It’s interesting as you get older how your perspective changes. Your interests change. Stuff you used to go nuts for you suddenly find to be not just dumb, but unbearable; KEVIN SMITH movies. The RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS. And… PK RIPPERS?
Waking up one day and realizing you no longer feel a connection to JAY and SILENT BOB, snooch, but PK RIPPERS? The bike I dreamed about since I first laid eyes on one in a BMX PLUS? Is that even possible??
All that remains of my Huffy
My first “BMX” bike was a Huffy Thunder Road. And I rode the hell out of it. Took it apart. Painted it. Jumped it. Crashed it. But most importantly, used it to get from point A to B and beyond. This pre-dated my BMX racing. It was simply my freedom machine. Almost all kids had bikes back in the day. For face-time you’d ride your bike over to your friends house. And knock on the door. Unannounced. It was great. (These days some kid comes unannounced the house goes on lock-down, “Who the hell! what the hell! WHAT IS HAPPENING?!?” ha ha. )
Then I had, what I believe, was a Team Murray.
Same story; Jumped it. Crashed it. Painted it. Rode it to school. To the 7-11 to play pinball. Down crazy backwoods trails called “farmer’s field” with Banjo music playing off in the distance. Everywhere.
And that was it.
It was my bike basically forever. See, I never got a brand new complete BMX bike. I just continually added to this one. I’d spraybomb it on a regular basis. And as I had the money, either saving my allowance or mowing people’s lawns, I’d add a part here. Add a part there.
At some point I scored a used Webco frame.
My old Webco
I don’t recall what model it was. Back in those days there was this Mom/Pop convenience store that sold BMX stickers. Remember those cool prism kind! They had a display case sitting on the counter and they had Webco stickers. So I spraybombed that thing many times.; it was black, it was white, I gave it the ET Kuwahara red/white paint job. And I’d stick on whatever Webco stickers I could get. This was when my BMX buddies and I started racing. And this bike was everything. My race bike. My street bike. My way of life.
Spray bombed white
This was early 80’s. 1981. 1982. I think I was out in 1984. Maybe as late as 85. I can’t recall how it ended. Why I stopped riding or racing. I think I started venturing further out into the world via the bus and Marta Train, and it was easier to take a skateboard along and hop a train rather than ride my bike. Not certain for sure, though, my memory is spotty. Plus my friends had cars.
Whatever the reason, I was out before Freestyle really took off. So, while I can still do a curb endo, Cross-ups, sit on the handlebars and ride backwards (!), etc. I’m at a loss when it comes to cherry pickers, et al. And I’m not much of a jumper anymore, either, I don’t like falling down!
(Side note – I never rode a skate park until last year, but I am trying to improve my skill level there! Really just rolling around and trying to keep the heart pumping is what I’m into these days.)
Then one Christmas I convinced my dad to buy my older brother’s friends Supergoose for me. A lot of kids jumped on the BMX wagon and would race, etc. This was the case. He’d gotten a rad Supergoose but only raced for one season. I don’t recall if it was a stock bike or quasi custom. It didn’t matter, as soon as I got it home, and I had to walk a few miles because it had a flat, I tore it down and mixed and matched it with my Webco. At this point I had some sweet Z-Rims with Bullseye hubs. Tuf-Neck. Shimano DX pedals. Etc. The usual stuff. It was just the continuing evolution of my bike.
Supergoose with Landing Gear
I did have a dream though. A grail. They weren’t called “grails” back then, of course, but you know what I’m talking about.
My grail back in those days was the PK Ripper. Landing Gear forks. Like Mike Buff. Oh, the radness!
My dream bike!
I never got it, though. I did get some LANDING GEAR. I seem to recall I got some kind of deal on them. Maybe they were scratched? Or the stickers we scratched? It didn’t matter. As I noted, I was a spray bomb fiend. I bombed ‘em baby blue. Then I sold the Goose frame thinking the PK was imminent. It didn’t happen. This was around the time it all ended. I ultimately traded the entire bike (Webco frame with landing gear forks and z-rims. Oh! I wish I had a picture of that rad machine!) for a guitar.
SIDE NOTE – I did finally score a PK RIPPER. This was sometime in mid-nineties. 95 or 96. Before the old-school BMX revival kicked-in. I wasn’t into BMX anymore although I did know of the X-Games and such. Matt Hoffman. I had Dave Mirra BMX for my Playstation. But I didn’t yet know anything about what was happening with the rider-owned brands.
I bought it off ebay. It was pretty sweet. But even then, I still wanted to mess with it. I drove out to the suburbs (I was living in Chicago at the time) and went to the only bike shop I could locate which had BMX stuff. But they didn’t have anything I liked. Nothing gold or yellow! It was all weird stuff, what we now call mid-school. So I left it as I found it.
I rode the bike to work one day, about 7 miles. Chicago is flat so it’s easy riding… if you are on a beach cruiser. Or a bike built for a man. Oh, I was dying. This thing had a UNI-SEAT for goodness sake!!! And indeed, I had been cruising around Lake Michigan on a 26” beach cruiser. Bike, fat, comfy seat. Also, this was the first time I’d been on a BMX bike in probably ten years. This wasn’t going to work out.
I contemplated keeping it as a display piece, hanging it on the wall, but ultimately decided to sell it (for about $250!). Oh, well.
Did you buy this from me on ebay circa 1996?
Then I just continued to cruise around on my beach cruiser. I also had a grown man sized Mountain Bike.
Then a series of events brought me back into BMX. Circa 2005, my family moved back to Atlanta. As it turned out, there was/is a BMX track just a few miles from my house. (Score!) Then my in-laws gave me my brother-in-laws old bike, 1997 Predator Pro. (This bike was bigger. Larger bars. Laid back post. Comfy seat. I could actually roll around on it! ) Next things next I was out there. It was a funny scene at the track; I had put some checkerboard pads on the Predator and was rolling with non-locked pedals and Vans. Ha ha. Everyone else looked like Barry Bonds up to bat, full armor. And bikes I didn’t recognize.
The bike that brought it all back!
At this time the nostalgia was high. The retro craze hadn’t fully kicked in yet but dudes were rebuilding old rides. This was when I discovered the on-line community. BMX Museum. BMX Society. Some others I’ve forgotten. Also I was trying to check out the current stuff, but it was overwhelming, to a new school noob, these bikes all look alike, flipping through a Dan’s Comp catalog… pages of frames I can’t make heads or tales of. I nearly messed up the star nut trying to figure out how the heck the threadless fork worked on 97 Predator, true story. So I mostly stuck to dudes talking about old Mongooses and of course, PK Rippersl.
And thus began the whirlwind of bike building, trading, selling, chasing the dream. I was able to do a lot of crazy trades, old toys, Planet Of The Apes dolls, etc, and accumulate some parts. Online was buzzing with a lot of dudes like me, who had rediscovered the love of old school BMX. (I feel it’s since distilled down to the more serious dealers and collectors. Dudes who don’t want to trade for my old toys anymore!) I built up a few old school bikes.
I still had the longing for a PK Ripper, the romance of SE Racing holding sway over me. So I decided to get a new SE bike, a Floval Flyer. I found a local shop (Evolution) to build one, kind-of-custom. Basically I told owner Shane I wanted a Floval Flyer, Landing Gear, Tuff Wheels, and it had to have front brakes. #olddude Not really knowing what was still around or what was current, (Sinz? What’s that?), that was all of the spec I gave him. Oh, yes, and color scheme. I was very specific on that; SE Blue, baby! At the time, he thought this was a pretty wonky order. Anyhow, I picked up the bike, ordered some retro SE Pads and that was that. I caught some funny looks at the track with this thing. Plus a few high-fives from some of the older dudes. The retro craze wasn’t in full effect, yet. At least not around the track.
Retro before retro was a thing.
And… I liked it okay. But I ended up selling it. On and on it went. Trading and building. Rediscovering old stuff. Learning things I never knew. And then I scored a deal locally on a couple of cruisers. One I traded for a relatively new-school GT 2004 Bestwick Pro. This was a revelation, my first taste of new school technology on a 20”. (And you guys know, it trumps old school.) The other was a ’99 Free Agent. Which rode pretty great and looked pretty rad. It was chrome. But it was a Free Agent. It held no fanciful feelings for me of back in the day. I didn’t doodle pictures of Free Agents.
Then I saw a “score” for a 2008 OM Flyer. Yep, still longing for SE. So I sold the Free Agent and picked up the OM Flyer. It was that wacky Ronald McDonald version. I tinkered with it and got it looking how I liked… but meh, I didn’t really love how it rode. In hindsight I wish I’d kept the Free Agent.
Or maybe I don’t really want to own an SE? Maybe the pursuit is what I enjoy? The idea of a PK Ripper?
On and on it went; I traded the OM for an old school Predator 24. I really dig the Atari graphics of those early 80’s Predators. Plus it was a rad old school bike, which I didn’t even have. And I got it looking rad but… again, didn’t dig how it rode. The old school geometry, even on a 24, doesn’t really accommodate a grown man. At least not me.
Around this period, when I was building the Predator 24, maybe a little before, I’m not really sure when it happened. Several years ago. 4 maybe. Maybe more or less. Time is flying by. Life is flying by. But at some point in the recent past my interest in “old school” started to wane. I kind of lost interest in seeing build-offs of the same old GT’s and 87 Haros and catalog reproductions and whatever, while conversely wanting to really better understand the new school. Suddenly I found myself attracted to the all-matte black style. (Even as the new school was moving away from this look.) The big fat tires. This is not to say I don’t still love old school BMX. I do. And I have great respect for you dudes who restore and rebuild old bikes. But I’m not a collector. I don’t want to hang a bike on the wall. And I don’t have money to burn on collectibles. $100+ grips? Insane to me.
I had started educating myself on mid-school stuff. The rider-owned companies. Hoffman. Standard. S & M. FBM. Et al. I also was paying attention to brands made in the USA. That’s important to me. All of the t-shirts I put out via STAY RAD BMX are made in the USA.
Made in the USA!
I was particularly drawn to FBM. Crandall’s story and passion is infectious. I fell in love with those guys and the brand. Reading about those guys, past and present, really rejuvenated my love of bikes. Like discovering a new band. (Quick S/O to Danny/Burning River – he is a huge advocate of FBM and his consistent posts about the brand/riders on his Tumblr page was a big part of my discovering them for myself. Also – the Museum kind of sucks without Burning River.)
So that was it, my new grail. I had found it. It was to be an FBM. But which frame? Headtube angles? 74 or 74.5 or 75, guh? That was never something I concerned myself with back in the day.
So I asked them. It’s probably Crandall who runs the FBM twitter. And based on what I asked, they recommended a Steadfast. That’s another reason to love those dudes, you can actually engage with them.
In fact, they rolled through town. The Maiden America tour. And meeting those guys sealed the deal. Such rad dudes and friendly. I have a serious bro-crush on Garrett Guilliams (Ginch). Such a character. It was a great day. And beyond meeting the FBM dudes, I met a bunch of other rad dudes, too. I’m all in for FBM. Rolling around the USA in that black school bus? Punk Rock! It’s like Watt playing 49 gigs in 51 days, town to town in an Econoline.
This was a rad day!
So I began the search. At the time no new FBM’s were really available. Plus I couldn’t afford one anyway. So I waited. I am a patient boy. I wait. Watching the Museum. Watching ebay.
(Ebay. If you are patient and wait. You can find what you want for a good price. Many years back I wanted the out-of-print Joe Strummer cd “Earthquake Weather”… it consistently sold for $25-$30 which was more than I wanted to spend. But I watched and waited until one finally fell through the cracks and into my hands for $10. But for real, you have to have patience, I probably waited a year!)
So I waited for a Steadfast. And waited. And finally one fell my way. Steadfast Anthem. Scored it for a good price. It’s a really sweet frame.
Now this bike is above my BMX pay grade. My skill set. But like I said, I love the brand. What they do. The story. The black school bus. Made in the USA. All of it. So I don’t care that I’m gonna be like that spoiled kid back in the day rolling around on a new Redline when he couldn’t even do a wheelie. Didn’t even race. We all hated that kid. But one of the great things about getting old is not caring what people think. (Wear a helmet kids!)
I just like to ride my bike.
Of course, it sat in my garage for months and months and months. I’d take it out of the box and look at it. Then put it back in the box. All the while still tinkering with other bikes. But waiting…. now waiting patiently for parts to come my way.
Back in the box. NOTE – that’s the guitar I traded my Webco for! Still have the old Falcons trash can, too.
Still rolling around on the Predator
I remember when I got the frame and I posted in the BMX Museum FBM thread and dudes asked what my plans were, how was I gonna build it. [i]Beats me![/i] I know some dudes have a clear vision. Every part. Every detail. It’s all mapped out in their minds. And that is very rad. I respect that. I had a vision for my dream PK Ripper back in the day. But it’s not how this bike was/is going to be built. A. Reminder. I will always be new school noob. I’ve been researching and learning via osmosis and with some friendly advice on the Museum. (Quick S/O to Tim/FBM821 who’s answered a lot of Q’s for me.) And I’ve learned a lot. But I still flip through a DAN’S COMP catalog and see 4 pages of stems and I can’t make head or tails of what’s better than what. I’m not that skilled a rider to note a difference in stem lengths and such. And the price tag, ouch! That brings me to B. As I noted earlier, I’m always on a budget. By hook or by crook. Parlay this into that. So this bike will be built the same way I finally scored that Joe Strummer cd, waiting patiently for something to fall into my lap. Find a deal. Be in the right place at the right time. Make a trade. And so, slowly, I acquired parts. NOTE – I can spring for a new part here and there, I did order an FBM stem when they re-did the bottlenecks.
I did ultimately settle on a “vision”. The wheels I was able to acquire via a trade have white rims and blue spokes. So I went with a RWB theme. And finally I got everything I needed and put it together. Or almost. Not exactly everything but I decided to stop waiting and quickly cobbled it together for a Museum build-off. But, ah, a few hiccups. The biggest being the tires I got were too big. New school 2.4. Red Dugans. I just went with the fattest size. Why not? But, those didn’t work. So I put on some white walls. Those are temp though, the red tires are needed for the color scheme.
First attempt. Tires are too fat!
Then I found a cool red FBM 6er sprocket. And then I scored this rad red FBM seat with a Rooster on it.
And now I don’t like the red sprocket…. turns out it’s actually “apricot”… so it’s not “finished”.
This is the stuff!
Ah, but that is the beauty of this tale! I’m basically back to my youth. It’s the pursuit of radness. This bike will never be “finished”. It definitely won’t be built “correct”. I never build my bikes “correct”. (Please refer to the above note about not caring what people think.) In fact, probably to the horror of some I put a checkerboard pad on it. Some old school ano valve caps, too.
But this is the way it should be. Forever evolving. Getting me from point A to point B. A freedom machine.
And while on the hunt for parts for the Anthem I stumbled across a Live Wire. So I’m building that too. I shipped the frame and a set of KICK-ASS forks off to the FBM machine shop to have brake tabs added. How rad is that? Direct connection to those guys. And yes, you read that correct, I’m putting FRONT BRAKES on this thing. I win. Life. Liberty. The pursuit of Radness!
Work in progress. Spraybombed it myself!
A perfect ending to this tale. While at the skate park recently, (and the one time I didn’t bring any tools), I knocked my rear wheel loose. Fortunately there is a bike shop nearby. In fact it’s the shop which hosted FBM when they rolled through for the MAIDEN tour. (Reality Bikes in Cumming, GA.) So my son and I went. And it turned out FBM rider Seamus was working. He fixed up my bike and we were talking about the tires (telling him the tale of the too large Dugans but my desire for some red ones) and he did a little research and ordered up a set of Sundays.
Big shout out Reality Bikes! If they hadn’t hosted FBM this tale wouldn’t be.
That’s right. S & M Long Johnson. #oldmanknees Still not finished.
Thanks for indulging me! – P
Stoked I learned to jump out of the bowl!