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The History of the Marin Museum of Bicycling and Mountain Bike Hall of Fame with Otis Guy

Legendary Riders Outside the Marin Museum of Bicycling

The bicycle has come a long way since the 1860s, and thanks to the volunteer efforts of a group of passionate, long-time cyclists, you can learn all about it at the Marin Museum of Bicycling and the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame located in Fairfax, California. Whether you prefer to ride skinny tires on pavement or knobby tires off-road, there’s plenty of bike history to explore. We caught up with Otis Guy, one of the museum's founding board members, to find out more about both the museum and the Hall of Fame.

Photos: Carmen Rey

“Joe Breeze and I first thought about opening a museum in the early 1970s after learning of Mr. Igler, who had an incredible collection of bicycles from the 1870s to the early 1900s in rooms all throughout his house in Palo Alto,” said Guy, referring to what’s now known as the Igler Collection. “We were both way into bicycles from the 1880s to the 1920s before we started mountain biking in 1973 with old pre-World War II, 26-inch wheeled paperboy bikes, but then mountain bikes kept us from getting into old bike stuff.”

When Guy and Breeze initially saw the Igler collection at the owner’s home, they just knew they had to get it and share it with people. So, when the idea of doing a museum finally became a reality, Breeze located the collection. Mr. Igler had passed away, and his son generously agreed to lend many of his father’s bikes. Guy and Breeze then went to southern California, loaded up a U-haul and brought the collection back with them.

Outside the Marin Museum of Bicycle and Mountain Bike Hall of FameOutside the Marin Museum of Bicycle and Mountain Bike Hall of Fame
Outside the Marin Museum of Bicycle and Mountain Bike Hall of Fame

“It took two years to get going from the start of the process until the museum’s opening in June of 2015,” said Guy. “We had to get money together, source more representative bikes from cycling’s different eras, and find a space. It took a tremendous amount of design work by Joe who is our museum curator. My TIG welder also lived there for months to make all the fixtures for holding the display bikes.” The doors eventually opened to what would be an all volunteer run, 4,700-square-foot facility in downtown Fairfax.

Today, visitors can see bicycles of all types from 1864 to the present day and everything in between. The museum shows the history and development of the bike. It includes items like memorabilia, vintage bikes and components, photos, media clippings, and highlights from bike races and events.

Guy described one of his favorite road bikes. “There’s an 1898 nickel-plated Columbia with rat trap pedals that’s absolutely unbelievable. It has the same seat stays as a Tour de France winner’s bike. It’s modern and not modern. It has straight pull spokes and wooden rims. It’s one of my most favorites because it looks like a modern bike but was built in 1898.”

“But really, all the bikes are pretty darn cool, and it’s neat to see how bikes have progressed,” he said.

Legendary Riders (from left) Hans Rey, Otis Guy, Brett Tippie, Charlie Kelly, and Joe Breeze Outside the Marin Museum of BicyclingLegendary Riders (from left) Hans Rey, Otis Guy, Brett Tippie, Charlie Kelly, and Joe Breeze Outside the Marin Museum of Bicycling
Legendary Riders (from left) Hans Rey, Otis Guy, Brett Tippie, Charlie Kelly, and Joe Breeze Outside the Marin Museum of Bicycling

And There Are Mountain Bikes, Too

 

With Guy and Breeze having been among those who helped create mountain biking when the sport was just getting going in 1973, of course they also wanted their museum to showcase mountain bikes. Guy had grown up in San Rafael, and Breeze was from Mill Valley. Both were always meeting up to go ride at the legendary Mt. Tam [Mount Tamalpais].

There was already a Mountain Bike Hall of Fame (MBHOF), but it was in Crested Butte, another location where mountain biking was established in its earliest days.

“For me, the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame just had to come here,” said Guy whose role has shifted over time from being a regular Marin Museum board member to focusing on the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. After all, the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame was located already relatively nearby in Davis, California.

Inside the Marin Museum of BicyclingInside the Marin Museum of Bicycling
Inside the Marin Museum of Bicycling


“Don and Kay Cook had been running the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, but they were getting tired of it and were looking to give it up,” said Guy, who flew to Colorado and brought the museum’s contents back from Crested Butte in, yes, another U-haul. “We stored everything in a warehouse until we opened the museum.”

Today, visitors can see mountain bikes from 1973 until present. Breeze also curates the mountain bike collection and makes the decisions on what goes where. One of the bikes in the collection has extra special significance to both Breeze and Guy; it’s the one on which they both won the famous Repack, complete with its original tires and grease. Guy’s next favorite rig is Myles Rockwell’s world championship winning bike.

“The mountain bikes that we have show the big changes within the sport,” said Guy. “There hasn’t been just one thing. There’s been suspension, wheel size, and gearing... and well... brakes, too. You could also talk about tires -- remember those Specialized Ground Control tires?” Guy also fondly recalled the influence of Paul Turner and RockShox on suspension and the effect of lower gears on making mountain biking more fun and accessible.

“In some senses, the most significant part of mountain biking is that it brought America into cycling. Mountain bikes drew more people into cycling and gave us bicycles for transportation. Most people don’t want to ride skinny drop bars on bikes that get flats. With mountain bikes, you can just go ride outdoors,” he said. 

“Mountain biking brought companies like Shimano into making click shifting and Specialized into doing their early mountain bikes. That begat all kinds of different bikes. After people got into mountain biking, then they got into road bikes, and now with lower gearing, more people are riding ‘cross bikes and gravel bikes.”

Guy noted in particular how single chainrings have improved performance overall for all. He cited advantages like fewer mechanicals for everyone and better riding experiences for kids with developmental disabilities.

“I give mountain bikes the credit for bringing in a whole other market which helped expand all things cycling, and now there are a lot more trails and places to ride. We no longer have to get out Jeep books to find trails to go ride like we used to.”

Otis Guy Talks with Hans Rey Outside the MuseumOtis Guy Talks with Hans Rey Outside the Museum
Otis Guy Talks with Hans Rey Outside the Museum

Mountain Bike Hall of Fame

 

Since taking over the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, Guy and his fellow board members have made a few adjustments to the process of getting in. 

“Before, anyone could be voted into the MBHOF, so one of the first things we did was to make a change to no longer induct groups,” said Guy, who himself was inducted into the MTBHOF in 1993. “We want to honor the one or two people who really make things happen--not just a group. We want those key people to tell their stories.”

Inductees are still voted into the MBHOF, but voting is done by a nomination selection committee of people from all around the world rather than Hall of Fame members. Anyone can submit a public nomination, which is then considered by the committee.

“I take the proper curation of the Hall of Fame very seriously. It’s not just for racers. You have to have done something that either now or 20 years from now is still significant. We look at the accomplishments of the nominees and how they made a difference.”

(Editor's note: Stan's co-founder Stan Koziatek was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 2020.)

Mountain Bike Hall of Fame Member Hans Rey Inside the Marin Museum of BicyclingMountain Bike Hall of Fame Member Hans Rey Inside the Marin Museum of Bicycling
Mountain Bike Hall of Fame Member Hans Rey Inside the Marin Museum of Bicycling

What’s Next

 

The museum typically closes every January to give volunteers a break, but there was a lot more going on during this year’s closure. The museum is taking advantage of the opportunity to expand. Originally occupying one-third of what was formerly the Brown Bear supermarket in the 1950s, it will now take up two-thirds of the old supermarket space.

When the museum reopens for the rest of 2022, Guy suggests visitors allow lots of time to check it out. “You could spend hours and hours here. It’s all good and interesting, and it’ll be whatever you want to make of it,” he said. “You can go as deep as you want to go into all things cycling.” The museum is also looking forward to returning to hosting more community events like it had begun doing prior to the pandemic. 

“Come visit, go for a ride, and become a member!” said Guy. “Our museum and Mountain Bike Hall of Fame are run by volunteers for the love of the sport and to educate people about cycling. We appreciate your support and will put it to good use.”

Learn more about the Marin Museum of Bicycling and the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame and become a supporting member.

A Sign Outside the Marin Museum of BicyclingA Sign Outside the Marin Museum of Bicycling
Outside the Marin Museum of Bicycling
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