The History of Mountain Biking in Britain - (The Early Pioneers)
This History is periodically updated as new and verifiable information is received.
Last updated: 18/December/2009
This information is based on detailed research and is mostly based on published and verifiable resources. However, many of the events referred to were not documented at the time, but some years later. Many of the exact dates are not known.
Early 20th Century -'Pass Storming':
Serious off road cycling started in Britain in the early 20th century with the activity of 'Pass Storming'
. This involved riding a bicycle to a mountainous area, then riding, or carrying the bike over a high and unpaved, mountain pass. This activity eventually led to the formation of The Rough Stuff Fellowship in 1955, an organisation for cyclists who liked to wander from the beaten track.
1955 onwards The Rough Stuff Fellowship
used a variety of existing bike designs and some modifications were made to improve performance. There is evidence that a few custom built frames were made and fitted with suitable components i.e: alpine gears, cantilever brakes etc. The idea was to, whenever possible, get off the roads and cycle along lanes and byways. If the going got tough the riders would simply get off and walk.
Which were the first ‘Mountain Bikes’ to be designed and made in Britain?
There is little doubt that the Geoff Apps
designed Range Rider
were the first ‘Mountain Bikes’ to be made in Britain. These were designed without any knowledge of the American bikes and so should be considered as a separate lineage of off-road bike. The first prototype was made in 1968
based on a Raleigh Explorer
frame. Experiments using a variety of road bike framesets continued throughout the 1970s
. His bikes mostly used 2 inch wide, 650b, knobbly snow tyres from Finland. His first Range Rider bikes, using a custom designed (un-braced) framesets were designed in 1978
) I believe the frames where made by Dee's Cycles of Amersham in 1979
. These bikes had all the features of the Mountain bike, though their design was arrived at independently. I believe that these bikes were the first British made Mountain Bikes. (One version had drum brakes another rim brakes).
Later versions of these were sold by Cleland Cycles
(Geoff’s own company), English Cycles
, and Highpath Engineering
over the next ten years. They were built to order and as far as I know never mass produced. In October 1981 Nick Crane
rode a third generation Range Rider
prototype up Snowdon.
The above bikes were designed as if getting off and walking was a criminal offence. Geoff Apps
was also a trials motorbike rider. They were designed completely for off-road use. They are the tractors of the Mountain Bike world, tall, functional and reliable.
http://www.james-walters.net/cleland/cl ... story.html
Who made the first American style Mountain Bike in Britain?
(1981) A US style Mountain Bike was made by
at the request of an American customer.
Amateur frame builder Tony Oliver
also made himself one which he exibited at the 1981 York Cycle Show.
Who brought the first American style Mountain Bike into Britain?
) Journalist Richard Grant
brought over a 1st generation Gary Fisher
built ‘clunker’. He exhibited this bike at the 1978 Olympia cycle show.
By the end of 1982
American built Ritchey's were being brought into England. I remember it being received wisdom that Norman Hiller
of Covent Garden Cycles brought over the first purpose built US Mountain Bike, an early Tom Ritchey
built Bike. Others claim that either Journalist Richard Grant
or Richard Ballantine
brought across the first Ritchey's from the States. Richard Ballantine's two bikes brought over for a Saharan expedition were the inspiration London bike shop, F.W. Evans Cycles, to design a Mountain Bike that became the F.W. Evans ATB, Saracen ATB
. Both bikes were identical, apart from the first being usually painted silver and the latter being painted black or red. In July 1984 I hired a black F.W. Evans ATB from Kingston Cycles, its frame number was 001.
Which was the first Mountain Bike mass-produced in Britain? Raleigh Bomber? 1981
(I don’t think so). They were American style Beach Cruisers. Only three speed hub gears, caliper brakes and small frame/seat Designed for teenagers who were outgrowing their BMX bikes.
Early 1984 F.W. Evans ATB/Saracen ATB
? (Manufactured by Bluemels).
, Richard Ballantine asked London bike shop F.W. Evans Cycles to build up two Ritchey frames he had brought from the U.S. for Tim Gartside's and Peter Murphy's ,February 1983, Saharan expedition. Evans were curios and persuaded Bluemels to build some bikes based on what they had seen. The resulting F.W. Evans ATBs were mostly silver and branded under the shops own marque. The Bluemels’ own Saracens bikes were identical, apart from being painted black.
The other early British made mountain bikes include was the Dawes Ranger
and Bob Jackson's Col Climber
As for the Raleigh Maverick
, I remember these as being surprisingly late to the party. The earliest contemporary reference I can find is October 1985
. And were "made in Japan", and so don’t qualify as British. British made versions were eventually mass produced at a later date?
Which was the first mass-produced Mountain Bike imported into Britain?
I am not sure about this but the Freewheel, mail order catalogue, included far east made Ridgeback bikes from 1883 onwards. The first that I personally saw were Ritchey Montares
in late Late1983
, though many other models had arrived by mid 84.
Geoff Apps has recently been nominated for induction to the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame:
www.completesite.com/mbhof/page.cfm?pag ... mberid=209
Cleland Cycles website:
http://www.james-walters.net/cleland/cl ... story.html
Mountain Bike Hall of Fame UK History section: