Klunkerz the Movie Interview

Poster signing

XtremeCanada's Ken McGinn  asked Joe Breeze, Charlie Kelly and "Klunkerz" film maker Billy Savage a couple of questions about Mountain Bike history.


KM, 1: What was the exact date of Joe Breeze's "Breeze 13 in 1978?


B.S: You'll have to check with Joe, but I believe it was late-September 1977, not 1978. Joe won the Repack race that first weekend after completion of the bike. I think that race was held on Oct.2nd, 1977. Joe finished with a time of 4:34:38, 12 seconds off the course record set by Gary.

Copyright © 2012 by Ken McGinn and XtremeCanada

C.K: Breezer 1 was completed in 1977, all the others in 1978.


J.B: I built Breezer 1 in September/October 1977. I don't have a specific date,


but records indicate that I rode it to victory on its maiden voyage down


Repack sometime in October or November of 1977. I built the other nine of this first series of Breezers in 1977 and into 1978.


KM, 2: What year did specialized start the first mass produced Mountain bikes if not Specialized who started the first mass produced MTBs?


B.S: Gary Fisher and Charlie Kelly were making production bikes,


Mountain Bikes, in 1979, two years before Mike Sinyard's 'StumpJumper' hit the marketplace. Another Marin group was building bikes as well.


The Koski's and their 'TrailMaster' bike was being produced in late 1979-early 1980. They were produced in relatively small numbers, totaling less than 1000 bikes during the couple years of production.


Mike's Sinyard's 'StumpJumper' bikes were significant because he was producing them cheaply overseas in very large numbers, but Gary and

Copyright © 2012 by Ken McGinn and XtremeCanada

Charlie's 'Mountain Bikes', using frames hand built by Tom Ritchey, were also flooding the San Francisco Bay Area. Gary, Charlie and Tom produced several thousand bikes before Mike Sinyard made his first 'StumpJumper'. Gary gave Mike a 'MountainBike' to check out. Mike took it to Japan and knocked it off. Mike took the entire parts spec


off of the 'MountainBike' for his first 'StumpJumper', saving himself years of research and development. The Marin guys had been whittling down that parts spec for years on the trails of Mount Tamalpais. The only thing that was different on Mike's 'StumpJumper' was a cheaper frame and cheaper labor.


C.K: 1982. Univega had a similar bike "("Alpine Sport") that came out shortly after the Stumpjumper.


J.B: Specialized who started the first mass produced MTBs?


The proto-type Specialized Stumpjumper(s) first appeared in 1981. 1982 was the first year of production Stumpjumpers. Actually, Mert Lawwill of Marin, built about 300 Lawwill-Knight Pro-Cruisers starting in 1978. And something everyone seems to forget (and maybe for good reason), mass marketer Murray Ohio produced their Murray Baja in 1980. I'm not sure how many were made, but it might have been in the thousands. I think it sold for about $99.99 at cheap department stores. I understand it was a resounding failure. I was impressed when an engineer from Murray came out to Marin in the late 1970s and was scoping out the scene. Apparently, not enough people at Murray understood that people in the market for cheap bikes are last-adapters.


KM, 3: What were the differences between Russ Mahon's bikes in 1974 and Joe Breeze's in 1978?

Copyright © 2012 by Ken McGinn and XtremeCanada

B.S: Russ' bike was a monster of a 'Klunker'. Russ used a Ward's Hawthorne from the 1940s as the chassis with Suntour VX and Shimano Tourney derailleur's attached. Russ made many other modifications, including


Suntour thumb shifters and redundant braking systems, etc. Joe's Breezer was a brand new bike with a custom built frame out of lightweight tubing. It's kind of like comparing an old smash up derby racer with a brand new Ferrari. Joe's bike was the first (or second) custom built off-road frame with all brand new parts. Joe used new Mafac cantilever brakes, Suntour thumb shifters, and derailleur's and rims etc. It was the first brand new off-road bike.


C.K: I don't know when the Cupertino riders put gears on their bikes, but they had them by 1975. Unlike the Cupertino bikes, which were old bikes with modifications, Joe's was built on a hand-made frame, and used all new components.


J.B: Russ's bikes and all the other Morrow DC bikes used 1930s or 1940s Schwinn (or others) 'paper boy' frames and were built up with mostly used components. My 1977 Breezer had a frame I built specifically for our mountain riding and all parts were brand new. In fact, it was the first mountain bike built with all new components. They were clunkers no more.


KM, 4: Were coaster brakes used because standard rubber brake pads melted from the speed and friction?


B.S: Coaster brakes were used because before alloy rims were available steel rims didn't provide any kind of braking surface when they got wet. That's why coaster brakes (Morrow's in particular) and drum brakes were the way to go. Once alloy came along, cantilever brakes made more sense. They were lighter and easier to work on.

Copyright © 2012 by Ken McGinn and XtremeCanada 

C.K: Coaster brakes were used because that was what came on old bikes, and at first we just used old bikes. There were no rim brakes at the time that would attach to the old bikes without welding something to the frame, or that would reach around the bigger tire. Coaster brakes were used because that was all there was.


J.B: Coaster brakes were used initially because they were sittin' right on the old fat-tire bikes. Once we got more serious, relics such as coaster brakes faded away. Drum brakes were next, but rim brakes were lighter and were the


next choice even though wet pads meant reduced braking. With aluminum rims in 1979, rim braking was significantly improved.


KM, 5: What does everyone think of the French claims of Jean-Louis Swiners that roots of the mountain bikes are in north-east suburbs of Paris, near the Porte des Lilas?


B.S: The VCCP outside of Paris in 1950s were very significant. They definitely contributed to the whole thing, but they didn't continue.


It was the Marin tribe that created an industry with their tenacity to make the bike industry take notice. If you ever see pictures of the VCCP you can tell that they were 20+ years ahead of the curve.


That's why they're in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, and it was Joe Breeze who inducted them there.


C.K: As far as I know, almost no one in the United States is aware of this claim, much less has an opinion about it. Certainly these riders did not have any influence over the Americans who developed the concept on their own. Although cyclists all over the world have experimented with off-road bicycling for a hundred years or more, the sport of mountain biking as we know it today is a California invention, just like BMX and skateboarding.


J.B: I was responsible for inducting the VCCP into the MTB Hall of Fame in Finale Ligura, Italy in 1999. I was blown away with the level of their off-roadness. I wasn't aware of Jean-Louis Swiners. I will ask Jacques Michel about him.


Anyway, the VCCP is a bit like Kirkpatrick MacMillan and his velocipede of 1839. It may have been the first pedal bike, but it didn't contribute to bicycling. It was an evolutionary dead end. Though the VCCP is an impressive example of essentially how far people went off road on bikes, their doings had no bearing on mountain biking. It was another evolutionary dead end. I think Geoff Apps and his Cleland bikes have evolutionary linkage. Not to Marin, but he had (has?) a following in the UK. His line might even precede the Marin lineage. Geoff's spark carried on, no? Where did he get the idea?

Copyright © 2012 by Ken McGinn and XtremeCanada 

Maybe my view is just Marin-centric, but I think it's difficult to ignore how much happened here that caught the attention of a ton of people beyond




KM, 6: When did everyone realize how much of a profound effect that they had on the modern bicycle?


B.S: You'd have to ask them, I'm just a filmmaker :). They had a profound effect on me, and I'm honored that they let me tell their story.


C.K: About 1983, when every manufacturer offered a bike copied directly from the Ritchey Mountain Bikes that Gary Fisher and I first sold.


J.B: I think it is a very incremental thing, but when the first mountain bike


World Championships came along in 1990 that was cause for more than some reflection. Another "Whoa!" moment was hearing that mountain biking was in for the 1996 Olympics.

 Klunkerz the Movie Interview

Copyright © 2013 by Ken McGinn and XtremeCanada