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The Early Pioneers

1970s’ Geoff Apps Concept Drawing

Geoff became a skilled motorcycle ‘observed trials’ rider but, on his non-competitive forays around the area, was always unhappy with the noise and disturbance his motorbike caused. What he wanted was a silent and capable off-road machine.

The Rough Stuff Fellowship

This information is based on detailed research and is mostly based on published and verifiable resources. However, many of the events referred to were not documented at the time, but some years later. Many of the exact dates are not known.

1955 onwards The Rough Stuff Fellowship used a variety of existing bike designs and some modifications were made to improve performance. There is evidence that a few custom built frames were made and fitted with suitable components i.e: alpine gears, cantilever brakes etc. The idea was to, whenever possible, get off the roads and cycle along lanes and byways. If the going got tough the riders would simply get off and walk.

In 1968 Geoff Apps created his first off-road bicycle by modifing a Raleigh Explorer road-bicycle.

Which was the first ‘Mountain Bike’ made in Britain?

There is little doubt that the Geoff Apps designed Range Rider was the first ‘Mountain Bike’ to be made in Britain. These were designed without any knowledge of the American bikes and so should be considered as a seperate lineage of off-road bike. The first prototype was made in 1968 based on a Raleigh Explorer frame. Experiments using a variety of road bike framesets continued throughout the 1970s. His bikes mostly used 2 inch wide, 650b, knobbly snow tyres from Finland. His first Range Rider bikes, using a custom designed (un-braced) framesets were designed in 1978) I believe the frames where made by Dees Cycles of Amersham in 1979. These bikes had all the features of the Mountain bike, though their design was arrived at independently. I believe that these bikes were the first British made Mountain Bikes. (One version had drum brakes another rim brakes).
Later versions of these were sold by Cleland Cycles (Geoff’s own company), English Cycles, and Highpath Engineering over the next ten years. They were built to order and as far as I know never mass produced. In October 1981 Nick Crane rode a third generation Range Rider prototype up Snowdon.

In 1980, a second phase of improved 650B ‘Range Riders’ were built

The above and below bikes were designed as if getting off and walking was a criminal offence. Geoff Apps was also a trials motorbike rider. They were designed completely for off-road use. They are the tractors of the Mountain Bike world, tall, functional and reliable.

http://www.james-walters.net/cleland/cleland_history.html

CLELAND CYCLES LIMITED 1982 Cleland Aventura

Who made the first American style Mountain Bike in Britain?(1981) A US style Mountain Bike was made by Chas Roberts at the request of an American customer.

Amateur frame builder Tony Oliver also made himself one which he exibited at the 1981 York Cycle Show.

Who brought the first American style Mountain Bike into Britain? (1978) Journalist Richard Grant brought over a 1st generation Gary Fisher built ‘clunker’. He exhibited this bike at the 1978 Olympia cycle show.

By the end of 1982 American built Ritcheys were being brought into England. I remember it being received wisdom that Norman Hiller of Covent Garden Cycles brought over the first purpose built US Mountain Bike, an early Tom Ritchey built Bike. Others claim that either Journalist Richard Grant or Richard Ballantine brought across the first Ritcheys from the States. Richard Ballantine's two bikes brought over for a Saharan expedition were the inspiration London bike shop, F.W. Evans Cycles, to design a Mountain Bike that became the FW Evans ATB, Saracen ATB. Both bikes were identical, apart from the first being usualy painted silver and the latter being painted black or red. In July 1984 I hired a black FW Evans ATB from Kinston Cycles, its frame no was 001.

A 1986 Guilford ride, led by David Wrath-Sharman,
founder of HIGHPATH ENGINEERING

Which was the first Mountain Bike mass-produced in Britain? Raleigh Bomber? 1981 (I don’t think so). They were American style Beach Cruisers. Only three speed hub gears, calliper brakes and small frame/seat Designed for teenagers who were outgrowing their BMX bikes.

Early 1984 F.W. Evans ATB/Saracen ATB? (Manufactured by Bluemels).
In 1982/3, Richard Ballantine asked London bike shop F.W. Evans Cycles to build up two Ritchey frames he had brought from the U.S. for Tim Gartside's and Peter Murphy's ,February 1983, Saharan expedition. Evans were curios and persuaded Bluemels to build some bikes based on what they had seen. The resulting FW Evans ATBs were mostly silver and branded under the shops own marque. The Bluemels’ own Saracens bikes were identical, apart from being painted black.

The other early British made bike was the Dawes Ranger.

As for the Raleigh Maverick, I remember these as being surprisingly late to the party. The earliest contemporary reference I can find is October 1985. And were "made in Japan", and so don’t qualify as British. British made versions were eventualy mass produced at a later date?

Colin Simmonds says "I bought my first Mountain Bike in 1981, a Raleigh Maverick 15 “ATB” which cost £200 brand new".

Which was the first mass-produced Mountain Bike imported into Britain?I am not sure about this but the Freewheel, mail order catalogue, included far east made Ridgeback bikes from 1883 onwards. The first that I personally saw were Ritchey Montares in late Late1983, though many other models had arrived by mid 84.

Last edited by GrahamJohnWallace on Fri Mar 13, 2009

An ENGLISH CYCLES Range-Rider, competing against other
mountain bikes at Geoff’s first Wendover Bash in 1984