Today we’re elated to present to you a most unique bicycle; Otis Guy’s 1978 Breezer Series I, in all its period-correct glory. This one is a very special installment of our Vintage Bicycles series, so let’s get to it!
People have been riding off-road since bicycles were first invented, partly because there were so few paved roads more than 100 years ago, but also because bicycles tend to stir a sense of adventure to explore off the beaten track. Fundamentally, a bicycle is one of our most efficient creations, and with a narrow track and relatively light weight, they can be taken practically anywhere. Such was the case in the early 1970s when various groups began riding their balloon tire “klunker” bicycles on trails and dirt roads. Adapted primarily from Schwinn-built paperboy cruisers, these bikes had stable downhill geometry and eventually acquired multiple gears for some climbing chops. Unfortunately, their mild steel construction combined with use going well beyond their intended purpose meant that they were prone to breaking. Few examples of these original klunkers survive today.
In the mid-1970s, Joe Breeze had been studying bicycle frame building at Albert Eisentraut’s school in Oakland, CA, striving to make lightweight road frames for fellow racers like Otis Guy. Joe had grown up with the home machine shop of his father, which gave him the capacity to make frames that involved more than just joining tubes with conventional lugs. As a regular competitor at the punishing Repack downhill klunker race in Fairfax, CA, he saw the need for a more durable off-road bicycle. Encouraged and funded by friends such as Charlie Kelly, Joe decided to make himself a purpose-built mountain bike from the ground up with durable straight-gauge cro-moly aircraft tubing in 1977.
Since Breeze liked the handling of his Schwinn-built 1941 B. F. Goodrich klunker, he adopted that geometry, with a 67.5-degree head angle for stable descending. Joe would end up winning the Repack downhill on his first run on the new bike, which would eventually become known as Breezer #1 and now resides on public display at the Smithsonian, National Museum of American History.
In 1978, Joe would embark on making a batch of 9 more bikes to be sold to Marin County locals and close friends such as Charlie Kelly, Wende Cragg, and Otis. Besides racing together, Otis had been a close friend while working at a local bike shop, a tandem partner on two transcontinental record attempts, and a fellow team member of Velo Club Tamalpais, which he had helped found.
Both Joe and Otis had started riding klunker bikes together in October of 1973, but Otis jumped at the opportunity to own a bike that was meticulously made by Joe and far more durable as well as lighter. The bike Otis would receive was, by design, bigger than the Schwinn it replaced but still a poor fit given that Otis was 6-foot, 6-inches tall. But really, this was a time before people thought much about bike fit and climbing efficiency on these new-fangled “mountain bikes” because they were already so much more capable than what they replaced.
For $750, the new owner received a bike that was ready to ride and complete with spare tube and tire irons all wrapped in a bandana secured to the saddle with a leather toe strap, plus a water bottle, bottle cage, and Silca pump. The most distinctive feature of these bikes was the twin lateral tubes that went from the headtube to the Campagnolo track dropouts in the style of tandem bicycles.
These bikes were the definition of durable. They used a Cook Brothers Racing 26-inch BMX cruiser fork, which had been designed as an aftermarket replacement for Schwinn flat-blade forks at the request of Don Koski.
The drivetrain was derived from touring bikes at the time: wide-range TA Cyclotouriste double or triple cranks, derailleurs from Suntour and Shimano, and cantilever brakes originally from Dia Compe and later replaced with longer Mafac tandem arms. The use of cantilever brakes for downhill was unproven, so no brake cable stops were brazed to the nickel-plated frame. Instead, Zip-Ties allowed for continuous brake cable housing to be run to a drum brake if needed.
For the cockpit, a selection of motorcycle parts was used: BMW handlebars, long blade Magura levers, and Preston Petty grips (now shown with Magura). Tipping the scale at 39 pounds with UniRoyal Nobby tires and chrome plated steel rims, these might have been the World’s first “purpose-built” mountain bike, but they were still beasts.
A couple of years later Joe came out with his next series of bikes and they had dropped nearly 10 pounds of weight primarily from a combination of tubing, tires, and rims while incorporating steeper geometry to be more conducive to climbing. Despite this, when the first National Off Road Bicycle Association (NORBA) championships rolled around in 1983, Otis would decide to enter the race on his 1978 Breezer, as shown in a classic photo from this muddy event.
The event was ten years to the month from when Otis and Joe had first started klunking. Despite the huge weight penalty and poor fit, Otis would ride it for the historic reason that it had been exactly ten years since the klunker scene had first emerged. In this event, which was shortened from 50 miles to 30 because of the conditions, Otis finished in a respectable 13th place against competition that included Alexi Grewal, Steve Cook, and Steve Tilford. In the photo, Otis can be seen pushing the bike with a prototype of Joe’s Hite-Rite seatpost dropper spring installed.
Otis raced his Breezer at the 1983 championships despite the fact that he had begun building his own frames in 1982 as Otis Guy Cycles. As recently featured on The Radavist, he built an art show bike for the Braunstein Quay Gallery exhibition in 1989. Otis was heavily involved in the founding of the Marin Museum of Bicycling in 2014 and serves as director of the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. Otis was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993 and continues to offer a mountain bike summer camp for kids.
- Year: 1978
- S/N: 2.81
- Frame: Breezer Series I
- Fork: Breezer modified Cook Brothers Racing
- Stem: SR Royal
- Headset: Campagnolo Record
- Bottom Bracket: Phil Wood Cartridge Bearing
- Handlebar: GSM Motorcycle (Germany)
- Handlebar Shim: Joe Breeze
- Shifters: Suntour Mighty Click
- Front Derailleur: Suntour Compe V
- Rear Derailleur: Suntour V
- Brake Levers: Magura Motorcycle
- Front Brake: Mafac Tandem
- Rear Brake: Mafac Tandem
- Crankset: T.A. Specialties
- Chainrings: T. A. Specialties 32-47
- Pedals: Union 301 (Germany)
- Pedal Washers: TA Specialities
- Hubs: Phil Wood Cartridge Bearing
- Rims: Ukai 26 x 2.125
- Tires: Uniroyal Nobby
- Wheel QR: Campagnolo Record
- Seatpost: Campagnolo Nuovo Record
- Seatpost QR: Campagnolo 8 mm
- Saddle: Brooks B-72 with Breezer Seat Sandwich
- Grips: Magura Pow-R-Grip
- Cogs: Suntour Winner
- Chain: Regina Extra
- Bottle Cage: TA Specialities