Bontrager was born of a genuine need for cycling equipment that would stand up to the elements and allow riders to push boundaries, advance the sport, and redefine expectations of quality. In the late 1970s, as a new style of mountain biking was beginning to garner enthusiasm across the country, Keith Bontrager— engineer, designer, physicist, mechanic, rider, and natural-born do-it-yourselfer—recognized the need for high quality parts that would hold up to the demands of off-road riding.
Bontrager, who had already made a name for himself in motorcycle racing when he started crafting handmade bicycle frames and components in his Santa Cruz, California garage, loved a good problem, and he found an endless supply of opportunities by dumpster-diving around Southern California bike shops, scrounging broken parts. Keith analyzed the failures to come up with better, more durable designs. His study of failure revealed a hard engineering truth: you can’t have it all—a lesson he summed up in classic Keith style: “Strong. Light. Cheap. Pick two.”
Keith chose strong and light, and earned his reputation building some of the strongest, lightest components around. Cheap, no. Best, yes. It was a no-compromise approach grounded in the understanding that value is much more than price alone. This principle guides Bontrager development today.
In 1995, Keith sold Bontrager to Trek Bicycle, freeing himself from the stresses and financial struggles of managing a business and allowing him to focus on what he does best: design and test bike components. Since then, the brand has established itself as a world leader in the development of the highest quality components, wheels, and apparel for all styles of riding.