gOrk has been involved in BMX for a number of years now. Most recently he’s been a key in the growth and development of BMX racing with the ABA, a job he left to join Redline to do what he does best, big things.
We talk to gOrk about Redline, Racing, Music, Magazines, the internet, the past, present and future. This is a must read.
bmxultra.com: How did you get involved in BMX?
gOrk: Our neighborhood had this gang of guys; we all had paper routes, we all went to the same school and we all got in to BMX at the same time. It was like a competition to see who could get the better bike than all the rest, or do better at the races, and who could jump farthest at the local thrashin’ spot.
bmxultra.com: When and where was it?
gOrk: We first heard of BMX in ’75–which was the very early days of BMX. My first race was in 1976–in Roseville, California. I grew up in Sacramento; raced all over Northern California.
bmxultra.com: Who were your heroes?
gOrk: I’ve always been a huge Bob Haro fan… he used to show up at a few UBR nationals in Northern California, and he was totally cool to everyone. He’d also be cranking some really cool music in the Haro van–Adam Ant or Flock of Seagulls.. stuff we’d never heard before. he was such a big trend setter for the sport. I remember watching him do a “rollback” down this hill in Calveras County and we were just like Wayne and Garth in Wayne’s World–bowing down to him; “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!” It was my goal in life to be like Bob Haro… I got my hair permed, i began to ride freestyle, i started my own trick team… and I was constantly trying to draw as good as him. Haro’s artwork was in all the magazines and I wanted mine to be someday. And… I did it.
bmxultra.com: What music do you listen to?
gOrk: I’m happilly stuck in the 80’s. Saxon, Girlschool and Riot are my top picks for TNWOHM, along with Iron Maiden, WASP, Hanoi Rocks and Lizzy Borden. And then I still get in to my 80’s new wave phase, with alltime great bands like Devo and B-52’s. Any young kids out there wanting to do a research paper on “80’s music” just needs to look at my CD collection–or look up any bands that i mentioned.
bmxultra.com: What do you think of Neil Young?
gOrk: hey hey, my my… rock and roll will never die. Neal Young keeps on rocking in a free world, but I wonder for how much longer?
bmxultra.com: Do you still race?
gOrk: Sure do. Matter of fact, I’m still limping around right now from my crash in the semi at Friday nights’ pre-race in Phoenix. I tore my quad muscle and bruised my thigh. I’m finally realizing that it’s true–the older you are, the slower you heal. It’s been 3 weeks and i’m still walking like a gimp.
Back to racing–actually, I’ve never stopped racing… except for in ’84 and ’85, when I was fully in to freestyle–but i was still riding. At the ABA, I raced nationals the first year and got Nag No.5, which would be my best ranking on cruiser. By moving up here to Washington, I ended up District No.13… back in Arizona, the same amount of points would’ probably have got me No.20 or something. Up here, I have Steve Clark and Clarence Perry in my district, so my chances of earning a No.1 are slim. Maybe No.3?
bmxultra.com: How did you get the name gOrk and why is it spelt with a capital “O” and small “g”?
gOrk: Well… the long version is that all the guys we hung out with in the neighborhood, would go and hang out at the local bike shop; The California Pedaler. And like any 13 or 14 year olds would do, we’d all thrash on each other. One guy came up with something called “gorking”–which was a sharp uppercut of your hand underneath a person’s chin. When you weren’t looking, he’d sneak up behind you, slam your chin and jaw, and while doing it, he’d say “Gooooooooooork!” So anyway; in the 8th grade, I was told I had scoliosis–curvature of the spine, and I had to wear this back brace to straighten out my spine. Wore it for 4 years, all through highschool. And on the very first day I got the brace, it was pretty tight around my neck and was pushing up on my chin–so it was like “gorking” me 24 hours a day. So, I was dubbed “The Main Gork”… ’cause I was constantly getting gorked by my brace.
As for the small “G” and the big “O”—I just liked the look of a small g better than a big G. And just decided to capitolize the O… for no reason, except to be even more different.
bmxultra.com: What is your real name?
gOrk: My real name is top secret–very few people who know it have lived to tell it. …just kidding. My real name is Craig, last name is Barrette. Nicknames ran in the neighborhood and in my family–I have a brother named Scott who owns a bike shop in Sacramento; we called him “Beach.” And I have a sister named Jennifer, but we call her “Gidg”–short for Gidget. Growing up, I raced and hung out with Crusty Rusty (aka “Slithis”), Two-Faced Terry, Spaghetti Head, Skullman, Alien (aka HelmetHead) and Porker.
bmxultra.com: I have noticed your involvements with many bmx publications over the years, could you tell us who you have worked for and what you have done?
gOrk: My first publication was a xerox’ed ‘zine, called THE BOGMASTER; which was a newsletter for my freestyle team in the mid-80’s. That ‘zine eventually got me a job at BMX ACTION magazine; where I was editor from ’85 to ’89. Young kids nowadays don’t know what BMXA was; but it was the first “real” BMX magazine our sport had, and was the very best magazine out there. Kinda of the 70’s and 80’s equivalent to SNAP today. I’ve also contributed to other magazines, done freelance work for a coupla books and even co-wrote FREESTYLIN’ II: THE BOOK.
bmxultra.com: What about photography? Is it a passion of yours or is it just part of the job?
gOrk: Photography is cool and I think i maybe take it for granted that I can do it. I think anybody can take photos if they have the right equipment; but maybe that’s not true. I began taking photos because I had to. I mean, yeah–it was something i wanted to do and something i loved doing for 10 years at the BMXer… but it’s not such a huge passion that I wanted to really excel at it and improve my photography to be as good as Keith Mulligan, Spike Jonze or James Cassimus. I think those three guys are the best BMX photographers there ever has been. Right now, Keith from SNAP rules.
bmxultra.com: What is the best photo you have ever taken?
gOrk: I have a ton of favorites–a lot of them are good crash shots. I think a killer crash shot is being in the right place and snapping it at the right time; which a lot of photographers don’t do. You have to shoot at different spots on the track according to 2 things–where the sun is, and who is on the gate. A lot of people shoot from the wrong place according to what riders they’re shooting. Little guys on the gate–move to a roller jump, girls on the gate–go to a turn, or pros on the gate–go to the biggest, raddest jump on the track.
As for naming one single favorite photo, It’d probably be a photo of Donny Robinson. When he was 10 years old and jumping stuff that pros weren’t… he was so photogenic. And still is. You just can’t get a bad shot of the guy.
bmxultra.com: It’s been said that you are BMX. While you were at the ABA you were a big part of the changes that has shaped BMX as it is today. What do you think about that?
gOrk: That’s like the ultimate ego trip. The best compliment you can give anyone. But honestly, and in order to maintain some humbleness, I have to tell you it’s not true. I am not “BMX”… there are hundreds of people I could name who are “more BMX” than me. Sure, I might’ve been there at ABA and had the opportunity to change or shape things… but it was really a group effort. Everyone on the ABA national staff pitched in to make the sport what it is today; I think because I was editor of the BMXer, maybe I was in the spotlight and got the credit. It’s cool to know that people think that, but I will never admit it. If I really thought that was true, I would be so conceited, you couldn’t stand to be around me.
bmxultra.com: Do you think it is possible to do with Redline what you have done with the ABA?
gOrk: I sure hope so. It’s a little bit different, but a lot of it crosses over–my job at ABA was making a magazine and one of my duties at SBS is making the catalogs and monthly Sales Flyers. I’ve already transfered Hander & Footer to the SBS monthly special flyer… Juan and Noah are now bike shop owners and they have to turn to SBS to solve all their problems. While at ABA, there were always things I saw factory teams doing that I’d think “Man, if i was in charge of that team or factory, I’d do this…” So, now it’s my turn to really make those ideas come true. If I do, then yeah–Redline will improve drastically. If i don’t, then I’m just like the rest of the guys in BMX.
bmxultra.com: How did you get to do the Redline gig?
gOrk: Rob Hughes was the marketing director for Redline for quite a few years, and I always wanted to go work for Redline after ABA, and do Rob’s job. I like their bikes, I like the people who work there, and I just knew I would do it someday. Then last September, Rob left and I heard that my “next” job position was open and I figured it was time to move on. I’d been at ABA for 10 years and I was ready for a new challenge, and new job duties.
bmxultra.com: What is your job spec?
gOrk: The title is “Marketing Director”; which handles everything from sponsorship to advertising, promotions to press releases, catalogs to monthly mailouts… even handling the trade show booth for Interbike.
bmxultra.com: Who are Redline’s sponsors?
gOrk: Our Team co-sponsors are KoolStop brakeshoes, Tioga tires, ATi grips, ALEX rims and Shimano components. Some guys are also hooked up with Pryme helmets, and our newest co-sponsors for 2000 are FlickTrix fingerbikes and NINTENDO POWER magazine. Oh… and our new Redline truck is partly sponsored by Performance Corner; a big chain store of custom auto accessories.
bmxultra.com: What effect would you say the web has had on BMX?
gOrk: A lot. BMX websites today are a better version of the old xerox’ed ‘Zines that we used to make in the 80’s. But websites do so much more… the only problem is you hit delete and they’re gone, where I know some people who have saved hundreds of copies of ‘zines. It was kinda nice to be able to hold it in your hands; instead of just looking at a computer screen.
But yeah… people now can get their info so much faster. Immediately find out what’s going on, where before, the BMX magazine would have news from 3 months earlier. I recently updated the Redline site on a Sunday afternoon; at around 4:00, with news from the race in Wichita. Hopefully this year, by Sunday night or at the most Monday afternoon, everyone can find out how the Redline team performed that weekend by going to www.redlinebicycels.com … in the Race Chatter page.
bmxultra.com: What are your favourite websites?
gOrk: I’d have to say Redline’s… and we have a new Torker site that just got up; which I will be doing a lot of work on myself. It’s www.torkerusa.com. And of course, ABA’s site is still one of my favorites because most of the artwork and scans are mine, that I photoshopped and customized personally.
My favorite non-BMX sites are AMA and NHRA; those were the “model” sites for ABA. Sites that I always wanted ABA’s to resemble.
bmxultra.com: What about the e-zines? There are obviously a number of them you send press releases to, which of them would you say were good?
gOrk: I can’t keep track of them all–there are so many out there. The ones I consistently check out are BMXtreme, BMXmania, BMXair… and of course, bmxultra. I still frequent ABA BMX, as well.. but I don’t like the changes they’ve made to it since I left.
bmxultra.com: In Australia we get news from Snap/BMX Plus Magazines that are about 3 months old unless you get an airmail subscription. Do you think that e-zines will ever be a threat to printed Magazines?
gOrk: I dunno… maybe someday, when EVERYONE in the world owns a computer. But we’re far from that right now. People still want something viable to hold in their hands, something to cut pictures out of and hang on their wall. Something to keep forever, in the closet and they can pull it out ten years from now and re-read it and relive what it was like then. I’d say the one downfall of E-zines will be the “back issue” factor. Hit delete and it’s gone forever, while a magazine can be kept for centuries.
bmxultra.com: Will Redline ever sell direct from the website?
gOrk: I’d think that we never will. Redline and SBS (Seattle BIke Supply) is very, extremely bike-shop loyal. If they do, they’ll probbaly be the last ones, and they wouldn’t unless every little mom and pop bike shop had been run out of business by the internet. I’d like to say “We will NEVER!” but I don’t and nobody else really knows what things will be like in 5 or 10 years. We might all live indoors and order everything from the net. So ya never know, but their position right now–year 2000, is “NO WAY!”
bmxultra.com: If you were allowed to change anything what would you change about BMX?
gOrk: John Purse and Bubba Harris would win every race they entered… heh, heh.
bmxultra.com: Seriously now…what do you think needs to change about BMX to take it to the next level?
gOrk: Sponsorships. Right now, the sport of BMX relies on participants entry fee money to pay for all costs of putting on a race. And that’s a pretty major cost, especially when they front the payment for producing TV shows. And the sad part is that not much will change until bigger sponsor dollars come in.
It’s kinda funny right now–freestyle events have the TV coverage and the big-time sponsors, but no audience at the actualy event. And that’s probably what the ESPN Pro Series will be like–no crowds going to these ski resorts to watch the race, since there isn’t any amateur racing. But where they will score big is the TV advertisors. If it does well in the ratings, then BMX should see a big boost with outside sponsors wanting to get involved. The only other thing that needs to change along with that is a truly professional AA Pro. Every racer needs to learn how to speak to the camera, speak well and bring excitement to the show. Show that BMX is the greatest sport in the world. They all need to watch film clips of John Force doing a post-race interview and be like him! Imagine what BMX would be like in a WWF format–with good guys versus bad guys, and before the main event, they’d be bad mouthing each other and getting in each others faces… the crowd would take sides, on their favorites. Even if it was all phoney, it’d make a good TV show and probably get good ratings.
bmxultra.com: What would you say is the most significant change to BMX over the years?
gOrk: Everything–from tracks, to larger turnouts, to better competition, to a more modern and professional organization. Tracks all the way up to the mid-80’s used to have one small roller jump per straightaway. Berms used to be flat, or sometimes have no berm at all. Up until around 1995, starting gates used to be lifted by hand! Up until ’92, moto sheets used to be hand written. And what we think of as a smal race nowadays–200 motos, used to take all day and get over around 10 at night–now ABA’s running close to 400 motos and getting everyone home by 9. That’s pretty dang efficient! Also, I think the races have become more entertaining; with the huge pit areas and the music for the pros, and all the hype.
bmxultra.com: So you would say that BMX is all about keeping everyone entertained? The riders, the spectators, the sponsors etc?
gOrk: Yeah, pretty much. If it’s not entertaining, then why go? Why be there? Bigger jumps, faster speeds, spectacular crashes and bar-banging action equals entertainment. I’d assume people go to the races for two reason–first, to race or watch their kids race, and secondly, to watch the pros and top experts put on a show. And everything from the track to the announcing to the racers themselves is part of making it exciting.
bmxultra.com: What would you say to an association that is lucky to pull in 200 riders to events week in week out?
gOrk: I’d say they’re not doing something right–they’re either not making it exciting enough to retain the riders they have and they’re not making it exciting enough to draw new riders.
There could be lots of reasons–expenses, too. Or lack of promotion. Doubling ridership sounds so easy–all it would take is for every kid to bring ONE friend. BAM! You’ve got 400 riders! The “bring a friend” promo worked well with ABA, and they’ve done a lot with their “Recruiter” programs, and made sure the tracks have the free material they need to get it in to the schools ‘n bike shops.
bmxultra.com: Would you put an age limit on racing BMX? What about racing Pro?
gOrk: BMX has no age limit…except for maybe 1. I’ve never seen a 1 year old race, but i’ve seen a few 2’s, and a ton of 3 year olds. i’d say that 4 is actually becoming the common beginner age. And then in the older ranks, I predict in another 10 years, we’ll see a highly competitive 60& over class. There are guys in their mid-40’s right now–like Stu Thomsen for instance, who raced BMX in the beginning. And all of us can’t get it out of our blood. It’s there for good. We will all become BMX addicts, and our only cure is to still keep on racing. Can you imagine the 70 & Over class, in about 20 years? I can. Sure, it might not be much fun to watch, but those who are racing will be loving it and that’s all that matters. Bored watching the 65 & Over cruiser class; then go to the snackbar! A lot of “hardcores” out there in the magazine world bag on BMX because it has so many age classes. But they are all going to get old someday, and then they’ll realize why ABA nd NBL have cruiser ranks for over 50. That’s one of the greatest things about BMX; is that anybody, any age, with any skill level, can compete. There is not one other sport in the entire world that has a more fair “skill level” system, or that caters to as big of an age-range as BMX does. Pros, magazine editors and BMX critics might rag on the sport for that, but I believe that is one of the biggest reasons that the sport of BMX Racing will last forever.
BMX is the greatest sport in the universe because of those 2 things, and the fact that every track is different. Whether it’s a good or bad track, or it’s better than the last one you raced on or way worse, it’s still not the same ol’ diamond ballfield, or rectangular court or field with posts at each end. BMX has variety. Once agian–people who focus on the negative will blast BMX for having lame tracks; but once again–that’s one of the things that makes BMX so unique. Besides–anyone who has ridden at Black Mountain in Phoenix, will forever say that every track they race on after that is lame. No one can compete with Black Mountain.
bmxultra.com: Do you think yourself fortunate to be in the USA to have been given the opportunities others would only have dreamed of?
gOrk: Yeah, I was lucky to be in the right places, at the right times, and know the right people. But I seriously believe that anybody out there can do the same, if they really want it bad enough. I started off just like any BMX kid; it wasn’t like I was born in to the BMX industry–I met people, I promoted myself and I wanted to get involved in the industry really, really bad! And I did it.
bmxultra.com: Tell us a little about Bubba, John and Stu
gOrk: I like to sum what we’ve got, as the Past, Present and Future. Stu was ABA’s very first No.1 Pro; back in 1980. He’s still today one of the biggest names our sport has ever had. His lifetime career of AA wins is 20; which by past standards, when there were only 6 or 8 nationals a year, puts him right up there with Gary Ellis’ 77 wins. So even thought Stu represents the past, he’s back racing 41-45cruiser and is back to having fun and still winning like always.
The Present is John Purse; who I believe will earn two or three more No.1 Pro titles before he retires. He’s by far the coolest, most professional pro on the circuit. I can’t think of somebody with more determinations–his Grands performance last November was totally incredible. He had all odds against him, yet he was in the hunt all the way to the last main. And then there’s Bubba; what I’ve written for years as “The Future” No.1 Pro. I have no doubt in my mind that he will be there someday, and hopefully I can keep him on Redline for the rest of his career. I’d like to do everything I can to hold on to him and someday when John’s ready to step down, Bubba will be poised and ready to step in to Purse’s shoes.
bmxultra.com: Is there any new Redline gear to be added to the already large range of accessories in the near future?
gOrk: Maybe. I really can’t say right now. It’s all confidential right now, but I think everyone will be even more psyched on our 2001 line of bikes. What I can say is that we have new jersies coming out soon–maybe even by the Winters, I hope.
bmxultra.com: How are the flight forks going? It must be a hard market to be involved in at the moment, with so many sets of forks out there.
gOrk: Yeah–triple clamp forks have faded, just like everyone knew they would. We still sell a ton of them, though, so they’re not totally dead. The fork market is tough, just like the frame market. But it always seems that fancy designs come and go, but the basic double-triangle frame and standard cromo fork will always be the norm. Redline was the first tubular cromo fork, and we’re still one of the best forks on the market today. Same goes with our cranks–Flight cranks rule!
Interviewed: – 20 Apr 2000
Posted in: Interviews