Joe Breeze, klunkers and the birth of Mountain Biking
Since I am not so versed in anything relating to the history of cycling (all disciplines), I decided to school myself the best way I know : reading books written by those who made history themselves. Having stumbled on Charlie Kelly‘s book Fat Tire Flyer : Repack and the birth of Mountain Biking, it was the perfect opportunity to garnish my bike-related home office. A couple of chapters inside the volume, you hear about Joe Breeze.
Known as the first successful builder of a bottom-up custom Mountain Bike in 1977, Joe Breeze was born in 1953 in Marin County. He lived around bikes all his life and learned his craft through the hands of his father at first, and then through the masterful Albert Eisentraut. The first series of Mountain Bikes he made were named the Breezers. He made a first one for himself and then 9 others for members of the Velo Club Tamalpais and other original klunkers in Marin County.
The Breezers are built around the geometry of Schwinn Excelsior’s, considered by Charlie Kelly as the holy grail of Schwinn frames for klunkers with a high bottom bracket among other features. They were made of straight-gauge cro-moly airplane tubing and were nickel-plated (well 9 of the 10 were) with an extra frame-lateral to ensure over-engineering. The first bike of the Breezer series, the JBX1, was simply painted. It is kept in the Oakland Museum. The second one (Charlie Kelly’s) is in the Mountain-Bike Hall of Fame (this is the nickel-plated version) and the ninth one is in the Shimano Museum.
Each bike costed around 750$USD, at the time, and came complete with a pump, a water bottle, a spare inner tube and a repair kit. They were fitted with a custom Cook Brothers fork, a pair of Phil Wood Hubs, a pair of Sun Tour thumb shifters, a Brooks B-72 leather saddle, a pair of Magura brake levers, a BMW handlebar, and a Shimano 600 derailleur. They also came with Campagnolo front ends for the fork and track ends for the frame, Campy Record seatpost and quick release, DT Swiss stainless spokes, and Mafac cantilevers. Gotta admit those Marin County hippies had a good taste in bikes.
These were officially full-badass frames, almost as beautiful as they were sturdy. Weighting in at around 35 pounds, these were quite the heavy weaponry, but were the best of the best of their time. Definitely superior to any clunker.
Meanwhile, I will continue to read on these bad-ass fat tire flyers and continue to work on my Marinoni Mountain Special ’92 restoration. If you now of any books that I should read, hit me up, I would be very glad to read some other words on cycling history and add them to a soon-to be growing collection!