The Gary Fisher Story by monkey6


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									The Gary Fisher Story
Gary Fisher is truly one of the founding fathers of the sport of mountain biking. He began klunking his way into history by racing his modified cruiser down the rough fire roads of Marin California’s Mount Tam. From this point on, Gary has led the mountain bike world down the path of innovation as he worked to make his intense personal vision a reality. From the development of the oversized headset and the first production bicycle with front suspension, to the creation of the Gary Fisher Two-Niner 29-inch wheeled mountain bikes. Gary continually toils to make mountain bikes better. He is a driven advocate for the sport, thriving to make better products to help the droves of mountain bikers around the world enjoy the wonders of two wheeled life. Today, Gary is still riding, still racing and still pushing for technical advancements in the sport. You would be hard pressed to find a rider that puts in more miles on a bike and attends more events than Gary Fisher. Gary is always looking, listening, identifying trends, and sifting out that which makes sense. Gary’s story is a totally unique adventure of one man and his vision for a sport. Reviewing what he has done for mountain bikes and riders throughout his lifetime, we can only imagine what might emerge from the treasure chest of Gary’s mind next.

The Legend
In 1968, Gary Fisher was an unlikely legend. Suspended from bike racing because his hair was too long, Fisher took his sport to the hills. In the hazy daze of the `70s he and a corps of Bay Area yahoos discovered the addiction of bombing down dirt trails on beater bikes salvaged from the dump. But eventually, blasting down Mt. Tamalpais, hitchhiking back up and flying down again was not enough. Fisher wanted to ride up as well. He began to design bikes that could do just this, selling them to friends and anyone else who was willing to fork over the dough. They were tougher than road bikes with critical changes to the outfitting, allowing the rider to maintain more control as the bike careened over rocks and roots. Business took off. In 1979 Fisher and some partners started a company. They called it Mountain Bikes. By 1980, the company was selling more high-end bikes than anyone else. "At 29, I had the mountain bike thing in my back pocket," says Fisher. "It was a big hot secret, like a new drug. You'd turn someone on to it and they were like `Wow I’ve gotta have some of that. I gotta have one of those.' It was intoxicating." Fisher was living an intoxicating lifestyle as well, competing and winning hard-core races and sponsoring riders, while his designs and his company revolutionized the sport. He was indeed on top of the mountain. In 1983, Fisher founded the National Off-Road Bicycle Association, which now has almost 30,000 members and acts as the governing body of mountain bike racing. Four years later, Fisher was named by Outside Magazine as one of the "50 Who Left Their Mark." Gary Fisher was no longer just a man’s name; it was one of the most recognized brands in mountain bikes. Though the man behind the legend was riding a sweet single track of success, there are always bumps in the trail. A bike bum at heart, Fisher wanted his bikes, but more importantly his sport, accessible to everyone, and began taking steps to make his high-cost two-wheelers more affordable. With innovative designs, heavy marketing and manufacturing in Japan, Fisher began to push down the cost of his bikes. He continued to


race and design, calling on an energy that only a kinetic downhill racer can have. "Back then you're on a mission, you're a crusader -- it's like, `Get out of my way.' There's a lot in that focus people admire. But sometimes you can get tunnel vision," he says. In the late `80s, despite such innovations as the first suspension system for bikes, Fisher's company hit some ruts. "We were an odd size. We were at almost $11 million in sales. We needed to be under $5 million or over $50 million. We were leveraged out," Fisher says. Too big to be small, too small to be big, Fisher sold his company in 1991 to Taiwan's Anlen, where it tumbled head-over-handlebars for the next two years. "I was basically a puppet president," Fisher says of his time with Anlen. Out of the decisionmaking loop, Fisher felt at odds with the management. "It was nuts. A lot of stuff went on unbeknownst to me." Fisher does not hide his disappointment with the events at Anlen, "It was totally frustrating watching something we built for all those years just get crushed in a lot of ways." After two excruciating years with Anlen, Trek, the well-established American bicycle manufacturer located in Waterloo, Wisconsin, came to the rescue and bought the struggling company. Trek brought to the table an established nuts-and-bolts company with exacting manufacturing standards, while Fisher brought his groundbreaking designs, creativity and name. It was a match made in heaven. With Trek now handling the day-to-day business concerns, Fisher is back doing what he does best: innovate and inspire. "It's been sort of freeing," says Fisher, referring to his job as President of the Gary Fisher Division of Trek Bicycles. "I tell the joke. `Now I'm not responsible for anything, but I get to meddle in everything.'" By giving up control of the company, Fisher says he can better focus on the big picture. He readily admits he's still single-minded and focused, "But I'll step back from that focus and take a broader view with the knowledge that my focus can be better directed." The result of this partnership has been 10 years of creating and manufacturing high-performance mountain bike product that has introduced hoards of new riders to the sport. Still racing and designing innovative cycling products, Fisher's priorities have begun to change. Fisher has come a long way since his days of hitchhiking up the mountain. "I understand better where to apply my energy," he says. "But the goals are the same: to make a difference in the world, to really enjoy life."

The Timeline
1963 Gary Fisher, age 12, starts competing on the road and track in races sanctioned by the predecessor of the USCF, The Amateur Bicycle League of America. 1964 Gary discovers cyclocross, competes in five cyclocross races. Gary finishes second in the intermediate age group in the Northern California District Road Championships. 1968 Gary is suspended from bike racing because his hair is too long. From home-built equipment, Gary starts a light show called "The Lightest Show on Earth" which plays San Francisco’s major rock venues. 1972 With the "long hair" rule overturned Gary starts road racing again. 1973 Gary finishes second in the Tour of Nevada City and becomes a Category 1 USCF road racer. 1974 Gary finishes the Vuelta de Baja, the Tour of the Sierras and the Tour of Marin stage races. Gary builds his legendary Schwinn Excelsior X. With an unprecedented wide gear range and heavy duty braking, it’s the first off-road bike that, despite its 42-pound heft, was rideable up mountains as well as down. Gary pioneers the use of tandem drum brakes, thumbshifters, motorcycle brake levers and cables, a seatpost


quick release and triple chainrings with extra long crank arms. Gary’s original mountain bike creation is voted one of the "Top Ten All Time Best Mountain Bikes" by Mountain Bike Action Magazine. 1976 Gary wins the Tour of Klamath Lake, a 125-mile Olympic development race. Gary places 12th in the national road championships. Gary helps his roommate, Charlie Kelly, stage the Repack Off-Road Downhill Race series. Gary begins writing a monthly road test article for Bicycling Magazine. 1977 Gary sets the Repack record of 4:22:14, a record that still stands. Gary finishes fifth in the National Cyclocross Championships and finishes the Red Zinger stage race in Colorado. 1978 Gary wins "Fastest Time of the Year" award for the Repack Downhill Race. Gary wins the Solo Division with the fastest overall time in the 209-mile Davis Double Century, with a time of 9 hours, 18 minutes. Gary finishes the Red Zinger stage race. Gary is one of the "Marin County Contingent" that introduces the "Clunker" to Colorado riding. 1979 A sport is named: Gary Fisher and Charlie Kelly name their new company "MountainBikes". The frames are built by Jeffrey Richmond and Tom Ritchey. Kelly and Fisher cover purchasing, assembly, marketing, shipping, sales and catalogue design. 160 "MountainBikes" are made and sold. Gary finishes the Coors Classic stage race and collects the Olympic development points to rank third in western division road racing. 1980 Gary wins the first Reseda to the Sea, the Central Coast Clunker Classic, and the Whiskeytown Downhill off-road races and places second in the Northern California District Cyclocross Championships on his mountain bike. Gary finishes the Coors Classic stage race. Gary coins the term "Bullmoose handlebar". Gary is the first to use a Shimano freehub and "Bear Trap" pedals on a mountain bike. Gary and Charlie Kelly edit the bicycle section of the "Last Whole Earth Catalog." 1981 Gary wins the second Reseda to the Sea off-road race. Fisher sponsors a women's team in the Coors Classic stage race. 1982 Gary wins the first Rockhopper Off-Road Race and sets the stage for Fisher riders to claim the next six. Gary wins the Paradise Divide Criterium in Crested Butte, Colorado. 1983 Gary develops and names the Unicrown fork. Fisher racer, Dale Stetina wins the Paradise Divide Stage Race. Gary is a founding member of the National Off-road Bicycle Association (NORBA) and fields a team, including Dale Stetina, Eric Heiden, Joe Murray, Tom Ritchey and John Lomis, in the first national championships. Lomis is the top Fisher finisher in third place. Fisher has the first production bike with a brake under the chainstay. Gary introduces short chainstays and steeper seat angles to mountain bikes. Gary goes to France to introduce the mountain bike, racing downhill in the La Plagne Alps. 1984 Gary designs and builds the first mountain bike using Tange Prestige tubing. Fisher racer, Joe Murray wins the Whiskeytown, Rockhopper, Ross Stage Race, Pacific States Final, and NORBA National Championships. Fisher riders win 70% of all off-road races held. The Fisher Excalibur is the first production mountain bike with a Dura Ace freehub, toe clips and straps. 1985 Fisher Team riders work with Shimano to develop indexed shifting. Gary develops "Standover height" and "Effective top tube length" measurements to better describe off-road frame fit. Fisher racer, Joe Murray repeats his wins at the Whiskeytown, Rockhopper, Ross Stage Race and NORBA National Championships and goes to England to finish third in the Man versus Horse versus Bike race. 1986 Fisher starts a grassroots racing team - the largest off-road racing team in the world. Gary sells the name "Marin Mountain Bikes" name to Bob Buckley. Gary designs the "Bulge Bar", the "Hipstay", a super short chainstay, and 135mm over locknut rear hub spacing. 1987 Fisher Team member Sara Ballantyne wins a gold medal in the NORBA World Cross Country Championships and Fisher's Mike Kloser wins a silver in the men's event. The Fisher Procaliber is voted


one of the "Top Ten All-Time Best Mountain Bikes" by Mountain Bike Action Magazine. Gary is named by Outside Magazine as one of "50 Who Left Their Mark" in the last ten years. 1988 Introduction of the Fisher CR-7, a collaboration combining Gary's renowned frame design and Richard Cunningham's expertise at joining aluminum and chrome-moly. Fisher racers, Mike Kloser and Sara Ballantyne win the Iditabike 200 Mile Snow Race in Alaska and the European World Off-road Championships. Bicycle Guide Magazine names the titanium Fisher Prometheus the "Best of 88". Gary is inducted at the inaugural Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in Crested Butte. Riding a tandem with Sara Ballantyne, Gary and Sara win the tandem category and place 13th overall in the 150mile Desert to the Sea race. 1989 Gary introduces the Evolution headset, tubing and seatpost, the first oversize component system for off-road bikes. Fisher rider Sara Ballantyne wins her third world championship. Bicycle Guide Magazine names the Fisher Gemini Tandem "Best of 89". Bicycle Dealer Showcase names Fisher a "Top Supplier" for 89. Fisher produces its first hybrid bicycle. 1990 Gary is named to the NORBA Board of Trustees. Gary's collaboration with Mert Lawwill on the RS1 full suspension bike wins Bicycling Magazine's "Hot Bike" award. The Fisher Mt. Tam is the first production mountain bike with a front suspension fork (RockShox) and suspension ready geometry. 1991 Fisher starts it's international mountain bike team, including world champions Albert Iten and Walter Braendli of Switzerland, and Paola Pezzo and Paolo Rusola of Italy. Gary introduces 15.5" chainstays on the Montare. 1992 Gary develops the Alembic Carbon Fiber Suspension bike with Toray of Japan. 1993 Trek Bicycle Corporation acquires the Gary Fisher Bicycle Company in April, Gary heads the product group that fast-tracks a new product line for introduction that August. Fisher rider, Paola Pezzo of Italy wins the UCI World Mountain Bike Championship in France. 1994 The Gary Fisher marriage flourishes and the Fisher brand excels with more than 500 U.S. locations and more than 20 countries worldwide selling the brand. Gary is named the "Founding Father of Mountain Bikes" by Smithsonian Magazine. Gary receives a lifetime achievement award at the Korbel Night of Champions, cycling's Academy Awards. 1996 Fisher rider Paola Pezzo wins the gold medal in the women's mountain bike event at the Atlanta Olympic Games. Gary is re-elected to the NORBA board of trustees with the highest number of votes of any trustee. Gary is named "Product Manager of the Year" by Mountain Bike Magazine. The Fisher brand is the fastest growing bicycle brand in the U.S.A. Gary introduces The “Joshua” dual suspension bike, it’s simple oval alloy tube “Y” shape becomes the most copied bike design of the 90’s. 1997 Fisher starts a BMX team and introduces 10 BMX models including a Joshua-inspired aluminum Pro Issue team frame. Paola Pezzo dominates the Women’s XC field on her Genesis Geometry bicycle by winning eight of ten UCI races, including the overall championship and the world championship title. Gary returns to racing and in his first year back wins the XC Masters category U.S. National Championships and earns a spot on the U.S. Masters team. Gary is named to the “Trips for Kids” Board of directors. 1998 Fisher shows the bike world dramatic improvements to mountain bike frames are still possible by unyielding the Genesis Geometry. Gary wins the Masters Category with teammate Jim Genties in the Trans Alp eight day off road stage race in Europe. Gary is named by Velonews as one of the top 25 mountain bike racers of all time. 1999 Gary Fisher Mountain Bike Team racer Michael Rasmussen wins the Men’s XC World Championship in Sweden. Paola Pezzo becomes the first woman to win a World Cup race on a dual suspension bike with a win in St Wendel, Germany aboard a new Fisher dual suspension. Paola Pezzo is named to the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.


2000 Fisher introduces the Sugar line to the masses, the full-suspension platform that’s light enough to be raced professionally. Gary Fisher Mountain Bike Team newcomer Mary Grigson wins the US NORBA series, four Fisher Olympians compete in the Sydney Olympic Games with Pezzo winning her second gold medal. 2001 Gary Fisher teams up with Subaru to for the Subaru Gary Fisher Mountain Bike Team. The team dominates the mountain bike circuit and ends the season a top the US rankings. Mary Grigson captures another NORBA title. Gary Fisher the man continues to race as he appears at such events as the 24 Hours of Moab. 2002 Gary Fisher turns the mountain bike world upside down again with the introduction of the Fisher 29-inch wheeled mountain bikes. The Two-Niner shows that the hardtail is far from dead, or beyond refinement. After all, who said that mountain bike wheels had to be 26”? 2003 Gary Fisher continues his endeavor to change the way people ride mountain bikes by introducing the Gary Fisher Sugar 29 line of full-suspension 29inch wheel bikes. Gary offers four models of 29er hardtails and two models of full-suspension. Gary travels year round and works harder than ever to cover the world in bicycles.

In 1974 Gary Fisher grafted a mixture of road bike and motorcycle parts onto a 1940s Schwinn Excelsior and created the first reliable, low-maintenance mountain bike. Soon after, Gary founded Mountain Bikes, the first company to build production mountain bikes. Today, Gary Fisher Bicycles is one of the world's leading brands of performance bicycles sold through specialty retailers. As chief designer Gary Fisher continues to be one of the most creative forces in cycling with a bicycle line that includes highly engineered, American-made mountain, luxury and children's bikes. For more information about Gary Fisher Bicycles visit


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