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Lake Tahoe mountain biking: a history lesson

Here’s your chance to meet a real “Rock and Roll” legend.

South Lake Tahoe mountain bike pioneer, Gary Bell, owner of Sierra Ski and Cycle Works, is sponsoring a History of Lake Tahoe Mountain Biking Exhibit at the Meyers Mountain Bike (MTB) Festival on Sunday, August 9, 2015.

Gary Bell, South Lake Tahoe mountain bike pioneer, above Heavenly Mountain Resort, circa 1988 | Photo courtesy of Sierra Ski and Cycle Works

Gary Bell, South Lake Tahoe mountain bike pioneer, above Heavenly Mountain Resort, circa 1988 | Photo courtesy of Sierra Ski and Cycle Works

“I want to help people understand the roots of Tahoe mountain biking, and how it’s evolved over the past three decades,” says Bell.

Having the exhibit at the Meyers MTB Festival is fitting, since the Triple Crown Ride links three of South Shore’s iconic trails - Christmas Valley, Mr. Toad’s, and Armstrong Pass – which Bell and his long-time friend, Geoff Clarke, would explore on the first Tahoe made mountain bikes called Clunkers that they built in 1978.

Tahoe bike culture|Photo courtesy of Sierra Ski and Cycle Works

Tahoe bike culture| Image courtesy of Sierra Ski and Cycle Works

Made out of beach cruiser frames and big heavy tires, Bell and his buddies would ride their Clunkers all over, connecting abandoned hiking trails they called the “Cabin Ride” and “Tin Shack Ride.” Following one of their more crazy descents down Saxon Creek, they named the trail Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride – South Shore’s most famous trail to this day.

Gary knows a lot about Tahoe bike culture, having owned his shop since 1980 and helping to organize the Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association in 1988. When asked why he still enjoys turning people on to mountain biking after 35 years, he just smiles and says, “It’s about time spent in the woods.” With old Tahoe memorabilia decorating the walls, Sierra Ski and Cycle Works is the unofficial South Shore bike and ski history museum.

Sierra Ski and Cycle Works has been supplying big fun in the small shop since 1980 | Photo courtesy of Sierra Ski and Cycle Works

Sierra Ski and Cycle Works has been supplying "big fun in the small shop" since 1980 | Photo courtesy of Sierra Ski and Cycle Works

Today, Sierra Ski and Cycle Works sells full suspension carbon Santa Cruz bikes | Photo courtesy of Sierra Ski and Cycle Works

Today, Sierra Ski and Cycle Works sells full suspension carbon Santa Cruz bikes | Photo courtesy of Sierra Ski and Cycle Works

On Sunday, August 9th, festival attendees can check out a Tahoe Clunker built in 1978. Other vintage bikes on display include Gary’s 1979 Pro Cruiser built by Don Koski of Cove Bikes in Tiburon, considered to be the first production mountain bike. Koski will also be at the booth with his latest creation. See you there!

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Becky Bell

A long-time resident of South Lake Tahoe, Becky is the creator of TahoeArtsandMountainCulture.com and owns Sierra Ski and Cycle Works with her husband Gary, who opened it in 1980.

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