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Klunkerz Is Cool

Doc Attempts to Uncover Mountain Bike History

The origin of the mountain bike has long been shrouded in
mystery and a subject of dispute. Director Billy Savage’s
documentary klunkerz.gifKlunkersz/a>
reveals the origins of mountain biking on
Mt.Tamalpais in Marin County. That is not to say that it answers for
all time the question of who began the trend that has taken over
the world.

The group of guys — and one really cool girl, Wende Cragg,
who also happened to be a camera freak — who are the subjects of
this film may not have been the first to spend their adolescences
screaming down mountains on heavy steel cruisers, nor the first to
modify the bikes to fit their purpose. Savage’s film makes clear
that this was going on in various little enclaves, including
Crested Butte, Colorado and Cupertino, California. Indeed some of
the most dramatic moments of the film come when these isolated
groups, who did not know that others existed, encounter one
another.

klunkerz%202.jpgThis fascinating little documentary does make the argument
that the Marin County clique popularized the practice, and it tells
the history of mountain bike technology and production. Savage was
clearly influenced by Dogtown and Z-Boys, the classic
flashback documentary that tells the history of skateboarding as it
evolved among a group of Southern California surf rats who later
went on to become skateboarding legends. As in Z-Boys, Savage relies on
black-and-white action footage and stills interspersed with present
day commentary from the same Marin County hippie kids, now grown
up.

Finding the footage, dating back as far as 1968, was challenging
enough. (One of my favorite shots shows a primitive mountain biker
using branches to replace his inner tube.) But in addition Savage
had to act like some kind of cross between Jane Goodall hanging out
with the mountain gorillas and Jimmy Carter brokering Mideast peace
in order to get the interviews. Tensions had developed among the
original group once mountain bike building became profitable — some
of the guys cashed in to the tune of millions, and some didn’t. You
won’t find any of animosity reflected in the film though: Not only
did they not want to talk about it, but Savage didn’t want to hear
it.

What he wanted, and what he got once they warmed up to him, was
great on-camera anecdotes and reminisces of their extreme joys,
competitions, and camaraderie. The off-camera happy ending is that
the original crew all gathered together again at the film’s Marin
County premiere, just like old times. Several of them are now
eco-warriors who build bikes to promote healthy bodies and a
healthy planet. It’s about 15 minutes too long unless you can never
get enough of anything that has to do with bikes—but do stay for
the ending, it’ll warm your heart.

The last scheduled showing was this morning, Saturday, at 10:30
a.m., where Indy reporter Ethan Stewart led a Q&A.
Ironically, it conflicted with the planned Ride for Rwanda bike
ride being sponsored by Santa Barbara Middle School. So here’s to
hope that they add another screening, as they often do in this
festival.

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