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Mountain Biking

Ultimate Renegades | Meet the Repack Racers who Rode Klunkers – The Original Mountain Bikes

Introducing the bikes and the riders that spawned a sport

klunkers original mountan bikes charlie kelly drifting
Charlie Kelly, one of the original Repack Racers, riding his Klunker in 1976. Photo: Larry Cragg / CharlieKelly.com

We’ve teamed up with Jeep, who are celebrating their 75th anniversary this year, to shine a spotlight on some of the ultimate renegades from the world of action sports – past, present and future. Here we take a look at the bikes known as “klunkers”, the crazily primitive machines from the earliest days of the sport, and the equally crazy men who rode them – the pioneering Repack Racers of Marin County, California.

No suspension, plaid shirts and, most scary of all, no helmets – the mountain bikers of the seventies are almost unrecognisable from those of today. In fact, these guys wouldn’t even call themselves mountain bikers, just cyclists. Instead of mountain bikes, they rode Klunkers.

“These guys wouldn’t even call themselves mountain bikers, just cyclists. Instead of mountain bikes, they rode Klunkers.”

Klunkers were messenger bikes with ten speed drivetrains on them taken “up into the hills to have a ball”. This was mountain biking without the advertising campaigns, social media hype or wheel size debates of today, it was far more about racing your mates and having a blast. We’d say it was taking it back to the roots, but, well, these are the roots.

The most famous Klunkers of all were the Repack Racers. These guys raced regularly in Northern California and got their name from having to constantly re-pack their hubs with grease after long race runs. Charlie Kelly, Gary Fisher and Mike Sinyard were all among this crew and they laid the blueprint for the sport we know today.

These hippies could have just bought road bikes and ridden them on tarmac, but they dared to be different. They wanted new thrills, new experiences and a sense of danger that you couldn’t find anywhere else. They got all of this in bucketloads – and we’re still feeling those highs today.

The Jeep Ultimate Renegades

We’ve teamed up with Jeep, who are celebrating their 75th anniversary this year, to shine a spotlight on some of the ultimate renegades from the world of action sports – past, present and future. The series kicks off with mountain biking, as seen through the eyes of one of the scene’s best-respected riders and trail-builders, Dan Atherton. Next month we’ll shift our attention to surfing, asking big wave surf legend Andrew Cotton to pick out his ultimate renegades.

Renegades of Mountain Bike

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