It’s been noted before that I “[know] nothing about the history of cycling, how it evolved, the industry, [or] who were the actors.”
Luckily for me, Billy Savage — the guy behind Klunkerz: A Film About Mountain Bikes — recently offered to mail me a copy of his DVD. This was an excellent opportunity to “educate [myself] in the matter.”
What Klunkerz Is About
Klunkerz is a kindhearted documentary of the birth of the mountain bike. Consisting of interviews and old photos and movies of the guys even I know the names of (Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, Tom Ritchey) and some I don’t, it fondly recalls how a bunch of friends stumbled and innovated their way into the early stages of the sport of mountain biking.
Take note: I was not interviewed for this movie, and hence feel somewhat slighted, seeing as how I believe I can lay unchallenged claim to an important niche in this sport, being the undisputed inventor of the cycling / weight loss / comedy blog. Where would mountain biking be without me, is what I’d like to know.
But I am not bitter, and will not let my natural and proper resentment color my review, in spite of the gaping hole this documentary has, lacking my input.
What I Thought About Klunkerz
Watching Klunkerz, the impression that builds is one of niceness. All these guys have nothing but nice things to say about each other and the good times they had, and how smart they each were and how talented.
For example, I wrote the following in my notebook as I watched: “Joe Breeze seems like he would be the best uncle, ever.”
I also noted how Charlie Kelly — the original business partner with Gary Fisher — had nothing but nice things to say about Fisher. And Gary Fisher had nothing but nice things to say about Charlie Kelly. Except Fisher fired Kelly (Fisher describes the moment as “taking Charlie for a walk around the block”).
And now Gary Fisher is one of the best-recognized names in mountain biking, and Charlie Kelly moves pianos for a living.
But there’s no tension between them? No anger? Well, I suppose that’s possible, but if that’s really somehow the case, the documentary should have revealed how it’s possible that two good friends form a company, one of the friends fires the other and goes on to make it big, while the other…doesn’t, but there’s no animosity between them.
But Klunkerz doesn’t talk about the schisms that either did or did not form between Fisher and Breeze and Ritchey and others. And since it didn’t talk about how any schisms formed, it also couldn’t talk about how these schisms might have been bridged.
Without conflict, there can be no resolution. No triumph. Which means you have a film that feels more like a high school class reunion than an actual documentary.
It feels, frankly, as if there was considerable negotiating about what would and would not be said in the film before the cameras rolled.
Holy crap, this review’s getting a lot more serious than I intended.
Still Worth Watching
While the business end of this movie feels a little too careful, the more important part — the reminiscing — doesn’t feel forced at all. Both in the archive images (pics and what looks like Super 8) and the interviews, you get a sense of how much fun these guys were having as they rode and raced and built and crashed their bikes.
And that, as far as I’m concerned, is the real value of — and a sufficient reason to watch — Klunkerz: it shows how, right from the beginning, how much fun mountain biking is. And how, decades later, it still defines who these guys are.
It’s just too bad Savage overlooked the contribution of cycling comedy bloggers to the evolution of this sport, because then he might have had a really great documentary.