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Mountain biking's second coming

By Sue George

Gary Fisher has seen a lot of change in mountain biking. During his time in the industry, mountain bikers have graduated from rigid forks and frames and pedals with toe clips and straps to lightweight, plush, full suspension mountain bikes.

Like any sport, the popularity of mountain biking can be expected to rise and fall, but Fisher, one of the pioneers of the sport in its early days, thinks we may be onto another growth spurt of the relatively young cycling discipline. "Overall sales of mountain bikes are up double digits this year [as of the summer]. It's amazing. It could be we're seeing a second coming of the sport."

Fisher said that in his home state of California, mountain biking is on the rise. "Being a lycra-clad cross country geek was about the uncoolest thing a teenager could do a few years ago. Sometimes something has to hit dead bottom before it can be cool again, and I think we've been there."

Even though retired Trek superstar Lance Armstrong spent very little time on a mountain bike, he may still have helped the sport. "I think Lance brought a lot of legitimacy to the entire sport. There's been no time in last 80 years or 100 years that Americans respected a cyclist like they do today," said Fisher despite the current doping scandals raging at the pro level on the road side of the sport.

"I think mountain biking is starting to mature," said Fisher. "The different sides of it are starting to be well-developed. It sort of started as what I like to call a motor-based sport, with human being as a motor, and it made a definite offshoot into skills-based which is where the jump scene and the free ride scene come in. They both have their absolute legitimacy, and we see that the racing scene is starting to get sorted out - what's popular, what's fun, what people like to do."

More places to ride

Fisher is encouraged by the rejuvenation of the younger side of the sport, and his company is piling the resources behind it. "With kids getting more involved and the proliferation of trailbuilders in the North America and the world, the future is looking golden." In fact, Fisher points to trailbuilding initiatives as the key to bringing the sport to locales never previously associated with mountain biking.

He credits the increase in professional trailbuilders nation and worldwide with the increase in the sport. There are more places for cyclists to ride off-road. Fisher couldn't name one favourite place to ride, but pointed instead to fun riding experiences he's had in Crested Butte, Moab, California, the Dolomites and lesser known local spots in Houston, Texas, and Florida.

"The technology of trail building has paid off in spades. If you have great trail, it doesn't matter what bike you have, it's so much fun to rip."

To read the complete feature, click here.

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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.