Gary Fisher started his bike racing career in 1962 when he was twelve, he's one of the inventors of the modern mountain bike, and a pioneer in the sport. Today, Gary can be seen riding around the hills of Marin and caring for his adorable four month old son, Robbie. I was excited to talk with Gary about his past, advocacy work, and being a new dad.
There are many bike trailers for babies on the market. What are you planning to take Robbie out in?
I just bought him a Terrain Trailer. He can fall asleep in it and it’s made for off road. I question the standard trailers because the kid gets shaken quite a bit. This also has one wheel, if it hits a curb it doesn't flip over but you can only take one kid. The standard in the U.S. for taking a kid in a bike trailer is one year so I have to wait.
What's your first bike memory?
When I was four I got a Spitfire with 20” wheels for Christmas. I remember getting on it and riding to my friend Arthur Robins house from my grandparents so fast around the corner and barely making it. It was a glorious moment.
When did you know this is where your career would take you?
I was twelve when I knew I was a "bike guy" and going to stay a "bike guy." The other kids at school thought I was stupid but I didn’t care because my world was about having this honest piece of technology I call "The World's Happiest Invention.”
When you entered into the bike world it was a very small community, now there are so many people the industry bringing new ideas. Where do you think the future of bikes is heading?
In the 80’s and 90's, people got into the industry of making bikes. Over the last ten years, the biggest thing is all the activists that are changing where and how you ride bikes. As for the bikes themselves, electronica is coming no doubt. It’s invading all of our goods. I have a chip on my bike so I can track when it comes in and out of a shop and it’s history.
You are a living legend in the mountain bike world. With all your career successes, what do you want to be remembered for?
It’s not so much about what I've done but what I'm going to do next. The mountain bike thing was great. People love the idea of someone starting with nothing and making a change. I was doing a good dance and having other people dance with me. All the magazines, media people, and manufacturers that helped make this happen and bring this whole tribe together was a great thing and, to use in a past tense, that is not where I am at now. I am ready to take it to the next place.
What’s that next place?
We have health crisis going on and change doesn’t happen without crisis. Right now, three out four Americans are over weight, 16-18% of our GDP is spent on health care, and for the first time in history the lifespan of our children is shorter then ours. What I sell is right at the top of the list of calories burned per hour and living an active lifestyle. However, what we have in our bikeways is a joke. There are better examples around the world. For instance, Seoul, Korea, has a 250km protected bikeway. I rode it last year and it’s fabulous and well used. If we can bring 20% of the populous of Marin County doing active transit then car traffic will go down. Additionally, I want to reverse the life expectancy with our children starting with Marin County. I’m putting a challenge to anyone who says we can’t do this.
There has been a lot of conflict on the trails, roads, and multi-use paths in Marin. What solutions could help make everyone less agitated?
There's too little space for all those groups and we're all working against each other. There’s simply not enough space and everyone needs space. We need to dedicate more money to improving this space for all to use safely.
How would you bring harmony to the trails, paths and roads?
It’s going to take a significant financial investment. Painting a few signs doesn’t cut it at all. The system we have in Marin County now, where you come to the starts and finishes of these little stretches is not quick or efficient or safe. It’s a joke. When a bike rider comes off the Golden Gate Bridge, they have to go into a gutter to get onto the road then you go down this “improved” road (Alexander) which they "improved" for cars but not bikes.
The people in charge need to realize what physicality brings to a human being. We have more science showing how bike riding brings physically and mentally all this good stuff. That’s what I’m campaigning for. I have all kinds of facts and figures on my side now and I’ve go a way to show how to save money, keep your family healthy, and how it's financially beneficial for the long term. It’s going to take some investment but has tremendous payback.