– The Father of the English Mountain Bike
by James Walters
Geoffrey Cleland Apps, a one-time ‘ACU expert’ English motorcycle trials rider, began modifying conventional bicycles for off-road use in the early 1960s. By 1980 he had created a custom-built, relatively lightweight, bicycle; designed for the often wet and always muddy off-road conditions found in the south-east of England. These were eventually marketed under the Cleland Cycles brand, until 1984. Had Geoff Apps been based in the US, he would doubtless have hooked up with Joe Breeze, Gary Fisher, Charlie Kelly, Tom Ritchey et al, and may well have directly influenced mainstream mountain bike design. Geoff is, however, a Brit, and developed his designs in isolation. His ideas offer a fascinating insight into an alternative evolutionary direction that off-road bicycle design could have taken. When you compare the early mountain bike designs with modern ones, you can see certain shifts towards Cleland style ideas.
Geoff was a co-founder of, and regular contributor to, Making Tracks, the first UK magazine devoted to off-road cycling, before moving to Scotland to work on Jim McGurn’s New Cyclist magazine.
The Bicycle Book by Geoff Apps
Geoff has written a cycle maintenance guide, which was originally published in the UK and the USA. It was republished in 2005 in the USA. Translations into Italian and German have subsequently been published. It has slightly different titles:
The Bicycle Book
(also published in America by Outlet books)
Publisher: Smithmark Publishers
The Bicycle Book: The Complete Maintenance Guide
Publisher: Salamander Books
He also co-authored, with Jim McGurn:
Cross Country Cycling: A Guide for the Off-road Leisure Rider
Publisher: Teach Yourself
All of these seem to now be out of print, but are available second-hand from the likes of Amazon, eBay and other online retailers.
Geoff is a highly accomplished illustrator and draftsman, his work having appeared in many publications, including Mike Burrow’s book “Bicycle Design”. In recent years he has developed some skills in photography, and you can see a selection of his pictures here. Of course, the development of his brainchild continues; he is has written a blog about the latest machine to carry the Cleland marque – The 2015 Landseer.