During my last trip in SF, I was asked by Bike Mag to document Mission Workshop‘s newest “Ask a Founder” event. The guest? Keith Bontrager, one of the forefathers of American mountain biking. I really enjoy shooting events like this and it’s not everyday that I become a gun for hire, so I had fun with it.
Listening to a guy like Keith speak about the early days of mountain biking and the inevitable sale of his name to Trek was extremely insightful. Back then, knowledge was gained through experience and that experience was a powerful tool. No one was sitting on Keith’s shoulder telling him what to do. He went with what he knew and that was the motorcycle.
An ex-motocross racer, Keith was the first to reappropriate many technologies to cycling. He designed the first Rock Shox fork, something that still, to this day is not a well-known fact. Keith also developed one of the, if not the first full-suspension bikes with Kestrel, which also used one of the first v-brakes. All derived from motocross technologies.
At some point during the talk, Keith said something along the lines of “if it worked for moto, it’ll work for a bicycle” and it’s true. While the engineering of each component was a new challenge, Keith always worked with what he knew. From dumpster diving 700c rims, to chop and re-roll them to a new MTB standard, to building tig-welded frames with gussets in his shed down in Santa Cruz, Keith’s entrepreneurship paved the way for cycling in the US and beyond.
He continues to work for Bontrager, mostly developing wheels and saddles and spends all of his free time either riding the trails in Santa Cruz, or cooking fresh food from his garden. The Ask a Founder event once again exceeded everyone’s expectations… See more in the Gallery!