In the early years of Dirt Rag, I got a package from some guy out west, a guy by the name of Charlie Kelly. In the package were some magazines. Fat Tire Flyer it was called. It was the first MTB magazine, published from 1980 to 87. Charlie had come across a copy of Dirt Rag and immediately sent me a bunch of his ‘zines. Seems I had found my funk-soul brother from another planet, as I dug See-Kays irreverent and humble vibe. It was like looking in the mirror thousands of miles away.
Yes, Charlie was there at the beginning, starting not just the first magazine, but the first company to provide mountain bikes to the clamoring cult before the movement reached “Made in Japan” status. Yet Charlie never achieved the notoriety of people like Gary, Joe, or Tom.
But now it’s Charlie’s turn to shine. He’s spent the last few years working on his book, the aptly named “Fat Tire Flyer: Repack and the Birth of Mountain Biking”, from Velo Press.
I knew he was working on it, and wasn’t sure what to expect, but now that I’ve seen it I am blown away . It’s bigger an fatter than I imagined, with 264 pages packed with new perspective on those early days of the sport we love. With its 11” x 9 1/2” format there’s plenty of room for some great photos, some never seen before. Each chapter is a vignette of a moment in time, but they all work together and flow rather nicely.
Every detail is here. From the first bastardized Schwinn’s, the first Repack races, Joe Breeze’s first run of bikes, Cove Bike shop, Tom Ritchey’s building, and more. It’s all there in first hand commentary, as if you were hanging out with CK at the trailhead while he regales you with his stories. I’ve been there, and I can hear Charlie talking through the pages, always humble and honest, warts and all.
There have been other books written over the years on the birth of mountain biking in Marin County (Not that there aren’t other places where MTB was born at the same time?), but this guy did coin the word “Mountain Bike” and that counts for a lot. This book stands as one of the great pieces on the subject.
You can purchase “Fat Tire Flyer” for $29.95 at velopress.com.
Read an excerpt from the book in Dirt Rag Issue #180, describing how Charlie met Gary Fisher for the first time and they ended up hanging out with Jerry Garcia.
We’ve published a lot of stuff in 25 years of Dirt Rag. Find all our Blast From the Past stories here.