bmxultra.com: Firstly congratulations on 30 years in business. 30 Years is an amazing achievement in any industry! BMX is a fickle business with some of the biggest names in BMX falling by the way side through those decades while you continued to motor on. Very few have driven forward for so long on the leading edge of technology, new materials and manufacturing techniques and just seems to continue to power ahead. It seems to be a risky way to run a business but it’s a testament to you, and your team, and a validation of the brand and it’s evolution over the years.
Bill Ryan: Thank you!! It seems like yesterday, honestly, 30 years is so long, but at the same time it goes by so quick. I still remember the day sitting in Power Plus Cycles, our bike shop we had, and drawing up the first drawing of the Supercross Frame. And it has been a very hard road, I have thought of giving up many many many times, and it always seemed just as I was ready to give up, someone would call and say thank you for building them the best bike they had ever ridden, or a rider would call to say thank you for the support and how much it meant to them, and it would give the fire that extra little bit of kindling it needed to keep the passion burning. But let’s face it, I am probably too stupid to leave BMX and love it way to much anyways, so I just got lucky to be able to do what I love.
About Bill Ryan (Let’s go back to where it all began)
Where were you born?
Wow Shane, you are going all the way back, but very cool! Chicago Illinois, I was a midwest kid. We drove out to California in 1972 and settled in a little town of Torrance, California. I got lucky with that one I guess. I got dropped right into the middle of BMX Mecca before anyone knew it was going to be.
What was your first experience with BMX?
I didn’t know it was BMX when I first discovered it, it was just having fun on your bike. I used to take my bike to the park and do typical kid stuff that 5 and 6 year olds did back then. You tear around the baseball field, powerslides, wheelies you know the basics, and one of the kids said he knew where there were some jumps in the old dump that they had filled in, so we used to go ride there and hit the jumps, and then they started grading some fields for new home construction and we built some jumps there, again, I didn’t know it was BMX, I just knew I was jumping my bike and having fun. Then one day my Mom started working for Donnelly publications. They had just started printing a new magazine called Bicycle Motocross Action Magazine. All my mom knew was that it was a bunch of kids riding their bikes and thought I might like it, I was hooked.
When was your first race?
My first race was in 1977, but I wasn’t racing a lot back then, I couldn’t afford it. Most of my time was there practicing and even then I would sweep turns in return for free practice.
Did you have any brothers or sisters that raced?
No, I had a step brother that tried racing a few times, but that was it.
When did you first start designing BMX products?
As soon as I saw the first Bicycle Motocross Action Magazine and started reading the bike tests, and how different bikes handled, I started thinking, and when I started breaking my bike I started dreaming of the parts I couldn’t afford, so I started drawing what I would want if I could build it myself. I think I was about 9 or 10 when I drew up my first frame. Full 1:1 scale on graph paper on my bedroom wall.
What was the first product you manufactured?
The first thing I ever made was a frame. I mean I messed around in the garage drilling out sprockets, sharpening pedal cages, but I was lucky enough after we moved from Torrance to Orange County to live down the street from the Elliot family, and Larry, was a fairly famous Hack racer, and his Father Ray owned Certified Metal products that made all the Laguna frames, and he let me weld up a frame on my own. I must of burned up so much tubing trying to built that first frame. But luckily I already had some experience working at SE stickering frames and sweeping floors and I would always watch the welders and listen and bug them, asking them questions about why they did things, and when I had a chance to do it on my own. It was awesome. I still have that frame. I don’t hold onto much, but I did hold on to that frame and a few other early ones. It’s a beast, 5 1/2 lbs. A tank for back in the day.
Did BMX ever affect your school results?
I would like to think that it affected it in a positive way. Luckily most of my teachers, once I got into High School, knew about my BMX obsession and I would bring in trophies from a race or a frame I designed, or something , and my English teachers would be cool enough to allow me to write essays on the race, and my geometry and algebra teachers were cool enough to help me figure out equations and most of the time, I already knew the way to figure out Diameter, Radius, etc… Rake, Trail, different things, all from BMX. But hey, I was different.
What was your first job in the BMX industry?
My first real job in the BMX industry was at SE racing, stickering frames, and sweeping floors, packing boxes, eventually graduating up to being able to get on the road to drive frames to heat treat, powdercoat, and then on to the phones. It’s funny, while I was typing this out to you, I had a call with Todd Lyons, and we got talking about old SE days. It’s funny, all these people think of SE as Scot Breithaupt, rest his soul, and he was the founder and the brains that got it started, but he was at SE for less than 10 years at the start, and Todd has been there for 17 years. Wow, that’s crazy.
Where did you go from there?
Well, I was at SE for a while, and then when we moved, I couldn’t work there any more, but I kept in touch, and I got a job being a sales rep for MOR distributing, which was Todd Huffman and Bob Morales company. I had just turned 16, and MOR was the distributor for SE, DYNO their own brand, A’me grips, and they were just starting Auburn. It didn’t last too long, and Devitt hired me to go back to SE. Then when SE closed up that time, I went to GT.
At what point did you decide that Supercross BMX was going to be a full time gig?
I don’t think there was ever a decision for that, it just happened. I had been working at GT for a bit, and some days I would quit and Richard would call and rehire me, or I would get fired and Richard would call and rehire me, it was crazy times back then. I was a punk kid that thought he knew everything about the BMX industry and thought it was simple, just make the best and everyone will want it. Period. (Sorry Rich RIP) Rich put up with a lot from me, more than he should have. Gary too. One day Pat and Doug Feazel who were the original Partners in Crupi stopped by and I almost quit GT to go to work for them, but they were in Simi Valley and I didn’t want to move, and I had just started getting TECH running as a side project, and Rich had just let Tommy ( Brackens ) go and Turnell came by and we were at lunch, and he was saying he needed someone to help run his shop, so I offered to do it, and I went back and quit again, and I started doing all the marketing for Tommy for his new BRACKENS frames, running TECH and helping Tuni with his La Palma Cycle Center store. So we were pretty busy.
And Supercross was one of the things that happened in the midst of all that, and started taking more and more time, and just became the monster it is.
Why did you make the move to Apple Valley?
Why? For my family. The air is clean, the schools are good, you get a good dollar value for your money on a house and land, crime is lower than in LA, and I can still run to the machine shops, welders, the ports, whatever is needed to be done.
You have your fingers in a lot of pies how do you find the time for Supercross, Speedline, Apple Valley BMX, Dream Studios, Legend Bike Co, and I’m sure I missed something?
I think the doctor call it mania, or attention deficit disorder. I joke of course, and I shouldn’t. The real reason is I just HATE sitting still. I hate not doing something, and if I find down time, I will find something to occupy the down time with. And I like solving puzzles. My puzzles and hobbies, just end up turning into businesses. And yes there are a few you forgot…. 🙂
What’s your favourite part of the design to manufacturing process?
Well, there are two parts I like the best, first the learning process of anything new, and mastering it. If we are going to do anything I want to make sure we do it proper and that we do it best, working with great companies like Torray, Easton and Tange have given me access to a ton of knowledge and it is always a crash course in engineering whenever we do something new. That is part one. And the second part is the rider input and the rider to engineering translation. Taking what the rider wants on the track and translating it to the material choice for the specified intention.
How have you learned such a diverse range of skills?
Anyone can have a diverse set of skills, you just have to be willing to learn. And want to learn. I honestly feel I haven’t learned enough. I still have a few degrees I want to go back to school and get, but I am spending my time running the businesses. Maybe I can do some online degree programs. Who knows.
What have you had to do to learn how a frame responds to forces and design it accordingly?
Trick question, which material are we speaking of? Each material reacts differently to the forces, Cro-moly, 6061 Aluminum, 7005 Aluminum, Titanium, and Carbon Fiber. They all react differently, and you have to design not only for the force that is applied, but for the reactionary force of the rebound energy that is released back. But honestly, paint it a pretty color, put a cool sticker on it, and you are done. No one really wants to know why a material responds or reacts the way it does. All they want to know is does it look cool!? So that is the hardest thing to learn, what is going to be the cool color next year. Whew.
What level of racing did you reach?
Well I was a mediocre expert. And turned myself up to A Pro when Billy Griggs turned up. But I never made a national main.
At what point did you quit racing?
Once I turned up, just to try to keep up with Billy at local tracks ( and I say keep up, but was never close enough that he knew I was there I am sure 😛 ) it was too much training, plus working at GT at the time, it was getting crazy. I started to get burnt out on BMX, and here was my passion and I was starting to lose the passion. So I quit racing and training and started riding just for fun. I told myself that if I was going to lose the passion, it wasn’t worth it. I really enjoyed riding, and I enjoyed working in the industry, but doing all of that, plus training for the racing just had me a bit burnt. So I learned a long time ago, that when you are tired, don’t quit, just take a rest, and that’s what I did. I never quit riding my bike, but took a rest from it all. And I can say I had more fun then just riding, and it rekindled the passion I always had for BMX.
Do you still ride BMX bikes now?
I can honestly say I do, but now it is big wheel ones. I have my 26” Supercross ENVY v5, and I also have a 29” Big Ripper and we are working on a 29” Supercross 30 year anniversary SX250. So they are not the 20” wheeled BMX bikes anymore, but they are still BMX bikes. And nothing beats going for a nice ride to clear your head.
Did any of your kids get into racing?
No, Lincoln my oldest, loved to ride, and when he was 8, started going to the track with Mikey Day, Bubba Harris and Randy Roberts as his “ coaches “ and he loved to ride, but never raced. Faith my oldest daughter used to practice crashing on her bike in the front yard to get ready for racing, but after a few times at the track decided it wasn’t for her, and my youngest, Tucker wanted to race, and loved going to the track, but after the first few times was the first of my kids to verbalize it, that at the track, because I own Supercross, Speedline and Apple Valley BMX, I was never able to be a “Dad” at the track as I would always be pulled in too many directions with parents wanting me to watch their kids, sponsor their kids, tell me what they hated about the track, etc and he took up soccer instead. He still loves riding and some of my favorite times are going for rides with him. Sierra my youngest daughter never seemed like she wanted to try, she was my musician, and has a beach cruiser, but never got into anything BMX.
What does 30 years of Supercross mean to you personally?
Honestly I hadn’t thought about it until someone said “Hey Bill, Thirty Years next year right? “ and I was like “Damn, I’m old”
How will you celebrate the 30th anniversary personally?
Wow, good question! I haven’t thought about it. I want to do a huge party at the playground, but with some of the stuff going on, it will probably be next year for that, but so far this year, I have been sending former team riders little care packages of retro jerseys, t shirts, etc… letting them know I appreciated the part of the team. I finished the design for the 30 year retro bobble head, it was cool, mini vans, open face, Oakley goggles, Tech leathers. I have the SX250 frames being built, I twisted TANGE’s arm and got them to make me some more custom prestige tubes, the 29” complete 6 bar design, some pad reissues. I’ve been just going back and doing some cool projects as well as a few projects to keep the line and team moving forward. So not sure if that really answers your question of what I am going to do, I guess just keep doing more of what we have always done.
Things have been a bit quiet on the playground front of late, is it still operational are there any regulars dropping in and using it? Do you have any future plans for it?
Yea, ever since the lawsuit with the city the Playground has been on the D/L. It was a 3 year legal battle and cost us 10’s of thousands, if not a 100 thousand dollars to defend against, and ultimately we won. In the name of Justice, case dismissed. But after that long period of time and money spent, the enthusiasm to get it rocking again has been a bit down, Kam and Felicia have both said they wanted to come out and ride, Bella rides it on occasion on her Mountain Bike, but it needs a few good weekends of getting it groomed and running again. But nothing to special at the moment, a bit depressing actually from where it was and what we hoped for, the lawsuit just sucked the wind out of my sails. And the dollars out of my wallet.
What’s your take on BMX racing in the Olympics?
Wow, loaded question…. We have been down this path before, and you know my takes on the Olympics have not been what a lot of others share. I would rahter see a great USA BMX national than an Olympic Race, but that is just me. Now for the riders that we support that have Olympic dreams, well guess what, the OLYMPICS are amazing, and I will do anything and everything to help them get there and achieve their goals, and I think if the people running the show really showcased it as was originally planned it would be a different story, but When you get 5 minutes of air time, and sometimes nly if you bought the stations GOLD package for the extended coverage, that is not doing anyone any good. Show me an hour packed with the qualifiers, the 1/8ths the 1/4’s the Semi’s the Mains and I am in, but the little bit of coverage we get here in the USA is pitiful. And unfortunately, there is no Media follow up , this last weekend for instance, we watched Round 9 and 10 of the UCI SX World Cups, the qualifiers basically for the Olympics, luckily BMXlive.tv is streaming them live on Youtube so we can see it all, and the racing was amazing, but here we are now a few days later, and I feel bad for the riders as there is no Media to help hype them up for what they have done. Not only for our own riders ( Felicia did amazing by the way!! 10 out of 10 mains, for the season, back to back podiums this weekend and a second overall for the season ) , but Laura Smulders, oh man, 19 out of 20 wins the last 2 years, cinched the World Cup Title, Where is the BMXplus! Magazine, the Twenty24, the Snap, the Transworld, the TWENTY or any fo the other Print Publications, unless you go hunting for the news, you aren’t going to know, and a lot of this has happened since the change of BMX Racing being announced for the Olympics back in 2004. Back then we had 3 Print Magazines on the News Stands, another 2 that the Sanctions were putting out, we had 2 TV Shows, multiple websites, quite a few non edemic co-sponsors, Mtn Dew, Chevy Tracker, Nintendo, Right Guard, Subaru, Hyundai, all companies still in business that have decided that BMX Racing wasn’t for them, and I think a lot of it is that for the OLYMPIC style of racing, it is country driven, and for instance, Felicia this last weekend, she wears her USA Uniform, not a Supercross Logo on it, no announcers mention of Supercross, ( they are not allowed to mention bike brands I am told ) so it makes it difficult. Where at a USA BMX race, she has her full Supercross BMX geear on, the announcers announce her as Supercross BMX’s Felicia Stancil, and it helps us, it helps co-sponsors that we can associate to the program, ( you may want to edit this down I know I am getting long winded ) We do still try to make sure that Felicia and all of our other Riders stand out, Felicia has her Signature colorway Purple ENVY BLK 2, Kam Larsen has his Matte Flame Blue, so even if they are wearing the USA gear, you can see the bike and the color and know who it is by our marketing that we pay for when they are in the Supercross BMX gear, but I think that the Olympics just helped further splinter the BMX Race Program down to an even smaller sliver than it was rather than help it grow.
Now with all that said, I have spoken to some people in other countries ( outside the USA where I am in my bubble ) that say the Olympics has been a huge BOON to their BMX racing programs, that the countries are behind the riders, they have non edemic Sponsors ( I saw GULF Oil on Niek Kimmann’s Leathers in Argentina, that’s HUGE ) So maybe my view from my bubble is a bit off from the rest of the world, Maybe it is a great thing for BMX and I don’t know it or see it. Regardless it’s BMX racing so it has to be great!!!
Would you say it’s helping the sport grow?
In the USA, I don’t think it is helping the sport grow, but outside the USA, I hear it is, so I hope it is.
How important is grass roots BMX to the future of the sport?
The future of BMX depends upon the grassroots. If we don’t have new upstarts the sport will eventually die. That is with everything. Look at what they say with ROCK music, they say less and less kids are learning to play guitar, it is all electronic beats and computer generated, guitar sales are down, look at Motorcyles, Harley is talking about shutting down plants and operations as people are not buying motorcycles, heck even cars. They say kids don’t want to get their licenses anymore. So all things, not just BMX count on the grass roots of whatever it is to move forward and grow. It is part of why I am excited with a few of the projects we have coming up that will directly effect the grassroots of BMX. Hopefully…
How many grass roots teams do you support?
Wow, trick question, I think at the current count its about 28 teams. I know it sounds like a lot, but when you spread that out around the world, it really isn’t. But we really like to help our supporting shops and their teams and help give back to the local programs. We used to have many many more that we helped, but they have all started up frame companies of their own and started their own teams now.
What do you think of the state of Pro/ Elite racing right now?
Wow, loaded question again,some of the best racing ever, I don’t think it has ever been faster, or less appreciated. I love watching the Pro’s I truly do. I love watching BMX in general. But I personally think that the media need to create the hype around the Pro’s and make them into hero’s again and the Pro’s need to be those hero’s. It’s part of what will help that Grass roots to grow. Luckily we have some great people on our team that understand that. Felicia, KJ, Kam, and Makieva all do a great job of it, and who can forget Bubba. The real Peoples’ Champ.
Do you think the sport will ever be able to support pro racing again like it had in the early days?
I would love to say yes, but the thing is we need to get more riders out there on bikes and we need to get more bikes and parts sold, and more eyes on racing. It is so funny, everyone thinks that everyone should be paid these huge salaries etc… and rightfully so, BUT, it all comes down to economics, and in the current economy of there being that you have someone who starts up a team and a company, and puts 20-30-40 kids on a team, and sells them all frames at cost and gets fly to sell them Uniforms at cost, and then they are a TEAM, a FACTORY team at that, all of a sudden, that is 40 frames less being sold to the ridership, do that 60 times and that is 2400 less frames going into the market. And in a market where it is down to only 10-11,000 riders and over half of them are sponsored, you quickly see why no one can afford to help anyone the way it used to be. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the entrpenuaralship of starting a business, I would be a hypocrite if I told someone not to, I started Supercross 30 years ago and I was the thorn in the side of Redline and GT, and Haro back then, But we were trying to do it right, we had a small team, 3-5 riders typically, we gave them bikes, we gave them uniforms, parts, paid entry fees, we tried to do it the right way for SPONSORSHIP. But also times have changed, back then we had 2500 shops in the USA that actually stocked BMX racing frames, we could sell 100 frames a month and be considered an “Ant” as Chris Moeller once called us. Bottom line is that if we want to support the riders and the sport the way it used to be, we need more riders on bikes, and more riders buing parts and enjoying the sport, we need them to tell a friend, and help grow the sport. At this point I hate to say it, but it is a Hobby for most. When it really should be a career. Look at the companies that have abandoned the BMX racing scene, because it was or is too small….. I don’t really want to put them on blast, but Maxxis used to support the riders well, and now they don’t even make BMX tires for the race Scene. Kenda doesn’t, those are a consumable part of BMX, a part that gets used and rebought… and they can’t stick around? Come on.
If there was one thing you could change about BMX racing immediately, what would it be?
One thing, only one…. Five Million kids on public BMX Race tracks at every city park in every town. , no can I change that, 10 million kids…. Every city park has Baseball Diamonds, Soccer Fields, why not a BMX race Track….
Once we have the number the rest is easy. Then we can have a Beginner League, we can have a USA BMX series, we can have a pro Series, we would have true Fans, kids who want to see the Pro’s race. Every National would be like grands. Or Bigger…
About Supercross BMX
What’s Supercross’s exact “birth date”?
Funny, gOrk asked me that exact question at the USA BMX Winternationals and I can honestly say I don’t know. We had TECH running back in 1986 and in 1989 we were trying to get a Bike Sponsor for the TECH team, Billy Harrison, Brian Lopes, Glen Pavlosky, and Bogi Givens and couldn’t get anyone to help us out with bikes. We had heard that ELF made a batch of Boss’s that Boss had rejected for bad chrome, and I suggested that we buy those and sell them to help fund the team a little. We got a few and Billy hated it, and we were doing gate starts behind the shop and I was watching the frames flex over so bad that I drew up the first Supercross BMX secondary Seat Stay design. I think that was late May, or Early June. I think gOrk and I decided that we would call it June something or other. I know he said June 19th, 1969 is the official birthday of BMX, and that the official birthday of Supercross is pretty close to 20 years later.
When you started Supercross did you ever expect that you would still be here 30 years later and still be relevant and winning awards for bike of the year?
No, never. I never even expected that we would have a frame company. The idea for Supercross was really just to build the best products for our race team and to have a few left over to sell to the public to keep the team going. And 30 years later it is still the same way. Would I think we are still relevant, sure, when you are doing nothing but trying to ensure you are building the best for your team of riders I would hope we are relevant, and I hope in another 10-15-20 years we are still relevant. As the sport progresses, as the riders progress, I will progress with it.
What do you think you would be doing now if you didn’t take the plunge and kick off Supercross?
Well when I was working at GT I was going to college for Pre-law and had every intention of becoming a lawyer like my grandfather was, but I was craving to go to engineering school and become an engineer. And I was hanging out with a bunch of rock and roll derelicts, so who knows where I would of ended up. But I can assure you it would of been fun, but I am super happy with where the road has taken me.
What is the one product you have created that you are most proud of?
That is a loaded question, it’s like asking what child is your favorite. When we built the very first SX250 I was super proud of that, then when we started doing our Aluminum AMX series I was super proud of those, and the S7, oh man, talk about a frame ahead of it’s time, and that led us to the ENVY, which in it’s 10 years of existence I don’t think anyone has been able to build a lighter / stronger frame, and of course that gave way to the ENVY BLK our carbon version which I am super proud of, and then of course for fun, we have the cromo SX450 “Fun Machine” it isn’t a zillion dollar technological wonder, but a 3lb cro-mo race frame that Bubba can race and take to the skatepark is pretty cool.
Which product was the most complex, time consuming and expensive?
The ENVY BLK for sure. Without question. There is more R&D time, testing, mold costs, etc… involved in that than anything we have ever done. There are cheaper ways to do a Carbon Fiber frame, but not a better way, and at the end of the day, I want to be proud of what we put the Supercross name on, like I said earlier, it was never a goal to have a bike company but to build the best products for our race team, and you don’t cheap out when you are building the best.
How much of the manufacturing process have you been involved in over the years?
When we first started I used to cut tubes, miter tubes and weld the frames, I have done everything from picking up the tubing all the way thru to stickering and boxing. So I have, over the 30 years, touched every step of the MFG process. Ran the lathe to make headtubes and BB’s CNC’d dropouts, aligned frames on the Alignment table, dunked them in the ano tanks, fit them into the heat treating fixtures, powdercoated them. I haven’t actually done the Chroming myself, but almost every other step over the last 30 years at some point. From the design to the stickering and boxing and everything in between.
What’s your take on Carbon Fiber?
Is that a trick question??? Everyone knows that for years, I was one of the biggest opponents on the carbon movement. We had tried it and seen first hand the catastrophic results. But once we started working with Toray in 2010/2011 and saw the new resins, new materials, the way that it would withstand the abuse and be lighter, stiffer, stronger, we were sold…hesitant…but sold. We started with Forks, and then worked our way into Frames, Cranks, Rims, and eventually more…..
Why is it so expensive?
Everyone thinks that carbon is expensive just for the sake of being expensive, but that is not the case, the biggest thing is the amount of hand labor that goes into making a Carbon fiber frame. The lay up is very time consuming to do it right. Packing the molds, the finish work, not to mention the actual cost of the Tools, ( Molds ) EPS liners, the Carbon Cloth, the Resin, it is a very expensive media to work in.
Why do you think Carbon handlebars for the big guys never took off?
A few things, price, it is a huge issue for people to pay $400 for a nice set of carbon forks, and I don’t think people would want to pay that for a great set for carbon bars. There is also a ride issue, a bend issue, where not everyone wants the same bend or ride, and in cro-mo or aluminum it is easy to bend up different bends and rises, but in carbon it is separate molds for each size and bend which gets even more expensive. And lastly, I have been told by a few riders that they are TOO STIFF and it transmits too much jarring effects and vibration directly back to your wrists. They are great for the extra pull out of the gate, but jump landings are something different.
Why is the product range limited to a sub set of the RS7 sizes?
As far as Subset, so the readers understand, you are mentioning why not a full 17 size run of carbon fiber frames like the ENVY RS7, and it is simple, cost. When you make a carbon fiber frame there are very very expensive molds and tools that need to be built, and those cost tens of thousands of dollars, some of the first sets were over $100,000, if you are doing it right. And you have to look at, OK, say I spend $60,000 USD on a tool, how many frames do I have to sell to break even on the tool, and how long will it take. Some sizes, like our Micro frame, we only make 30 pcs a year in Aluminum, it would take us 20 years to pay back that tool. It doesn’t make financial sense. But… Would I want to build the most bad ass Carbon Micro in the world, of course. There are ways around the expensive Steel tools, but it doesn’t build a great frame, and I want to make sure that everything we build is always the best. I love getting calls from our customers that LOVE our product, it helps fuel the fire. And I wouldn’t ever take a short cut for them.
What are the advantages/benefits of alloy frames?
Largest benefit of Aluminum over Carbon is size selection and Cost. But Aluminum is amazing when it is done right as well. The RS7 is as close as we could get to a Carbon frame is stiffness and launch, it is still a little heavier, but is still one of the, if not the, lightest Aluminum frame on the market.
What makes the RS7 different to other alloy frames?
Wow, loaded question, aside than we have over 25 years building Aluminum frames, that’s when we did our first AMX frame, was about 25 years ago, and we were late to the Aluminum game as well as we wanted to make sure we were building the best. We also spend a lot of money on custom tube dies and use a special method to taper and butt the tubes so we can make sure that the proper wall thicknesses are maintained, unlike a hydroformed tube. We also use a higher grade material than most of the other Aluminum frames on the market, a 7005 ULR tube, and perform extra steps in between the Annealment, and the Final Heat Treat that maximizes the straightness for the frame, not to mention giving it a tougher final product.
Where do you see the next step in the evolution of the ENVY frame?
Well I could tell you, but then I would have to kill you. 🙂 Seriously there are many things that will eventually evolve, and it will be a situation where the market has to be ready to accept the changes, but there is something I would love to do on the Aluminum frames, but it is too cost prohibitive. And that’s coming from someone that has more invested in our Carbon Fiber Tools than my house. But eventually the cost may trickle down and the market will be ready. It does no one any good for me to build a $3,000 Aluminum BMX race frame right now. The technology would be great, but the BMX market isn’t ready to accept that where the MTB or Road Market is.
Is it possible to keep getting lighter and stronger? Surely there’s a limit?
There are always limits, and I think we have a pretty good plateau right now, but that’s what they said 12 years ago when we introduced the S7 and the ENVY. People were not ready to have that plateau crashed. I think we will see that happen again soon. But I am not sure how drastic it will be.
Why do you think people still ask for cromo frame options?
Ha, up until a few years ago, no one asked for them I did them because I love cro-mo, but it was tough to sell 100 frames a year in Cro-mo. Unlike the 4,000 Aluminum ones. But for us old guys, cro-mo is way easier on old ankles and knees and let us old guys ride longer and in less pain!! Ha!! But it is neat seeing a few of the elites and old pro’s who also ride skateparks and trails want to get on cro-mo race bikes now.
What is it about cromo that keeps it relevant (even if it is to a smaller segment of the race market)?
Honestly it isn’t relevant. I wish it was, but it is a super micro niche. If I had to put an educated guess out there, all of our cro-mo frames in all sizes, all of S&M’s cro-mo race frames, and all of Standard’s cro-mo race frames, in all sizes – for a full year – don’t add up to all the aluminum Pro XL frames we will do in a few months. I could be wrong, and I don’t know Chris or Rick’s numbers but looking at the market and listening to what our dealers say and knowing what our sales are, it is just a cool thing, it is not relevant.
When you released the latest cromo 450z with the Tange Prestige tubing the weight ended up being lighter than many alloy frames. Do you think that you can continue to go lighter?
The Tange Prestige frames were awesome. We had done Tange Ultra Strong frames for Todd Steen, Todd Lyons and a few other team riders back in 91’ – 92’ era, but no one was ready to pay $400 for a cro-mo frame back then. They were sick though, I wish I had one still. But I think that cro-mo has hit a plateau as well, and that technology is a lot older, and with the way cro-mo ages and work hardens, I don’t think we can go too much lighter and have it be reliable. And rideable. Part of why aluminum and carbon started getting looked at. There is a physics and a science to the materials as much as you want to fight it, there are certain things that you can’t fight, and physics is one of them.
Do you think that light weight cromo frames will see the return of cromo among the elite crowd and the wider BMX race audience?
No, I don’t. On a cro-mo frame, you gain the subtle suspension feel in the frame, it is easier on your knees and ankles as we discussed, your back suffers less, but it is not as stiff out of the gate, it will not accelerate as fast as aluminum or carbon. And when the elites are worried about .001 seconds, for them to go to cro-mo is foolish, unless you are THAT GOOD of a rider and can really RIDE the bike, but I think the days of TOP Elites winning on cro-mo is over…at least for now. Things do change and evolve. But at this point, I think cro-mo is great for the local rider, the occasional racer or as a dual purpose race / tails machine. Heck Bubba races his and hits the dirt Jumps and the skatepark, all on one bike, and he did come real close to beating Tyler in Phoenix, but he was out there to have fun. Had he really went in with a WIN at all cost mindset, he would of put together his ENVY BLK and laid fire down the start hill, instead, he smoked the start hill, and did sick whips around the track with a HUGE smile on his face and stepped up on the podium in the second spot both days.
Do you have a list of names for all the riders on the Supercross pit tent walls?
Whew, the Pit Wall doesn’t have 1/2 of the names. I tried to make a Web page for the team history, but it is so incomplete. https://www.supercrossbmx.com/blogs/news/the-history-of-the-supercross-bmx-race-team I need to edit this too.
What’s your thoughts on disc brakes, they seem to have some real traction but are they necessary?
I have said it many times before, Disc brakes are over kill for BMX, BUT, it is going to be the future. Mountain Bikes, Road Bikes, City Bikes, they all are going to disc, and the parents are wanting it, but I still think it is over kill. We have seen the Disc brakes come and go at least 5 times in the last 30 + years, but this time it looks like it will finally stick for a bit.
I’ve heard of standard horizontal dropouts opening up with the forces from adapted disc brakes is this something that SX riders should be aware of?
Yeah, I have seen a few, luckily none of ours. But a lot of the Disk Brake adapters put a huge stress on the dropout compared to the stays of the frame. And many of the dropouts on the market can’t handle that extra stress. There are a few good adapters on the market, but everyone needs to be aware that if the designer was building the frame properly, the area of braking stress it was designed for was the seat stays. So unless the dropouts were designed to handle that force, you could be in a dangerous situation. The RideMISC adapter seems to be pretty good as it has those anti rotation pins to help dissipate the stress over the entire dropout.
What do you think of OS20 and why have you only ever built 3 OS20 frames?
OS20 is cool, but I think it is an answer to a question that wasn’t asked. I watched when it first came out and saw Mikey Day doing the testing, and saw that the few that were trying to do it, never made headway. Even now, YESS who was trying to champion the OS20 has back pedaled and now has a frame that is a regular 406 ( 20×1.75 ) rear wheel and an OS20 ( 451 ) front wheel. So they are saying that the rear OS20 isn’t as fast as the 20×1.75 for current BMX racing, I don’t know, I know MTB has the 27.5 and the 29” now, and options are cool, but why mess with something just for the sake of messing with it. If it was a better technology, then rad, but we already have 24” cruisers, and the OS20 just seems to split the middle. And I don’t think we need a 3rd wheel size for BMX. Maybe someone should try the old RRS style of 16” rear and 20” front again.
And why did we only make 3? Well, 3 was enough to know that we weren’t going to be making production runs of them. We could, we have the tooling now, and it was a fun experiment, but if you put a 20×1.95 or a 20×2.0 on your back, you are getting close to the same effect as the OS20 without the expense of a new frame, new wheels, etc… And I know that it is not exactly the same, but close enough to have fun with.
Can OS20 be retro fitted to standard 20″ SX frames?
It is not designed for it, and it throws off the geometry with the higher BB, but I have seen a few of people successfully do it.
What do you think will be the next “big thing” for BMX racing?
Uh oh let me get out the crystal ball here and see. No, I am joking. I don’t know what will be the next BIG THING, everyone keeps saying Disk Brakes are the future and that you HAVE to have them, but yet in Las Vegas at the USA BMX national last weekend there were 299 motos or about 1700 riders, and I would say that a good 1650 of them were still using V-brakes. Everyone talks about the OS20 now, and out of that 1700, maybe 3 were on OS20 if that. There are so many things people are trying, BB92, PF30, Disk, OS20, so far they all seem like answers to questions no on asked yet. The next big thing will be the thing that best answers a need or question that affects everyone. So your guess is as good as mine.
Do you think that tubeless tires are going to have a big future?
Tubeless tires are doing great in MTB as people want to air down and solve the pinch flats on tubes, but with BMX racing, that isn’t a problem, we want higher pressures for less rolling resistance. And if there becomes a better selection of tires, I think the market will blow up. It is a bit finicky the first time you do it, and you have to make sure the rim is tubeless compatible, and that you are running a good sealant like a Stans.
I noticed the Speedline carbon rims are tubeless ready, what tires will they work best with?
Yes, the Speedline Rims are Tubeless ready, we are always trying to think forward to make sure that anything we make will work with current and future technologies. We tried a few DTH and a few powerblocks on them, but haven’t been super happy as they are not tubeless tires and don’t seem to hold pressure long. We did test it with a set of Alienations and they held pressure well, but the riders are not excited about the tread. So as above, I think it will be better when more companies start to adopt the tubeless tire technology and create beads etc… to work with the rim standard like Mountain and road.
Who are the biggest collectors of Supercross products that you are aware of?
Another good question that I have no answer for you. I know there is a guy in Texas that has been collection the S7 frames, he has 1 of each size. I know there is a guy in Washington that has 2 of the Original Carbon frames, a guy called the other day claiming he had some of the Original Strong Arms, but I don’t know, I asked for pictures, but haven’t seen them yet. Good Question.
What’s the craziest thing that anyone has asked you to build for them?
Whats the Craziest I have been asked to build, or the craziest we have built…. 2 different questions. And honestly I don’ t know if I can remember, we have been asked to make all kinds of things. But typically we keep it to ourselves and our designs.
What is the single Supercross creation that you are most proud of?
Wow, that’s a crazy question. There have been so many great things. Obviously when we did the first SX250 frame, we were super proud of that. Then when we used the 6013 and 6063 Aluminum on the AMX250 frames, that was a huge leap compared to the common 6061, then when we did the UL, the Air Hardened triple butted cro-mo frame, that was a huge jump, then the S7, wow, talk about a super frame built with a Scandium Alloy blend, which lead to the ENVY and of course the ENVY BLK, trying to pick just one is a crazy thing to do. Not to mention all the parts, the Carbon hubs, the Cranks, the Bodyless hubs, stems, etc.
What’s the rarest, most sort after Supercross product?
Funny, I don’t know. I know the original Cro-mo StrongArm Cranks there were only 5 sets ever built. The Bodyless mini hubs, those were super cool, but we only built 3 sets of those. I get more calls for the Padsets than I ever thought we would, the original Carbon frame still seems to be a hot commodity… I honestly don’t know. I don’t think about it much.