It’s not often one can say they met a legend.
What’s even more uncommon is when one can say they got to shake a legend’s hand, mutter a few “I love your work” sentiments and slink back off into the crowd.
And the most unbelievable experience is one in which you not only say hello (while managing to not be creepy) but actually enjoy multiple beers with a legend in the smoky backyard of San Francisco’s most hipster bar Zeitgeist.
Well friends – myself and fellow OutsidePR lackey Jeff Howard can say just that.
We recently had the honor of not only meeting the Founding Father of Mountain Biking, Mr. Gary Fisher, but sat in this legend’s presence for over an hour listening to the endless antidotes, wisdom and insight from the man who changed the face of traditional cycling as we know it.
The man, the myth, the legend – Gary Fisher
Now for those of you non-bike geeks whose head doesn’t nod in immediate awe of Gary Fisher’s accomplishments and contributions to the bicycling world (or didn’t click on that handy link above like any sane internet using person would) – let me regale you with some facts.
Gary Fisher began his career in 1963 at the young age of 12, competing in road and track races in the Amateur Bicycle League of America. Only a few years later in 1968, he would be suspended from racing for having long hair. It wasn’t until two years later in the dawn of the 1970s that Fisher manages to shake the long hair ban, get back into racing and become a Category 1 USCF Road Racer.
In the meantime, yearning for a bike he could ride off-road, “away from the cops and concrete,” Gary and a few friends started tinkering with parts, grafting gears with moto parts and eventually created bikes that could be taken down Mt Tam’s steep and treacherous Repack road.
Fisher tearing it up old school
By the end of the 1970s, Gary and friend Charlie Kelly took these innovative models and started a company called Mountain Bikes. For the next two decades Fisher manages to found the National Off-Road Bicycle Association (NORBA), introduce front suspension fork and suspension ready geometry, have his personal Gary Fisher Bike Co purchased by Trek, and be named by Smithsonian as the “Founding Father of Mountain Biking.”
So yeah, he’s KIND of a big deal.
Needless to say when we learned through our buddies at Bicycling Magazine that Gary Fisher would be joining us at Zeitgeist, Jeff and I celebrated…then panicked, celebrated again, researched Fisher, panicked again and finally set off to see the man himself.
Jeff and I celebrating
Jeff and I arguing over who gets to hug him first – I won
What transpired from there was nothing short of surreal. As we sat with the Bicycling Mag gents (who really are responsible for luring Fisher there – so thank you Matt and Andrew) – I couldn’t help but sense the crowd shift when Gary rolled in. It was like these hipsters knew greatness had entered the patio. You could just feel his presence.
Now, if dapper and eccentric had a baby…that baby would likely be named Gary Fisher. Mixing perfectly pressed jeans with a sleek button down shirt, vest AND tie – he looked like someone who strolled out of a magazine. Or possibly an older, more rugged, bike riding, version of Justin Timberlake. Less boy band, more bad ass.
Justin Timberlake – Cool (in the eyes of some)
Gary Fisher – Cool (in the eyes of all)
Anyway…back to our magical evening.
Over the next hour, Jeff, myself and the Bicycling guys listened in rapt attention to the many stories and insight Gary shared about his experience in the bike world. You can tell this man truly lives and breathes everything bike related. He talked passionately about not only wanting to get more kids on bikes, but more engaged in mountain biking in general. He also spoke highly of the work he does with Trek and seems to follow a mantra of “Get more people riding bikes. Period.”
Truthfully, at times I forgot I was sitting with a legend, and instead almost felt like I was having a beer with a fun uncle. Because despite the incredible contributions he has made to the bike community, he remains intensely humble and amazingly down-to-earth. Which makes for the immediate feeling like you can try to hug him at the end of the night, which I definitely did – don’t worry it went well.
Now this might be the point you want picture proof that this isn’t just a whacky tale for the blog but an actual occurrence. Well I’m sorry…there is no picture proof.
Come on, Jeff and I are way smoother than that! You don’t go asking for a picture with a bike LEGEND when you’re chatting over beers!
Actually we’re not that cool – we simply forgot to ask. The only thing we could rationalize was that because of his candid and charismatic nature, it was easy to detach the heavy “legend” title from the jean jacket wearing man across the picnic table from us…and thus forget to document this amazing evening.
Either way, picture or no picture…we did meet the man, the myth, the legend, Mr. Gary Fisher. And he was awesome! Completely beyond what I would have imagined from someone of his status in the bike world.
A true innovator, gentleman, and legend – Fisher serves an example of what it means to be bold, think outside the box and always follow your passion. Even if that passion includes a full jean outfit or crazy facial.
Hey if you got it, flaunt it right?