KLUNKERZ…FINDING OUR ROOTS
You may remember a while back that we had a full interview with the creator of the film Klunkerz, a long haired guy called Billy Savage. We took a bit of a gamble with the interview, as we knew nothing about Billy and hadn’t seen the film! Well finally it is here, ‘Klunkerz: A Film About Mountain Bikes’. But before I go any further, let me just say this, if you have any interest in mountain biking whatsoever then you should either go out and buy yourself a copy or in the very least make sure you get to see it. It is vital.
The arguments about where and when the mountain bike was ‘invented’ will go on forever, and that is one of the reasons I like this film. It states clearly at the outset that there was off–road riding going on before the time of Repack and Mount Tamalpias (two of the major players in the film). But the key fact (that forms the basis of the film) is that in and around Marin County at a period in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, there were groups of like minded individuals out in the hills and mountains basically butchering bikes and riding down dusty fireroads and singletrack…and these bikes became known as Klunkerz. As time went on they became more and more refined, until riders reached the stage where they wanted something specifically made for the job at hand. So a select few went on to start to design and build their own frames, and these became the first real mountain bikes. And that is what this film is about. A story of progression from fat tyres, to gears, to front brakes, to hand made frames, to mountainbikes as we know them today.
But that is really only a very small part of the story, the real tale is about how various ragtag groups of friends would meet up and go ride, often breaking bikes and themselves along the way. Luckily for us Wende Cragg was there with her stills camera and Ray Flores (of Dogtown and Z–Boys skateboard pool filming fame) was there with his Super 8. These, mixed in with modern day interviews with all the main characters, make the film. I guess we should mention here that there are distinct comparisons to be made with Dogtown and Z–Boys (and in the same breath Joe Kid on a Stingray), but that is not such a bad thing (not too sure about some of the cartoons though). There are scenes and shots in the film to make you shout with excitement and even possibly bring a tear to the eye of the most hardened of mountain bikers. And in some ways the film may make you think that in this modern day and age we have got it wrong, it all seemed so simple back them. For those of you old enough to have been riding bikes before the mountainbike hit these shores then you will know just what I mean.
There is definitely a lesson to be learned, there is such a purity in simply going out and riding your bike…any bike. There is not a helmet or a sniff of Gortex in sight. We are talking jeans, flannel shirts, hiking boots and woolly hats here. But it is wrong to look at these people as kooky freaks, we were all like this once, and maybe we could all do with paring things back to basics, not worrying about the latest parts or what we look like. Of course that view is a little stupid. These guys were all mad keen on ‘the latest thing’, desperate to move things forward component wise, but more through necessity rather than needing to produce a new product range for Spring/Summer 2009! And they cared about what they looked like, the guy in the cowboy jacket with tassels is testament to that! Every generation wants the latest product and to look ‘cool’, but this film brings it home to me why we actually do what we do, it is all for the fun of it. For being out in the great outdoors and throwing our bikes down hills.
For me it is interesting to see what all these people are doing now, what they look like even. I mean there are some legends in this film. Of course there are all the main characters like Joe Breeze, Charlie Kelly, Gary Fisher, etc., names we have all heard of. But then there are the less well known names, the real stars of the film maybe, Greg Wolf, the late John Finely Scott (who was years ahead of his time) and the now legendary Russ Mahon of the Morrow Dirt Club (named after the Morrow coaster brake), an inspiration to us all. And of course we shouldn’t forget the films creator, Billy Savage. You could call this indulgent for Savage, but it was only ever going to be someone with a true love of mountainbiking that was going to make this film.
Mountainbiking is now of course a global industry, employing thousands and turning over millions…but as riders we don’t have to be part of that. We should look to the punks and hippies of Marin County, with their fun and back–to–basics approach. Nostalgic it may be, but we have a lot to learn from them. Like I said at the top, buy this film, watch this film, and then go out on your bike, you’ll feel different about the way you ride, I am sure of it.
KLUNKERZ the mountain bike film DVD