Saturday, December 04, 2010

More On The Beginnings Of The Modern 29"er

Update: Yesterday in my "Friday News And Views" post, I gave a very brief history of the first "modern day 29"er" built by Wes Williams, (<==image again here), and I received some important additional information I put in the comments section.  Since not everyone is going to wade in there and see those comments, I am going to post them up today as an update to the story. (Click the title above or scroll down to see the post from yesterday.)

First off, the information was all provided via Facebook by Wes Williams hisself. So, it is straight from the source here. Wes wanted us to know he was more than just a welder at Ibis back in the day, saying, "...I was principal framebuilder / designer/ production mgr. at Ibis , not just the welder . I worked there 9 years" By the way, those fabulously collectible Scorchers Ibis once made? Yeah.....Wes Williams. Pre-dating hipster craziness by a decade or more.

Then Wes also updated the whole story behind the first 29"er he made. Here is his communication to me in full:

I tried to comment on your blog , but unsuccessfully . Good on you ! I credit Bruce Gordon and Gary Helfrich for finding the first real 28" tire , a 700-47 Nokia Hakkapelitta in 1987 , and I made my first 28" in 1988 .( 700-38 does not qualify ) This was the same year the Rockshox was introduced , yet I was already bored with 26" , and have been riding the 28" off-road since then . The " hybrids " introduced in the early 90's ran 45c Smokes at best , and I imported 300 Goliaths in 1995 . This was the largest tire in existence at the time . The Mountie pictured was completed in 1997 and was designed for a tire that did not yet exist .This was the bike that Mark Slate was loaned over the winter of '98/'99 , to decide if I was full of shit or not . ( I wasn't ) . Bob Poor deserves credit also , as he backed me up all the way and came to my defense for years on the internet . I had told Mike Sinyard ( president of Specialized ) in 2000 that it would take 8-10 years for general acceptance , and that is just about right . Moots built Don Crook's bike in May 1999 , and I had completed several bikes for the Nano by then . Gary had to wait for Potts to build his personal bike , as he doesn't actually build frames , and Fisher introduced one model in 2000 .I hope this helps fill you in further as to who is responsible . Bruce should get some credit for his Rock n Road , which was the precurser to that whole fleet of hybrids of the early 90's and to mine , also .

Okay, so let me 'splain a few points Wes brought up here. First off, the personas of Gary Helfrich and Bruce Gordon. First, Gary Helfrich, who was a partner in Fat City Cycles, and started Merlin back in '86. Bruce Gordon is still a crack frame builder and has been for years. Gordon pioneered the use of bigger rubber on 700c rims with his "Rock and Road" concept back then. Gordon helped push the idea that the bigger diameter wheel was a good thing off road.

Mark Slate, who has been with WTB forever and a early mountain bike pioneer, helped design the Nanoraptor, "The Tire" that got the whole 29"er she-bang going.  Bob Poor is a former Crested Butte resident who used to post on as "Bigwheel" back in the day and was a loud proponent of all things "29"er". (Note: Bob is the reason I continue to post the numerical moniker for the big wheels as I do, and it is a tribute to his early influences on me and others. So: it is written by me as 29"er not 29er, or in other mistaken ways of doing that, like "two-niner", etc)

Next up is Mike Sinyard, who Wes gives the identity of already, so no further word from me is necessary. Following that is the name of Don Cook, who is the curator of the Mountain Bike Hall Of fame, and himself a claimant to the "first 29"er story". (Thus Wes' misspelling of his last name in the quote above. I won't get any further into that!)

Then we have "Gary" and "Potts" who are references to Gary Fisher, (No explanation necessary), and Steve Potts, a frame builder, mountain bike pioneer, and formerly of WTB.

So, there ya go! Like I said, I just scratched the surface on that historical moment and Wes just downloaded all of that additional stuff, which I thought deserved to be seen as well.


MG said...

Thanks for giving Wes a well deserved forum. He's been a huge part of why we're able to enjoy big wheel bikes today.

Thanks Wes!!! And thanks to everyone else in the industry that helped usher in 29"ers. My riding is much more enjoyable because of the work you've done.


paxtoncoyote said...


Andrew said...


Well done GT, for *objectively* telling the history!

And thanks to Wes, and *everyone* who made 29"ers a reality.

Normbilt said...

Thanks Wes!
Big wheel Keep on Turning!

galaxysearchlights said...

if you put disc brakes and a new carbon fork on that frame you could pass it as a 2011.
its like the pinup girls from the 1940s and muscle cars from the 1970s
sexy even by todays standards.

Rich said...

Maybe I missed mention of the Overdrive by Diamondback......I know you saw-maybe sold a few of those at Campus Cylery back in the day....they had 700x45 c Smokes???? IIRC??