Billy Savage and Charlie Kelly Respond to My Review of Klunkerz

02.13.2009 | 10:39 am

A Note from Fatty: Yesterday, I posted a review of Klunkerz: A Film About Mountain Bikes. Billy Savage, the director of the film, and Charlie Kelly, one of the subjects of the film, sent me responses (both in the comments section, which weirdly held them up for moderation). Their responses are meaningful enough that I want to show them as a post, not just comments.

Billy Savage, Director of Klunkerz, Responds

Oh Fatty,

I’m sorry you feel slighted. Surely an interview with you would have heightened the film’s comedy quotient considerably, though CK and Russ Mahon do have a few good lines. I do thank you for taking the time to watch the film and comment on it, as I know you’d rather be out riding your bicycle or waxing poetic on the ‘noblest of inventions’.

Your comments about the lack of actual conflict and resolution are exactly the reasons why I couldn’t get the film funded and had to do so myself. Though I will never live to pay it off the production, I sincerely felt like there just might be a place in this world for one feel-good documentary in which the drama in the piece was derived from the participants accomplishments, and not their rivalries. If I wanted to build up the unpleasantness that may or may not have gone on, including the murder of one of the participants shortly after I interviewed him, I surely could have cashed in. Instead, I felt that I would spend four years of my life, and my children’s college funds, making a statement about friendships, good ol’ American Ingenuity, and an enterpenurial spirit that seems to have fled the country around the same time Nixon fled the White House.

“It feels, frankly, as if there was considerable negotiating about what would and would not be said in the film before the cameras rolled.”

I can assure you that none of this went on. I did six months of research and then I shot nearly 100 hours of these pioneers over an 18 month period. I do have every one of them saying things that could be taken out of context and used in an unflattering light to heighten conflict. With all the knowledge I had acquired and all the footage I had shot, I surely could have edited any one them to be the ‘black hat’. That wasn’t the spirit of the piece I set out to create, though it probably would have been much easier in the editing room.

The simple truth is that doing this research and asking these questions healed a great many old wounds for many of those involved. Maybe Gary and Charlie weren’t talking when I started shooting, but they were both with me in Fort William for the Scottish premiere, racing Penny Farthings for a bottle of Single Malt like the old friends they truly are. They were also with me in San Diego last weekend when I was awarded “2009 Cycling Film of the Year” at the 17th Annual Endurance Sports Awards at Sea World. They were both there, away from the spotlight, sitting in the crowd to support me. It was a very strange experience for me, and one that I will never forget.

Doing this film was nothing less than an honor and privilege. It was my first effort (and possibly my last) at producing and directing a film on my own. These folks trusted me and they gave me honest answers to some difficult questions, many of which are locked away in a film vault forever. Good or bad, I got to tell a story the way I wanted, with no interference from a corporate checkbook being held over my head. I think the most rewarding thing I’ll end up taking away from the experience is that I made some very good friends along the way.

Thanks again for giving ‘er a look. I really do appreciate your comments and insight. Maybe I’ll see you out on the trails someday. I need to get out there, as all this time on computers has added a few inches to the waistline.

Ride on,


Charlie Kelly, One of the Main Subjects of the Film Klunkerz, Responds

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.200902130931.jpg

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.

A Few Final Thoughts from Fatty

  • Klunkerz just won the Cycling Film of the Year award at the Competitor Magazine Endurance Sports Awards. Congrats to Billy for that.
  • I really appreciate both Charlie and Billy taking the time to write thoughtful and interesting replies.
  • I suspect that people are going to start thinking twice before sending me stuff in the mail.


  1. Comment by chtrich | 02.13.2009 | 11:06 am

    Fatty, I appreciate the honest reviews you give even if they aren’t in your best interest of getting more free stuff to review. It’s good to know you’re not sugar coating anything.
    And the comments on Klunkerz have been great. Charlie’s website is very cool.

  2. Comment by MikeonhisBike | 02.13.2009 | 11:16 am

    I appreciated your honest review of the DVD as well. It’s also very cool that you got replies from the people that you did. Making a movie the way you want to these days is very noble and a rarety in the business.


  3. Comment by Repack Rider | 02.13.2009 | 11:29 am

    I suspect that people are going to start thinking twice before sending me stuff in the mail.

    Not really. I appreciate the fact that you published your thoughts and gave me an opportunity to correct them

    Perhaps you should consider your words before assigning motives and thoughts to people in complex situations. In 1983, when Gary and I parted company, I was also involved in the formation and operation of NORBA, and publishing a MTB magazine. These were some of the events that created a conflict of interest for me, but it’s hard for a film to cover every nuance of volatile and fast moving events.

  4. Comment by dug | 02.13.2009 | 11:47 am

    “when you invoke my name, google tells me.”

    um, not unless you actually program google to tell you. which is weird.

    “perhaps you should consider your words before assigning motives and thoughts to people in complex situations.”

    right, that’s elden, thoughtlessly assigning motives to people. OR, maybe he watched a documentary about said people, a documentary the actual filmmaker sent him and asked him to watch. seriously? how can you fault someone for watching a DOCUMENTARY about you, and then thinking they know what happened?

    perhaps you should consider what people will think before you participate in a documentary about yourself, a documentary that clearly implies things you consider inaccurate. maybe your issue isn’t with elden, but with billy.

    jeez, lighten up. did billy actually READ this blog before sending a copy of the film for review, or just HEAR about it? this isn’t snopes, this isn’t thesmokinggun, this is THE FAT CYCLIST.

    and all this over what came off as a POSITIVE review. i wonder what would have happened if he didn’t LIKE the movie.

  5. Comment by fatty | 02.13.2009 | 11:49 am

    charlie, you need to take a closer look at my review. here’s what i said:

    “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.”

    i wasn’t assigning motive, nor thought. i was asking a question. specifically: you guys parted ways and the film makes it look like you got fired. now you’re friends? how? why?

    i’m not saying what your motives are or what your thoughts are, but i am legitimately frustrated when an extremely relevant aspect / phase of the relationship between you guys is skipped over without acknowledgment that it even exists.

  6. Comment by bikemike | 02.13.2009 | 12:04 pm

    honestly, seeing the cover of the movie, i thought it was the long awaited movie-straight-to-DVD-feature length “Return to Deadwood”…i was misled.

  7. Comment by fatty | 02.13.2009 | 12:07 pm

    bikemike – i would pay hundreds of dollars to see a satisfying conclusion to deadwood.

  8. Comment by bikemike | 02.13.2009 | 12:16 pm


  9. Comment by Jeff | 02.13.2009 | 12:18 pm

    I wish people would send me free stuff in the mail!

  10. Comment by Jodi | 02.13.2009 | 1:02 pm

    Oh geeeeez.

    I just sent you my Flat Stanley project completion in the mail. Great.

  11. Comment by Kt | 02.13.2009 | 1:29 pm

    Fatty, this is one of the reasons I read your blog:

    You write about people, and then– here’s the cool part– they write back to you. And you have a dialog with these people in a respectful and polite way, and it’s interesting to boot.

    I like that you are honest in your reviews. Who needs another kiss-ass telling you how great your product is? That’s not the point of reviewing something. You should come away from an honest review of how the everyman experienced your product, and how you can make it better.

    Jodi: maybe Fatty can take Flat Stanley mountain biking. He may come back to you all sweat-stained and icky, though. :)

  12. Comment by Randoboy | 02.13.2009 | 1:30 pm

    I love when Billy mentions “… an enterpenurial spirit that seems to have fled the country around the same time Nixon fled the White House.”

    Ah, yes, we all miss Tricky Dick’s “entrepenurial” style from the 1972 elections. That may be taking nostalgia in a bad direction, though.

  13. Comment by The D | 02.13.2009 | 1:43 pm

    Fatty, Billy and Charlie,

    Just wanted to point that that the discussion so far has been constructive and interesting for many of us on the outside looking, viz fans of Fatty, fans of cycling, and potential movie-goers.

    I wish more movie and book reviews allowed for this kind of dialogue. Thank you for making your points well and with mutual respect.

  14. Comment by Garrett | 02.13.2009 | 1:45 pm

    I love Charlie’s site.

  15. Comment by sheaminator | 02.13.2009 | 2:04 pm

    Blatant horn-tooting here, but for what it’s worth:

    That’s a story I wrote for the Boise Weekly last summer, about the Klunkerz tour. Features an interview with Kelly/Fisher/ about the whole mountain bike origin question.

    It’s a great film for any bike nut.

  16. Comment by Accident Prone | 02.13.2009 | 2:07 pm

    Fascinating exchange. Love it!

  17. Comment by Jeff | 02.13.2009 | 2:49 pm

    Fatty, I hope Rock Racing sends you something. I’d love to see your review, and I’d really like to see Michael Ball’s response.

  18. Comment by Bill Martin | 02.13.2009 | 2:54 pm

    Fatty, besides all the awards that you have received for your exploits … having an audience of the these fine MTB pioneers has to be the best accomplishment that a blogger could have. I love the last two days and the exchange.

    Charlie, thanks. Your one cool dude!

  19. Comment by Isolation Helmet | 02.13.2009 | 3:32 pm

    The fun part for me in all of this is that I moved to Fairfax in 2007, have ridden in the appetite seminar which of course ends with a run down Repack and free beer in town. While riding down Repack the first time I was amazed that anyone made it to the bottom with a coaster brake. Some of the turns down near the bottom are really tight and with little to no braking left it could be a hairy ride!

  20. Comment by Mike | 02.13.2009 | 3:44 pm

    You gotta wonder what kind of workout you get from moving pianos, though. I’ll betcha Charlie’s got some really powerful quads, not to mention the lower back of an ox.

    Charlie, I think it’s time you took up racing again—uphill this time.

  21. Comment by Flyin' Ute | 02.13.2009 | 4:21 pm

    Man, don’t you just love Mountain Bikers? The coolest people ever.

  22. Comment by El Animal | 02.13.2009 | 4:32 pm

    I’m afraid of your reviews since you did the GEL-BOT, Water Bottle System review. I hope they didn’t go out of business after that.

  23. Comment by jon | 02.13.2009 | 5:02 pm

    Hey I’m happy about the review and these two responses. (I’m also drunk, but whatever.)

    The second one is bring an expected, although probably unwarranted amount of ‘tude. But maybe he’s also drunk. Fatty was fair and raises fair questions. I like the fact that the guy who made this movie can answer for the fact that it’s not centered on the conflicts, nor contructed in such a way as to heighten any conflicts. As a historical artifact, this was an absolutely necessary film to be made, and props to all those luminaries who participated. I’m extra gratified that the guy is able to take such a down to earth attitude about basically founding an industry, and then fading, while his partner became “the first and last name in mountain bykes”

    I like it all. All of it. Elden, rock on. Susan, WIN now and forever.

  24. Comment by Susie | 02.13.2009 | 5:44 pm

    Not to change the subject, but will anyone else be standing on the corner of Russell Blvd and Pedrick Rd in Davis, CA watching Lance Armstrong and the Tour of California ride by on Sunday afternoon?

  25. Comment by Mike Roadie | 02.13.2009 | 5:47 pm

    I think that it’s great that they sent it, you watched, reviewed/commented on it and they responded. THAT doesn’t happen every day!!


  26. Comment by Billy Savage | 02.13.2009 | 6:09 pm

    Wow, this is great. I LOVE this blog and will follow it constantly from here on out. Thanks for the opportunity to get some very interesting folks talking about my movie, Fatty.

    BTW: I didn’t mean Tricky Dick’s entrepenurial spirit, I meant, you know, all the other things that were going on at the time. Although you’ve got to hand it to Nixon…who else could make waiving a peace sign that uncool? I mean REALLY uncool.

    I’ll DEFINITELY be sending you more stuff in the mail…a KLUNKERZ t-shirt perhaps (if I make some more). As I said, I really do appreciate you reviewing the film as a film and not just another bike video…and thanks for goin’ easy on me;).

    I really like your fan base. I mostly read blogs for the comments on the original material anyway, and this is the best ever. Quality exchanges of interesting information in comment sections are a rarity out on the ‘ol www. Obviously your fan base is a testament to the quality of your writing, your sense of humor and your honest opinions.

  27. Comment by Bjorn 4Lycra | 02.13.2009 | 7:24 pm

    I thought Me and My mates invented Mountain Biking. Over 40 years ago in an old area of Queens Park in Bournemouth England. A whole pile of rubble and debris had been stockpiled in a corner of the park after WW2. Overtime it had been covered with dirt and soil and became known as the Camel Humps. We carved all sorts of trails and pathways through there on whatever bikes we could find. They looked like mountains but then I was only 8.
    You gotta love this site when you can sit down and read through some dialogue like this and get interested in it even tho I know not of what yiou speak due to my English Ozzie heritage. Of course you also gotta love this site for everything else it has come to stand for. WIN Susan. RIDE fatty

  28. Comment by Tim D | 02.14.2009 | 4:31 am

    Susie,and any of California based FC readers, please wear your FC shirts if you go and watch the race. Then we can play “spot the FC jersey” on the telly. The Tour of California is getting the full Eurosport coverage.

  29. Comment by buckythedonkey | 02.14.2009 | 5:29 am

    Hey! I bought a GEL-BOT. Only kidding.

    I love your reviews, there’s no hint of the non-committal advertorial that you find in some mags. If people think they have good products they have nothing to fear from you!

    I just wish that the people at Avantix would stump up and send you a bike for a full write up.

  30. Comment by buckythedonkey | 02.14.2009 | 6:35 am

    Oh, and if somebody could jump the (Lance Armstrong and the) Tour of California peleton wearing an FC jersey, I’m sure we’d all be very grateful.


  31. Comment by Matt | 02.14.2009 | 11:26 am

    Wow what a great read today! Fatty you bring out the best of what the world has to offer!

    I love it that both Charlie and Billy responded here (to set the record straight).

    Charlie, THANKS for including the link…your site is like the Smithsonian of cycling cool stuff! I browsed it over yesterday, but it will take me DAYS to thoroughly go thru it all…SWEET!! You guys (all of you pioneers) ROCK! I can’t imagine how very awesome it must have been to be involved ‘in the beginning’. THANK YOU!

  32. Comment by Clydesdale | 02.14.2009 | 1:43 pm

    Well, I’m very impressed. From the movie itself to the review, to the comments to clarify, to Charlie’s website (which is absolutely amazing for anyone who rides dirt or is just interested in some history of hair!!), to Dug defending his pal, to all of the other commenters. This site never ceases to amaze me by the quality of people it attracts. Maybe Billy and Charlie will join the fight with the rest of us?

    Wouldn’t it be cool to see them wearing Fat Cyclist jersey’s and participating in the San Jose ride? Maybe even bring out some of their friends, famous or not, all are welcome and needed.

    If you guy’s participate I’ll buy a few of the DVD’s for local clubs libraries (your local cycling club, Fatties and mine) and make a donation on Fatty’s San Jose page in your names. Let’s make a good story even bigger!!

    How about it Charlie and Billy??

    Win Susan, Win leona!

  33. Comment by donbiker | 02.14.2009 | 2:18 pm

    I got a lot of enjoyment from this post and wandering among the websites.

    I was passed by Guy and Breeze and their support motorcycle once on the Davis Double. (They started the fast riders later so they could sleep in.) It was the thrill of the day. I just ordered the DVD.

  34. Comment by Dan O | 02.14.2009 | 3:31 pm

    Cool review – and even cooler response from everyone.

    I picked up the DVD from a local bike shop last year – it’s great and I’ve watched it a few times. Being a long time mountain biker (1984), I already knew the “story”, but it was great to hear it told from the actual people involved.

    I’m sure time has healed some of the riffs between these legends of the sport – lifestyle, movement, industry – whatever you wish to call it. All the people who got this whole shindig officially started, seem like people you’d love to meet and ride with.

    Its a great story that was worth documenting. Nice job and thanks.


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.