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Country Roads

Marin County terrain inspired the evolution of modern mountain biking.



This article first appeared in the May 2006 issue and was written by Austin Murphy

The evolution of mountain biking has seen just as many ups and downs as the trails that lace Mount Tam. In 1973, mountain biking pioneer Joe Breeze engineered his old Schwinn Excelsior to withstand the tough terrain of Mill Valley trails. His “ballooner” design caught on, and soon the trails were teeming with bikers.

In 1979, bikes were banned from the narrow trails of Mount Tam. However, Breeze remained undaunted. Two years earlier he had designed the “Breezer,” which embodied the true rugged essence of mountain biking. With mass production of these machines came a mountain-bike fever that spread all the way to Moab, Utah and Durango, Colorado.

Despite this sport’s global popularity, Marin continues to provide some of the most picturesque and breathtaking rides. Some favorites include trails in China Camp State Park, the Coastal Trail above Muir Beach, Eldridge and Old Railroad Grade, and the Bolinas Ridge Trail. Local high schools even offer mountain biking as a school sport; with much success, given that Sir Frances Drake High’s team won the 2004, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015 California state championships. Must be something in that crisp Marin air.

Since the late 70s, mountain biking organizations have lobbied for more trails with little success. However, in 1996 Jim Jacobson of the Bicycle Trail Council decided to take matters into his own hands (and into those of his dedicated volunteers). Five years and 10,000 hours of labor resulted in a 10-mile loop around Camp Tamarancho.

Mountain bikers continue to face obstacles in opening up more trails. One thing’s for sure, though: come hell or high water, mountain bikers will continue to fight for their right to ride.

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