Is attacking downhills with coaster brakes where the sport of downhill mountain biking originated? Or did mountain biking and klunking grow up side by side?

  • What's klunking?
    – andy256
    Aug 11, 2015 at 6:37
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    It's when you take a steel cruiser frame slap an extra brake on it and ride it down the dirt. transition has a dedicated bike for this youtube.com/watch?v=SVWP6VaLtvw transitionbikes.com/2015/Bikes_Klunker.cfm
    – Ben
    Aug 11, 2015 at 6:39
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    Mountain biking goes back to at least 1896. Aug 11, 2015 at 11:47
  • 1
    And to my knowledge, what we know as modern "mountain biking" began when teenagers took their younger brothers' (or sisters') bikes (generally 24"), jacked up the seat a bit, and began off-roading with them. Young adults got into the sport and started adding shocks, hand brakes, etc. Aug 11, 2015 at 11:54
  • as @Ben is saying, Klunking has re-emerged as a style which is basically taking a beach cruiser and putting BMX bars and MTB tires on it. Did Klunking birth mountain biking? Inasmuch that the people who were originally klunking on klunkers are the same people who are credited with "inventing" mountain bikes, yes.
    – jqning
    Aug 11, 2015 at 21:45

4 Answers 4


Klunker as a term is synonymous with early mountain bike (as it is currently known). Klunkers were developed by customising early beach cruisers on 26" wheels (Schwinn predominantly) by spreading the rear dropouts to make them multi-geared and adding moto handle bars and brakes due to their durability and strength (brands such as Magura were initially moto brands).

The term klunker was used to describe these built up bikes on cruiser frames.

This style of bike and mountain riding first appeared in Marin County, California in the mid 70's prior to the first purpose designed mountain bike appearing in 78. If you look at the proponents of the early mountain biking movement and design; Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, Charlie Kelly, Tom Ritchey and Keith Bontrager (there are going to be many more....) all were active in Marin and it's surrounding counties at the time.

  • Interesting (to me at least) is that Breeze invented the Breeze dropout which most people will recognize but do not know the name of!
    – jqning
    Aug 11, 2015 at 21:50

The story is complicated and can't be confined to a couple of paragraphs. That's why I wrote a book about it: Fat Tire Flyer: Repack and the Birth of Mountain Biking.

  • Why was this comment downvoted? Self-promotion?
    – jqning
    Aug 18, 2015 at 2:31
  • Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference. For an intro to how this and other Stack Exchange Q & A sites work, please Take the Tour.
    – Gary.Ray
    Aug 18, 2015 at 12:52
  • A "yes," "no," or "kind of" would have been nice , as opposed to advertisement
    – Ben
    Jul 8, 2016 at 22:30

Hard to be definitive. But I thought it started with Gary Fisher and others on cruiser bikes with coaster brakes https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Fisher, the Repack Races. He went on to develop the first mountain bikes.


I have since discovered that the answer is indeed yes. Men like Joe Breeze and Gary Fisher tools their old 50s and 60s schwinns and added balloon tires and two brakes, after the Repack left many with smoking coaster brakes. Tom Ritchey made the first mountain bike for Joe Breeze, and they eventually built the first mountain bikes or sale as well as coin the term. In 1981 the first mass production bike came from Specialized with the Stumpjumper. What started as coaster braking a cruiser down some dirt path eventually became an Olympic sport. While, as Daniel pointed out, bikes had been ridden off road way before that, it was these men that invented the word and the sport.

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