When the race that became known as Repack was first run on October 21, 1976, a half-dozen or so people, along with a dog named Junior, lined up at the top of Pine Mountain Road just west of Fairfax, California. Before them was Cascade Canyon Road, a twisting dirt plunge that dropped 1,300 feet in roughly two miles. An Oklahoma transplant named Alan Bonds came in first on that cloudless morning, but it was Bonds’s roommate, Charlie Kelly, who became known as Mr. Repack, thanks to his role in helping to set up that initial race and organizing just about all of the 24 Repacks that followed.
Now, in Fat Tire Flyer: Repack and the Birth of Mountain Biking, Kelly candidly tells the story of the rock-n-roll-soaked years that led up to that race, as well as the business he started a few years later, MountainBikes, with his other roommate, Gary Fisher, with whom he coined the phrase we all take for granted today. Kelly gets to tell this tale not just because he was there -- he was one of the sport’s principal instigators and evangelists, the guy who kept the records, got on the phone, and regularly made lots of stuff happen. Thus we follow Kelly on rides out to Mineral King in the southern Sierra and up over Pearl Pass in Crested Butte, Colorado, a two-wheeled ambassador of sorts for his nascent sport. Filled with Wende Cragg’s cinema-vérité photographs, many taken at a brutally sharp left-turning switchback called Camera Corner, and with a foreword by Joe Breeze, who built what many consider the first true mountain bike in 1977, Fat Tire Flyer is a terrific read, although it’ll probably make you want to put the book down, dust off that clunker that’s been buried in the garage, and head for the hills.
Fat Tire Flyer: Repack and the Birth of Mountain Biking by Charlie Kelly
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