Mountain Bike Mosaic

Morgan Hall & Myles Babcock - Mountain Bike Bench

Repack Bench - Bolinas Road

Morgan Hall, architect, has been working on a project honoring mountain bikes and their history. He has designed and has broken ground constructing a bench for downtown Fairfax, CA that will be decorated with a ceramic mosaic installation honoring mountain biking. Myles Babcock, contractor, is in charge of construction. Quintilia Nylin is artist in residence. She has created the tile art which is being applied to the walls. It depicts various famous mountain bikes descending Repack fire road.

Installing panels

The Fairfax Chamber of Commerce continues to raise funds for the Fairfax Mountain Bike Mosaic, the ceramic tile art installation in downtown Fairfax.  The theme of the work is “Repack” and celebrates mountain biking and Fairfax as the birthplace of this now-global sport.

The installation is located on Bolinas Road at the entrance to the parking lot at Mono Lane.  Fairfax architect and Chamber Board member, Morgan Hall, conceived the design concept.  Tilly and Zero Nylin of Segromigno Art Tile, who designed and installed the Obelisk in San Anselmo, have carried on the concept in their own ceramically-amazing way.  The preparatory concrete work for the tile was performed, “gratis,” by Fairfax contractor, Myles Babcock with assistance from Morgan Hall.

The tiling has begun and Tilly and Zero’s work is something to see!  Over 200 artists and school children have contributed as well.

Applying tiles

Sprockets for sale

The Chamber thus far has collected $12,000 toward its goal of $17,000.  Funds are being raised through the sale of ceramic sprockets and clouds that will be permanently affixed to the installation.  The sprockets are handmade chain rings modeled in clay after those of the fat tire ballooners of the early days of mountain biking.  For $150 a sprocket will be made and embossed with up to 24 letters’ worth of your name, name of a loved one or whatever you like.  It will then be glazed, fired and cemented permanently to the Donor Wall which is part of the installation.  Four of Five ceramic “clouds” have been sold for a $1000 contribution.  The clouds will also be embossed and will be part of mosaic on the back of the large tiled bench that faces the street.

Those interested in purchasing a sprocket or the last cloud should contact Morgan Hall at 415-455-8464 or at



The Beginnings of Mountain Biking and Repack

In the 1950’s, a kid had two options when it came to getting a bicycle: American or English.  American bikes had fat “balloon” tires, rear coaster brakes and one speed.  Some were really decked out with a headlight and a horn.  Schwinn was the most popular manufacturer.  The English bike had skinnier tires, front and rear caliper brakes and 3 speeds.

The 10-speed bicycle first appeared in the U.S. in the late 1960’s and became quite popular in the 1970’s.  With downturned “racing” handlebars,   this European import had two chain rings in the front and five gear sprockets in the rear cassette, allowing for 10 different gear combinations.

In the early 1970’s, a handful of intrepid young souls decided to take their bikes off the street and into the woods of Marin County.  Thus the tinkering began  -  how to make a bicycle work well in the woods,  on rocky, rutted fire roads and rooty trails.

The fat tires on the American bikes worked best on the bumps and dirt, so out came the old Schwinns and Excelsiors.  They weighed a lot, were much more fun going downhill than uphill, and were called “clunkers” or “ballooners.”  The rear coaster brakes barely were enough to keep these downhill bombers under control.  To improve this, someone put a caliper brake on the front wheel.  Not long after that, a rear derailleur was added to make pedaling uphill easier; then one on the front.  The mountain bike was evolving.

The favorite downhill run in Marin County was the Cascade Fire Road just outside Fairfax.  It was about two miles long and dropped 1300 feet down off Pine Mountain into Cascade Canyon.  At the bottom of this steep and twisty track, the riders had big smiles on their faces and the grease inside their coaster brake hubs was burned up and smoking.  Before they could take another run, the riders had to let things cool off and repack their hubs with grease.  And that is how the Cascade Fire Road became “Repack.”

It was on Repack on October 21, 1976 that the first timed downhill ballooner race took place and that it was there and then that the tinkering gave way to the birth of the now global sport of mountain biking.