I was listening to a track by the rock band, The Yidz, called Kash for Klunkers. The title of the track (marked E for Explicit by the way) appealed to me, because the term ‘Klunker’ is used to describe an iconic part of mountain biking history. More of this later though. I wondered what inspired the title and lyrics of the track by The Yidz, so naturally checked it out, and here’s what I found out in the next paragraph, so move on……
Not being an expert on American political history, I soon learned of a US government initiative that kicked off in 2009 called the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS?) and was affectionately known as ‘Cash for Clunkers’. It was a system to incentivise drivers to get rid of their old banger of a car and buy a new, US brand and a more environmentally friendly model, whilst also stimulating the home car industry and economy at the same time. The US government threw $3bn at the programme that started on July 1st 2009 and which ended less than two months later on 24th August, when the budget was all spent up. In summary, it probably wasn’t the best investment to stimulate the US car makers industry, particularly as people bought non-US brand cars with the incentive. It also wasn’t a really bright environmental attempt to change the car culture in a country that is completely car culture. However, you could get a lot of cycle lanes for $3bn though.
There is a German rock band called Cash for Clunkers, and they launched their album Rockapocalypse back in 2010. It’s not really my music ‘cup of tea’, but it’s on iTunes, so that’s some recognition I guess, and crucially, a good link to the next paragraph……..
………This paragraph brings me right back around to the term klunkers. It’s debateable about which country triggered the start of real mountain biking back in the 1970s. Some say it was the British with their early trials type of cross country bikes like those made by design guru Geoff Apps. Geoff’s bike targeted a niche trials-cross-country category, but mixed in with the low level of British bicycle industry enthusiasm and acceptance, these bikes did not get grabbed by the marketeers sadly. However, the equivalent movement in the USA at the same time, got the excitement of ‘off-road racing’ (read as: downhill racing) and mixed it with great marketing, which meant everything sold out, and made the US term of ‘Klunker’, world famous.
Whilst mountain biking history is relatively recent, it’s provided a paradigm shift in the cycling industry, and at warp speed. This means that an early 1970s kluncker with the right brand and early serial number is really hot on the ‘vintage ATB’ market. It also means that we now have our own Cash, or Kash for Klunkers thing going on in the MTB world. This is a good thing I think.
Everyone remembers the ‘good old days’ of things affectionately, and this is true today of MTB history. The bikes were heavy, the brakes were crap etc etc, but everyone remembers the pure, unbridled fun of the day. If you weren’t around during those balmy days, you can see video footage of it, and as our MTB history makers are all still around, you can even buy their bikes, books, T-shirts and stuff.
These MTB stars are not only still around, but accessible. I bought the Charlie Kelly book, read it and enjoyed it, even though I knew the basic start, middle and end of the plot. What’s magical, is that his Fat Tire Flyer brand is still around and remains iconic. It’s still a bit underground and a bit special. I recently bought 3 of the original and NOS, Fat Tire Flyer magazines from the U.K. supplier, and they’re great fun to read. I also got some stickers/decals for some iconic branding of something in the shed. These magazines are serious and whacky at the same time, being much more entertaining than a lot of the current magazines, which are all a bit the same, and have been since the 1990s Freeride decade took off, and which also moved the MTB world on a bit further.
I’ve been looking around for the Gary Fisher book, but after a grand launch and lots of marketing, demand seems to have exceeded the small supply available sadly. This means I don’t have one, although even better, maybe Charlie Kelly might appear in my ‘Interesting Interview’ series? Who knows.
The Kash for Klunker market has developed at pace in the last 3 years. Original bikes and frames are being sought out by ‘the klunker hunters’, whilst those with ready cash, are just buying them at good prices, because they can. I wonder how many genuine 1970s Klunkers (from any country) there are left on the whole planet. Any ideas?
The first lockdowns saw buoyant vintage MTB market growth as people retired to their sheds to get some project work done instead of going out, or going on holiday, or whatever they did that they couldn’t do any more. However, a couple of lockdowns further down the road and the market has gone a bit flat in the last few months, although there’s always a demand for something like an original klunker.
What is very interesting in the vintage market, is the growing amount of micro start-ups that are supplying parts. This approach has happened in all sorts of vintage sectors. If you are considering a 1970s project like a VW Beetle or a Yamaha RD250, you can get nearly every part for them new from various makers suppliers. What’s even better, is that the parts have invariably been improved over the original as well. In the vintage MTB market, you may have previously read in these posts about the great vintage-look-modern-technology tyres/tires that Terra One provide, or the elastomers for first generation suspension forks just like the ones I’ve had made for the ATZ forks on my Cilo MTB.
More recently, one of our enthusiastic vintage Cannondale community, Roc Fu, who is based in China, has decided to provide a part that has recently become as rare as hen’s teeth: Yellow Cannondale HeadShok boots. Not only that, he’s improved the design so that they’re a lot easier to fit than an original part, and even done some cooler colours than the one’s originally fitted. This rubber, concertina boot is more important than people think, because if a hole or split appears, water goes in and ruins the suspension rollers bearings. This then gets both complicated to repair and expensive. I’ll be testing some of these in the near future and will report back on performance.
At the end of the day, you can have a lot of fun in the vintage bicycle world, and you can read Charlie Kelly’s book, wear his t-shirt and be inspired to build your own Klunker really cheaply. You can read Gary Fisher’s book if you can find one. It could be that your own inspirational Klunker project may look shabby or sparkling new, and it will still be too heavy, with crap brakes etc etc, but you will have at least as much fun as any MTBer. This is particularly true in comparison to those people that turn up with the latest 29er carbon MTB that is clearly worth a lot more than the car that transported it to the trail car park. Will they have more fun? I don’t think so, but they will probably be faster.
So in summary, we don’t need the US government to provide a $3bn ‘cash for your Klunker’ incentive in order to stimulate the already self-stimulating vintage or new MTB market, so just crack on, enjoy, and ride anyway!
Here’s my U.K. Fat Tire Flyer stuff source https://www.thebikecabin.com/fat-tire-flyer-uk-products
Here’s Charlie Kelly’s site http://fattireflyer.com/
For Roc Fu’s Cannondale HeadShok boots, you can find him through Facebook and the vintage Cannondale community.
For Terra One Tyres, the link is in the sidebar as usual?
If you find somewhere to obtain the elusive Gary Fisher book, let me know please?