Who would not want to jump at the chance to help design and build a BMX race frame!? I had that chance once but don’t look for my frame anywhere because it never made production. This is why and the story behind making a frame…I was working for a small MTB company whose name I won’t mention for obvious reasons. When I joined them they already had an elite rider on a prototype frame but the program had ground to a halt. I saw a window of opportunity so climbed through it by asking if I could pick things up. The chance was given to me and I could not believe how lucky I was. My mind went into overdrive thinking about marketing, decals, colorways and geometry. I emailed the agent of the elite rider asking for feedback so we could get started. The response I got was snake-like and condescending. Such is typical for a sports agent, I knew he was up to something and it usually involved bleeding more money from the sponsor. This guy had been paid to test and race the frame yet had nothing to report?
Not too long after my boss got a letter from the reptilian agent of the rider to say thanks for the opportunity, but they were moving on. About 2 weeks later they release their “own” frame. It was our frame with their decals on it. There was a history behind this move I have never been fully privy to but I thought this was a low move. This shifted the focus to beating them to production and one of the many reasons I think the majority of sports agents are prideless, arrogant douchebags.
The process started out well and I was to work with the one welder in the factory. Our bikes were to be hand built and he had raced years previously. This made me very content because I am cutthroat about keeping people with no BMX background out of the picture. I got a guy who I raced with to even make the decals for the prototypes.
We discussed geometry, looked at what was out there, what sells and went from there to redesign what we already had. You are reading and waiting for the inevitable downward spiral where things went wrong so here it comes. 3 prototypes were built with different tube sets and slightly different geometry. I was concerned that it was already costing too much in terms of labor and 3 sets of tubing when we could build 1 frame at a time and make amendments from there. The welder was doing his own thing.
The first frame was ready and driving home with it in my truck I could not wait to build it. As I built it up I was not happy to notice my cranks would not fit since he had given the frame a MTB BB. Doubt crept in. If the bike builder was so on it, how did he miss that the BB on a BMX race frame is 68mm? I returned the frame and said we needed to change it. The boss looked uneasy and the welder somehow looked offended that I dared to ask him to correct his oversight.
The BB was finally fixed and I rebuilt the frame. The bike was rigid. Really rigid. At first I thought the geom was good after a few manuals. On the track however I knew I was wrong. There was zero flex in the frame and it would rattle the teeth out my head every small bump I rode over. It was crazy fast out the corners since it had no flex. It was also as heavy as a pregnant Russian tank. Big swing and a miss so I built up the 2nd frame and to my surprise the welder had gone with his own geometry and ignored what I had said but it had lighter tubing was a step forward. I got back from the track that night and submitted my feedback right away in email format.
My next time in the factory the welder was upset because I had hurt his feelings by saying the frame was what it was. At this point I was beginning to doubt I was dealing with adults anymore. We discussed changes and came to a compromise. He said he would build a 4th frame (essentially wasting even more money and time by saying he accepted my input and then ignoring it). Months passed and no frame appeared. Management started feeding me bullshit about there being no tubing yet they were still making MTB’s no problem. In this space of time the welder, despite agreeing with the frame changes to my face, went to the boss and said he did not agree. He held up the 4th frame in a sulk.
3 months later the 4th frame was finally built and had the geometry I asked for. It was lighter, had more flex (although still pretty rigid) and was amazing to ride. Again that night I emailed everyone my feedback praising their hard work and giving respect despite none being shown my way. They all doubted that I could give accurate feedback after riding the frame only 1 day. After riding BMX for 10 years I had my doubts about their doubts.
The frame was awesome despite a few things I was not happy about like the external headset which was backwards in regards to progressive BMX frame design but they would not budge. It looked bad ass, rode bad ass and I could not believe I had helped build the bike sitting on the stand in my lounge. A 100% hand built BMX frame. It was powder coated translucent red, had great welds, super easy to manual and the brakes felt like they were hydraulic (bulky brake bosses on square tubing with do that). I had worked my ass off testing the frame and even damaged my shoulder from simply riding it so much. Several other riders got on it and they all loved it.
I consider myself media savvy and since I am a video guy I put together an intro video for the frame. The video went onto Vimeo and I left it there with no tags or sent the link to anyone. Despite me thinking nobody ever pays attention to my Vimeo page the video went viral and started to appear on BMX racing sites. This took me by surprise and knew the value of such exposure. Viral marketing at its best. I did not even have to tell anyone about the video and it spread itself! I tried to run with it seeing we had a great opportunity to publicize the frame so I messaged the boss letting him know. The text I got back basically said “what the fk do you think you are doing!? I am sick of you doing whatever you want, we are a MTB company”. Granted the video was not approved but I was doing what I could to save his failing company by injecting a new revenue stream. I also did not once complain about the very tiny sum he was paying me. I apologized to him, removed the video and then myself from the program as I could see it was never going to work.
I had said the last revision of the frame was good to go yet not 1 production model had been made yet. Several people were hounding me asking for one. The demand was there. Again I was fed tall tales and excuses as to why the frame could not be made at that time. As of today the welder no longer works there, they are now a much smaller bicycle company and circling the drain. The elite rider who was handy with the decals, to date, has not sold or produced a single frame.
A guy I knew once told me the best way to cure your love of BMX is to work in the industry. I agree with him.
Footnote: When this bike company finally shuts its doors I will post the video I made up on here and link this article