Mountain biking involves riding a bicycle off-road, over rough terrains. The bicycles are specially designed to handle these types of terrains. There are several types of mountain biking, such as cross-country, trail riding, all mountain (also known as Enduro), downhill, freeride and dirt jumping. All of those are common when referring to mountain biking.

The sport requires physical endurance, strength and balance. It goes without saying, that bike handling and self-reliance is needed for all level of riders. Riders will seek steep descents and high incline climbs as they progress in the sport.

Off-road trails such as single track, back-country roads, fire roads and ski resorts are the playground of choice. Sometimes we are far from civilization, so self-reliance is a strong ethic. We need to learn to repair our own bike where and when it breaks. It’s always a good idea to carry a backpack with water, food, tools and a first aid kit. This is sure to become handy more often then not.

First Bike With Pneumatic Tires Ridden off road

Mountain biking in the 1800’s

First Bike With Pneumatic Tires Ridden off road – 1887

It is reported that the first bicycle modified for off-road were used by Swiss military in 1891. The Buffalo Soldiers have also used bicycles modified for off-road on expedition from Montana to Yellowstone in 1896.


Bicycles were ridden off-road by road cyclists as a mean of keeping fit during the winter. The first use of the name “mountain bike” comes from D. Gwynn when he built a rough terrain trail bike in 1966. He named it “mountain bike” based on it’s intended use. Then in 1968, Geoff Apps, a motorbike trail rider started to explore off-road bike designs. By 1979 he had developed a custom bicycle uniquely suited for wet and muddy off-road conditions found in England.


Several groups of riders in different areas of the U.S. can make a valid claims to playing a part in the birth of mountain biking. Cruiser bicycles from the 30-40s where modified with fat tires and brakes. These would then be used to shred down mountain trails in Marin County, California well into the late 70s. It’s in late 70s early 80s, that road bicycle manufacturers started to manufacture mountain bikes. Joes Breeze is credited for the introduction of the first purpose-build mountain bike in 1978.

Welder Tom Richey went on and made frames for a company called Mountain Bikes; a partnership between Gary Fisher, Charlie Kelly and Tom Richey. The company’s three partners eventually dissolved their partnership, and the company became Fisher Mountain Bikes. While Tom Ritchey started his own frame shop. The first mountain bikes were basically road bicycle frames with heavier tubing and different geometry with a wider frame and fork to allow for a wider tire.

first production mtbFirst Production Mountain Bike – 1979

Tom Ritchey built the first regularly available mountain bike frame, which was accessorized by Gary Fisher and Charlie Kelly. It was sold by their company called MountainBikes (later changed to Fisher Mountain Bikes then bought by Trek). The first two mass-produced mountain bikes were sold in the early 1980s. At the time, the bicycle industry was not impressed with mountain biking, which many regarded as a short-term fad. In particular, large manufacturers such as Schwinn and Fuji failed to see the significance of an all-terrain bicycle and the coming boom in ‘adventure sports’.

Instead, the first mass-produced mountain bikes were pioneered by new companies such as MountainBikes (later, Fisher Mountain Bikes), Ritchey and Specialized. They arranged for production of mountain bike frames from factories in Japan and Taiwan. First marketed in 1981.


In the 1990s and 2000s, mountain biking became a mainstream activity. Mountain bikes and mountain bike gears became available at standard bike stores and not only in specialty shops as before. Early in the 21st century, department stores began selling inexpensive mountain bikes with full-suspension and disc brakes. In the first decade of the 21st century, trends in mountain bikes included the “all-mountain bike”, the 29er and the singlespeed. “All-mountain bikes” were designed to descend and handle well in rough conditions, but still pedal efficiently for climbing. They were intended to bridge the gap between cross-country bikes and those built specifically for downhill riding.

In the mid-first decade of the 21st century, an increasing number of mountain bike-oriented resorts opened. Often, they are similar to or in the same complex as a ski resort. Otherwise, they retrofit the concrete steps and platforms of an abandoned factory as an obstacle course, as with Ray’s MTB Indoor Park. Mountain bike parks which are operated as summer season activities at ski hills usually include chairlifts (adapted to bikes), a number of trails of different difficulty, and bicycle rentals.

What’s next

Now a day, the bike technology is changing so fast, that’s what’s coming is anyone’s guess!

2 Responses to The History Of Mountain Biking

  1. Avatar Joel Harris says:

    Wow. Well researched article. I never knew mountain biking only became popular in the 90s.

Leave a Reply