Interview: Supercross BMX's Bill Ryan

20 Years of Supercross BMX Wow, 20 years of Supercross BMX this year huh? How does that make you feel?
Bill: Yep, 20 years this year. How does it make me feel? Rad! For 20 years we have been able to put out the best BMX Racing products we can and enjoy some time in the dirt with our friends. Did you ever expect to be still running after all this time?
Bill: I never expected this to become a business at all. If you remember when we started Supercross we were just trying to build the best frames we could for our race team, and sell a few extra to pay for the racing. We have just been lucky to do what we love to do for as long as we have. It hasn’t been easy, but I can’t imagine doing anything else. It's a lot of hard work to keep a smaller BMX company going, what is it that motivates you?
Bill: What motivates me??? I guess I am just a bike geek and we have a passion for racing and riding our bikes and I am always trying to find a way to make it funner and to offer an advantage. It is that little voice in the back of my head that says, you can make it faster or better, what if you change this, or change that. So I guess it is the drive for innovation and change. That and it is rad to hear from the riders and fans about how much they like and appreciate the product. Who is the biggest influence over the way you design and develop products?
Bill: I don’t think there is just one influence. I try to grab from everywhere and everything. I do know I am a Bike Geek and I get real involved and over think all the little aspects of the bike design. I want the tubing just right , the butted transitions the proper way, even if it is just an extra 5mm here or there, I want it the right way. I look at all the road stuff, the mtb stuff, the street stuff, the surf market, skateboards, Music, life in general. And once I have an idea we try to refine it for it’s need and the rider or riders involved. Always trying to give them the extra advantage, the extra edge. And of course the cool style to go with it. And it makes it easy when you have style kings and queens on the team to tell you what they think right off the bat. With Kris and Courtney living close they come in the office and I show them a few things, if they like it rad, if not we redo. And Samantha is always an e-mail away for the same. What sets Supercross aside from any other brand?
Bill: Good question, we don’t really try to compare ourselves to the other brands too much, on occasion we have to and we have to be aware of what is out there, but we really try to do our own thing with our brand and products. We just want to build the best BMX stuff available hands down.

Frames The Supercross frames have come a long way in the past 5 years.
Bill: I think that comes with being a bike geek. We are always looking at the bikes trying to figure out how to make it better. I always look for an advantage for the riders, whether it is for better power transfer, better handling or something as simple as a better way to hold the brake cable or to lower the saddle further on the street frame to do better hang 5’s. There is always something to be done. The UL evolved into the R-CR and now to the Bolt, why do you keep developing a cromo frame in a world dominated by alloy alternatives?
Bill: Yes the UL is a great frame, and in the mind of progression, it evolved into the R-Cr when Aaron Johnson was on the team. He loved the UL, but wanted an Integrated Headtube so we built a few prototypes got Aarons feedback, with the taller headtube we ovalized the tubes to get a taller weld area at the headtube to support the headtube. We did the R-Cr for 2 years, and when it was time to freshen it up again with a tapered rear stay, the lower built in Seat post clamp back to round on the top tube it was renamed the BOLT LT. Still this whole time it is the same lively Air Hardened Triple Butted Ultra Light Tubeset that we started with on the UL. And yes it is a race world dominated by Aluminum, but we love the ride of a great cro-mo frame as do many riders out there and we never want to forget our roots and with the BOLT LT you get a Cro-mo frame that is as light or lighter than many of the Aluminum frames out there. Many manufacturers claim they have the lightest race frames in the world, but the lightest I have ever seen in the SX Scandium frame, can you give us some background about how the S7 came to be?
Bill: When we first heard that BMX was going to the Olympics and that Samantha was going to be one of the one’s going we started researching how to give her any and every advantage that was allowed in the Olympic rule book. Part of it was that the riders had to ride a production bike that had been on the market for at least 2 years prior to the gate dropping in Bejing. Obviously they did not stick to this rule but we were already thinking back then of how to build the ultimate BMX frame. I was familiar already with the Easton tubing and Billy Griggs and I had a few conversations about things and we contacted Easton and they were not super eager to work on a BMX project, but after a bit of a talk about the project they got real excited as Easton has an Olympic Heritage that goes back to the start of Easton in the early 1900’s making custom Arrows for the Olympics. At that point their hot material was Scandium and after learning about the material and building a few prototypes to see how it held up in real world situations we were hooked. I mean if Randy Roberts can use it for his backyard trails and racing for a couple of years without stress we had to be on the right track. Then we just kept refining tube shape to eliminate stress and to add strength and the S7 was born. The latest alloy frame to come out of SX is the Envy, replacing the S7 and the G6e, will it still be a similar weight to the S7?
Bill: Yes the ENVY is our new high end Superframe. All the technology we have learned during the S7 and G6e years all funneled into the latest and greatest. And with the new lower profile and the Easton ULR ( Ultra Light Race ) double heat treated tubeset we are within 50 grams of the weight of the older S7’s. But we could of shaved that off by going with a traditional headtube, but the riders wanted the Campy Integrated style so we gave them what they wanted. And when you look at the weight of an S7 with a Chris King Headset and an ENVY with a FSA Impact the weights are the same. And at half the Price. I noticed a significant price difference between the S7 and the Envy do you expect that would mean a lot more people riding on SX frames?
Bill: We have always wanted to build the best, but we don’t want it to be unobtainable. And the price has been a factor on the S7’s where they were just out of the price reach for the average rider. Heck they were too expensive for us to build to even put the whole team on them. They really were the extreme. Now with the ENVY we have most of the Pro team on them already Kris, Samantha, Kenth, Courtney, Jimmy, Amelie, Kurt, Anders, Huber and now that we are building up the ENVY’s in the smaller sizes, Mini, Jr. Expert, Expert XL, and Expert XXL the smaller riders on the team will be up on the new ENVY’s as well. This could be the Superframe for everyone as it is within a reasonable pricepoint. And is actually cheaper than many of the frames with less technology that are heavier and not as efficient with power transfer. If you were to build a bike for yourself would you go for alloy or cromo? Why?
Bill: Well Shane, I am going to tell you my current ride is an older Cro-mo UL XXL but I am going to build up one of our new BOLT LT’s to replace it soon. The reason I go for Cro-mo is that I am old. I started racing long before most of today’s current pro’s were even born. And after 3 knee surgeries from crashing on my bike I have no cartilage and meniscus in my right knee and I like that little bit of resilience in the cro-mo frame. Now if I was going to get serious about racing I would forego the little bit of extra comfort of the cro-mo frame for the extra launch and power transfer of the aluminum, but that is not going to happen anytime soon.

Parts Since our last interview you have branched out further into parts, what drove you to expand the product range?
Bill: Yes, we knew that in order to expand the brand we needed to add parts to the line. And the part sales have been going well and are really being accepted well. Tell us a little about the following parts
Stems -
Our Racerhead series of stems are rad, we actually had quite a few of them over at the Olympics and they are a cool piece of CNC’d aluminum with a unique front clamp that we started using years ago that was modified and brought back for the re-introduction of our stems. They are real light and real strong and just do their job. The Top Loads are available in a 45mm, 55mm and 65mm length in 1 1/8” and in a 37 and 45mm in the 1”. We also have our new Racerhead FL which is a front load that is getting a lot of interest. And the anodized colors are pretty cool. Mikey B called the colors “WikiGnar”

Seats -
When we started doing the saddles it was more of an addition to the sticker kits on the frames to match up colors and offer a little more than then Plain Black or the crazy cartoon graphics that were on a lot of the saddles. The Saddles have really taken off and the new 2010 ones are very very cool.

Hubs -
We did our first hubs back in 94’ and they were nothing really unique we had JP Products make their hub for us with just a different window design. So after we made 100 pair of them we decided not to do that anymore, it was just a me too product and that was not what we wanted to be. So we had a few riders on the team blow up another brands cassette hubs in between the spokes on the shell behind the cassette. It was real weird so we pulled the cassette apart and looked at the shell design and the pawl design and went,” ahh this is crap “ and we sat down and drew up our own hub design, The first Cassette hubs we did looked like huge Coaster Brake style of shells and they were real loud sounded like 10 bee hives were chasing you because of the way we designed the internals of the shell. Mikey Day and Randy Roberts tested those for us for quite some time. The hubs were very deceiving because the body was so huge that everyone thought they were real heavy, but they weren’t the shell was hollowed out so they were really very light. So after a few years of testing and knowing they were reliable we changed the shell shape and put them into production. The first ones we did used the track gear style of thread on gear, but after finding out just how much of a pain those are to remove the cogs from we switched back to the splined driver with lock ring that Shimano made so popular years ago. We have a range of anodized colors along with the Black and White Powdercoat.

Tires -
Tires... that was a huge project. When we first started working on the Blue Streaks most tires were a tall tread for racing or had heavy sidewalls for street riding. So we spent quite a bit of time and designed up a low profile treaded racing tire that has a full round casing and a lightweight sidewall. We have continue to advance the Blue Streak to the level it is today by refining the durometer of the rubber compound to keep them sticky but still have low rolling resistance and the new Kevlar beading further reduces the weight and allows for higher pressures to be ran. For non paved tracks this is still the best tire out there as it works wet or dry and the track can have some loose an it and it will still hook up. A lot of trail riders are even using the 2.125’s as it is a fast tire that will handle imperfections. We are working on a new one specifically for Paved Corner tracks as well so keep your eyes peeled. Currently the Blue Streaks are available in a 20x1.5, 20x1.75 and 20x2.125 in the 20” sizes and a 24x1.75 for the Cruiser.

Cranks -
With the Cranks, that was always part of the original plan. When we decided to build our own frames 20 years ago the plan was to do a Frame, a Fork, a Bar and Cranks. The first generation StrongArms were built after a pair of LRP cranks that Pistol Pete Loncaravich had shown up at the Orange Y on when he was riding for himself. It was a bent Cro-mo arm and just looked rad. The LRP cranks never went into production I think he only ever made 2 or 3 sets, but I always remembered what he said about them and liked his theory. So our first cranks used the leverage idea that Pete explained to me but instead of the set of two 5/8” round tubes stacked on top of each other it was a single 1” fork leg tube with a slight leverage bend. We only ever built 5 sets of those, and 1 of those sets went to Samantha’s Brother and New Zealand High Performance Coach Ken Cools. Well our welder could not keep up with Frames, Forks, and the Cranks so they got shelved for a while and we later redesigned them out of 7075 Billet Aluminum using a huge 1” diameter spindle. We sold a lot of those over a 5 year span and discontinued them in 1996 when everyone was buying up profiles for $100 a pair. So about 2002, we decided it was time to make cranks again and we came out with the new StrongArms, they were a 3pc Cro-mo Crank that used a Bone Type Stamping and welded on back plate. With our cranks the idea was always to make sure we had better power transfer. So when the Mega Exo BB came about we loved the 24mm spindle idea as it offers a better power transfer so we adopted the 2pc design to our StrongArms and introduced the Sinners. We are introducing a revised version this year that still uses the 2 pc Hollow Cro-mo bone shaped arm and removeable aluminum spider and they are very cool. It is definitely a Pro Crank and lets you put out a lot of power. And has the reliability of a Cro-mo arm and the adaptability of a removeable spider.

Chain rings -
The Cadence Chainrings were an extension of the Cranks, if you have a great crankset, you have to have a great chainring to go with it. We machine ours out of 7075 T-6 Billet so it is very strong and very light. We make them in a full size range from 36t to 46t. Another little machined piece out of Apple Valley, CA What about the complete bikes? What can people expect from them?
Bill: Wow the complete bikes have been a heck of a project, and is still proving to be with all the new CPSC laws and stuff. With the completes it is a learning curve with every step of the way to keep getting better and better with every year model. The 2010 bikes are way “Rad”, and we have added a bit to the line up this year. We had originally introduced the Icon Aluminum Race Bikes and they have been a great seller and a popular bike, heck the Mini even won the 2009 BMX Plus! Riders Choice award when they did the shootout, and it is returning this year with a little bit more fine tuning and a few more sizes with the new Micro, Expert XL and Pro XL, but we have now added our Sprint model which is a cro-mo framed entry level racer at a $279 USD price point and a new Mission Dirt/Trail bike. So the line keeps expanding, almost as if it takes on a life of it’s own. We even have a new 12”, a 16” and a real cool 26” BMX Cruiser that I think will surprise a person or 2.

CPSC and the BMX Industry How will the CPSC laws affect BMX and the sport going forward?
Bill: Depends upon who you speak to. Some people say we are being over zealous in trying to make sure we conform to the law, but the bottom line is that it is the law and it has to be adhered to. We have been speaking and e-mailing with the CPSC to try to get some stuff changed on the law, and the BPSA, TREK, GIANT and Shimano have all hired some big $$$ attorney’s and lobbyist in congress to try to fight the law, and at the current time it is all up in the air. With the new amendments and stays, there are still forms that need to be sent in, inventory and productions accounted for and the new labeling amendment. It has been pretty crazy with all of it, and with the new amendment my Attorney told me that it is like this “ They told you that you need to build a BOX by a certain day. But they don’t tell you what materials to use, the size, the color or anything about the box to build it “ So basically it is all up for interpretation still. We spent a lot of money testing our tires for the Phalates, they passed and now the Phalates don’t need to be accounted for, we spent a lot of money testing frames and forks for lead, but they put a stay on the fines and the certs we have are now not needed as we have to test each batch. Bottom line is that all the companies that are working on this are spending money and time trying to appease the US Government and that is all making the cost of goods rise as that cost has to be passed along. I also think it is stifling a lot of innovation and I only pray that the government takes a look at what they are really doing and decided to overturn the law. Is there anything people can do to help fight against the new laws?
Bill: Keep writing your congressman, your governor, there was that online petition, but I don’t think that they took it seriously. Some people are saying it is time for a revolution again, and I don’t think that it is truly time for a revolution, but I do think that they need to start thinking before acting. The bill that became law was well intentioned, it never meant to harm business or the economy or the kids sports, but the whole thing was a knee jerk reaction to a bad situation that does not really fix the problem. And always pay attention to what you vote for and know what you are doing with that vote.

The Olympics You must be very proud of Sammy Cools and her making the final at the Olympics?
Bill: We were proud of Sammy before she made the Olympic Main, but wow what a great thing for her to add to her bio as well as a wonderful way for us to have our products showcased. I just wish it would of turned out better for her with her being able to complete the lap for the main, rather than getting taken out with a crash over the first jump. Were there any other riders on a SX frame or other parts at the Olympics?
Bill: Ken Cools came by the shop and picked up a few of our stems and tires for Sarah Walker and Marc Willers, And Roger Rinderknecht bought some Forks Bars, and Stems for his bikes, but we really did not make a huge thing out of pushing the products on the Olympic Riders Now that the Olympics have come and gone, do you expect that there will be increased sales in Supercross products?
Bill: No, I don’t think that the Olympics really raised the awareness of the sport or the brands to the regular public. And our products are more of a performance orientated product where you only really know about our brand and products if you are at the track and racing. And I really don’t think the Olympics increased those riders awareness of the brand or the riders. I think those riders were stoked to see BMX at the Olympics even if it was for 5 minutes at almost 1:00 in the morning. I know many many people that stayed up to cheer for Sammy and Mikey and all of their favorite riders that they feel like they know from being at the Nationals and Clinics for so many years. What do you see as the biggest change to BMX post Olympics?
Bill: Well, I do see the country’s and the mass media taking our sport a little more seriously, but not as much as I would like to see. But I guess we are not going to become the NFL or the NBA over night. I would love to see it become a main stream sport with tons of spectators and BMX Specific Facilities that allow for 20,000 fans to come watch the races, but we are not there yet, and I think that everyone had so many high hopes pinned on the Olympics to do that and it did not happen. It eventually can and will happen with the right people steering the direction of the sport and I would like to be here and be one of those people taking our sport to the masses. If there was one thing you could change about BMX racing at the Olympics for 2012, what would it be?
Bill: Wow Shane, great question. The main thing is more TV and Media coverage, The riders need to get their press and attention that they deserve. The tracks have been being stepped up with the bigger jumps and more technical riding sections so that is good, hmm I will have to think about that one for a bit. There is no doubt that BMX racing in the Olympics is a great thing for the sport, but do you think that we are forgetting about the grass roots of BMX? There is a big difference between what Olympians ride and what a beginner can ride.
Bill: Yes, the Olympics in BMX is great, don’t get me wrong. And you are right the grassroots is what makes it grow, and I don’t think it is being forgotten, we own the Apple Valley BMX Moto Park BMX track which is an ABA Sanctioned track and we do a ton to develop the local program. When we took it over it had 5-6 riders and 2 motos, now we are at 50-60 riders and 12-15 motos every night. When we did our State Race for the ABA we had 50 motos of all local area riders and we did it up, we had food vendors, bike shop vendors, Yo Yo man, we had Pro Poster signings with Kris Fox, Nic Long and Mikey Brabant, we made it fun. Had the local radio station, the newspaper and it made me smile when Redman came up and said “dude, this is like a mini national, this is rad” and that is what it is all about, giving the local riders a show and a great time.

How to buy Supercross products Where can people buy Supercross Products?
Bill: We try to have as many dealers and distributors as possible, but BMX is such a splinter of the market, that not many shops like to stock it. So if your local dealer does not carry the product we do work with some great mail order outlets like J&R, and Dans Comp that stock the products to make them available, or you can always check if your local dealer does not stock the products you are after. I'm often asked where people can purchase SX parts, etc in Australia, what should they do since there's currently no distribution?
Bill: Yes, we have been working hard for a proper distributor in Australia, but we have been told that since we have such a broad product line now with so many colors and options it is hard for a Distributor to stock it all and do a good job with it. And that is actually a problem world wide. I guess that is why some companies only offer a single color or limited sizes of certain products. We are working on that though. In the mean time, there are plenty of great stores down there BMX Mad, Sun Coast, Skorpion Cycles, Beyond Bikes, amongst others that bring in product to have on hand for their local riders. And we do have plenty of people that still buy from as well.



Last updated: Saturday, June 26, 2010 11:17 PM