First prototype of the JBX1 "Breezer 1” mountain bike. Hand built by Joe Breeze in 1977, the JBX1 was the first bicycle frame designed specifically for mountain biking.
The “Breezer 1” was constructed with components that could withstand the repeated pounding of mountain bike riding, such as Araya brand 26” steel rims, Phil Wood hubs, Sun Tour derailleurs, and Dia-Compe brakes. The steel “riser” handlebars and Magura brand brake levers were repurposed from motorcycles and adapted to work with the “Breezer 1’s” stem and brake calipers. The large size of the Magura motorcycle levers provided increased braking leverage and was advantageous when trying to ride in wet conditions with slippery steel Araya rims. Other parts, such as the Sun Tour thumb shifters were adapted from five-speed touring bikes and only came in right hand models. The left side thumb shifter, which controlled the front derailleur, was a right hand shifter that was mounted backwards.
Prior to the construction of the “Breezer 1”, mountain bike racers would modify vintage cruiser bikes, nicknamed “clunkers”, with coaster or drum brakes, sturdier wheels with knobby “balloon tires”, and “fork braces” to keep the frames from bending under the stresses of off-road riding. Mountain bike riders in Marin County, California would race these “clunkers” down mountain trails in events called “Repack Races”. The term ”Repack” was coined because the hub-based brakes would inevitably overheat, lose their effectiveness, and have to be disassembled and repacked with fresh grease prior to another ride down the mountain.
Joe Breeze’s “Breezer 1” design served as a benchmark for mountain bikes to build and improve upon. In 1979 Tom Ritchey of Redwood City, California, started building fat-tire mountain bikes, which were sold by two veterans of the “Repack Races”, Gary Fisher and Charlie Kelly. In 1982, mountain bicycles were offered by two separate companies -- Specialized Bicycles came out with the Stumpjumper and Univega released the Alpina Pro. The following year, Gary Fisher founded his own mountain bicycle company, which sold bicycles under the brand "Gary Fisher" from 1983 to 2010.
The 1980s and 1990s saw mountain biking evolve from a niche sport to an International Cycling World Championship event in 1990. It became an Olympic event at the 1996 Atlanta games. Additionally, mountain biking became an increasingly popular amateur sport. Once only available from specialty shops, mountain bikes were suddenly being sold as recreation bikes at department stores and big box retailers.