Canadian filmmaker Wolf Ruck made Freewheelin’ in 1985. The short film highlights early mountain bike footage set to a decidedly-80s soundtrack. According to Brian Vernor (read The Bicycle Story’s 2011 interview with him), it is likely the first purpose-made mountain bike film in history. Vernor writes:
“In early 2010 I showed this film to multiple cycling media outlets in an effort to re-release the film, or even do an in depth profile on the man that as far as I know has made the first mountain bike film. the FIRST. This is a film. It is not a bunch of scrappy footage. Wolf Ruck made something beautiful and important, and then he moved on and made other films about other subjects. He was very humble when I approached him about his film FREEWHEELIN. He was even surprised anybody cared. What a shock to see this film for me. Besides the historical importance, the great vibe he transmits from the scene as it was back then, jamming soundtrack he co-ordinated, Wolf Ruck can likely be credited with the first urban POV shot in all of cycling. Plenty of people have made names for themselves simply from that shot alone. As a filmmaker this whole film inspires me.”
Frank Wadelton, aka Frank The Welder, is a legendary figure in American frame building. He’s worked at Yeti, Spooky, Mongoose, and many others and had a tremendous influence on mountain bike design. These days he builds under his own name, Frank The Welder. This short film from Jake Goss provides a great glimpse into Frank’s life and career history.
Kat Sweet at the I5 Colonnade mountain bike park in Seattle. Photo by Meg Valliant.
Though mountain biking has been a male-dominated sport from the get go, there have always been a small contingent of women along for the ride. Jacquie Phelan, Juli Furtado, Rebecca Rusch, Marla Streb and many others all played pioneering roles in mountain biking’s development. Like them, Kat Sweet‘s mountain bike career has helped break down barriers for women and clear a path for today’s riders, especially in downhill where she was one of just a handful of women racing in those early days.
Sweet’s bike life has spanned nearly three decades of professional racing, freeride competitions, contest promotion, and coaching. These days her focus is on the latter two with her Sugar Showdown contest series for women freeriders and her Sweetlines Coaching business. Specializing in freeride coaching for women and kids, Sweet is working to foster the next generation of mountain biker rippers and grow the “sisterhood of shred.” I spoke with her about her long history in mountain biking, her unexpected foray into coaching, breaking down barriers to entry as a mentor for women riders, and much more.
As the title plainly states, Jacquie Phelan is the Godmother. Or perhaps the Queen. At the very least, she’s one of mountain biking’s early pioneers and helped carved a path into the sport for women. She helped found the National Off Road Bicycle Association along with other mountain bike luminaries of the day like Jack Ingram and her husband Charlie Cunningham; won NORBA championships and many other mountain bike races throughout the 80s and 90s; founded the first women’s mountain bike club and continues today to promote women’s mountain biking through it. Jacquie and I spoke about her introduction to mountain biking, her early days of racing in a “man’s” sport, the foundation of the WOMBATS and more.
I came across this historical gem on youtube. Evening Magazine, a 1970s television news magazine on a San Francisco CBS station, produced a segment about the new craze sweeping Marin County, Klunking. The clip has some excellent footage of a race down the Repack course as well as interviews with Charlie Kelly, Gary Fisher, and others. It’s obviously not as comprehensive as Klunkerz, the 2006 documentary on the subject, but it’s nonetheless an amazing peak into the early history of mountain biking.