It’s often said that necessity is the mother of invention. For Pete Tompkins, the man who would become known as Mr. Crud, this necessity came in the form of preventing a splash of mud to the face.
The Crud Catcher was the original mudguard when it dropped on the mountain bike scene in 1991, unless you count the cut-up plastic bottles being used for the same purpose before then.
For Tompkins, it was never about being a pioneer in the sport though, nor the achievement attained from the work or the money on offer as a reward.
“It’s easy to say, but I never set out to make a penny," he says, with telling sincerity. “It was never about making money or trying to start a business. I rode my bike everyday and everything I ever made was to make my riding more fun. I think that shone through."
Tompkins was an early adopter of mountain biking, transitioning from a life of surfing on the South Coast of England to take to two-wheels and the muddy trails of the North East in the mid-1980s.
Within a few years he had started racing, worked his way on to the British team, was soon competing around Europe and mountain biking became his life.
Of course, the gear wasn’t quite what it is today, and there was one irritation that particularly ground Tompkins’ gears – or that clogged them with mud to be more specific.
He continues: “There was one year, I think it was 1989, when every race was just mud, mud, mud. We were getting mud behind our eyeballs. It was disgusting. Something was needed; there was no doubt about it. We were all going blind racing our bikes.
“People were cutting up old bottles and old bits of plastic to stop the mud getting thrown in their face. I wanted something a bit prettier for my brand new bike so I started looking at manufacturing methods to see if I could come up with something."
That something would be the Crud Catcher mudguard, a milestone in mountain biking progression made by a man who had no previous experience in either engineering or working with plastic.
Despite the impact of the innovation, the modest Tompkins downplays his role in the development of the mountain bike.
“People were already making them themselves," he says. “I just put one into production. It was a case of two and two equalling four. It wasn’t a stroke of genius.
“The doubt was immense at the time. I had kind of decided by accident to go into production. I had already committed myself and spent the money. It was such an easy process to have a tool made and then start making these things.
“We put an advert in MBUK and it went in with a review and within a day of it coming out we were getting postal orders. It just took off like a rocket and it was a fantastic feeling.
“There’s no doubt about it. I was in the right place at the right time."
It’s clear that the backbone of Tompkins’ work has always been a love for the sport and for playing outdoors.
The 65-year-old has been racing bikes since he was just 15, and admits that he’s “never liked working".
Rather than the job or the money, it’s Tompkin’s curious, addictive nature and a love for two-wheels that have kept his imagination sparking all these years.
“Once I got my teeth into mountain biking, I thought about nothing else," the enterprising Englishman concludes. “When I discovered surfing it took over my life. When I discovered mountain biking it did the same thing.
“The story that always stuck with me is of the guy who’s on his death bed saying ‘I wish had spent more time in the office’. He doesn’t exist.
“We don’t run [Crud] like a business. We run it like a hobby. I don’t come out with a new product each year. I’ve never tried to. That’s not what the business is about; it works on instinct and feel.
“I just wanted to have a life that didn’t involve sitting around waiting for something to happen."