Bontrager effectively began in 1965, when then 12 year old Keith Bontrager began fiddling with bicycles. At 16, he began racing motocross, funding his own bike racing by throwing newspapers and by repairing motorcycles. As an early hobbyist, he even built mini-bikes using lawnmower engines. Bontrager won several national road racing titles in 250GP road racing and had a successful junior career.
Up until 1981, Bontrager designed, built and tuned both motocross and motorcycles for road racing, machines that were raced at national and world championship level. His interest in the world of motocross were beyond just racing, as he got more immersed in the world of bike parts and making modifications. For example, Bontrager made some notable improvement on motorcycle suspension systems around this time perid.
It was 1978 when Bontrager first got into bicycling. A year later, while he was in his college years, he designed and built his first road bike frame, which led him into road racing. So Bontrager started with road bicycles, but it was a more natural evolution that his motocross background would lead him into the burgeoning world of mountain biking. Keith built a mountain bike in 1980, and that shaped his future. "Fat tire bikes made it possible for me to ride on trails, which I liked, without the noise, complexity, cost and environmental impact of motorcycles, all of which I'd grown to dislike over the years."
So it was in 1980 that Keith formed Bontrager Cycles in Sunnyvale, California. He had studied physics as USC, so Bontrager was aptly prepared to apply what he had learned to bike building, and eventually to bike parts. Bontrager started out building custom road, mountain, tandem, and track frames as well as the accessories to go with these bikes.
In 1984, Bontrager really made a splash on the bike scene with several innovations. He came up with "cut down rims", a style of bike rims that were a precursor to what our modern day lightweight off-road rims. He was a bike researcher, publishing many bike technology articles, such as one regarding the effects of TIG welding, or another categorizing flaws of tube sizing methods in use at the time. Bontrager in 1987 designed and patented the "composite" fork crown - to this day, it remains the most prevalent suspension design.
It was in 1992 that Bontrager Cycles enjoyed a substantial growth, expanding from a one-man custom bicycle frame shop that tinkered with bike parts to a limited production facility. Three short years later, Trek Bicycle Corporation acquired Bontrager, and immediately hired Keith as president.
Bontrager Wheelworks achieved a notable milestone in 2003 when Bontrager was made the official wheel supplier for Lance Armstrong and the United States Postal Service Cycling Team. Keith got to see his wheel design innovations from so many years prior come to fruition, as the USPS team road his wheel design in the biggest bike races in Europe and the world.
But Keith wasn't done yet! In 2004 he invented Tubeless Ready Technology. This is a bike tire and rim mating system that starts with tires with a tubeless bead and then incorporates lightweight tire casings. Then a rider adds Bontrager sealant, which results in a setup that can run low tire pressures on lightweight tires. The end result being - less concern about getting flat tires.
In recent years, Keith participates in 24 hour mountain bike races, always with an eye toward creating new bike products. The company web site is Bontrager.