Found Footage – Racing Klunkers On Repack Road

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This is not a Throwback Thursday in the usual sense of us publishing something from a previous edition of the magazine online, but it is the first time in a long time we’ve put retro content up on a Thursday – a Throwback Throwback Thursday if you will. Today we go all the way back to one of the origin points of mountain biking, and a vital scene in its US development: Repack Road, where people raced Klunkers at breakneck speeds, and denim was typical race wear.

Note how many opt for knee pads of some kind, but no helmet. There’s also a spectacular crash near the end; watch the racer hammer the bike back into shape and hop straight back on to finish. It’s all a far cry from today’s agonising over 10mm more or less of travel, or “what tyres for this specific trail centre in these exact weather conditions?”.

(No video? Try this link).

Of course, while Repack Road tends to grab the headlines when it comes to the origins of mountain biking, there’s another story on this side of the Atlantic. You can find out all about that with Mountain Biking: The Untold British Story.

You can also read Joe Breeze’s history of Repack over at the Marin Museum of Bicycling:

Klunkers
Shortly after this footage was taken, the Clampett Uplift got a load of red tape wrapped around the axle.

“It started innocuously enough. A motorcyclist turned bikie discovered the old dirt road west of Fairfax, Marin County, in the early ‘70s. He and his buddies would ride or push their 1930s or ‘40s ballooners to the top of the ridge for the downhill thrill. The road plummeted 1300 feet in less than 2.1 miles. On the twisting, sometimes precipitous decent, the bikes’ antiquated hub coaster brakes would get so hot that the grease would vaporize. After a run or two, the hub had to be repacked with new grease (thus the term “Repack”).

Klunkers - Repack Road
In this case, the bike doesn’t quite go where the rider is pointing his hips.

“Repack Road had been a popular downhill for a couple or three years, but whenever you get a bunch of competitive types together, someone is going to claim they are the fastest. And eventually people will want proof. With Alan Bonds’ encouragement, Fred Wolf and Charlie Kelly founded Repack, the race. They decided on a time-trial format, got a Navy chronometer and an alarm clock set a date and spread the word locally.”

Klunkers
Essential race wear.
Klunkers
State of the art.
Klunkers - Repack Road
French style circa 2014: Repack style 1977.
Klunkers - Repack Road
Fire road roost.
Klunkers - Repack Road
Is that a short stem? Were they 40 years ahead of their time? Is that the geometry we can expect in 2022?

David Hayward

Singletrack Contributor

David started mountain biking in the 90’s, by which he means “Ineptly jumping a Saracen Kili Racer off anything available in a nearby industrial estate”. After growing up and living in some extremely flat places, David moved to Yorkshire specifically for the mountain biking. This felt like a horrible mistake at first, because the hills are so steep, but you get used to them pretty quickly.

Previously, David trifled with road and BMX, but mountain bikes always won. He’s most at peace battering down a rough trail, quietly fixing everything that does to a bike, or trying to figure out if that one click of compression damping has made things marginally better or worse. The inept jumping continues to this day.

Comments (5)

    Gotta love this pioneering footage — I wonder what they would make of e-bikes ?

    weirdos, it’ll never catch on

    Wide bars, slack head angles, short stems.. not much seems to have changed!

    ‘I’d rather be klunking’ should still be a tee-shirt now…

    One of the best days of my life. the avatar photo is from that race.

    You know I wrote a book about it don’t you?

    Wonderful to see again where we all started, on Rigid bikes no made for off roading!

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