Ours 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.
- 1980’s/90’s Ned Overend John Tomac, Juli Furtardo, Thomas Frischknecht, Nicolas Vouilloz
- 2000’s Steve Peat, Sam Hill (DH), Anne-Caroline Chausson
- 2010’s The Athertons, Danny Hart, The Santa Cruz Syndicate (Greg Minnaar, Steve Peat, Josh Bryceland)
- Today: Nino Schurter, Sam Hill (Enduro), Catharine Pendrel, Jerome Clementz
The MTB Huckers
While 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
Before 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.
- Dan Koeppel
- Zapata Espinoza
- Richard Cunningham
- Kristin Butcher
- Kath Bicknell
- Joe Parkin
- Chipps Chippendale
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.