When I was searching the San Francisco Airport web site for details on how to bike to the airport last week, I was surprised to find “SFO Museum presents: From Repack to Rwanda. Now on view.” Who would have guessed that SFO had a museum and that mountain bikes would be on exhibit in time for my trip?
Despite the unusual location, the exhibit wasn’t out of place since the sport of mountain biking was born on the slopes of Mt Tamalpais across the Golden Gate from San Francisco. I already knew some of the early history from watching the movie Klunkerz, and from hearing pioneers like Joe Breeze and Gary Fisher speak at events hosted by our local mountain bike club. But I had never seen the actual early mountain bikes before.
Of the dozen or so bikes on display, my favorites were the 1941 Schwinn fat tires that the early riders modified to charge down a steep dirt road they named Repack because they had to repack the coaster brakes with grease after every hard-braking run. Maybe I was drawn to them because I just met Alex LaRiviere of Faber’s Cyclery, who sold Joe Breeze one of those 1941 Schwinns from his original shop in Santa Cruz.
Or maybe because they were the kind of bikes my dad and his brother rode to deliver newspapers in small town Louisiana during World War II. The streets were dirt and bike parts were scarce, so the boys developed some mad mechanical and riding skills tout suite. Even at 81, my dad rocks the bike off-road with surprising grace.
To see the Repack to Rwanda exhibit in person, visit the International Terminal at SFO airport through February 2013. No airline ticket is required. For more photos check out the online slide show courtesy of SFO.