Sunday, September 18, 2016

Vintage BMX - The Motorcycle Connection

Vaughn and I made the trek out to the Great NW Vintage BMX Show this week. Great showing, there were probably 100+ bikes there. It was fun to talk to Vaughn about the "golden days" and answer a tirade of questions he had. He's a fun kid.
I couldn't help but think about all the companies represented there that had clear connections to the motorcycle world. I thought it would make for a fun post.

Let's start with Webco. Webco Speed & Power opened for business in Southern California in 1953 and soon after developed a motorcycle division to provide motorcycle accessories to the blossoming race and custom bike movement. The 50's style custom I'm currently working on has a number of popular Webco accessories on it.
 Webco branched into BMX frames in late '73 or early '74. This wonderful "Team Replica" was represented at the show. Webco had largely come and gone by the time I got involved in BMX.
No mention of the BMX and motorcycle connection could leave out Roger De Coster. Mongoose manufactured BMX frames and bike kits sold through Schwinn dealers bearing Roger's name from 1976-1983. "The Man" is still a major influence in the motocross world at 72 years old as Team KTM's team manager. Given KTM had never won a Supercross race before Roger joined the team I can't help but think he's a huge component of their current success.
DG Performance was once a major player in the motorcycle world beginning in 1973. As a little kid straddling both motocross and BMX worlds I was completely smitten with the first DG BMX bike I saw in Bicycle Motocross Action magazine. By the time I could actually afford a real BMX race bike DG's had come and gone. The one displayed at the show was perfect down to every last sticker on the number plate.
 I've written about Redline history here several times in the past so I won't rehash it too much here. The August 2016 issue of Pull magazine has a great 2 page article on the history/ownership of Redline if are interested in all the details. Redline started out building motorcycle frames until the original owner Linn Kastan welded up the first set of tubular chromoly BMX forks February 1st  1974. Below is one of the famously indestructible Squareback frames Redline began building in 1975 next to a Redline built Honda XR75 frame.
Redline was very well represented at the show. Vaughn was fascinated by this rear suspended frame.
I was really fascinated by this frame the owner claimed was a 1979 factory team frame. I enjoyed two factors. 1) It's a factory frame that just barely misses the Stu Thompsen (Babe Ruth of BMX) era. I worshiped him as a kid. 2) It was one of the few bikes I noticed that was in entirely original condition vs restored. Pretty awesome.
FMF (Flying Machine Factory) founder Don Emler started his business in 1973 building motocross motors and the one-off exhaust pipes they became famous for out of his garage. Race INC. & FMF entered the BMX world together in 1976. FMF announced it would not continue its BMX division for 1977 prompting the infamous godfather of BMX Scot Breithaupt to leave and start SE Racing in 1977. Both brands were well represented at the show. There was some unbelievably cool SE stuff.
Stuntman, chopper builder and BMX pioneer Gary Littlejohn is a way bigger topic than I could ever begin to cover in this blog post.  Let's just say it was cool to see a Littlejohn there and that it has clear ties back to the motorcycle world too.
This post is seriously starting to ramble on so I am now just going to shut up and post some additional highlights. The GT (Gary Turner) and JMC stuff really pulled at my heartstrings.
Yeah JMC!
Phil Wood Rules!
OK, I'll admit I wish I still had my Haro plate
This Powerlite was awesome!
So was this Skyway
I had literally forgotten about Thruster. Check out that wild rake.
Gary is still building frames and dragsters!
Fabulous show! I had a great time walking around and talking to everyone. All the participants were super friendly and my son came home buried in cool BMX swag.

I had one more realization. BMX was a hugely formative part of my life. I meet old motorcycle racers all the time and wonder how they ever could have parted with that Triumph T100RR or whatever other legendary bike it was they owned. I was thrilled to see all that old stuff. I'm stoked that people are concerned and excited about preserving the history. That said, I can honestly say I feel no obligation to ever own a part of it again. I suspect that's how those old motorcycle racers feel. Good thing for me too as I have neither the income or the space required to support yet another collector hobby.

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