Bike Roots

These people put my book in their library, even though it really belongs in a museum. Almaden Cycle Touring Club

Nice MTB site from Georgia

The Usenet FAQ on mountain bike riding

Old Skool

MTBR "Retro" mountain bike discussion

RetroBike "Classic" MTB site from England

First Flight Bikes collects all sorts of bicycle history.

Old Mountain Bikes has collected all the early literature from the Mountain Bikes company, which saved me the trouble. You can look at it there.

Klunkerz is Bill Savage's film about the origins of mountain biking.

Alan Bonds built the best clunkers ever. And still does.

Fat Tire Trading Post Chris Ioakimedes' homage to old skool


Cindy Whitehead doesn't have her own site, so I gave her a page on mine.

Mecca for Jacquie Phelan fans is WOMBATS.  Or you can read Jacquie's blog.

Joe Breeze is da man

Charlie Cunningham pioneered the use of aluminum in mountain bike construction.

My friends Mark Schulze and Patty Mooney make videos

Hans Rey is unbelievable. Chck him out.

 MTB history

The condensed version

The Usenet FAQ on mountain bike history

Mountain Biking Nonstop

The most scholarly treatise EVER on the reasons for the origin of mountain biking. I never realized how complex it all was.

History of the National Off-Road Bicycle Association (NORBA)

A very good telling of the history of the sport, "A Band of Renegades Reinvent the Bicycle."

Howie Cohen has a personal collection of bike memorabilia dating back to the fifties.

General Mountain Biking Links and Exchange Links "The Internet's Mountain Bike Park"

A-B-C of Mountain Biking If only it were as easy to ride as it is to click these links.

Webmountainbike A mountain bike site that covers, well, everything.

Blazing Saddles A club for Mad Dogs and Englishmen who ride in funky weather.

Bikecircle A community bicycle weblog

Contacting me: Use the following email address:

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