This Thanksgiving I participated in a hallowed tradition with hundreds of others here in Marin County, California. I'm talking about The Turkey Day Mountain Bike Ride on Pine Mountain, or the "Appetite Seminar."
Since 1975, the ride annually covers 17 miles and about 3,000 vertical feet, Joe Breeze told me as we hit the first grade with our sons and rolling clusters of other mountain bikers. Breeze explained how he, Charlie Kelly, Chris Lang and nine other locals made up the ride as a way to work up their hunger for the afternoon turkey feed.
Joe recently sold his company, Breezer Bikes, to Advanced Sports inc. in Philadelphia, which marks the end of an era. Both Breeze and Gary Fisher started their mountin bike businesses in Marin's San Anselmo during the '70s, back before most of the world even heard of a mountain bike. They and a heady roster of the sport's old school still live, work and ride in either San Anselmo or Fairfax.
Today central Marin County remains a US nexus of cycling, whther it's road, mountain or cyclo-cross. The towns of San Anselmo and Farifax (combined population 20,000) alone have six bicycle stores and additional high-end custom-fitting operations.
While the mountain bike had its roots in many places including Colorado, it was off the slopes of Pine Mountain where the first timed mountain bike races were run in the late seventies, with Joe bested by Gary Fisher down the Repack course.
Think of the amount of carbon and air pollution the invention of the mountain bike has reduced worldwide. From the early days of Breeze and Fisher with 10 gears (or less) on junkyard bikes, mountain bikes have also spawned hybrids and "comfort bikes." These now have up to 30 gears, shocks and wide knobby tires, allowing easier and safer travel on everything from country roads to cobblestone or potholed city streets.
These categories of bikes collectively also comprise about 60 pecent of the 100 million unit worldwide bike sales.
Such contributions to the US economy and now Asia's economy should be kept in mind as the nation comes up with ways to bust carbon. It's not just capital-intensive venture-funded solar technologies or biofuels made from algae, but also tinkerers in America's garages who are building the proverbial better mousetrap.
Our ride Thursday ended on the Repack downhill: many congratulated 13-year-old Jackson as "rider of the day" for being the youngest to complete the grueling course. Conditions were spectacular--packed but not muddy, very few loose small rocks and unearthy views of the Marin County Municipal Water District land north of Mount Tam.