Gary Fisher’s wild ride through two cultural revolutions — Bobby & Jens podcast
What do the Grateful Dead, Greg Lemond, and mountain biking have in common? A cycling maverick from the Bay Area.
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Many know Gary Fisher from his eponymous bike brand. But fewer know the wild ride the mountain biking maverick has been on his entire life, growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area at a time when it was cultivating an emerging discipline of cycling called mountain biking, not to mention at a time when it was becoming an epicenter of a broader American and worldwide cultural revolution.
“My career early on got totally upset because I met a band called the Grateful Dead,” Fisher recalls on the latest episode of the Bobby & Jens podcast.
Before the band had made it huge, and, as Fisher recalls, before they sounded particularly good, he met them at a bike race, dropped acid with them, and soon moved in to their house.
In the cultural revolution of the 1960s Bay Area, Fisher would also become best friends with the son of Timothy Leary, the psychologist who advocated for psychedelics.
At the same time as that cultural revolution was going on, Fisher was firmly embedded within the small but growing Northern California cycling scene, having started racing at age 12. He would cross paths with other future huge names of the cycling industry and bicycle racing, including frame builder Tom Ritchey and Tour de France champion Greg LeMond.
Fisher recalls LeMond as “a punk teenager” whose talent was so outsize that by comparison “it was so obvious that I didn’t have it.” But even if Fisher couldn’t hold his own against a future world champion, he was still an impressive cyclist in his own right, racing for the US National Team with aspirations for the Olympics.
He would also be around for the rise of mountain bikes and would help popularize the sport through his Gary Fisher brand of bikes. He discusses the birth of his brand and the epiphany of the new and novel all-terrain bikes instead of road bikes for appealing to the masses.
He’s been around the sport ever since, as a racer, bike company owner, and advocate for the sport, whose influence has extended even to the sport’s governing body in Switzerland to help guide mountain biking in its formative years.
And he’s not slowing down any time soon. “I don’t want to break bones and do things like that,” he says. “But I’m going to push my edge all the time. That’s what you need to keep doing. It’s the old thing: ‘Use it or lose it.’”
This is an episode you won’t want to miss.
Bobby & Jens is a weekly VeloNews podcast. It stars former pros Bobby Julich and Jens Voigt and features conversations with top athletes, coaches, emerging stars, and other newsmakers from the wide world of cycling. A new episode drops every Friday. Subscribe now wherever you get your podcasts.
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