You may be surprised to learn that mountain biking has a much longer history than you might think. Since the invention of the bicycle, people have been riding them on off roads and on rough terrain, so in a sense, mountain biking has been around for centuries. One interesting moment in early mountain biking history is that of the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps in 1896. This group of military riders adapted their bicycles to suit rougher terrains, similar to what mountain bikes are today. In order to test their bikes’ readiness to be used by the military on mountainous terrain, this regiment rode their modified bikes from Missoula, Montana, to Yellowstone National Park and back again. They rode even farther the following year — all the way from Missoula to St. Louis, MO and back!

While there have been other instances of off-road biking throughout history, mountain biking as it is known today officially started in the early 1970s. A group of friends in Larkspur, CA gained notoriety after riding vintage 1930s balloon tire bikes down Mount Tamalpais, spawning the interest of the activity in the minds of many others as word spread of their exploits. This group of friends grew, and included such mountain biking founders as Gary Fisher, Charlie Cunningham, Joe Breeze, Tom Ritchy, and Keith Bontrager. Together, they modified their bikes to be better equipped to ride over rough terrain. They also organized the first downhill mountain biking race, which they called Repack due to the fact that they needed to “repack” grease into their coaster brakes following every race. Originally, riders exclusively rode downhill, as their bikes were not equipped to handle going uphill. As time went on, they made more and more innovations to their bikes, and the media caught onto this new phenomenon. It has only grown in popularity since then, eventually becoming a professional sport.

In the 1990s, competitive professional mountain biking continued to increase in popularity. The first Extreme Games, or X-Games, the olympics of extreme sports, occurred in 1995; one of the main events was mountain biking. In 1996, the Atlanta Olympics hosted its first mountain biking event, which was won by The Netherlands’s biker Bart Jan Brentjens. In 1997, the Winter X-Games were born, which also featured a mountain biking event.

In the years since that group of friends started riding down Mount Tamalpais, mountain biking has become a prevalent sport around the world. Enthusiasts of this sport and newbies alike can find mountain bikes, mountain bike trails, and mountain bike clubs in abundance. The popularity of mountain biking speaks to the thrill of the sport, and its ability to be adapted to new heights. This is what we see from freeride mountain biking, the latest evolution of mountain biking. Freeriding takes mountain biking to the next level by incorporating downhill mountain biking with epic stunts, tricks, and jumps. To learn more about freeriding, watch “Reach For The Sky,” the riveting documentary about Cam Zink as he goes on a journey to become the world’s most infamous freerider.