Once upon a time, Rapha’s brand name was familiar and welcomed only by the most sartorially-shrewd roadies who were unfazed by the above-average price tags that came with their above-average quality of cycling apparel. Following the success and growth of their recently launched mountain bike line, Rapha announces the publishing of Off-Road Heroes ($40), a 256-page hardcover book full of color photos and words on some of the most notable persons, places, and scenes in the sport’s fairly brief history.
When the topic of mountain biking history comes up, the likes of Charlie Kelley and Gary Fisher, and the rest of the California klunker bike riders and frame builders of Mt. Tamalpais typically begin the conversation. Off-Road Heroes also takes care to recognize the off-road racing of 19th century Europe as a sort of prehistory to it all; a form of the sport that’s rebranded as “gravel riding”–it’s not on the road, but it’s not over chunky singletrack either.
The book doesn’t set out to cover every single moment, person, and place in an encyclopedic approach. Instead, it grooves on the greatest hits that would make any enthusiast want to revisit the oversized volume that takes up residence on their coffee table or upon the service counter of their local shop. The sagas of downhill greats like Missy Giove and Greg Minnar, British Columbia’s North Shore scene and its lasting influence on modern trails, and the photo catalogs of pioneering documentary photographer Wende Cragg are just a few topics the book explores.
If you’ve got a mountain biker on your holiday shopping list, please resist the temptation to gift them some kooky, bicycle-themed tchotchke destined for the landfill. Instead, consider something more thoughtful, like the pictures and words of mountain biking’s history recorded in Off-Road Heroes, plus a set or two of brake pads!