Stuff That’s Come in the Mail, Part III: Klunkerz

02.12.2009 | 1:55 pm


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.

PS: You can learn more about Klunkerz at, and buy the DVD at


  1. Comment by JAT in Seattle | 02.12.2009 | 5:29 pm

    super Smiley Face is my favorite movie format!

  2. Comment by Marla | 02.12.2009 | 5:37 pm

    One of my favorite movies. Watched it over and over. It puts me in a dream like state:)

  3. Comment by WheelDancer | 02.12.2009 | 6:03 pm

    This clearly needs to be on my list though I might wait for the sequel that includes the cycling comedy blogger influence.

  4. Comment by Aaron | 02.12.2009 | 7:01 pm

    What could Billy Savage have been thinking? Clearly this films absence of the fact that YOU, Elden, are one of the GREATEST influences in mountain biking history, means he didn’t completely do his research. Anyone that has been riding more than 4 months knows this. Obviously he didn’t take this project seriously. I shall burn my copy as soon as it arrives.

  5. Comment by mikeonhisbike | 02.12.2009 | 9:03 pm

    I’m going to have to put this DVD on my birthday list. Guess I’ll have to start celebrating birthdays again first. I’ve been stuck at 29 for more years than I can count.


  6. Comment by Tinker | 02.12.2009 | 9:51 pm

    Do you review books? Because I am thinking about buying some, and you sound like the perfect reviewer. Specifically I am interested in a well-known author who writes on the topic of Edwardian-era Bicycles, and illustrates his own work in pen anf ink. the 1st book is “The Broken Spoke”, the 2nd is “The Epiplectic Bicycle”, and the 3rd “Cycling Cards From the Collection of Edward Gorey” and finally, “A Cycling Courtship” all by Edward Gorey. The first seems to be a manual of cycle repair for edwardian Gentlemen, the second appears to a manual on a particular brand of road machine designed without a crank or pedals, the third is, naturally, a collection of some major bicycle greeting cards, (which have, sadly, fallen into disuse), and the fourth seems to be a sociological study of the bicycle’s effects on courting rituals in post-Victorian Britain.

    These are major works on the early history of upperclass bicycling, profusely illustrated in his inimitable style, and with a great deal of humor, and when I think of bicycles, and humor you seemed to spring to mind, more or less as an after-thought, but you seem to work cheap.

    So, reviews as soon as possible?

  7. Comment by KanyonKris | 02.12.2009 | 10:04 pm

    I’ll swap you Kulnkerz for “Carter Beats the Devil” audiobook read by your body double, Stanley Tucci.

  8. Comment by fatty | 02.12.2009 | 10:18 pm

    kk – deal!

    Tinker – i like gorey and do not have any of those books. if you’ll provide the books, i promise to review them, at great length and with a feigned british accent.

  9. Comment by roadrash | 02.12.2009 | 11:15 pm


    Have not seen the Klunkerz doc, but will check it out on Amazon. I would expect some sort of rivalry between the San Fran fat tire crew and the Crested Butte fat tire crew. Yes?

  10. Comment by Repack Rider | 02.13.2009 | 12:44 am

    When you invoke my name on the Internet, Google tells me.

    I’d like to correct a false impression. Gary did not “fire” me, since he didn’t have the authority to do so. We were losing tons of money and that has a way of creating tension. I was already publishing the first MTB magazine, and at the time it looked like there might be money in that.

    Yeah, I move pianos for a living. I also roadied for a rock band. I’m that kind of guy. The most fun I ever had at MountainBikes was when just Gary and I built the bikes by ourselves, but when it changed to having other people do the assembly and I had to do the un-fun parts, it lost some of its luster.

    Billy’s film has given me a chance to appreciate the adventure of a generation. Gary and I pulled off the biggest change in cycling of the 20th Century. It was accidental that it turned out to be so profound, but we knew what our dream was when we created it and the world responded. Without knowing it at the time, we shared something so overwhelming that all you can do thirty years later is look at each other in amazement.

    It was the most amazing adventure ever, we were lucky to have it, and Gary was the guy I had it with because he was the only guy on the planet I COULD have had it with. I would be a complete jerk to think that the money was the important part or that our business was supposed to last forever in a volatile market.

    I’m comfortable enough, but my life has been rich beyond measure, because money is not how I measure it.

    Please have a look at my website.


  11. Comment by buckythedonkey | 02.13.2009 | 2:52 am

    If Gary ever takes me for a walk around the block, I shall return alone. Thanks for the tip! :-D

  12. Comment by Mike Roadie | 02.13.2009 | 5:30 am

    Schism…..nice word use

  13. Comment by Lowrydr | 02.13.2009 | 7:35 am

    It’s a travesty for him to exclude you. I mean what with your ability to freely dislocate your shoulder at will. That alone would up the humor factor by 10. And your ability to just toss out those fancy words like, “schism” & “plentysix”.

    You should produce your own movie that will show him, you do have your own in house Director and Editor. You know that Shadow Scythe fellow that we haven’t seen around in a while.

    Peace and Good Karma to Susan, hope everything is going well with her.

  14. Comment by EJ | 02.13.2009 | 7:38 am


    You write a mean review. Good insight. Perhaps you should give up your day job and go pro. Seriously, you really nailed this one.

  15. Comment by Billy Savage | 02.13.2009 | 8:48 am

    I tried to add a long comment thanking you and justifying the film’s use of accomplishment rather than rivalry to create drama. I also made an attempt to explain the complicated relationship between Gary and Charlie, but it didn’t post, so I’ll just say ‘thanks’.

  16. Comment by Billy Savage | 02.13.2009 | 8:55 am

    P.S. Gary and Charlie may not have been speaking when I started the film, but since that time things have changed. They have traveled a great many places together in support of the film…Durango, Los Angeles, San Diego, and even to Scotland for the Scottish premiere. It was there that they raced Penny Farthings for ‘the honour of Scotland’…and a bottle of Single Malt, just like the old friends that they are. DSC_2317.jpg

  17. Comment by Repack Rider | 02.13.2009 | 9:38 am

    Since you made statement about me and my relationship with Gary Fisher that was not accurate, I posted a long and thoughtful response last night. It disappeared.

    Check out my website.


    note from fatty: the comment charlie’s referring to was originally automatically held for moderation because it had a couple URLs in it. i’ve approved the comment and you can see it in its entirety above.

  18. Comment by fatty | 02.13.2009 | 9:51 am

    repack rider – sorry about your comment that appeared to have disappeared. when someone puts more than one URL in my comments, it gets held for moderation, because 2 URLs usually means spam. your comment is out of moderation now (ie, visible to everyone and in its rightful place). in a few minutes i’m going to see if i can get your images to display. and sorry about no preview. i run wordpress pretty much out of the box.

    as to the inaccuracy, i’m not sure whether to apologize or not. the film certainly gave the impression that you were fired, and i was reviewing the film.

    your comment above really does explain a lot and displays an enviable worldview. and that should have been in the film.

  19. Comment by fatty | 02.13.2009 | 9:58 am

    billy – i understand why you would want to focus on accomplishment rather than rivalry in the film, but the subtext of the film makes it certain that there was a problem between some of these people. fights happen all the time, but resolution doesn’t. you explain above charlie and gary have resolved their differences. my point in the review is that rather than hinting at but otherwise ignoring differences, you could have made them clear, especially considering that both men seem to happy with both their past and present.

    i feel like a dope even going into this at all, because i have never made a film in my life, and have no idea what goes into the making of decisions about what goes into a documentary and what stays out.

    if you’d like to take the time to rewrite the comment you mentioned justifying the use of accomplishment rather than drama and want to email it to me, i will make it a full post, rather than a comment, so people can see your side of things.

    finally, i hope you did see that this is in fact a positive review.

  20. Pingback by Fat Cyclist » Blog Archive » Billy Savage and Charlie Kelly Respond to My Review of Klunkerz | 02.13.2009 | 10:39 am

    [...] « Stuff That’s Come in the Mail, Part III: Klunkerz [...]

  21. Comment by Joe | 02.13.2009 | 1:01 pm

    Hey fatty,

    My family started making bicycles in jolly old England a long time ago. I didn’t know anything about it until recently and started doing some research.

    Here’s some info I have on that.

  22. Pingback by Fat Cyclist » Blog Archive » Reparations for a Wasted Youth | 09.21.2009 | 12:27 am

    [...] bike. Certainly, it’ s understandable that I didn’t own a mountain bike. If I had, then Klunkerz would have been about [...]

  23. Pingback by Reparations for a Wasted Youth | Dyna Fat Loss | 09.21.2009 | 7:01 pm

    [...] bike. Certainly, it’ s understandable that I didn’t own a mountain bike. If I had, then Klunkerz would have been about [...]


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