behind the rise of the 29-inch mountain
bike. How did that happen?
GF: Let’s be clear; different wheel sizes
are nothing new. One hundred years ago
30 and 32 inches were the dominant sizes.
However, the mountain bike world was in
a rut [in the ’90s]! Twenty-six inches was
being used for everything! In fact, the UCI
had a rule that a mountain bike could not
have anything larger than a 26-inch wheel!
The 29-inch wheel came about because
a group of out-of-the-box thinkers were
willing to try. We all believed it was better
for certain kinds of riding. At first it was
super hard to get tire and fork makers to
make high-quality, 29-inch-size parts.
I coined the name “Twenty-Niner” to
describe the bike. “Big Wheel” didn’t cut it.
It helps when a movement has a name.
I helped push the parts makers. I was
relentless. Trek was a believer very early
on. We did quite a bit of testing early on
to make sure it was faster. We also made
many test bikes and had many demos.
I took on the UCI. The 29-inch wheel
was toast if you could not race it! I flew to
their offices in Switzerland and argued in
favor of a rule change. I prevailed. The UCI
allows all sizes now.
I love the new plus-tire sizes as well. We
have a big choice and a great supply in the
I still work with our designers. I am so
happy that many more radical designs
have been appearing. What is normal on
a mountain bike these days is making me
Trek’s big goal is to have a mountain
bike team in every one of the 170,000
high schools in the USA. I am working with
more city leaders on making healthy cities,
and I’m taking bike parks and safe routes
to school that look like a bike park—
blasting through buildings and over streets,
creating a network that will bring fun and
health to our kids and their parents!
We have big goals that are not unreasonable; the paybacks are there. ❏
Back in the day: Fisher is one of the key figures in Charlie Kelly’s 2014 book, Fat-Tire
Flyer: Repack and the Birth of Mountain Biking, as can be seen in this photo/layout from
Kelly’s book, taken by fellow racer/photographer Wende Cragg. The caption: “Gary, putting his second Ritchey MountainBike through its paces.”
shows off a
photo of one of
his early Tom
o z a Once a racer, always a racer: Fourteen
years after competing in the early
Repack races, Gary competed in the first
UCI World Championships in Durango,
Colorado, in 1990.