Mountain Biking Influential Top 50Ours is a relatively young sport, born in the 70’s out of Marin County in California by a bunch of rebels who were looking for the something different. This rebel narrative can be seen across a number of ‘action sports’ of a sub-category born to rebel against the traditional. In a short period of time, mountain biking has grown to become a global business, Olympic sport and continues to grow and shape communities around the world, via trail building, tourism and event operators and passionate riders, spreading the word.

That phenomenon would not have happened without many of the those listed below – some of Mountain Biking’s Top 50 Influential people and events, that have driven and continue to drive the awareness for years to come.

Yes, there are going to be people out there who you think should be on the list, and others where you may go “WTF’ or “Who?”. Well this list is subjective and we would be happy to see your comments or notable mentions in the comments. Who knows, maybe we can revise it to the influential 100! Enjoy.


The MTB Founders

Modern mountain biking has its roots in Marin, California and the below 5 individuals were there from the start, at the original repack races. This is where it started

The MTB Racers

The changes to mountain bike racing has been immense. In a relatively short term the sport has spawned several disciplines (XC, DH, Enduro, 4X, DJ etc), included as a sport in the Olympics and become a truly global sport, where many nationalities have developed brilliant riders and athletes. As race formats evolve, the balance between rider skill, trail build, spectator involvement and sponsorship attraction, will continue to push the boundaries and challenge the known norms, into the future.

The MTB Huckers

Mountain Biking Influential Top 50While the rise of the XC racing scene in 1990’s bloomed, there was a renegade era of freeriders looking to shake what was perceived as the mtb establishment (which does seem odd, given the relative infancy of the sport), those that rejected the lycra wearing racers and flipping mountain biking on its head. Riding lines never before attempted, destroying bikes, unknowingly pushing product development forward and elevating mountain biking to the next level.

The MTB Event Makers

There are a number of events that become standouts for riders to attend – this list could be argued and debated ad nauseum. If you are lucky enough to attend and ride in one of the below, you are already the envy of may riders around the world.


The MTB Photographers

Mountain Biking Influential Top 50Before youtube and the easy access to video, the appeal of mountain biking was sold via the pages of mountain bike magazines. I still remember getting the first issue of Bike magazine and being blown away by the photography and visual representation of the sport. This visual storytelling has only gotten better as technology improves, mountain biking pushes into the mainstream and top level photographers now have an avenue to sell their images to bike media and corporate clients – forging a living from their impressive work.

The MTB Writers

Without words  and the perspectives of the writers and journalists, mountain biking may well have been another gear based sport, but there is something more to this than riding and racing. It can be the struggle, the exhilaration, the adventure and mis-adventure, the highs, lows and tragedies. A writer has a gift to transport you to another place and take you on a journey, drawing you in with their with their words, and for a short period, you become transfixed to the page (or screen). The writers below have the ability to do just that, so still do it, while others have moved on. Either way their legacy and future work will continue to shape this sport for years to come.

The MTB Celebrities

Every sport has them, characters that an industry is drawn to. They may have something to say, they may be controversial or they may just love to ride and express it in a way that is infectious. Over the years there have been a number of media darlings, some are still there while others have dropped it down a notch.



So what do you think? Influential? Surprising inclusions? Feel free to add your comments below.


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19 Responses to Mountain Biking Influential Top 50

  1. Kenny McCarthy says:

    Mike Sinyard was at Repack?

  2. Tom hillard says:

    What about Ned Overend and the Rockhopper race in northern California. Also the whisky town downhill

    • Malcolm says:

      Hi Tom,

      Yes agree, Ned Overend is a legend and has imparted great influence on the sport – I have added him to the list!

      Thanks for the other suggestions, notable races. A post of the great mtb events may be in order.


  3. Gabe says:

    Uh…think you forgot Ned Overend, Charlie Cunningham, Bill Cockroft, Tom Hillard…I can go on…and you listed Brett Tipie twice? I guess I am old as dirt but WTF is that guy? Shit, I helped start NORBA and don’t expect to be on the list but Tipie twice???

    • Malcolm says:

      Hi Gabe,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Yes its difficult to capture everyone. I have added Ned Overend to the list.
      Tippie was a key influence in the beginning of the freeride days and like him or not, he is influencing the younger generation as a personality today.


  4. Ross Tucker says:

    Don’t forget The Laguna RADS! We were there in the beginning and were one of the first if not the first to do sick steep trails in the hills of Laguna Beach. Hans Rey was wondering if us a few years later and the same for Bob Allen who is definitely one of the early photogs.

    • Malcolm says:

      Thanks Ross for the suggestions! Definitely seems to be an influence, especially with Hans Rey on board!



  5. Ross Tucker says:

    Sorry…Hans Rey was with us!

  6. John Schubert says:

    Many key names are missing. My top two are Charlie Cunningham– whose design innovations are just now being, uh, “tributes” in the new gravel grinders — and his wife Jacquie Phelan, who was the Muhammad Ali of women’s mountain bike racing throughout the 1980s.

  7. Matt Loader says:

    Tim Gould

  8. Ryan Palmer says:

    You misspelled a name. It’s Kristin Butcher, not Kirsten.

  9. Joe Murray says:

    Malcolm, Not going to pretend I’m disappointed you left me out. Yet forget about me, this is unfair to so many others you left out compared to many you list here. Would have been nice had you done more research.

    • Malcolm says:

      Thanks Joe for you comments and feedback. This list is by no means exhaustive, and yes there are names that aren’t included that may or should be there. I like the fact that this post has brought out the passion from readers to debate, argue, suggest etc. Everyone has an opinion, this is mine. This is not the ‘most’ influential or ‘Top 50 of all time,’ but rather reflects the Top 50 influential people that I view, from both the past and taking mountain biking into the future. I can assure you that I did research and am happy with the list, but also open to take on board thoughts from readers. More than happy to read your list and comment, if you get a chance to put one out there.

      I think that the MTB Hall of Fame does a great job of compiling a more exhaustive list, which you have been a recipient of, from the start (1988). Your achievements have been praised and the MTB industry has given you the highest honour. This is an amazing accolade, which is well deserved. To have a hall of famer even read the post, has made my day!

      To be honest, I did not believe the list would be read that much or be commented on at all, but I did enjoy putting it together and glad to see that many people have read it and have been fired up to debate, defend and make suggestions. Thanks to all!

  10. Lacy Kemp says:

    While Red Bull Rampage isn’t an event that most people will ever ride, or likely even attend in person, it is one of the most viewed events on Redbull.TV each year, and to omit it and/or Todd Barber from your list seems like an oversight.

    • Malcolm says:

      Thanks Lacy.

      You make a solid argument for the Rampage to be included. Whilst invitation only (and possibly with good reason, given the lines ridden) its influence as a spectacle and an event, is far reaching. Thanks also for commenting, again to have someone from Bike Mag, read the post, is very encouraging!


  11. Ange says:

    2nd on Jacque phelan! Also, how do you leave out palmer and bender? Do you even ride a mt bike?

    • Malcolm says:

      Thanks for your comments. Palmer certainly had an impact as a crossover athlete at the height of his career. As noted in the comments this is not an exhaustive list, the Rampage, and those associated with it, is a worthy contender.
      And yes i do ride.

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