More about CCPROTO

The mountain bike had a beginning, a brief time when it was defined and given birth. The first builders made their frames with steel tubing and used angles and dimensions borrowed from classic paperboy bikes. Factory made mountain bike components didn’t exist. The earliest bikes were completed with parts made for touring and cyclocross bikes, even motorcycles.

I was riding Marin’s single-track trails on my modified skinny tire bike with dropbars and toe clips as mountain bike culture was taking root in Marin County. Occasionally I encountered early mountain bikers on my rides. Their bikes were interesting, but they were too ponderous and heavy for the trail riding I enjoyed.

Everything changed when the Snakebelly tire, the first lightweight fat tire, and the first wide aluminum rim made by Ukai became available.  Now it was possible to build an awesome mountain bike! I started building CCPROTO in 1978, designing every part from the ground up for minimum weight and maximum performance.

It had dropbars and toe clips because I felt they use the human engine more efficiently. I built the frame shorter than convention, with steeper angles for agile handling, and the lower bottom bracket improved stability. The powerful brakes were made specifically to handle the huge traction offered by the new tires. The light fork, with its tubular crown and internally butted blades had excellent shock absorbing qualities. Titanium and magnesium were used in some of the specially made parts.

Before finalizing the bike in 1979, I cut and re-welded the frame tubes several times, adjusting angles and dimensions to perfect its handling. The final version, displayed here, excelled on the mountainous single-track trails in my backyard. In 1980 I took the bike with me to Crested Butte, Colorado and developed friendships with the local riders as we did their favorite epic rides. The visit was capped off with the Pearl Pass Tour. Several of my new friends were so impressed with my bike’s performance that they insisted that I make bikes for them. This launched my bike building business, which extended to 1993, resulting in 178 framesets.

CCPROTO was advanced for its time. Many of its features were adopted in the bikes that followed and its influence can be seen in today’s mountain bike.

                              CCPROTO Specifications

Bike weight   23.5 lbs

Frame material   6061 aluminum tubing

136mm rear drop out spacing for optimal chainline

Unique dropout design for stronger derailler hanger. Slot angle allows wheel retention with minimal quill pressure.


Tubular 4130 crown with butted, thinwall 4130 blades

TIG welded and nickel silvered joints

115mm dropout spacing for extra spoke bracing and shock absorption in wheel


Machined ZK60A magnesium, hollow core with removable cap, pressed and riveted 4130 quill tube


Chainstay mounted for maximum rigidity and precision modulation

Adjustable Toggle Linkage, anodized 7075-T6 aluminum arms


HiE flanges with extra wide spacing and zero spoke dish for wheel durability

Lightweight stainless quills with aluminum nuts

Seatpost       2024-T3 aluminum tubing, magnesium saddle clamp, pump stored inside

Seatpost Clamp      Prototype cam action, anodized 7075-T6 aluminum

Chain Guide     Anodized 7075-T6 aluminum with 6-4 titanium chain tunnel

 Rear Derailleur  Shimano Dura Ace road derailleur for faster, more accurate shifting

Made to work with the wide range freewheel by modifying the mounting pivot and using an external spring.

Freewheel 13-34 five speed Suntour with custom ratios

Pedals: MKS with smooth platform added and modified toeclips for efficient power transfer with easy foot entry and exit. 

Toe Flips  6-4 titanium

Handlebars  Cinelli with modified bend

~ by jacquiephelan on March 22, 2012.

14 Responses to “More about CCPROTO”

  1. I recall when I re-entered cycling in the late 80s, My mentor; bike shop owner; engineer; former racer and fellow rider told me in his grumpy fashion, “These mountain bikes are going to ruin cycling.” Today I laugh. I am older and thoroughly enjoy my OLD Giant MTB and its all terrain sibling, my Bianchi. I don’t do downhill, single track or anything like that, but I like what you pioneered. I am a fan. Thanks CC. Very cool.

  2. Good thing for mountain biking that a whole bunch of us were willing to ride bikes that were “…too ponderous and heavy for the trail riding I enjoyed.” The CCPROTO was not much different from a cyclocross bike, a design that had been around for decades and had already created a worldwide demand for several hundred bikes a year. When CCPROTO was in use, dozens of people all over the United States raced cyclocross on remarkably similar bikes, and their sport was growing by a least two or three riders every year. There was even talk of letting women participate in cyclocross.

    It was not a light trail bike that created mountain biking. It was an indestructible, ponderous and heavy downhiller ridden in life-threatening fashion, and CCPROTO was unsuited for the downhill competition that became the sport of mountain biking. The demand for bikes more competitive in this arena was the most important influence on cycling in the 20th Century.

    We knew that our bikes were heavy and ponderous, certainly by comparison to our Italian road bikes, but we DIDN’T CARE, because you could ride them in a fashion have would have destroyed CCPROTO. CCPROTO never showed up at Repack, where it would have finished far out of the money under ANY rider, if it finished at all.

    I’m happy to have influenced major manufacturers to supply the rims and tires that allowed CCPROTO to “revolutionize” the sport created by riders on “ponderous and heavy” bikes, and enter the market that began when a couple of dope-smoking hippies rented a garage in San Anselmo and called their place “MountainBikes.” Where they sold “ponderous and heavy” bikes for a fabulous sum and couldn’t keep up with the demand.

    Where do I return the soap box?

  3. I don’t think it is possible for Repack Rider to return the soap box. His response baffles me. Not because of what it says. There is no dispute that Repack Rider and his downhilling brethren began the popularization of the mountain bike. There was nothing in Charlie’s text that says his bike was right and the klunker guys’ bikes were wrong. Even Repack Rider quoted the key phrase of Charlie’s text: “…for the trail riding I enjoyed.”

    Not everyone is a downhiller and for that, I thank Charlie and his contributions to the bicycle industry.

  4. Until you make a bike yourself rather than assemble them, it’s hard to understand the beauty and spirit of where this one comes from.

    Bless me that’s a beauty.

  5. Luckily for all of us, today we have mountain bikes that can climb like the CCProto and descend better than any Repack clunker.

    Thanks to the pioneers of all stripes who made this possible!

  6. To CC – Thanks for your genius, your humility, your grace.

    To CK – Thanks for smearing your ego, your selfishness, your undeserved self importance across the internet.

  7. Regarding RR’s comment, an interesting question to ask in response would be, “Do modern mountain bikes owe more to klunkers or to CCPROTO?” I tend to think they resemble the latter more than the former. I’d ponder the current Joe Breeze Lightning as a concrete example.

  8. I forgot a question I meant to ask CC: If you were to build another mountain bike for yourself, would you go with 26″ or 29″ (700c) wheels?

  9. Cyclocross bikes have 700c wheels.

    This bicycle was a first of its kind to show you all aspects of what a mountain bike could accomplish, something that took other bike designs a decade longer to achieve. The components were so advanced and beautifully engineered that they still have significance today, and CC continues to improve these original designs.

    Growing up in Nebraska I never gave a second thought to cruisers or klunkers, but I knew something special was going on with Charlie’s bicycles. So special that hey have occupied my thoughts for more than half my life. Later this year I will be riding around on new CC technology that has all its roots in this CCPROTO, and is still valid and inspiring.

    I thank Charlie for his past and continued evolution of the most wonderful machines, and both Jacquie and Charlie for being such true ambassadors of the mtb.

  10. Both Repack bikes and CC’s bikes were unique and important, no doubt, but CC’s bikes were far more refined. He pioneered new technology, while Repack bikes adapted existing technology to suit the needs of riding a bike downhill. While Repack riders were learning to fit gears and brakes, Charlie seemed to have been designing new brakes and was heavily modifying and optimizing drive train parts, in addition to pioneering aluminum frame construction. 115mm front OLD, 136mm rear? This stuff was totally new. Thanks for this post Jacquie and Charlie. I love the experimental spirit of those times, some of which is alive with fatbikes these days. Charlie, in addition to Hal’s question, would you build with disc brakes? What is it about the fork that you built/designed that makes it comfortable, as the Type II is described by Steve Potts? Am I misled that a tapered blade and a low-radius fork bend provides superior comfort?

  11. This bike has changed a load of perspectives on my part. I have always admired the craftsmanship and intelligent design, And I daresay it tells a story that you still ride it!

    There are lighter bikes now, with more suspension travel;-), and this certainly is no allmountain bike for big drops. But it still rides.

    So, for my choice is on riding, I would ride it. Even though I now ride an allmountain hardtail. I built it with durability in mind, and so far it´s cheap to maintain.Having no money whatsoever means you´ll have to downsize even more, and that bike would serve for years with little maintenance.

  12. This is my first time seeing this drawing and reading this story following it.I am grateful for that.Discovering bikes for a second time,enjoying the Now as well as “back in the day”.What a cool world we live in and make.

  13. 2012 cc bikes = flat bars?

  14. When I saw my first mountain bike in a Taos, NM bike shop the summer of 1981, my whole perception of bicycling changed. I was smitten and I knew I needed one, but I was a poor student/bum. Not until 1986, after graduating college and teaching for a year in a 4-corners area school (and paying off two small loans), was I able to buy my first mtn bike in late October. I rode it everyday from the time I got home from work till sunset. On weekends I drove to the local mountains to ride in the trees.
    When the MLK weekend came in Jan 1987, and I drove up to Moab to check it out. That Sunday, I was one of only 6 riders on the Slickrock Trail. Three were locals out doing their own secret route. They intercepted me and a couple from Boulder, CO that I had hooked up with and chatted with us for a few minutes. One guy was on a Cunningham (you probably know who this guy was and which Cunningham # he was riding). My jaw dropped. I’d never seen such a cool looking bike. Still to this day, it is one of the neatest bicycles ever!
    BTW, my first mountain bike, a 1986 Trek 850, had many design influences that came directly from the Cunningham…primarily steep angles, short chainstays, and a Suntour copy of your brake on the chainstays.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: