From the Mag: Roots – The Cupertino Riders

From the Mag: Roots – The Cupertino Riders

Following on from parts one two of the Roots series we’re re-publishing on the web, issue 62 looked at the Cupertino Riders. If you missed the first two, check them out here and here.

The Cupertino Riders, aka the Morrow Dirt Club, high above Saratoga, California (west of San Jose and south of San Francisco), getting ready to drop into the Santa Clara Valley, which would later be known worldwide as Silicon Valley. Left to right: Tom Cox, Steve Mallet, Bernie Mahon, Kathy Mahon (Russ Mahon’s wife), Bill Hanna, Joe Pratter, Russ Mahon, Carter Cox, and Greg True.

The Cupertino Riders

Now while most people look towards Marin county as the birthplace of the mountain bike, in 1971 (and some 50 miles south of the infamous Mt. Tamalpais), a group of friends formed The Cupertino Riders, or the Morrow Dirt Club as they are sometimes known (named after the Morrow back pedal coaster brake). Like the VCCP of the ‘50s (Dirt 60) they grafted thumb shifters, derailleurs and motorcycle lever operated drum brakes onto their ‘bombers’. The club was made up of ten friends as a way to explore the area in which they lived. It appears that the main player in all of this was a guy called Russ Mahon, and that the bikes that he and his friends made were more sophisticated than those of the Larkspur Canyon Gang. It was still low tech, but the likes of Mahon were trying out and experimenting with all sorts of components… drum brake hubs, double chainrings, five sprocket freewheels and ten speed gears. In fact by the end of 1973 half of the group had ditched their old style coaster brakes and were running ten speeds.

We all know that the riders in Marin county were thought of as the pioneers of modern day mountain biking, but it would seem that the Cupertino Riders were doing exactly the same thing just down the road. In fact it could be said that they were ahead of the Marin riders with regards to the technology they were using. It all came to a head when on December 1st 1974, they turned up at Mill Valley in Marin for a cyclo-cross race on their old Schwinns with gears and fat tyres. The Marin riders (many of which are now mountain biking legends) had seen nothing like it, they were ‘blown away’, especially as they were still riding around on one-speed, coaster brake bikes. But just as they had come onto the scene, they then vanished. Was this to be the defining moment in the birth of the mountain bike?

– Mike Rose


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