Added Haro Bikes, a California BMX builder who added MTBs to their portfolio in 1985. Although later than most, they have managed to thrive and continue to exist as an independent maker today.
Added another Italian to the party: Pinarello. The winningest, and perhaps highest status, road cycling maker. Interestingly, Pinarello just announced that they'll return to making MTBs for the first time in over 10 years, just in time for the 2024 Olympics. See: Dogma XC.
Added Ferraroli, a Swiss maker of custom, high quality MTBs.
Finally started in on 1985, with Cinelli, a venerable Italian brand. There are about 40-50 brands which entered the MTB market in 1985, including many Italians, such as: Bottecchia, Colnago, Ferraroli, Fiori, Marinoni, Pinarello, and Santi in addition to the prior debuts of Cinelli and Rossin. Much to do.
After a couple of months off, added Scorpion, a very brief attempt of a BMX manufacturer (they even made their own rims) to go MTB. And then a long overdue look at what came before MTBs: MTB Pre-History. How Clunking came to be and a few other valiant attempts to create off road riders. In hindsight, the page is missing a section on BMX. BMX bikes never became clunkers before MTBs hit the market - despite pioneering 26“ Al rims, knobby tires and off-road racing. Like all of the other entrenched bike manufacturers, perhaps they were too focused on making better BMX bikes and money. It was mostly 1940's Schwinns which were massaged into downhill machines, borrowing parts from BMX, motorcycles, and touring road bikes. This page will be updated with a number of other missing links and influencers.
For every bike pic uploaded to mtbtimeline, a hundred were discarded.
Yet many of these discards were of bikes of beauty. Sublimely welded and painted steel, captured on film by greatly talented photographers. Some of these saved pics are now on display in a new section on p0rn with categories of:
With more to come.
Slingshot was one of the most startlingly unique yet workable mountain bikes ever imagined. The 1984 timeline pic of a prototype is possibly a year early. But it's one of my favorite designs, so why not? That reasoning hasn't pushed me into buying one for myself, however. Also added CW Racing, a BMX builder who tried, briefly, extending their prowess into the hilly off-road world.
Added another cycling giant of history: Falcon Cycles, a UK merger of eight brands with pedigrees mostly from the 1860's & 1880s to form the second largest cycling manufacturer in the UK, just behind Raleigh. All of the very largest bicycle manufacturers to survive the 19th century did not fare well with the Asian invasion of the 1980s: Columbia, Raleigh, Schwinn, Peugeot and Huffy were at some points in time, the world's largest bicycle manufacturers - but all proved to too sclerotic survive the 1980s bicycle boom. All of these brands survived as independent companies until the 1980s but none emerged other than as a shadow brand of faster competitors by the present day:
Time for a who-owns-who graph.
David Wrath-Sharman of Highpath Engineering crafted quirky British cross country bicycles, well tuned for muddy off-road, or perhaps off-trail adventures. I suspect the dates are off by a year on a couple of the examples - which may be true of quite a few bikes in the timeline. If this were a public Wiki, the British contingent, who are better at cataloging and have a keener interest in all things historical, would be all over each word of the descriptions. I try to be more careful of bikes from the UK as a result…
John Olsen specialized in trails & trials bikes: high bottom brackets, short chainstays and often no seat posts. His legacy isn't so much in the very few bikes he built, or designed for
others but in the many columns and articles he wrote over decades promoting mountain biking.
Added Technobull, an early German maker of finely crafted mtbs. The listed 1982 model may not be authentically 1982. If it's not authentic, then it was beautifully restored by the owner using unusual and quirky BMX parts available only in the year 1982. If it is authentic, it shows a thought evolution of ATBs growing out of BMX to their own offroad technology needs. Again, if non-authentic, this shows the dangers of relying upon photos found on the net and wishful thinking. Or, if authentic, then “hut ab” to the owner for preserving such a rare specimen.
Added Gecko, run by Ken Beach, an early collaborator with Chris King, Richard Cunningham, Victor Vincente of America and Lennard Zinn. Small, quality output from Santa Barbara, CA.
Added Cycles Libéria, an early French maker of VTTs (Vélos Tout Terrain.) Their first 1982 model had a record breaking 54 gears (3x6x3), complete with three shifters. Only the 1987 Columbia MPL came close, with three shift cables but alas, only a single derailleur.
Added Otis Guy Cycles, which was long overdue. One of the founders of mountain biking, Otis took up the torch in 1982 with part time frame building while fighting fires. Firefighters seem to have a lot of free time, as Otis produced about 15 bikes a year over the next 30+ years. Also added MCS a BMX maker who briefly
strayed into MTBs.
Added two low-end brands: Le Montagnard of St. Etienne, France and General of East Rutherford, New Jersey. Both constructed with ugly welds and the lowest end of components, requiring much research into the mostly undocumented realm of marginal profitability. It's hard to get excited by them, but that's what most people actually rode. It also introduces a new ranking category: “Supermarket”, which is below “Department Store”, “Bike Shop” and “Custom” bicycles.
Another British made cycle, Dawes is added to the lists. Their first ads boast that they were the first UK made MTB, but they were preceded by Saracen and Evans. Muddy Fox/S&G appeared in 1983, but imported re-badged Arayas from Japan. Overbury's of Bristol likely started in late 1984. And, of course, Cleland was first on the UK map, making capable off-roaders starting in 1979.
Added MTB Cycletech, the first Swiss made mountain bike. I'm guessing the founder, Butch Gaudy, followed his girlfriend to the alps from northern California with his mountain bike and no job prospects. And hey, there's no mountain bikes to be found! What to do? Europe was late to the game and the established players were too distracted by being devoured by cheap Asian imports coupled with far superior components from Shimano. Butch often used local components (EDCO derailleurs and Ferraroli frames, both Swiss.) One of the first MTB makers in Europe, after Schauff (1981) and Peugeot (1982) - alongside BH (1983). Bianchi (1983) doesn't count, as they imported from Taiwan…
Added Rock Lobster, a small Santa Cruz, CA builder of fine, distinctive mountain bikes. The Rock Lobster name joins a growing list of irreverent brand names, such as Crotch Rocket, Muddy Fox and perhaps Salsa.
Added Bike Nashbar, the friend to many cyclists looking for parts in the pre-internet era, and the foe to Local Bike Shops everywhere, before Amazon brought everything crashing down. They made quality bikes, which weren't any more mass produced than many boutique brands which off-shored to Asia. However, I couldn't find a complete catalog online from any year of their pre-internet existence.
Added Wilderness Trail Bikes, a famous Marin component maker who has never produced a complete, production bike. It was tricky to add bikes to its timeline as they were somewhat separate efforts by Steve Potts, Mark Slate or Charlie Cunningham. Well worth documenting.
Added Sanwa bicycles, which has nothing to do with the Sanwa Holdings behemoth. Somehow in the 70's, a small Wisconsin Cycle Supply acquired the Sanwa trademark and ran with it for about ten years, importing finished bikes, slapping Japanese sounding stickers on them and distributing them to small shops across North America. That's how most bike brands operated; they didn't have a core frame and design group, they simply made partners with suppliers. To quote Diamond Back about how to run a bike company: “Boxes in, boxes out. Everything else is marketing.”
Added Columbia, America's first bicycle company, and for some time, the world's largest. It started making very cheap MTBs by 1983 for department stores such as JC Penny. None of their MTBs are noteworthy, except for one comically terrible 1987 MPL.
Added BCA, a mid-sized Pennsylvania based builder of the 80's who created department store level MTBs for the major department stores plus its own local brand. No catalogs, ads, nor any corroborating material to verify dates - so just a lot of dating guess-work which is often inconsistent. For example, I added a 1986 date to a bike which shipped with a 1983 derailleur. Did BCA find a hoard of cheap, old parts? Did the owner downgrade? All timeline listings could use a more careful date review.
After a brief break, I added Hodaka, a major supplier in today's bike market, who only sold a single MTB (plus a BMX bike,) in 1984. Later, there should be a page on both “who owns who” and “who builds what”, to show the labyrinth of cross ownerships and the flows of bikes from now China, Taiwan (still) and many other countries. Also added a paean to bullmoose: a tech section on handlebars, documenting the rise and fall of the bullmoose bar, the quintessential feature defining vintage/retro/classic MTB.
Added Panasonic Bicycles, a direct Japanese export. Given Panasonic's low-cost reputation for consumer electronics, it's surprising to see how well executed their entire bike range is. All of their bikes can ride both down and up Repack. 1)
Added Gitane, a large, influential French builder of mostly road racing bicycles. It's interesting they kept all manufacturing within France through the 80's and well into the 90's. Even today, their French factories produce over 400,000 bicycles per year, mostly destined to be labeled with other brands under their parent company, Cycleeurope of Sweden.
Added Renegade, an own (single?) store brand which expanded across the globe and continues to exist today. Stores want to sell unique brands to lock in price & loyalty and Renegade, as supplied by its parent company, “On Your Bike Holdings” is likely one of many distributors with decals who do this. How do bike shops find these distributors? This is also the 100th brand in the index. There's probably another 30 just in 1984 which are easily found.
Added Shogun, an arm of Marui Ltd., which has successfully exported many decades of bikes from Asia to North America and Australia. This represents a business shift, as prior US distributors slapped their own labels on whatever they could pull from Asia or manufacturers pushed their own brands out from Asia. It required direct employees on both sides of the Pacific.
Added Redline, the original BMX maker who finally started selling a limited few MTBs. Most BMX makers couldn't cross the branding barrier, but Redline persevered and continues as a viable MTB brand today.
Added Giant, the world's largest maker of bicycles. For their first decade they hid in the shadows of other brands such as Beacon1) and Schwinn2). Somehow Giant has forged new contracts with the likes of Trek and Specialized while competing with them with their own brands.
Added Motobécane, another old-school giant which imploded under the Asian tide of innovation and cost savings. By 1985, Motobécane became MBK and there continues to exist decent MBK branded cycles today. Pouring through the histoires Motobécane, I've obtained the impression that Motobécane's heart was really in the motorcyle part of the business and that bicycles were just a side hustle which was always mid-market.
Added GT Bicycles, with their Triple Triangle™ frames. Triple Triangles worked well - mainly to differentiate GT from all of the other identical diamond framed MTBs clad with identical components. Thank goodness for full suspension!
Added Yeti, who fielded the most successful factory racing MTB team of all time on their turquoise and yellow bikes. Thus starts the 1984 timeline in earnest. All other 1984 brand starts were accidental. There are at least 40 brands who debuted in 1984. Much left to do!
Added FMSA, a very obscure MTB maker with only a single year, single bike example. Also added a few more Salsa pics. It's an ongoing task to add extra examples to each brand to fill in the timeline.
Started a section on people, displaying photo galleries of the pioneers and personalities who birthed the mountain bike. Just Repack for now, but there's plenty of people beyond the timeline's brand manufacturers who made mountain biking what it is today.
Added Terranaut, an obscure house brand for a St. Louis, MO group of bike shops for 1983-86 only. House brands were very popular in the 70's and 80's, instilling local loyalty, offering decent groups at budget prices, and giving the shop greater supply chain control. It's the “budget price” perception which likely led to the demise of small house brands as department store bikes smothered the low end space. Are there any small shop house brands left?? For example, Terranaut launched a “Taum Sauk” mtb, named after a local mountain. No way Giant or Trek would regionally fragment their brands.
Added Crotch Rocket, who is likely to have started making mtbs in Santa Barbara/Goleta in 1983. Again, all dates are unreliable. Component dating is proving tricky, as there are many more component variants than are disclosed in velobase and disraeiligears. I owe them a great debt, not least of which is using their images. About 1,100 images have been uploaded in the past year, hopefully all with attributions and certainly with appreciation. Here are the top twelve sources of images:
Added an long overdue entry to Peter Weigle, perhaps the best of all active North American custom frame builders. Also added a bunch of Huffy photos - which are harder to find than J. P. Weigle shots, despite being the world's largest bike maker, producing over 100 million bikes. And Peter, having made perhaps dozens of mountain bikes, has a larger internet presence. Interestingly, Huffy actually made a bunch of decent bikes - but their low-end designs are criminally cheap and thus they've all been cancelled from history. There should be a section on crap components - mostly Shimano/SunTour clones using steel and plastic. They're produced by the billion and are more popular than the real things, as most of the world runs on cheap bikes.
For example, when is the earliest mountain bike from India? Or Africa? Or China? Even now, this question makes little sense and is quite culturally insensitive. Why would they make any mtbs? Bicycles are for going places. We in the west are very fortunate to have so many quality cycling craftsmen. And we should consider people whose who were introduced to mountain bike via simple department store bikes to be equally as fortunate.
Started an Instagram today: https://www.instagram.com/mtbtimeline/
Feedback is essential for all this to work, and Instagram works well for that.
But a who's going to ever care see it?
https://mtbtimeline.com went live on May 10, 2021 and since then 88 manufacturers have been added to the main timeline. Last week BRC was added. Zinn before that, then Beacon and then Sears at the end of April, 2022.
Sears was the first department store mountain bike! Beacon was truly weird and cool. Soon the 1983 wall will be hit: no more brands which debuted before 1984 can be found. There's likely another 40-50 which came out in 1984. What to do next…?
MTB Tech? Bike p0rn? People & personalities? Or continue to boil the ocean of mtb history?