Who was first? This questions often pops up in regard to mountain bike history in Europe. Just as in the US, the MTB’s motherland, there’s not just one name that fits the description. In the US it’s not all about Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze and the like, who can be acknowledged as the founding fathers of the sport and culture of mountain biking.
Part2: Butch Gaudy – MTB Cycletech
Back in the 1970s and 80s, you were a true motorbike enthusiast. So, how did you get into this whole mountain bike thing?
We ran a biker motel resort near Highway 1 in the Redwoods in Cazadera (Northern California) for German and Swiss motor bikers. Riding the legendary Route 66 on a Harley Davidson was the ultimate trip! I was a motorbike enthusiast and during my trips to Europe, I got in touch with the whole movement against nuclear energy and cars, so I became a cyclist. And getting to know Joe Breeze, I finally got in touch with mountain biking. In the 1970s, the sport grew in Northern California, due to the dirt bikers riding their modified ‘Clunkers’.
E-mountain bikes supporting the rider using an electric motor have become more and more popular. You have been deeply involved with e-bikes in the last years – will the biggest innovations happen here in the next years? In general, e-bikes are a very complex subject. An e-bike is closer to an iPhone than to a bicycle. E-mobility is one of the big topics and companies like Apple certainly will take on the e-bike and e-car market in the future. E-mountain bikes will be the norm for bicycle manufacturers and I’d say that in the future, conventional bikes will only be attractive for singlespeed purists. The question that remains; will bicycle companies building their bikes with an e-motor from Bosch, Brose or Shimano be able to establish their own iconic brand identity?
Will E-mountain bikes become a success in the US, considering that there already have been some trail closures as a consequence of e-bikes being used?
In the US, this challenge will be solved in quite a practical way – similar to mountain bike riding on hiking trails. When I visited Moab for the first time back in 1989, everyone shared the same trails. Today, motobikers, e-biker and old school MTB riders have their own trails. There’s still enough room for everyone in the US, something that could change with Trump.
What’s your take on the whole MTB wheel size debate, what’s the perfect wheel size?
Evidently, no one can answer that question, that’s why there are different answers. Personally, riding my MTB Cycletech Opium, I’m still on 26” wheels. I remember all the trouble we had trying to find the best rear suspension setup using our CAD-program…and I have a feeling that even when using the modern wheel sizes, you still have to deal with compromises. For riders below 1.70 m in height, 29” wheels don’t make sense at all. Furthermore, while debating wheel sizes, the industry ignored other important aspects including best possible bike ergonomics.
MTB Cycletech has always signified high-end design, that was often unique. Who takes care of a bike’s great design?
The designers ensure that a bike pleases its rider with aesthetic looks, the engineers only take care of a bike’s function. I guess, at MTB Cycletech we were the first brand to not define a mountain bike exclusively in terms of new technical solutions. To us, a few grams more here and there to ensure a greater overall look of the bike was far more important than a new low weight record! You can’t measure aesthetics on a scale. And due to putting greater emphasis on our bikes design, we were not confused with other German brands. To this day MTB Cycletech has always been quirky.