Living Jackson

Benefits of cycling

Full Circle: The Genesis Of Gravel Riding | WTB HQ Tour & Marin County Ride


– Here we are with the
iconic Golden Gate Bridge right behind me. San Francisco is off in
the distance over there, and the infamous Alcatraz prison is just a swim away right over there. But, where I’m standing
is in Marin County. I’m here to spend a day with WTB, and after we received the invite, I threw my hand up, because this is a rare opportunity to learn about the legacy of off-road, drop-bar bikes, and to get a history lesson
into how this little area of the world changed
off-road riding forever. (booming) (whoosh) WTB started right here
in Marin, California. The company was born during a time of off-road cycling exploration. This area of Northern California has huge redwood trees, big
mountains intertwined with pine-covered single track, that
San Francisco city culture, and the Pacific Ocean. It’s a very unique landscape. It’s easy to understand
how riding off road became so intriguing to
the cyclists from here. Many believe that this is the area where mountain biking was born. Now, that’s going to be debated forever, but there’s no denying that
something really special happened in this area in the late 1970s. This need to bend the limits
of what a bike could handle, modify existing routes, and
head off the beaten path epitomizes the gravel riding we do today. That curiosity to push the boundaries of conventional cycling have lead to the genesis of gravel as we know it. And to dig into this,
we got to shake hands and spend the morning with one of WTB’s longest employees, Gary Gleason. Gary. – Jeremy. – Nice to see you.
– Nice to see you. – How are you doing? – Thank you for having us.
We’re doing really good. – Yeah. Come on in. Let’s go!
– Okay, awesome. Who’s this? – This is Lucy. – Lucy, what are you doing? Taking care of business over here, keeping everybody in line? – Yeah. She runs the show around here. – Really? – Yeah. (laughing) – If anyone gets out of line. Well, all right, Lucy.
– Yeah. Let’s go. Come on.
– All right. Whoa! (chuckles) Dude. This is… What do we have? – We have some history here. Um, so, on the top is the Phoenix frame that WTB used to make back in the ’90s. And then, the bike down
here is from the late ’70s, and that was one of the original Klunkers from one of the people
in the Corte Madera gang. – When I was growing up, I would see all these pictures of guys,
you know, just in like, jeans, going down the
hill with their legs out, and then you never… Yeah, at that time, you’re just like that looks kind of weird, you know, that looks like a commercial of some kind. – Yeah. – And then, when you get into it and you start to see more of these like kind of iconic pictures, and yeah, different stuff like that from years of growing
up, like getting excited about mountain biking. Um, it’s… pretty cool for me to
see one of these bikes that they, yeah, that that they had back in the day in person. I- I can’t say I’ve ever really seen one. – Really cool, and I was a kid back then, but these guys, like the founders of WTB, Mark, Charlie, and Steve, they’re iconic. They are legends, and they
were doing this stuff, living it, and innovating
and making mountain bikes. – Yeah. – Yeah
– ‘Cause in my research, I was always finding that like, in the late
’70s, it went down here in a big way, and I know that you guys had all this like big, into all, you know, all the stuff that was going on. – And this was ground zero. This is where uh, all of these different
people were trying to figure out how to make bikes better, make them last longer,
so they can ride more. And, so, they’d come down to this shop, and start, you know, tooling on things to make them better, to go back out there and do it again. Really.
It was really organic. This is a sheet of our head badges that we had made up in Mendocino
by a jewelry uh, maker. And that’s what you find right up here- – Right. – … on the front of the Phoenix. – This. I have to say,
this is bringing me back. (laughs) This is bringing me back. This one here. This in particular, the
Paola Pezzo edition. – Yes. – That is, uh, that’s reminiscent for me for a myriad of reasons, but when I raced not far from here, up in Napa, there was a World Cup there, and, got on the podium and, Paola Pezzo, in her very sparkly outfit uh, that she had back in the day, – Yeah. – She gave me the award, and that was like, pretty much, as a 16 year old, I was like, on top of the world that I got to A meet Paola Pezzo, – Yeah. – So, this brings back a lot of memories for me, personally. (laughs) – Super cool. Yeah, and I think that was the saddle that come
off of her bike then, so. (laughs) – My worlds have collided right now. – Boom! – Tell me about the
saddles, ’cause you guys have a long history in saddles. – Yeah, so there’s uh, you know, we have a long history of
saddles from the very early days of designing, you know,
saddles for specialized all the way up to today, we’ve done a lot of different shapes and things, and this right here is really some of the custom things we’ve done, whether it’s uh, you know, the sponsoring the Santa Cruz Syndicate team, or the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, or we’ve done some cause related things like, we have a saddle right here. Uh, it’s the Buddy Newman tribute saddle that’s for the TDS Enduro Race up in Northern California. Um, we set up a foundation for him ’cause he passed and he
was an employee here, so, um, a bunch of special stuff, and we just like to put
here to highlight it, because it really, uh, you know, brings up a lot of cool stories. (upbeat music) – Old school, and now we’re moving into modern day, where we are now. (laughs) – Modern day, yeah. So this is the new collection of saddles for us, and uh, a lot’s
changed with the technology that goes into saddles, but we’re just – You’re moving away from wood. – Moving away from wood (Jeremy laughs) into (laughs) some more
advanced materials, but the mission is still the same, – Yeah. – to provide a comfortable
saddle for people to ride bikes on. – Ahhhhh! (both laughing) This is, again, my worlds collide. This is like, serious man. This was the first tire. (chuckles) Yep. – Goes way back, right? – This goes way back, the VelociRaptor. – Yeah. – It’s the- got that, that
like, primal Jurassic Park… This was, This, to me,
that brings me back. That brings back some memories for me. – Yeah. Groundbreaking. Old school. – You guys have been
doing tires for a minute. – For a long time, yeah. – Yeah.
– Yeah. You know, we’ve got a full accompaniment of mountain bike tires, we’ve got, uh, a very comprehensive
line of gravel tires. And gravel’s really where we have a heavy emphasis on product development and sales, and stuff like that. – Yeah, yeah. You guys are pushing the bar with that as well, because I remember I was reading up, and like, plus-size and, I know that there’s another
format that you guys have. I think it’s also, maybe not proprietary, but you guys pushed the boundary
on it, and you created… What was that? – Yeah. Road Plus.
– That’s right. – It was basically a
category where we took a 650b diameter with a
47 millimeter casing, and put that on a gravel bike,
and um, really transformed the ride experience, made
it a lot more comfortable. It maybe, it’s more appropriate
for people that are riding long haul, looking for not
such a jarring experience, and it really, really took off. – Yeah, like super chunk. – Yeah, super chunk. – Like big, big, yeah, definitely made for a bit more enjoyable. And, just not as many flats, right? I’m sure that’s what you guys find. – Less flats, more comfortable,
so you can ride longer. – Right. – You know, that’s pretty much the game. – So, that was blast from the
past and a big history lesson from Gary about all the things
that WTB has been a part of. Now, I’m going to sit down
with their engineer, Evan, and learn all about how tires are made and what goes into them here. I also was able to swindle
my way to a WTB trucker hat. Evan, nice to meet you. – Nice to meet you, too. – Thanks so much. You’re
going to tell us all about what goes into making tires here at WTB. – Yeah, well, really all of our products. – Yeah. Let’s sit down. – Okay, so we got a brief
introduction about tires when we were over there with
Gary, but you’re the guy. You have a heavy weight to
carry because this has been a big part of WTB’s history.
You guys have been making tires for, like, decades now.
So, how does the tire come to fruition? Like,
where’s the start on this? – We go for rides at lunch.
We talk about bikes a lot. We talk about competitors’ products a lot, and how we can make it better
for the general consumer. – Yeah. – Um, then we come back to
the office after a ride, we talk about it some more,
start doing some sketches on paper, throw that into
the computer, um, send out emails to people, asking
them what they think of initial ideas, and
then we bring it into 3D, and we do some rapid
prototypes, and then… – Which is what we have here. – Exactly. Yep. – This is where it comes
in. So you guys have this, you send it out to, I
assume, like, athletes, or… – Yep. – you know, your crew of people
that you get feedback from that have, also, history in
this with you, and you’ve got like, a team of people that
are looking at this design and saying, like, “Hey, I like
this, or I don’t like that.” ‘Cause there’s a lot, you look
at a tire, you’re just like, “Oh, that looks good, I’d ride
that.” But, there’s a lot. – There’s a lot of little
details in there, like this tire, I was working on it this
morning, we’ve changed a lot of details on it. And– – So, this isn’t a production tire yet. – It’s not a production tire yet, very much in the prototype stage, so yeah. – Cool. – We think about all of that stuff, uh, position of knobs
relative to other ones, uh, casing materials, puncture protection, to trying to make it, um, you know, better ride characteristics. – Right. – And, easy for the
consumer to understand. – Right. And then,
what’s the last process? So you get to a place where
you’re about to push the button, the green button, go. – Yep. So, obviously the
hardest part is when you start cutting steel, ’cause
you can’t go back from there, so, we try to get all
the details finalized, and then we click go on the
products, start making molds, and then we get some
prototypes and ride ’em, and then we go into production,
but it’s always test first. – Yeah. Wow. That’s fantastic. Well, I see the crew around
here is, uh, I see some kits getting started to get
put on, so I would need to get on this ride. – Yeah. – But, thank you for showing us around. – Absolutely. – And, uh, I look forward to checking out some of these tires. – Okay, so this is the crew
from WTB that’s taking me out. We got Johs. We got Clayton. And thank you to Evan and
Gary for their time today. – You bet. – It was awesome to be in here. You guys are going to take me
out on a pretty serious ride. Where are we headed? – Oh, we’re headed up on
the hill a little bit, and we’re going to take you around– – This direction? – …that direction, yes. – Cool. And, you guys said,
uh, Mount Tam is in there, and… Repack. The infamous Repack. – We might just go there too. (upbeat music) – Johs, we are here, man.
This is so great to be out in the California sunshine.
Such a pretty area, like, just, this whole area. Where are we right now? – We are on Blithedale Avenue and we’re heading out
toward Railroad Grade and, uh, it takes us right on
up to the top of Mount Tam. – It’s not a bad, uh, not a
bad, like, lunch ride area to be doing some time in. (upbeat music) – Tell me a little bit about what you do, and then I also want
to know about the tires that I’m riding. (chuckles) – Right. – ‘Cause that’s your department. – Yeah. So, I have a couple
roles. One is product visions, so I look at our whole offering and see where there’s holes,
see where there’s places we can innovate, and then I
also am globally in charge of OEM sales. So, I work with
all the different bike brands around the world in what
they’re developing next. – [Jeremy] Okay. – So, what you have on there
for tires is called the Nano. – Okay. – The Nano is the tire originally
was called the Nanoraptor. And, we’ve actually had that
tire for close to 20 years. – Whoa! – But, it is, and it’s still to this day, a very popular tire. It’s got a lot of working
edges, it’s inverted tread, so, it still rolls really fast. – [Jeremy] Yeah. – [Johs] It’s a great tire. I love it. – All right. Well, I
can’t wait to test it out. Dude, this is amazing. Ooh man, looking right out
onto San Fran. (laughs) – It’s pretty fantastic.
I mean, I, like, I try to get this in every time I come out here. (soothing music) (tires flinging gravel) (slow music) (heavy rock music) – We’re going to take
you on an amazing ride. – With (chuckles) the trail boss. – With the trail boss. – This guy, right here.
This is the picture that I was talking about earlier. – Yeah. – He’s got his bell
bottoms, and his shirt. – Yeah. That’s Fast Freddy
Falk, a 30 plus year employee at WTB, but aka the trail boss. (fast rock music) – All right. Hopefully,
we’re almost to the top. – Yeah. We’re getting there. – (laughs) Okay. – Let’s do this. Awww! Ooh, a slider! – Where the heck are these guys? (fast rock music)
(laughter) – The trail boss. Living large. You finally got here. – Gary, what do we have
here? This is the Cunningham? Tell me what the heck is that
– No, this is the ham. This was a desirable bike
when I was growing up riding around here, for sure – Yeah. – It was like the ultimate, basically, and so this bike has WTB
components. One of the original owners made it in Fairfax.
He had his own little oven to bake it, and made all the
little parts, fabricated it. He had one similar to this
in 1979, and uh, you know, the following year, I saw
him riding up Pearl Pass in Crested Butte. We kind of
knew of him and then knew him after that, and, uh, one
of my friends got his bike, and it was, you know, amongst our group, it was the thing to have. – So, we’re going left here? – We said our goodbyes
to Johs, and we continued our adventure with the trail boss. – All right, have a good ride. – See you guys. – All right. (up tempo music) – Yeah. It’s like, all of the sudden… (up tempo music)
(bike tires swooshing) (air wooshing) – Done–
– That was serious. – Done with the pave. – Ah, what do we got now?
This is the bottom of Repack. – Well, this is Pine Mountain Loop. – Okay. – And we’re going to ride about 20 minutes up to the top of Repack. (laughs) So. – This is spicy. – Yeah. – That said all through there,
through like, where we were going, um– – From Bellanis Ridge… – Yeah. – Uh, down to Alpine Dam. – Ugh. – Through trees– – That view off, looking at all those little islands and stuff. – Yes. – Aw, man. – Beautiful. – I mean, I’ve got tired
legs, but my eyes are like, (both laugh) it’s just beautiful. All right. Let’s start doing this thing. 20 minutes, that’s what we’ve got, and then it’s, then we
get to have a beer, right? – Yes. – Okay. (tires rumbling) (dramatic music) (tires rumbling) (gravel skidding) (tires scraping) (wind wooshing) I lost a water bottle somewhere. – Oh, whoa. – What a climb, huh? – Dude, that is some chunky stuff. – On that thing. – Oh my gosh. Yeah. I can’t imagine what that was like back in the day. – Yeah. Can you imagine on a single speed? (phone beeps) A kick-back brake… – (chuckles) No. – Bike? – No. Dude, this is it. This is the top. This is Cascade Canyon
Road, where we’re going, Fairfax, two and a half miles downhill. – All downhill. – AKA, Repack. So, what is Repack? Well, it’s this crazy
descent off of Mount Tam, and it was right here, at
this little intersection on top of the mountain that
created a major chapter in the off-road cycling history
books over 40 years ago. This is one of those spots where you wish the trees could talk. ‘Cause
that initial a-ha moment of modifying existing bikes
to be able to ride off road, many believe started
from a group of riders, just out having fun, riding their Klunkers or their balloon bikes, space bikes, right here on this mountain. Now, the descent itself
is very steep, fast, ripping descent, and they were
using these modified bikes with coaster brakes, meaning,
you just pedaled backwards to engage the brake. Going as fast as they
did, it would literally burn up the grease inside
the hub after every ride. They called it Repack
because they had to repack their coaster brakes with fresh grease after each rip down the mountain. (dramatic music) (laughs) (tires scraping) (dramatic music) – Oh ho ho ho ho ho ho ho
ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho! – Yeah. – Ah haha haha, dude! That was insane! (laughter) That was insane. Oh, my gosh. – You survived. – There–
– He did it. – I know why that is, uh, so iconic. – Yeah. – That thing rips. It’s
do, vo, vo, and then, it’s just like tabletop,
tabletop, tabletop, and like, you were
saying, man, that’s like 40 years ago, people were
tearing that up on bikes that had, I have– – Claymore Schwinns. – I have 160 rotors on
this, with disc brakes, and all kinds of
technology and they were… I can’t believe it, but
that gets the adrenaline just ripping. – Oh, yeah. – Fa–
– Arms humped, just sliding around corners. – Ahh! – Clicking it. – Oh, all right. Let’s hit dinner. That was amazing. Thank you guys. – Yep. (bike chain clinks) (folksy music)
(indistinct speech) – If you’ve ridden Repack
even once, then the descent has left its impression on you. It’s an absolute screamer,
and I was riding it with disc brakes, so
thinking about these guys going down this on their
Klunkers with coaster brakes absolutely blows my mind. After the descent, we made our
way into Fairfax, California and the downtown has all
kinds of mountain bike history all over the walls and the
murals and all of this. We made our way over to
the Splitrock Tap and Wheel for some beers and to
just talk about everything that had happened. (glasses clink) – Cheers. – Oh. That was a day. It
was extremely educational, it was fun, and I learned a
lot. I hope you guys did too. I leave here with a sense of excitement, not just about everything that I learned, but also for the future,
because if this video told me anything, it’s that history often repeats itself and this refinement, and this process of continuing to evolve, it’s really exciting times. I hope you guys enjoyed the video. If you like it, please
give it a thumbs up. If you want to leave a
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