de Saisset Museum

South Bay's free museum of art and history

Clunkers to MTBs: The Evolution of the Mountain Bike

April 13 - July 1, 2012

Cragg_Inspiration Point_550x300

When the bicycle was first introduced in the 1860s, it was nothing short of revolutionary. For the first time in history, people could travel on two wheels with ease, efficiency, and freedom. Following the birth of the bicycle, the machine has undergone a series of technical improvements, evolving from the iron frames and wheels of the originals to the modern bicycles we are familiar with today.

Yet, it wasn't until the 1970s—more than a century after the first bicycles came on the market—that a group of cycling enthusiasts in Northern California pushed the limits of two-wheelers and began clunking down hills in Cupertino and Marin County, California. Born of a recreational, rather than utilitarian impulse, they rode modified cruisers that did not include the lightweight frames, multiple gears, suspension, and shocks that are associated with mountain bikes (MTBs) today.

Over the course of the last few decades, mountain biking has grown exponentially. There have been tremendous advancements in both the design and performance of frames and components. The sport has gained popularity worldwide and diverged into multiple subcategories—from cross country riding to downhill racing—each with their own enhanced designs that make today's MTBs functional as well as fascinating.

Clunkers to MTBs explores some of the key evolutionary moments in mountain bike design and culture with a focus on the companies, designers, and riders based in Northern California. The exhibition brings together concept drawings, models, and finished products to highlight the art behind the ride, while integrating photos, video, clothing, and ephemera to illustrate the growth in MTB culture that has paralleled the development of the mountain bike.

Image: Wende Cragg, Kent Rock, "Inspiration Point" on the north side of Mt. Tam, Courtesy of the artist.
A great many people have come together to help make Clunkers to MTBs: The Evolution of the Mountain Bike possible. The de Saisset Museum would like to acknowledge the following individuals and companies for their guidance, support, and loans to the exhibition:
Sophie Ballo and Bryant Bainbridge of Specialized Bicycle Components; Keith Bontrager; Joe Breeze; Sheila Castelli; Wende Cragg; Geoff Fox and Rich Leonetti of Fox Head, Inc.; Robert Fox of Fox Shocks, Inc.; Otis Guy; Brian Hamilton; Charlie Kelly; Kevin Kenney; Tyler McCaul; Scot Nicol and Roxy Lo of Ibis Bicycles, Inc.; Jerry Riboli; Tom Ritchey; Rob Roskopp and Scott Turner of Santa Cruz Bicycles; Preston Sandusky; Billy Savage; Theo Schapp; Stance Films; Eric Stanley; and Andrew "AT" Taylor.