Marin's Mountain Biking History
Posted in Blogging Marin on Friday, March 17, 2023 by MCVB Staff
Marin County is a true haven for nature lovers alike—especially those who love to take in the outdoors on a bike. But did you know that Marin County is the birthplace of mountain biking?
It all started on the trails of Mount Tamalpais (Mt. Tam) when an adventurous group of bikers began to push the boundaries of what was possible on a bike.
In this article, we'll take a deep dive into the fascinating history of biking in Marin County and share some of the best spots to hit the trails and explore this breathtaking region on two wheels.
History of Mountain Biking in Marin County
History says that in the 1960s and early 1970s, a group of teenagers known as the “Larkspur Canyon Gang” began refurbishing old balloon tire bicycles from the 1930s and 40s to use for off-road riding—but that wasn’t where they stopped. One of the members of the Canyon Gang named Joe Breeze built 10 frames between 1977 and 1978 that were the first successful frames designed and built for use as mountain bikes; he called them “Breezers”—before this, riders were just modifying old cruiser frames and components for off-road riding.
Now, if we go back to 1973, the Larkspur Canyon Gang wasn’t the only group of bikers changing the biking scene in Marin. A group of road-bike racers from Velo Club Tamalpais in Marin began to restore and collect old balloon-tire bikes from manufacturers like Schwinn, Colson, and Shelby. These cyclists, along with a growing number of friends, enjoyed exploring the fire roads and trails around Mount Tamalpais.
Mountain biking was a real game changer that started when a bunch of cycling enthusiasts got together and saw the potential for something new and exciting. They injected a lot of fun and friendly competition into the mix and even upgraded old-school "Klunkers" with the latest technology to make the sport what it is today.
If you want to dig deeper into the fascinating history of cycling in Marin, you absolutely have to check out the Marin Museum of Bicycling and Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in Fairfax. Although it primarily focuses on mountain biking, the museum boasts an impressive collection of bike tech that will appeal to riders of all types. Whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting out, visiting this museum is an incredible opportunity to immerse yourself in the world of cycling and discover all its amazing stories.
Must Visit Mountain Biking Adventures in Marin County
Marin County is a must-visit destination for any avid mountain biker—with over 500 miles of trails, Marin offers a wide range of experiences for riders of all skill levels. From flowy singletrack to technical descents, this Northern California region has it all.
If you choose to partake in the trails of Mt. Tam, then be ready for over 50 miles of trails with breathtaking views of San Francisco Bay, the Pacific Ocean, and surrounding hills.
Beginners can start with the smooth and easy Coastal Trail, while advanced riders can challenge themselves on the more technical trails like the Diaz Ridge and Eldridge Grade. As a side note, the Eldridge Grade’s historic fire road winds through dense forests, and features challenging climbs and technical descents, making it a favorite among experienced riders.
The diverse landscape of the mountain includes meadows, forests, and rocky cliffs, making for a dynamic ride. Mount Tamalpais is also home to the famous Repack Trail, known as the birthplace of mountain biking.
Camp Tamarancho in Fairfax
Avid bikers should not miss out on the chance to visit Camp Tamarancho while exploring Marin County. This mountain biking destination is located in Fairfax and offers 480 acres of pristine forests, technical single-track trails, and stunning views of the surrounding hills. Riders of all skill levels can enjoy the well-maintained trails, which range from beginner-friendly to advanced. Camp Tamarancho's trail system is also constantly expanding, ensuring that bikers will never tire of riding the same routes.
Stafford Lake Bike Park
Located in Novato and packed with plenty of unique trails, including jump lines, pump tracks, flow trails, and technical trails that cater to all skill levels, Stafford Lake Bike Park is worth a visit. The park's unique features, such as the woodsy Flow Trail and the dual slalom course, provide a thrilling riding experience. Additionally, the park offers bike rentals and lessons for beginners, making it an accessible destination for riders of all levels.
Family-Friendly Bike Trails in Marin County
For families looking for something easier for little ones but just as beautiful to bike on, check out Angel Island and China Camp State Park. Angel Island offers a scenic and mostly flat 5-mile loop trail around the island, providing stunning views of San Francisco Bay. Meanwhile, China Camp State Park's trail system offers a mix of easy to moderate trails through oak woodlands and grasslands, with views of San Pablo Bay. Both locations are ideal for families with children and offer bike rentals on-site, making it easy to access and explore the trails.
Finish off your day by discovering a hidden gem that offers spectacular views. The Stinson Beach Loop is a 24-mile ride that overlooks the beach and provides stunning high-elevation views, with a few uphill sections that make the descents even more enjoyable. After finishing the loop, riders can opt to cruise south to the Muir Beach overlook or head inland to explore the trendy boutiques and cafes of Mill Valley.
For more biking trails, check out this special blog post where we curated some of our favorite trails. From the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin Headlands and even Las Gallinas Wildlife Ponds, there’s a bike trail for every interest and skill level.
Visit Marin County
After spending a long day traveling the many trails Marin County has to offer, we want to make sure all visitors have a safe place to lay their heads. For the best places to stay when in Marin, visit the Marin CVB at visitmarin.org/hotels.
Whether you’re traveling from near or far, Marin County is the quick getaway you're looking for.