Throwback Video: Marin’s Repack downhill on CBS Evening Magazine in 1979


Gary Fisher, Charlie Kelly among the originals featured on network show

Other than starting with the letter “r,” the mountain bike events known as Repack and Rampage have little to do with each other. Though the latter—a modern day, energy drink-infused spectacle televised by helicopters—might not even exist were it not for the grassrootsy genesis caused by the former.

Charlie Kelly, Wende Cragg and the gang from Marin County get some big water on the slopes of Mount Tam for the cameras of CBS’ Evening Magazine.

Humble though it may have been, Repack scored some Nielsen points of its own back-in-the-day, appearing in a segment of the CBS television show Evening Magazine in 1979, and giving mountain biking some of its first national exposure.

For their part, viewers got a glimpse into the sport’s early years which included no shortage of powerslides, jean shorts and the Steve Miller Band. They also met a young, prophetic rider who explained that the mountain bike had “come a long way” in its first five years and that “it’s going to go a long way from here.” That rider was named Gary Fisher, and it turns out he was right.

Before Gary Fisher was a company, he was a guy who worked at bike shops, wrote for bike magazines and raced his bike. He counts the famed Repack among his victories.

Fisher along with likes of Joe Breeze, Denise Caramagno, Charlie Cunningham, Charlie Kelly, Jacquie Phelan, Tom Ritchey and others birthed the modern mountain bike on the slopes of Mount Tamalpias in California’s Marin County north of San Francisco.

Charlie Kelly organized races like Repack, published the Fat Tire Flyer and found time to jump into the fray and race as well.

Kelly along with Caramango started the first mountain bike magazine, Fat Tire Flyer in 1980, and were among the first to chronicle the burgeoning sport. Kelly also organized Repack, one of the earliest mountain bike races held on the downhill fire roads of Mount Tamalpias near Fairfax, Calif. His book Fat Tire Flyer: Repack, Revolution, and the Birth of the Mountain Bike comes out in September. We found this link on the newly established Fat Tire Flyer Facebook page.

A smooth powerslide was key to keeping your speed up on the fire road switchbacks of the Repack downhill.

This rider’s slide goes high-side as he crosses it up going into a high-speed switchback. Fortunately he kept his head off the ground and a pair of Toughskins and some football arm pads saved him from serious injury.

About the author: Don Palermini

Chicago-born Don Palermini became a cycling-based life-form in the sixth grade after completing a family road bike tour of his home state. Three years later he bought his first mountain bike to help mitigate the city's pothole-strewn streets, and began exploring the region's unpaved roads and trails. Those rides sparked a much larger journey which includes all manner of bike racing, commuting, on- and off-road bike advocacy, and a 20-plus-year marketing career in the cycling industry that landed him at his current gig with Santa Cruz bicycles. Now residing in the San Francisco Bay Area, his four favorite words in the English language are "breakfast served all day," together in that order.

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  • Peguin Power says:

    No helmet, no suspension and 1930s frames. Yeeeeeeeeehaaaaaaaaaaaa!

  • Fleas says:

    I was just putting a board on a brick and jumping my 20″ when this broadcast.

  • Milner says:

    Thanks for the memories. I was there; I was just a kid. Used to ride with these guys occasionally. I got to “beta test” the pre-production bikes from Gary Fisher at his shop on the canal in San Rafael. One person that was left out was Tom Ritchey, I’m pretty sure he was there until about 1985, when he and Fisher split. He was a big part of the scene as was Gary Cunningham and Joe Breeze and many others. These folks were the founders of the modern mountain bike.

    I long for those days of the freedom to ride on Mt. Tam(and elsewhere in the Bay Area) without fear of being demonized by an angry environmentalists. I don’t ride there any longer, too depressing.
    Thanks again!

  • bryan says:

    What gets me fired up is the passion these guys had. Even though the equipment, riders, and difficulty of the trails have evolved considerably since then it’s still riding two wheels on dirt in the woods. I’m glad to be one of the many riders today just as stoked as then.

  • Vespasianus says:

    Man, what a fantastic video. And god, I miss the 70’s. What an amazing time.

  • Wally says:

    LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!! Awesome video and what a thrill to see “The True Kings of Tam.”

  • tom says:

    at last … a flashback to the time when modifying your bike meant welding steel piped between tubes and nicking bits from washing machines 🙂 these guys never even thought about X01 setups, 3k wheels and poncy lycra and lids. it’s about time we got a little more back toward these roots … less sneering at others kit and buying parts for the price of a new kidney … more not giving a f*ck and hammering down mud-track with gay abandon. rock on old skool clunkers

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