By Gary Boulanger, BikeRadar
The sport of mountain biking is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2009, and leading the celebration is the Museum of Mountain Bike Art & Technology (MOMBAT), a new museum created to preserve and chronicle the evolution of the sport, its personalities and products, located in Statesville, North Carolina.
The museum's collection contains over 400 bicycles, including more than 250 mountain bikes. Displayed alongside the bicycles at MOMBAT are hundreds of vintage parts and accessories and thousands of pieces of literature, including period catalogs and magazines that follow the evolution of the sport.
"With our location near the intersection of two major interstates, the museum is convenient for anyone traveling in the area, and weve had visitors from all around the US and overseas as well," said Jeff Archer, the museum's curator.
Archer told BikeRadar the museum is split between two floors of 5,000 square feet each, with 14-foot ceilings.
"The online shop history tells quite a bit about how we got to where we are now," he added.
In the mid 1970s, the mountain bike sprang to life as a grassroots effort by a small group of riders in Marin County, California, who converted balloon-tired cruisers into trail bikes by removing superfluous equipment and installing knobby tires. The first purpose-built off road bikes were made in the late 1970s when the term "Mountain Bike" was first used to describe them, and the sport grew rapidly worldwide in the following years.
The original mass produced mountain bike, the Specialized Stumpjumper, arrived in stores in 1982. An example of this model now resides in the Smithsonian Institution, and a similar model is displayed at MOMBAT.
Technological innovation is evident in the bicycles featured at MOMBAT, with the evolution of front and rear suspension designs, hydraulic disc brakes and the progression from five to 27 gears over the life of the sport. Frame materials also evolved, from basic steel tubes to wildly shaped and extremely lightweight composites and metals. Artistic design and construction is also found on bikes and components as some of the best examples of bicycle fabrication are on display at the museum, including details ranging from experimental to innovative and artful.
The museum also sponsors the Cackalacky Cup, an increasingly popular vintage-themed mountain bike festival that takes place each summer.
MOMBAT is located within First Flight Bicycles in historic downtown Statesville, NC. Admission is free and the museum is open to the public Monday-Friday, 10-6 and Saturday, 10-5. Visitors are welcomed and encouraged to take their time to view the exhibits.
Those unable to visit the museum in person can view much of the collection at www.mombat.org.