RIP Fred Wolf, Pioneer of Mountain Biking

Growing up in Marin County, CA in the 1970s was something magical. I’ve yet to visit a more open, tolerant and self-aware area than the SF Bay, Marin sitting immediately to it’s north across the Golden Gate Bridge. The 70s were a time of protest, of women’s liberation, sexual revolutions, an ‘open’ culture not unlike the Renaissance…oh, and heavy drug experimentation. Times and places like this breed the new things that fit the societal temperature of the day.

As a young girl, I lived in Sausalito, San Rafael, San Anselmo, Mill Valley and several other little towns, including Fairfax, the birthplace of mountain biking.  Life was much different then. People were different. Ideas and movements meant something. And some amazing things were created. I went to the high-school where the term “420” was coined. That should help set some perspective.

My mother was a straight A student, a good Lutheran choir girl, and class president of her high school in Sacramento. Escaping her structured youth, she fell for the bad boy that was my dad, partying, wild child.

mom-meets-dad Mom and Dad, 1969

My dad, and many of his friends, raced motorcycles at that time around Marin. I remember how proud my dad was when I received my first (and last!) muffler burn on my leg from a Harley ride. Through his motorcycle friends, my dad came to know a man named Fred Wolf.

Fred Wold, mountain biking pioneer, RIP

Fred Wolf, 1977

Fred (far left, below) was one of the pioneers of mountain biking back in the day.

Fred Wolf, far left

Repack, 1976

The idea of racing a bicycle downhill in the dirt was an new concept and is a hobby and international sport thanks to those early pioneers. Repack started it all. Repack was an off-road race downhill on bikes called klunkers. That was likely the 2-wheel equivalent of a demolition derby vehicle.

“A strange bicycling event called “Repack” changed my life, starting in 1976, when the first downhill off-road race took place on a road a few people called “Repack” road, just outside Fairfax, California. I promoted clandestine races there starting in 1976 and ending in 1984, the beginning of what has become a world-wide sport of downhill mountain bike racing.” ~ Charlie Kelly’s website

“THE MOUNTAIN BIKE Hall of Fame…[moved] to the rustic Marin town where a handful of young off-road cycling pioneers gave birth to the now international sport in the 1970s, barreling down Mount Tamalpais on fat tire paperboy bikes they called “klunkers.” ~ Marin IJ

Clunker

“Clunker”, circa 1977

My dad and Fred stayed friends for 40+ years. Lately when I visit my dad (also named Fred) at his home in Novato, Fred Wolf would be by, visiting my dad. They would shoot the breeze and enjoy the Marin weather, sitting below the very mountains it all started. Sadly, in April this year, Fred Wolf passed away from a rare form of cancer.

“Fred Wolf Passed away on April 28, 2014 at home among family after a battle with cancer. He was 68. Fred was one of the key players of the early mountain biking scene in Marin. He took up fat-tire-bike riding in 1973. At well over 6 feet and 200 pounds, he served in a useful research and development capacity: his muscled frame could quickly ferret out bike parts unworthy for what would later become known as a mountain bike. Charlie Kelly and Fred Wolf discovered the Repack course. When Repack racing began in 1976, Fred ferried racers to Azalea Hill in his truck. He brought fun to any ride, whether he was flying down a new hill or keying out a new wildflower. Fred received recognition for his contribution to the sport and was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 1992. Fred was born in 1945 and lived in Mill Valley. He graduated from Tamalpais High School before moving to Fairfax and starting his family. His size and strength served him well as arborist, piano, mover, and recreational gardener. After retirement he was able to travel and live near family in Magalia, Portland, and Novato.” ~ also Marin IJ

RIP Fred Wolf. You changed so many lives and gave us new thrills. Thank you for being a good friend to my dad, I know he’ll miss you.

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