Saturday, March 26, 2011

Vision...Or Lack Thereof

I talked to Gary Fisher at the bike industry show in Las Vegas, a couple of times, back in the 1990s.  He's an interesting guy, and really had a lot of influence on the mountain bike industry, whether or not he "invented" the mountain bike.

He told me that he and Charlie Kelley went to Schwinn, in the late 80s, and tried to license the "MountainBike" name and, indeed, the mountain bike concept, to the the largest bike company in America.  But, they were shown the door.

The Schwinn line was, "There is a very small market for this type of bicycle.  The Schwinn Company can not afford to produce a line of bikes for a few hundred hippies in California." (Or, words to that effect.)

Not too many years after that, Schwinn contracted with Giant Bicycles, of Taiwan, to produce mountain bikes in order to keep up with the burgeoning mtb market in America.  After a few years of buying from Giant, the Schwinn Company dropped Giant, thinking that they should go to a lower-cost supplier. 

This left Giant with a factory tooled up to produce tens of thousands of mountain bikes for the American marker, but no one to distribute them.  So, the Giant Bicycle Company moved into the American market with their own line.  (One of their models was the Iguana.  It was my habit to shout , "Hide the crickets, there's a Giant Iguana in the shop," whenever one showed up for service in the shop.)

Ten years later, the Schwinn family had sold the company to an investment firm, and Giant was a major force in the bicycle industry, worldwide.

Watch the companies which, today, are ignoring the "transportational cycling" and commuter market.  I suspect that history may repeat itself...



  1. I would like to believe you are correct; but as in the 80's, only time will tell. I can't honestly say I'm a fan of all that claims to be for commuters.

  2. That's a fascinating piece of history. Thanks for sharing.
    As it turns out, my wife's first mountain bike was a 1988 Schwinn Sierra, a present from me. It wasn't much of mountain bike but I got a good deal on it. A couple years ago I fitted it with Ritchey Tom Slicks and Planet Bike clip-on fenders, and most of the cheapo plastic Exage bits have been replaced. Still use it to commute most days. I'm thinking about stripping the ratty blue paint off the chromed 4130 frame, polishing it up and telling people it's actually a chrome 70s Paramount. Who wouldn't believe a story like that?


As always, sorry about the word verification. It's a necessary evil, unfortunately.