This site is about the bikes used in Marin for offroad riding between 1976 and 1979. This time period saw the first clunker races, the rise of the hybrid and the introduction of the first mountain bikes; which signaled the end of the hybrids. The hybrids were all based on mild steel frames from the coaster brake one speed genre. Many were pre-war and some from the forties and fifties. Some of the riders considered the pre-war frames superior in quality and construction. The hybrid version of these bikes had upgraded stems, bars, seatposts, cranks, rims, seats, pedals and had drum brakes, gears, deraillers, shifters and brake levers added.
Competing on the downhill with the hybrids were the bombers. Bombers were generally the one and two speed coaster brake bikes. Many never got the front drum or rim brake upgrade that helped Joe Breeze and Otis Guy go so fast on theirs. They added a certain excitement to the visual spectacle but the only one that I know of that broke into the 4:30s was ridden by Craig Weichel It seems certain that it was the front brake that made all the difference on the downhills.
I met Charlie Kelly in spring of 1976 and saw his bike which at the time seemed cluttered with stuff compared to the Larkspur bomber that my friend Ian Stewart had parked on our deck. Ian was urging me to get one of these together and we had gone all over Larkspur and Corte Madera trying to find an extra bike or frame: no one had anything to part with. What I did come away with was the story of the bike dismantling shop in Klamath Falls, Oregon. It was Ians friend Kraig Smith who had found the place the summer before while four wheeling up there. Details were suitably vague but I had the time and a pickup truck so Ian and I went looking for the Wocus bike shop. We found it easily enough. In two weeks I made two trips and brought back 100 frames and all related components from a stash which had many hundreds to choose from. The second trip was with Robert Stewart my half totaled fifty frames and parts.
I had been an auto painter in the motorpool at my Air Force base and later got into airbrush painting on whatever, so it fell into place that these junkyard dogs were sand blasted and repainted. When it came time to build one up the obvious choice for me was the hybrids I had seen Charlie and Gary Fisher riding. Helpful mechanics from Sunshine Bikes in Fairfax clued me in to sourcing the mix of parts and the next time I saw Charlie I had two I was riding. Soon I realized my choices for frames were not the best and made two more using the 39-41 schwinn DX Excelsior frame.
About this time Gary and Charlies housepartner moved out and I was asked to share their house. This began a high energy collaboration that saw all the fun things happen. Charlie toured with the Sons of Champlin and Gary worked at Wheels Unlimited when he wasnt training constantly and I had time on my hands. Already a guy wanted to buy one of my bikes so I was building him a hybrid. In all over the next two years I built 14-16. The frames I didnt build up I primed and sold to bike shops and friends of friends. By late 79 this was over and we were all thinking about a custom frame bike.
One of the first revelations I got from riding with my new friends was the scary descent into Fairfax they were calling Repack. They talked about having a downhill time trial on it and with much encouragement this was eventually agreed upon. I loved racing although most of my experiences had been four wheels, as a teenager I had sourced, built and raced current go karts. I knew I wasnt the fastest on the downhills but I thought being alone against the clock would help.
I raced all of the Repack races except for the two NORBA events in 1983 and 1984. During the three years we shared a house I also called everyone up to announce the Repack races. We had a phone list that we all contributed to and used. I met many of the riders and saw most of the bikes as well as built some of them. The hybrids were about much more fun than just a shuttle ride but where they all came together was repack. Over the years there were a few more races on Repack which always brought the latest hardware to compete. So far the closest anyone has gotten on modern downhill machinery is the 4.28 posted by Joe Lawill in 2001. Not just Gary but Joe and Otis at one second intervals still own the repack record times, all on the Schwinn Excelsior. This mystery is what makes the repack era bikes so unique: the fact that even now they still rule. The still standing record time for Repack is Garys 4:22.
Ill be attempting to present as many photos with info of local survivors and some of the new bikes around based on the old frames. Check back in a few weeks, Ill have a few finished bikes to display and hopefully some of the locals.