Keith Bontrager started out as a motocross rider, working as a mechanic in his spare time to fund his racing habit. He was quite happy to carry on like this throughout most of the 1970s until he started to take an interest in mountain biking towards the end of the decade. In 1979 he built his first bike and spent much of the early part of the 1980s searching through scrapyards, looking for bits of broken bikes so that he could work out what had gone wrong and why and how he could improve upon the design. All of this brought about his mantra: ‘Strong, light, cheap. Pick two.’ Bontrager, the company, are not shy about the fact that their founder opted for the first two.
Nowadays the company is owned by Trek, although Keith still works with them on product design and testing when he’s not off testing himself in extreme endurance events. The company’s product range has increased a lot over the years and now Bontrager produce top-end brakes, handlebars, saddles, seatposts, stems, tyres and wheels. They also make and sell helmets, lights, bags, locks, pumps, water bottles, tools, baskets and computers. Bontrager’s range of technical clothing and accessories have a good reputation for performance and comfort, as does their apparel for commuters.
Bontrager sponsor and support a raft of athletes and teams in a number of events and disciplines. The Bontrager Pro Cycling Team features a number of promising young riders guided by Axel Merckx; they also sponsor or supply the Radioshack Leopard Trek team, the Trek / K-Swiss Triathlon team and the Trek World Racing team.