For nearly three decades, the Mountain Biking Hall of Fame resided in Crested Butte, Colorado. But June 6 marks a kind of homecoming for the sport, as the esteemed collection is now part of the brand-new Marin Museum of Bicycling in Fairfax, California, a town just north of the Golden Gate Bridge that’s recognized as the birthplace of mountain biking.
It’s hard to imagine a more fitting spot for the space, a 3,000-square-foot homage to cycling, located in a former grocery store in the shadow of Mount Tamalpais. In the early 1970s, a pioneering posse of daredevil riders bombed down the 2,571-foot mountain’s trails and fire roads on fat-tired bikes they called “klunkers.” With ensuing races like the legendary Repack, mountain biking was unofficially born.
Highlights of the hall of fame display include some of the earliest mountain bikes to hit the scene, including models by renowned designers Tom Ritchey and Charlie Cunningham. Beyond Marin County’s reputation as a mountain biking mecca, museum board members, who include Mountain Bike Hall of Famers and early pioneers Joe Breeze, Marc Vendetti, and Otis Guy, hope the space will capitalize on the Bay Area’s booming tourism.
“As people are heading to Point Reyes National Seashore, perhaps they will have researched their trip and will stop by,” says Breeze, who also helped develop the modern-day mountain bike. “In cycling-crazy Fairfax and Marin, where a lot of mountain bike rides and road bike rides head off every morning, it was just this perfect place.”
Breeze’s longtime dream to create a bike-centric museum shifted into high gear following a mountain biking exhibit at San Francisco International Airport that he helped develop.
When the exhibit ended in 2013, the curator unexpectedly gifted Breeze with massive black-and-white photographs of Mount Tam and Pine Mountain that had appeared in the exhibit. Soon thereafter, a team of Fairfax-based cyclists approached the then-curators of the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in Colorado, Don Cook and wife Kay Peterson-Cook, about the possibility of moving the venue to Marin. The Cooks, who had overseen the hall of fame on a volunteer basis since 1997, agreed.
“Like all good parents, sooner or later you have to let the kid grow up and get bigger,” Don Cook says. “We knew that graduating and going into Fairfax would be a maturing and a huge step upward and forward for the museum and the hall of fame.”
While the hall of fame will surely attract the fat-tired set, the museum aims to showcase the evolution of cycling throughout its fascinating 200-year history. Current exhibits encompass about 50 total bikes and accompanying artifacts, including a 1868 Michaux velocipede, a replica of an 1820 “boneshaker” complete with wooden wheels and iron tires, and, during the opening month, the Specialized Tarmac that Vincenzo Nibali rode into Paris to win the 2014 Tour de France.
“Years ago, cycling was like computers today–it was the “it” thing,” Breeze says. “Anybody could get on a bike. You didn’t have to have a horse or rely on a train schedule. It’s just a story that puts a smile on everyone’s face. And it just seemed like celebrating this can only grow cycling.”