Left Field part Two.

Posting this from Windows, which I abhor with the fire of a thousand suns. Near as I can tell the thing is riddled with malware out of the box, and while I have managed to get a couple of linux distros going, the last one did not want to play and the muse is speaking and you have to roll with it.

A couple of days ago a post attracted the attention of a visionary with whom I was familiar, one of the founding fathers of the Mountain bike, one I have referred in passing as the Jefferson of the concept.

This post is gonna include a great deal of inside baseball, and if you are completely uninterested in the subject feel free to wander to more comfortable climes.

Speaking of climes, here in south central Indiana, Bloomington to be exact we are having a most magnificent day. It is around 70 degrees (freedom), low humidity with wisps of clouds painted upon a robins egg blue sky. A day that one would design for every day of the year if one had the power.

OK, now begins the part where regulars might not find an Interest.

Mr. Kelly,

Since you asked for a trading of stories, I will begin with the development and design of my first bicycle frame.

I had purchased my first, a mid range Nishiki in 1983. Later a top end fillet brazed Ross (a model whose name I have forgotten.).

I started work in a bike shop, in fact I was recruited by the owner of said shop in ’85, but I had known the dude within a week of opening his shop because as a teen, when I was not riding I visited every shop in town nearly every day.

Fast forward to the fall of ’87. we had a torch, and the boss showed the man I consider my best friend and a phenomenal mechanic to boot, how to use it. We also had a supply of thin walled tubes on which to practice, from that point on it was off to the races.

My fighting/raciong weight was 140 lbs. we tore up everything resembling a trail we could find, mostly singletrack, went on the equivalent of raiding parties all over the county to discover more places to ride, It may have taken nearly a decade to discover the wonders of fat tires and hill bombing (as is usual in this state before the internet, the lag time of cool things that is.)

Point being is that I suspected that the commercial offerings vis a vis Mountain bikes were heavier than necessary. So I set out to see if that was in fact the case.

My primary ride at the time was a Holdsworth Professional, a High end British road bike. It occurred to me upon close examination that I could fit 26 x 1.5 inch mountain bike tires on both ends, and so I had the platform of discovery. A lightweight road bike built with Reynolds 531, and a torch.

I fired up said torch to solve the primary problem, brakes. I brazed cantilever bosses on the fork and seatstays, knew that drop would be an issue, but one that I could work around. I beat the shit out of that mongrel contraption on many of our discovered trails and to my satisfaction the road, cum mountain bike performed admirably. I did plant a pedal in a few tight corners, but hell you gotta roll with what’s at hand.

Satisfied with the durability of 531 road tubing (at least for a guy of my size) an order was placed, and a box of gleaming silver tubing arrived. I also ordered the two investment cast lugs and fork crown, that would work with my design, from Henry James, a lugless bottom bracket from Quality Bicycles.

For those who might still be following and know not so much we will cover wheels.

The front wheel on nearly every bike on the planet is dishless. What that means is that the rim is centered between the flanges of the hub and thus symmetrical. Like an arch in architecture it is a very strong and stable structure. The rear wheel on most geared bicycles on the other hand is asymmetrical. The spoke tension on the geared, or freewheel side is considerably higher than on the other side. Generally speaking it is not a problem, but I had an Idea.

I am designing and building my first frame and the idea of a dishless rear wheel creeped into my brain. While it would have been easier to recreate a standard frame, I just can’t help myself. I wanted to try something no one else had. At least to my knowledge of the state of the art at the time.

The problem with the offset rear triangle involves bottem bracket width, q factor, and crank clearence, but after a couple of drawings it seemed that I could manage with a rear hub spacing of 126 millimeters with an 8 speed cassette.

During the spring of ’88 my best friend and I both launched into our unique designs. As he was a bigger guy, 6’2″ 200 lbs, and also very bright in the amateur engineering department, had different needs and opted for different parameters to serve his needs.

Forty hours later two new bikes were properly kitted and ready to roll. We had spent an all nighter at the shop and managed the initial parking lot tests abt 20 minutes before we were supposed to open the shop.

To my amazement, the fillet brazed bottom bracket did not fall off, and around mid day, after getting another dose of needed cafiene from a shop across the way, I witnessed one of my co-workers on my newly minted machine executing a perfect Rockford maneuver (a full on tailslide with the front wheel at 90 degrees to the rest of the frame) with horror. I had not had a chance to do anything but a ride around the parking lot, was not still convinced of the soundness of my design and felt that I should have been the first to pull that move. At the same time I have to admit that the Horror was accompanied with a bit of pride.

At the end of the day, I pounded the shit out of that ride for nearly a decade, only had to touch up the rear wheel with a spoke wrench on two occasions, set the big ring hill record (a really short, really steep traverse of a ridge around a tree with a very short run, in short, an extremely technical exercise) with a 48×14.

The thing worked, and well. One of these days you might hear of the heartbreaking collision into the back of a parked car at speed, cratering the front end, and of the means that resurrected the sled.

If anyone has a copy of the January ’93 issue of Winning Magazine, you will find a picture of me riding that steed at full speed in my last race. You will find it in the weekend warrior section.

And if anyone has a copy…I no longer have one of my own…I would love a scan….

To the regulars, thanks for your forbearance, I’ll be back to mocking wingnuts soon enough.

To Mr Kelly, thanks for the inspiration.

OBS Edit:

If you haven’t checked it out yet, you need to look at Mr. Kelly’s website to get a true feel for what kind of legend we have here. This dude was there at the beginning of the revolution. We’re extremely happy to have you here good sir.


Comments: 22


Once again, thanks for all the kind words. Some of my former colleagues, who stayed in the bike industry after I left it, have maintained higher profiles among the cycling crowd, so I am often surprised that someone even knows who I am.

Just came back from a ride with a guy I have known for 20 years, since our kids went to kindergarten together. He had no idea about my MTB history until he picked up a copy of Mountain Bike Action a few years ago and found an article about me.

Trying to change that now, with a 4-pound book including 175 images no one else can get. I challenge anyone to read the first two pages. If you do, I am confident that you will read every page.

It took me 264 pages to tell my bike story, so I won’t tell it here, but we have much in common, using what was at hand to do something it wasn’t designed for. wheel dishing is an interesting subject. Gary and I had our hubs made by several suppliers, Cook Brothers, Phil Wood and Chris King.

We created a new standard for rear spacing, now I think it’s out to 140mm, but then it was 126. The wider tire forces the chain line away from the center line, which moves the cluster out, and finally the wider you make the right side the less you have to dish the wheel.

Then we ran into a problem with front derailleurs, because now the chain was too far from the seat tube for most of them to reach.

There were a lot of problems to solve.

I know you have already seen the website, click on my name if you haven’t.


Holy shit! It’s great to have one of the legends around our wacky little corner of the tubes. I had no idea.

I’ve been mountain biking since ’85 when I was 16. A drunk hit my first car and totaled it. I couldn’t get a new car immediately, so I got a new bike — the LBS had the new line of mountain bikes from Diamond Back and I thought, since I lived on a mountain, “hey, perfect.” Got a Diamond Back Ascent and was instantly hooked. Rode the hell out of that thing. I lived about a mile from Oregon State University’s McDonald Research Forest (trail map — PDF warning), and explored every inch of single track and fire road up there. I still live in the area and ride the same trails.

I upgraded that bike a bit (better tires and indexed shifters as soon as those became available). Retired that bike in ’89 and bought a Stumpjumper Comp (a brief aside, some bike tech should stay somebody’s fever dream, and never see the light of day. Those stupid fucking under-chainstay U-brakes were the dumbest fucking things I have ever seen — instantly clogged with the lovely clay mud we have around here. I spent way too much time sitting next to the trail using a stick to dig mud out of that brake so the damn wheel would turn. I actually ended up building a seat-stay tire scraper thing that would mostly keep the mud from clogging that brake.)

Rode my first race on that bike, and that was my only brush with bike royalty — Ned Overend and John Tomac were in the race too (not that I was actually racing against them or anything, I was just a dumb kid in my first of only a few races). Literally bumped into Overend coming out of the little cabin/booth area where the race registration was. The race still occurs, but in a different location not too far out of town. I rode it again a few years back, and it was a hoot.

Passed the Stumpjumper along to a friend and bought a 1990 Klein Rascal frame and built it up. I still have that one. The Amp Research front shock that has the coolest/weirdest billet aluminum linkage thing is still on it. I occasionally ride that one for giggles. Later got one of the first year (’94? ’95?) S-Works FSR full suspension bikes. Neat bike, but man that original suspension tech wasn’t great. Still have the frame/fork.

Current mountain bike is a BMC Trailfox, again built from the frame up (I think it has some of the FSR’s bits, actually — at least the XTR front derailleur, maybe the stem too). Great for the jumps and flow trails out at the Alsea Falls Recreation Area, but overkill for mellower singletrack in Mac Forest. I have a carbon-framed Trek cyclocross bike that is my main go-to rig for the “old school” trails and fire roads I rode as a kid.

Anyway, I’ll stop rambling. Great to have you around Mr. Kelly, I look forward to reading your book!


The first thing I thought after i said “Charles fucking Kelly is in the house” was “OBS is gonna freak.”

Today has been a great day. After i put this one up. I got ob my current sled, and after a couple meets, let the wind blow me and made some more friends.

Thanks for adding to the size of my smile, both of you.


OBS, If you feel like updating the post to include a link to mr Kelly’s website, I would be happy. About to enjoy the sleep of a great day. ..

Otherwise, i will take care of it when i have a keyboard and wifi.



Alas, I’m on my phone as well. If you haven’t added a link before I get to a real connection/device, I’ll happily take care of it.


I’ve updated the post.


My publisher made me open a Facebook page, if any of you are on that platform we can connect there. I put a lot of good stuff on my commercial FB page and I update it frequently, if you want to take a look, here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/FatTireFlyer

I will be attending Interbike in a few weeks, the big North American bicycle trade show. My friend Joe Breeze, who wrote the foreword for my book, is now running the Marin Museum of Bicycling, which also includes the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. I will be driving their exhibit to Vegas and working the booth while I’m there.

You guys seem to have some connection with that world. And chance for F2F in Vegas?


You guys seem to have some connection with that world. And chance for F2F in Vegas?

Sadly, I’m not a faceplace kind of guy so I can’t connect there, and my only connection with the world of cycling is as a relatively-longtime rider, so the tradeshow is right out. I will say that I really hope that this year somebody will introduce yet another new wheel size that’s gonna revolutionize everything — that’s definitely what the sport needs, more wheel sizes.

Anyway, I figure I’ll just ask my really good local bookseller about getting your book, but if there’s a way for me to get it that will more directly remunerate you for it, I’d be happy to use that method…?


” if there’s a way for me to get it that will more directly remunerate you for it, I’d be happy to use that method…?”

Signed copy is $30, same price as the unsigned copy from the bookstore, plus $13 Priority Mail = $43.

I do Paypal, account is the same email I use on my profile here.

Since this is a liberal political site, allow me to share a supreme irony. I have a friend who is a retired Secret Service agent, formerly assigned to Dubya. He bought Dubya a copy of my book, called him on the cell phone right in front of me to tell him he was getting him something he would enjoy, had me sign it for Mr. Bush. Mr. Bush is well known to be a rabid mountain biker.

A few weeks later I got a very nice hand written thank you note from Mr. Bush. So the most famous person I ever signed a copy for is one of my least favorite people in the world.

Pretty sure his security team will check out my Internet footprints before inviting me to ride with Dubya, and I won’t get the nod.


RR, whatcha gonna do. Tho i am impressed (shudders) with the fact that dubby sent you a thank you not.

I have been to interbike once, in 2000 as a consultant for the director of the little 500 bike race, was also lead mechanic for same from 2000-2003.

Is it still at the sands? That place just seemed to grow as the day got longer.

I really tried to avoid the Shimano reps because by that time not only was i no longer a fanboy (years as an unpaid member of their r&d team will do that) I knew that I would probably go off on one of the poor guys…I did.

OBS, i met Wes Williams, who runs Willets bikes iirc when we were both working on the finish line crew at the tour dupont. Saw him at interbike where he showed me the first 29er I had seen. He claims that it was his idea and I believe him.

Lovely guy and a great framesmith.

Wish I could meet you out at interbike and save postage on your book, and talk shop over a beer or three. Would love to see the exhibit.

Perhaps you can share some pictures from your visit.

I am sure thst helmut or myself would happily throw up a post about it.

Like OBS, dont do the faceplant, but i do have friends.

Big Bad Bald Bastard

Point being is that I suspected that the commercial offerings vis a vis Mountain bikes were heavier than necessary. So I set out to see if that was in fact the case.

Even worse are the fake mountain bikes, the cheap, overly heavy ones that a lot of delivery riders and people who can’t afford cars ride. Some dodohead decided that basic bikes needed to be “butched up”, kinda like the SUVs with no four-wheel drive that suburban commandos seem to prefer.

Most of my riding is done on local streets and well-paved trails, so I’ve been riding a hybrid for years, a nice commuter bike.



Agreed on all particulars…
I tried to shop an idea to numerpus reps with a design that offered a bit of simplicity in exchange for quality of experience that would have represented a low end bike that would be easy to ride and compete with the crap at wallmart.

Most of the shit you describe has the effect of keeping people from becoming cyclists rather than encourage them to ride.

I offered something below a 200 price point with durability light weight, and a single chainring. Most casual riders are mystified by gear ratios and the front derailleur…

I could write a book.

While at first a gimmick in search of a flagging market when they made an appearence on the scene, a hybrid is a fine ride for a commuter who might want to take to the trail from time to time.


Signed copy is $30, same price as the unsigned copy from the bookstore, plus $13 Priority Mail = $43.

I do Paypal, account is the same email I use on my profile here.

Excellent! I have to either figure out how to reactivate my old paypal account or setup a new one, and then I’ll order one.


Even worse are the fake mountain bikes, the cheap, overly heavy ones that a lot of delivery riders and people who can’t afford cars ride. Some dodohead decided that basic bikes needed to be “butched up”, kinda like the SUVs with no four-wheel drive that suburban commandos seem to prefer.

Yeah, those things are awful. Here on campus they get purchased by students at one of the various department stores when the kids first come to town. If they’re lucky they only go through two or three of them the time they’re here. The rusted hulks of these broken pieces of crap then litter campus locked to bike racks for a year or two before campus surplus comes by to cut the locks and sell them for a buck at the surplus sale.

It’s too bad. I don’t think most of the kids realize that there’s actually a really nice fully equipped bike shop that’s open for them (and me — woot!) to use. Not that those bikes are actually all that worth working on anyway, but hey. Of course that would also mean they’d need to be willing to learn to turn a wrench in the first place, so never mind.


Whoever took out the trash, thanks.

We also have yearly bike sales from campus abandonment. I occasionally go just to advise people. I just let them know that when I start shaking my head, to get out of the bidding.

I have seen people get into a bidding wars over beat up Huffy’s, and Murrays, that will need at least another 50 bucks to get running and at the end of the day it would have cost less in time and money to go to wally world and purchase two brand new pieces of crap.


Re: new computer–the MB on mine shit the bed last week, so I picked up a Lenovo on sale, because it was almost as cheap as a new MB and processor. Loaded with malware and adware hidden in supposed support software from third-party vendors. McAfee didn’t catch any of it, neither did Spybot, but, third time’s a charm–MalwareBytes seemed to get every bit of it. Haven’t had any noticeable problems after running it. Try that.

But, for future ref–Lenovo got caught installing Superfish on a bunch of its laptops, claimed it was inadvertent, but, my experience with this one suggests that they’re getting kickbacks to install this shit. And, they’ve been shipping desktops with a serious BIOS-level security flaw for months without doing anything about it until May. Inside, they’re just pared down to nothing–only cooling fan is on the processor. Not even one spare power connection for another drive.

Definitely one to stay away from. Given the choice and the time, I build my own and avoid this sort of hassle.


Regarding cheap MTBs. I have told people that the SECOND Golden Age of Bicycling was from about 1983 to 1990. During that time nearly every mountain bike or even faux mountain bike was copied from the original Ritchey design that Gary Fisher and I sold out of a rented garage.

I see any number of 25-30 year old cheap mountain bikes, Rockhoppers, various Treks, Diamond Back and the like. These inexpensive bikes are still in use 30 years after they were purchased, because the design is simple, robust and friendly to any cyclist. All you have to do is oil the chain once in a while and you can get decades of use out of a very ordinary bicycle.

I’m pretty sure the $6000 retail price bike I ride now will not be in use in 30 years, with four separate hydraulic systems that will certainly fail.

Performance always comes at a cost of increased maintenance.

Pupienus Maximus

My MB credentials: I used to do a shitload of MBing when I lived in Pennsylvania. When there are great trails accessible from one’s back yard (my house abutted a State Game Lands and Rothrock State Forest which has a bazillion great trails was a ten minute ride away). Even rode (well, I tried to but couldn’t finish) the Wilderness 101. I also did a (very) brief stint setting up CNC machines at Cannondale.

When we moved to OR I just … didn’t ride anymore.


My MB experience was almost all from working at Trek. I got myself a 2003 Gary Fisher (met him a few times, he was a little spacy, but seemed nice enough) Sugar 2+ disk. It is a fun bike except for the flaw that makes it totally un-rideable. The rear suspension can trap the chain when there’s chain suck and the suspension is compressed. When the suspension rebounds, the chain stays trapped by the chainstay, and then the only way to get going again is to break the chain and re route it correctly. That happened in the middle of my first Chequomegon mountain bike race (and first bike race ever) and that plus having it do it again in the most mosquito plagued part of the John Muir loop of the Kettle Moraine trails kinda put me off that bike forever. Then Trek and I parted ways, and I haven’t had the resources to get a fully suspended 29er like I want. So the biking I have done since has all been on either my LeMond carbon-Ti bike or my parts bin special hardtail 29in Gary Fisher supercaliber built up like a front suspended, disk-braked cross bike. Only problem with that one is the shimano ultegra shifters dont’t work well with the mountain bike front derailleur, so I only get to use two of my front three chain rings. Gary Klein once saw that bike and thought it was cool though.


I keep thinking that someone’s talking about me somewhere.


Sorry, M, I’ll shut up now.


Here’s something for all you America-hating bicycle hooligans:

A cyclist abroad: Why European bike culture far outpaces America’s
I spent a week in the world’s top bike cities, and I never wanted to come home


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