According to Dink Bridgers’ book Wheels of Fortune, the Californian mountain-bike pioneers were “pot smoking peacenik misfits in flannel and denim.” They’re still wearing denim today as you’ll see if you visit the Marin Museum of Bicycling in Fairfax – but the pioneers aren’t just visible in photographs on the walls, they open the doors in the morning, operate the state-of-the-art projection equipment, and sweep the floor at night.
The museum is officially opened today and has been two years in the making (with those pioneers handy with their hands – which is pretty much all of them – helping to outfit the building, which was formerly a small supermarket). With two main collections – the Igler Collection of 19th century cycles, and a bunch of mountain bikes from the 1970s and 1980s – visitors will get a double-hit of cycle history. There will also roving displays of more modern machines, such as the Specialized Tarmac road bike that Vincenzo Nibali used in Paris when he won the 2014 Tour de France.
Fairfax, close to the trails on Mount Tamalpais, was the epicentre of pioneer mountain biking, and it’s the MTB element of the museum that will probably attract most visitors. The non-profit is run by an all-volunteer board, including MTB pioneers Joe Breeze, Otis Guy and Mark Vendetti. Pioneers who live close by, and could surprise visitors by popping in, include Jacquie Phelan, Charlie Kelly and Charlie Cunningham. The museum also houses the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, which has moved from its original home in Crested Butte, Colorado.
Joe Breeze, Otis Guy and Charlie Kelly
Museum board president Marc Vendetti said: “The Marin Museum of Bicycling features bicycles representing nearly 200 years of cycling history. Our exhibits include an 1868 Michaux velocipede on long-term loan from David Igler. His collection shows the key steps in bicycle evolution from the velocipede to the form of bicycle we recognize today.
An early Breezer
It's not just mountain bikes ...
A facsimile Repack rock with the fastest time down the Mount Tamalpais trail (a time achieved by Gary Fisher, and never bettered)
The museum’s curator is bike-history buff Joe Breeze, creator of the Breezer, the world’s first commercially-available mountain bike. He said: “The Igler Collection includes examples from the bicycle's Golden Age, when the sharpest minds of the day were focused on perfecting the most efficient form of personal transport ever devised.”
He added: “We’ve also expanded the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame exhibit to show key developments in the evolution of the mountain bike. We’re also building a collection of mid-20th century road-racing and touring bikes and everyday bikes for transportation." (Breeze often rides to the museum on a Breezer city bike pulling a trailer.)
Fairfax is a small town over the Golden Gate bridge from San Francisco. The museum is on the Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, the main road through town.