A Day With Charlie Kelly, Godfather of Mountain Biking

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The railing moves, or maybe the pavement is narrower than last time I passed. My bar clips the safety barrier and I’m catapulted off the bike and onto the grassy bank on the other side. I lie, laughing and staring up at the moons. It’s the perfect end to a day I could never have imagined happening: a day where I got to hang out with Charlie Kelly, co-inventor of mountain biking, and publisher of the first ever mountain bike magazine. Even without a number of hours in a bar, I’d be feeling a bit giddy.

Charlie's 'Gary Fisher' pose.

When I meet Charlie, it’s 42 years almost to the day since he put on what is widely considered to be the first ever mountain bike race. That makes Charlie pretty old, even compared to me, but that hasn’t stopped him undertaking a whistlestop tour of the UK to promote his book, and to help raise funds to archive and preserve his lifetime’s worth of mountain bike printed material and memorabilia. The book - Fat Tire Flyer: Repack and the Birth of Mountain Biking - uses just a tiny portion of his collected material to tell the story of how he and friends Joe Breeze, Gary Fisher and Tom Ritchey would bring a different sort of bicycle to the world. The talk that Charlie is giving on his tour also seems to use just a tiny portion of the stories he has from a life that would be full if it were divided between half a dozen people. As we hang out during the day I hear a mix of tales I’ve heard versions of before, and others that are certainly new to me.

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