Trailblazers: Uncovering the Roots of Mountain Biking in Santa Cruz – A 24 Hour History Lesson

We’d like to add a note sending our love and support to all those affected by the fires in the Santa Cruz region. You’re in our thoughts…

Back in February, before the whole world was turned upside down, Jimmy Rosas and I took a quick trip up to Santa Cruz. We wanted to ride mountain bikes and eat deep fried zucchini burritos, but most importantly we wanted to visit the Whitney Ford-Terry curated show at the MAH, Trailblazers: Uncovering the Roots of Mountain Biking in Santa Cruz. The show had just opened, and originally this piece was going to be all about driving traffic to the show, but now it’s turned into more of a closing statement. A fare thee well to one of the best mountain bike exhibitions that no one will ever see. A true comprehensive look at the history of mountain biking in Santa Cruz, a place that has now become a mountain bike mecca for hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, a place where residents who don’t mountain bike are the weird ones.

If we were there to visit a mountain bike exhibition about Santa Cruz, we needed to get psyched by riding mountain bikes in Santa Cruz, but first, we needed food after the 6 hour drive up from Los Angeles. So Jimmy and I’s first stop was La Cabaña Taqueria for their Maya Super Burrito but be warned, do not eat this burrito in its entirety before a ride. I’m not going to tell you what happens here, y’all can ask Jimmy the next time y’all see him. Here we were joined by Justin Mitsuo, an honorary Santa Cruz local who doesn’t even live there and our buddy Forrist, local ripper, and party animal extraordinaire! We rode up and down and all around, and most of the time our tires never touched the ground. It was the beginning of the most perfect 24 hours in Santa Cruz ever!

After the ride we were feeling good, it felt like we were on a magic carpet ride all the way down the hill. As we rolled back into town we unexpectedly ended up at the unveiling of a custom painted Jim Philips Santa Cruz Heckler being gifted to Santa Cruz Bicycles’ founder Rob Roskopp. While this felt like a weird coincidence to Jimmy and I coming from Los Angeles, where you’d run into an A-list celebrity before a bike event most any day, this is something that happens in Santa Cruz quite often. Jimmy and I witnessed history in the making, 50 years from now when there is a Trailblazers 2.0 at the newly relocated MAH on Mars, this bike will be there! Now, how crazy is that?

As you can imagine, now Jimmy and I are just buzzing with mountain bike excitement, so we headed over to the museum to see the show! This is where things get a little fuzzy for me, because I was so in awe of everything at the show, I felt like I was in a psychedelic children’s book walking me through the history of the mountain bike in Santa Cruz. Jimmy and I felt like we spent most of the day there, going back and forth, reading everything, but what stood out the most for me, was the first thing I read as soon as I walked into the show. It said, “The development of off-road cycling came out of the desire to explore the beauty of the mountains in the company of friends.” This to me is so important, most everything great that happens in this world comes from our desire to share beauty with our friends, and this can be seen in almost every bike, photo, or piece of memorabilia in Trailblazers. There are early bikes from Santa Cruz legend Paul Sadoff to original WOMBATS patches and t-shirts in there. Really take a deep dive into these photos, because this show will not be open to the public again.

Countless hours were put into this show, and with MAH closing its doors till 2021, well after Trailblazers’ closing date, no one will ever be able to share its beauty with a friend again. This may sound dramatic, probably because it is, this show needs to be seen, and while I did my best to cover all aspects of the show, Whitney and our friends at MAH are currently working on a virtual tour of the show to share with the world. We’ll make sure and pass that along too, and just think, y’all won’t have to drive back to Los Angeles, dirty and exhausted afterward. The only thing that got Jimmy and me through that drive was the Izzy Sederbaum We Got Hangout, so if y’all haven’t listened to that one, do me a favor and get on it while Whitney and MAH figure out the virtual tour of Trailblazers for y’all!


Every trail has its ups and downs and the Trailblazers exhibition at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History (the MAH) is no exception. After months of research and planning, a cadre of bike nerds and local enthusiasts gathered on February 7th, 2020 to swap stories and celebrate the opening. One month later we closed our doors in adherence to California’s Shelter in Place orders.

Like many cultural institutions, we’ve had to shift gears and make some adjustments, transitioning to more online and outdoor programming like exhibition expeditions on RideWithGPS. We’re currently working on a virtual tour of the show and hope this new online format will allow visitors worldwide to explore the rich history of off-road cycling in California. The MAH is incredibly grateful to our collaborators at the Marin Museum of Bicycling, Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz, and the dozens of local framebuilders and bike companies that came together to make this show possible.

We’ll open our doors again to the public when it is safe to do so but in the interim we’re re-imagining our outdoor spaces to do what we do best, ignite shared experiences and unexpected connections. Meeting people and this moment to provide space for collective healing through art, community programs, and access to essential resources.