Kristy and I were digging through the archives, and found a few pictures of our early mountain biking days. I think the first mountain bike I saw was a Miyata at Spooner Mountain Sports back in 1985. I was riding BMX at the time, but demos on that bike around the shop stuck in my memory. I finally got my first mountain bike in 1989, a Specialized Rock Hopper, and Kristy got hers soon after. Kristy and I were living in Reno at the time, and rode the trails near Peavine Mountain.
It got me thinking that while the equipment has changed a lot in the last 20 years I’ve been mountain biking, the amount of perceived fun I’ve had has remained constant. You rode the equipment of the day, and it was awesome. You just didn’t know any better!
While I have good memories of those days, I have no desire to go back and ride one of those bikes off-road! Road bike geometry, skinny handlebars, and rigid frames made extended rides pretty brutal. I remember being almost too sore to sit down after 20 miles or so.
We didn’t have as much singletrack to ride back then either. My old mountain bike trail guidebooks are full of fire roads. Roads that were built back in the logging days that most often went straight up the hill! You were riding the granny gear right from the trail head. The road going up North Canyon to Marlette Lake is a good example of a typical climb back then.
My first ride to Marlette Lake was on a BMX bike, probably in 1985. My dad had just bought a Cannondale mountain bike with a 26 inch front wheel, and a 24 inch rear wheel. The smaller rear wheel allowed shorter chainstays for better traction. Just one of the many Cannondale experiments that didn’t stick. We pushed our BMX bikes up to the Lake, but got to ride them all the way back to Spooner Lake. My buddy and I each crashed once on that trip.
After getting my mountain bike, I made my first run on the Flume Trail. The trail back then was much different than today’s trail. Today’s trail is much safer and more accessible to the masses. But just as today, the views were just as spectacular!
Today I have a several hundred bucks invested in cycling clothing, something for every occasion. Back then I had a helmet, some riding shoes (no cleats or clipless pedals back then), some Spenco Gel gloves I found up on the Mount Rose Trail, and shorts and a T-shirt. I eventually bought some riding shorts, but I don’t recall wearing them too much. I found them years later and couldn’t even fit in them!
The first rider I remember with suspension forks was Keith Conrad. He was always fast, but then he got even faster. I remember a ride that took us down the washboard road of Voltaire Canyon. While I was getting my eyeballs rattled loose, Keith was flying down the road at a pace I couldn’t come close to following. I knew suspension forks would be in my future.
I finally got my first bike with a suspension fork in 1994 or 1995, a Haro Escape. The geometry was not what it is today with its short top tube, long stem and narrow bars, but it was a lot faster and more comfortable than my old Rock Hopper. The fork probably only had 2 inches of nerf-like suspension travel.
In 1996 I garaged the mountain bike, and explored motorcycles for the next several years. I remember thinking I’d never touch another bicycle again while I was on the motorcycle! It wasn’t until 2001 that I got the bicycle back out. I was getting fat and out of shape, and thought cycling would be a fun way to get fit again. We started the lunch rides in 2001, and are still doing them today. The motorcycles were sold off by 2006, and bicycles filled the garage!