Before we started SUPERCROSS BMX , we had a little company called TECH BMX PRODUCTS, some of you people who have been around the sport for a while may remember it but most of the newcomers to the sport won't as we ceased working with that product line in 92' as SUPERCROSS took up more and more of our time. With TECH we had a small factory team of riders that rode for us like most BMX companies do, ours at the time consisted of Glen Pavlosky, John Gonzalez, Brian Lopes, Kiyomi Waller, and Billy Harrison. Most of you will remember these names from BMX and Brian's from MTB history.
Since TECH was a number plate and racing pant company we worked with a few frame manufacturers to get our riders the bikes they were riding. At the time we were working with SE , Free Agent, and Elf for the different riders. As we were having trouble getting our AA Pro Billy Harrison a frame that he felt comfortable on, we kind of heard that ELF had made some frames for BOSS that were rejected due to bad chrome and that ELF was sitting on a bunch of frames that they wanted to get rid of. We spoke with Billy and came up with the idea to take those BOSS frames, have them painted and sell them under another name to generate some revenue to further help pay for Billy's racing career. Well as it goes we got ahold of one of the BOSS frames for Billy to try and he hated it , so we didn't complete the original plan, but it did get the wheels turning to start our own frame company.
So you see the original idea for SUPERCROSS wasn't to build a frame and make a lot of money, but to get an excellent quality frame under a great rider, and if it helped pay for his entry fees and give him some cash while he went to college so be it. TECH was paying it's own way at the time and this was going to be a frame for the riders by the riders. We figured if we ever made a couple of hundred of them that it would be great, we never expected to sell thousands of them over the last decade.
CHAPTER 2 - THE FRAME
As we said , Billy tried the Boss frame and hated it, so we couldn't just go ahead with the original plan, so we sat down and figured out what we wanted in a frame. When we did this it was not just Billy Harrison, who was involved. We got input from Brian (Lopes), Kiyomi (Waller), John (Gonzalez), and Jon (Agnew), we also took input from some of our friends who hung out at the shop on a regular basis, Billy Griggs's input is probably the most notable.
Most everyone at the time was riding on a FreeAgent Limo. It was by far the most popular frame at the time. Everyone loved the way it allowed you to stretch out on the front and really move. The few things that people didn't like about them were minor. First the rear tri was a little too short, second the head angle was a little too quick, so what we did was base our frame design off of the Free Agent Limo taking into consideration the 2 small concerns that people had.
Now once the geometry was sketched out and finalized, we wanted to do something unique to the frame to make it stand out, but not be a purely cosmetic thing. So we were thinking what can we do? Well it took us a while but while we were having a gate session one day it occurred to us that the rear of most frames were flexing up to a 1/4" as you would snap out of the gate. So we knew that what we had to do was to stiffen up the rear end of the frame to improve your snap, and that is when the secondary seat stay design was born. It took about 15 sketches before we got what we wanted and when we did we drove the design right over to Elf, for them to make us the proto-type.
CHAPTER 3- THE NAME
Well, while we waited for Elf to build up the proto type, we needed a name. We were stumped , what could we call it? Well it was about 2:00 a.m. on a Saturday night and Billy Harrison called from a national, ( I can't remember which one) when we answered the phone, he just said, I've got it "SUPERCROSS", and with that it was done. We had our name. He said that after the races that night that a bunch of the Pro's were sitting around and the topic got turned to names of frames and what would be cool, and why, and Billy said that he and Greg Hill had come up with saying that SUPERCROSS would be the best name for a BMX frame.
So now with our name and our frame design, we were just waiting for Elf, to get us our frame. After 6 months of waiting we were a little upset, as we didn't have our frame, the season was almost done and the interbike show was right around the corner. Knowing all of this Brent Shoup came to our rescue. Brent was a fast A pro and son of Brad Shoup the main welder and owner of Free Agent at the time. He came over took a look at our drawings and made a deal that he would weld us up our first proto-type in exchange for a KHS MTB frame we had in the shop and a set of SR MTP-110 sealed bearing pedals. We were stoked it was finally going to happen. Over a year after we started on this project it looked like we were going to finally get our frame.
CHAPTER 4 - BRENT THE HERO!!
Well Brent went to work and got us our frame. We had it in our hot little hands within a week of when he said he would make it for us. The night he called and said it was done we rushed right over. It was awesome, the black raw cro-mo tubes, the fresh rainbow weld beads, it was still a little warm.
We immediately took the frame back to the shop and put it together, everything fit perfectly, and our first ride around the parking lot was heaven sent. We stayed up all night that night riding it in the dark at the local jumping spot. By about 4:00 in the morning we decided it was time to take it home and tear it apart to give it a coat of paint. When we got back to the shop we cleaned it up, and tore it down, then we gave it a coat of spray primer, and then started painting it black. Once it was done we decided to give it a green rear end to really make the secondary seat stay design stand off, so we grabbed a can of neon green paint and started to coat the rear stays and the dropouts with it. ( *side note: the dropouts used on the SUPERCROSS' frames from 1988 to the last of the 1999 models all used GHP dropouts, sort of a homage to a great BMX racer and a thank-you for the input on the name)
Well about 6:00 a.m. the paint had dried and Todd (Anderson) and I started to put it back together. That morning when we opened the shop, word had gotten out that we had finally gotten the frame done and had a few visitors waiting for us when we got there.
CHAPTER 5 - IT'S DONE.
One of the first people in the door that morning was Billy (Griggs), he didn't even say a word when he rode in just looked over and grabbed it, took it for a quick 30 minute spin to wherever, the only comments he had when he came back were that it rode like his bike. With that we knew we had it right.
We called Harrison when it was done and let him know, and before he would ever get a chance to ride it, he practically killed himself in a MTB race where he blew up his helmet and cracked his skull, with that accident he decided to hang up his racing career for a while, it's really sad as we went through all of the hard work for him and he never raced it once.
Well now it was done and we had the Interbike show coming up, the fall nationals, the grands, but no team now what should we do? Should we can the frame project and keep making pants and # plates, or should we get some new riders and go full bore with it. Well obviously we chose to do the latter but.....
CHAPTER 6 - THE FIRST SUPERCROSS TEAM
The frame was done, everyone loved it, but the rider it was built for, was out and no longer racing, what do we do? Well we started putting together a little team is what we did. The first rider we signed up to ride for us was a super fast 18x out of the east Rayner Matthews. He had been riding for L&S which was Carlo Lucia's offshoot of Boss and we were supplying pants for that whole team. Rayner was not happy with riding for L&S and we knew he was looking, so we worked out a deal, his first race for us, would be the ABA grands, but what about the Falls? Well we had to look no further than Brian "Lil Pepe" Hernandez, he was perfect, he was local, he was a fast racer and a great jumper what more did we need, this upset his current sponsor S&M quite a bit, and because of it Brian ended up quitting racing and riding all together very shortly after starting to ride for us, he did get us a great 2 page spread and color picture in an old BMX Plus! magazine testing a Schwinn.
Well anyway, Brian raced the falls for us in 17x and did real well, we also had a few other local riders riding out there for us, Tommy Robles, John Agnew and Paul Parks. Well after the falls, we figured the Grands would be awesome, we knew Rayner would clean up and Brian was going fast so we figured we would get some good press, orders were starting to trickle in from the Interbike show, so now it was time to get some frames being made. Heck we even had Parnell Haley from Texas approach us about being our new Pro, things were starting to move and move fast.
CHAPTER 7 - THE PHONECALLS
Well we needed to get rolling on things, we called Free Agent about building our bikes but they were so booked up with their own production they couldn't do it. Obviously we were not going to go back to Elf, right after we showed up with our first frame he started making a bike called the "doublecross". (Side Note* At least he had the decency to call it what it was, I think that was the only thing that kept me from going ballistic, that and it was a poor design. For 6 months he had our drawings and all he could come up with was to stack the chainstays, come on, everyone knows that by putting that much heat in a high stress area you are begging for the frame to crack, and boy did those Elf's crack, I always loved seeing someone break one of those and then have them switch to a SUPERCROSS, that was the sweetest thing.) So we made the call to B&E, they were a manufacturer that we worked with before when we were doing the Brackens frames with Tommy, so Mike at B&E was ready to go and we drove over plunked down a few thousand dollars and we were in business, ready to go. We had frames in production, a team ready to go for the Grands, back orders building, we were set right? No that's when the other phone rang, Rayner, decided to turn Pro and take an offer from MCS, count him out, then the next morning there was a jumping contest we were co-sponsoring at Orange , heck it is Brian's home track and he was jumping like a mad man, this would be good right? No that is when we got the phone call from Brian. He was stuck in Tijuana, drunk, and without money or clothes and they wouldn't let him back across the border. WHAT???? Yep, he called us, because he didn't want to call his dad. So now at 4:00 a.m, on a Sunday morning, 6 hours before a jumping contest we were helping sponsor, and only 2 weeks before the grands, our 18x quits and our 17x is drunk in Mexico without his clothes and they won't let him back across the border, ahh, we should of stayed in the number plate business.
CHAPTER 8 - THE SAGA OF THE NAKED MEXICAN
Well we drove down to go get Brian, I mean what else could we do? Well when we got there some how his dad had gotten there first. Oh man, Brian was in trouble, at least now he had some clothes and a way across the border. Although I am not so sure he really wanted to go home at that point. So anyway Brian did not show up at the jumping contest and his dad called to let us know that he would no longer be racing. Period. Oh man, we are 2 weeks away from the grands. Well first thing we did was get things tightened up with Parnell Haley for Pro and we also worked out a deal with an upcoming 17x by the name of Ray Luscombe, he and his brother Ryan were super fast and we knew that Ray's super power type of riding would fit the bike great. And heck we knew Ray lived far enough away from Mexico that we would not get a phone call from him saying he was drunk and naked in Mexico, right?
CHAPTER 9 - THE DENVER DESTROYER
Bikes were next day aired out to the riders, new jerseys were printed, we were struggling to get things done on time for the grands. After all we were still a pant and plate company back then and we had a lot of stuff to get ready for the riders on the other teams we were helping out with. Luckily Jon Agnew was in the shop everyday until the grands helping to get stuff done. So the guys take off for the grands, we are ready and waiting to hear how they do. Parnell did O.K., and Ray ended up making all of his mains, he loved the bike, Parnell, was not so pleased with his racing and I believe this was his last race. At this point we started to focus our attention on to Ray.
I was at Go - The Riders Manual , one day when ( Mike ) Daily was writing captions for the article and there was a picture of Ray and I said lets call him the "Denver Destroyer", something Ray hated at the start but grew to love. Well the ABA season was over for a month, we had our amateur locked down, The Denver Destroyer was our guy, he loved the bike, the magazines liked him, the other riders liked him, it was a natural thing. But now we needed a Pro. Ray asked about turning but we decided to keep him amateur for one more year, we figured with a little bit of support he would go on to be huge ( heck as I am writing this I understand he won A Pro both days at the 2002 ABA Colorado nationals, some 13-14 years after we talked him out of turning pro) Well who would be the Destroyers sidekick? We had a few ideas, we had a few Pro's call us, we sat down and spoke to Ray, then the light hit us, the only choice for us is.......
CHAPTER 10 - SKINNY PUPPY? NAH, SKINNY....
Yep, who was the skinniest and the whitest of all the short bus kids racing AA Pro. Yep our friend James Prichard!! James and Ray were friends from way back, I had known James for a while and he was currently working at one of our biggest dealers in Texas, S&S racing and was fresh off of GT. Seems they did not like James sense of humor on things. That was it, was James the fastest of the AA Pros? No, was he the most stylish? No, not that either, but was James a hell of a promoter and a ton of fun to go on tour with? Heck yeah.Was James going to win a title this year? Heck No. Was James going to help us get the word out about Supercross? You bet, better than any other pro at the time could of. So it was set, James and Ray would be the dynamic duo!!!! We actually drew up some cartoons of the two of them to use in ads. We were obviously not taking this on the serious route, I mean heck who else was using cartoons of their riders to help sell bikes? No one. We knew we had a great frame and we had some great riders and just wanted to have some fun with it. James was the perfect rider for us for that. He also shared a strong passion for BMX like we did, he used to publish a zine on just BMX, he used to announce at the local tracks and teach clinics for free. He loved BMX just as much as we did and also shared our sense of humor and taste in music, this was going to be a great year!!!
CHAPTER 11 - ADJUSTABLE FIXTURES MEAN....
Well the team was on track, the attitude was great, demand was high, but where were our bikes? Seems that B&E who we thought were going to be our saviours on this project could of been part of our demise. They were building bikes for S&M, White Bear, Brackens and us, problem was that they were building them all out of the same fixture!!!! AGHHH I was ready to scream!!! When we went down there to pick up our frames they were all wrong. We couldn't sell those, they were not our frames, what was going on!!! We made him cut the frames up so that we would be assured to not see those out on the track as they were wrong, and we wanted high quality product, regardless of price. Well the orders kept coming in but we had no bikes, and the delays were getting longer and longer, and his stories to us were getting older and older, well after 2 months of daily hounding( this was after the initial 8 weeks plus ) he finally got us our first batch of 50 frames that were correct. Great now we have 50 frames, problem is we had 100 sold, and now B&E was saying they were too busy to build bikes for us. That Boat Header business had picked up (oh did I mention that B&E was formerly Basset which was formerly S&S Bikes )and they wanted to get out of bikes, we begged him to make us 50 more, but no luck, we were done with B&E, now what would we do. We had a Pro, a amateur, and just added a new Jumper/Racer to the team of Ryan Vanderveen. Promotion was going, orders were coming in, but who would make us our frames?
CHAPTER 12 - WFO IS THE ONLY WAY TO GO....
Yeah there is an old Motocross saying of WFO, some say it stands for Wide F'n Open others have other meanings, well for us it meant that we were able to get things rolling. Brad and Yvonne at Free Agent had suggested that we try a friend of theirs, a racer I knew from way back when who used to help with them and was setting up his own shop, John WFO Sevrin. He had a shed set up behind Bush Polishing and he was ready to go. John built many many frames for us, we were always proud of the frames John built. With B&E we had built the XL's and we did 3 pcs of a Pro size. With Johnny we were able to get the Pro size as a regular production and we started the 24" Pro Cruisers and were able to start the LWR series of little guy bikes with the first Supercross Jr.'s. We were not always able to meet delivery times, it seemed there were always delays but Johnny sure helped get the ball rolling. I wish we could of kept him concentrated on building the bikes, but he had said that the bikes did not make him that much money so he was always doing these trick motorcycle stands and eventually started building bikes for S&M and Morales and Arsonist so things just kept getting further and further behind for us. Our Promotion at the time was getting greater as well. We added in Todd Steen as an amateur and then Pro, Kevin Gentry was brought on to the team, Cesar Lopez was the little guy helping us test the little bikes and things were moving so again we had more demand then we had bikes. But this was a struggle that we were willing to work with as we at least had a frame supply, it may not of been as many as we needed but it was constant and the quality was what we were demanding.
CHAPTER 13 - PARTS PARTS PARTS....
Frames and forks were moving along, but we needed a few other goodies to keep things moving, I had always wanted to do cranks and they were now about to become a reality. I had designed my first set of BMX cranks about the same time I designed my first frame, the products I had always thought were awesome for a frame company were frame, fork, bar and cranks, just thought that was a good mix. Redline Flights were the big crank at the time, Profile was making a run at it but was not gaining much ground as Redline was doing a decent job keeping everyone happy and supplied with cranks. Well Boss had theirs and we thought the time was right to introduce ours. So we built what we thought were a trick set of cranks the Supercross Strongarms, this was back in 1990 mind you. So we have been building Pro Sized BMX cranks almost as long as our frames. We enlisted the help of Don Crupi and his machine shop to machine up the broached and threaded parts,and Johnny welded up the arms We built 5 sets of these first cro-mo Strongarms. Todd Steen had a set, BMX Plus! got a set, a up and coming rider from Canada who Todd discoverd on tour Ken Cools got a set ( yes that is the Current Canadian Olympic BMX Coach and older brother of our Former Elite Woman and Olympian Samantha Cools ) and I cannot remember where the other 2 sets went. (if anyone out there has a set of these we would love to have a set for our archives ) Ken Burlson the father of Kendal Burlson who was riding for us out of Texas started making some Bars for us out of Titanium and machined us up a custom Titanium BB set for Todd. ( side note :Ken Burlson was one of the founders of the old Black Light frames and started up Titan with another guy as the first people building production titanium BMX frames ) So at this point we had what we thought was starting out to be the complete package, Frame Fork, Bars and Cranks! Well Titanium Bars just do not work for Pro sized BMX applications, they never broke but the flex out of them was too much and Todd only ran them for the BMX Plus! photo shoot and one local race. And the Titanium Bottom Bracket worked great until the spindle snapped landing off of a jump at a national. Quick lesson in the fact that Titanium needs to be thoroughly checked and tested for any size of rider. Luckily neither product made it past our testing stages and into the public hands, but the demand for the cranks was building frames were building in demand and things were going well, and as with the end of most chapters there is a but. We had to choose, since Johnny was building the Frames , Forks and Cranks for us, something had to give, he was only a one man shop, did we want to add in the cranks that were building in demand and take less delivery on frames that we were already short on or did we just not want to get into the crank market yet.
CHAPTER 14 - THE MYSTERY MACHINE
Now while we were trying to decide what to do about the production problems the racing season was still rolling on, and we needed to make sure that our guys were out there and in full force and fashion. Well we did not have budget to fly them to the races, nor did they have the budget, so we had heard about a company Starving Students Moving Company, that was selling one of their old Vans they used for moving. Now It should of been our first clue that there was going to be a problem, I mean come on, a moving company called Starving Students that was selling one of thier old vans, this was not going to be good, but it was going to be a lot of fun! So we went down to Starving Students and saw this 1970 Ford Econoline Van that was , .... well lets say it was less than desirable but it was $200 and it ran, so we bought it. On the drive back to the shop we could not get it to go over 45mph and the motor was whining like crazy! What did we do? Well we got it back to the shop and Billy ( griggs ) was there, Jon Agnew and his Dad and they started laughing their asses off. We were going to send James, Ray and whoever else wanted to go ( Vanderveen, Agnew and little Richie Carrero all ended up going ) on tour in this? Well Jon's dad had an awesome set of tools as they say and he decided to build custom cabinets and sleeping quarters in the back of this beast. That way we would have room for the riders and we could save on hotels if they were running low on funds. Now what about the bikes, well we could not afford a cool roof rack, and heck even if we could afford one was there one that would fit this old beast, probably not, so we made a late night trip down to Huntington Beach, and they had these real cool bike racks that were crosses that held 2 bikes, well someone I am not sure exactly who borrowed 4 of these little bike racks and we bolted them to the roof. It looked like a rolling cemetery going down the street this old crappy van with crosses bolted to the roof, I am sure the Goth kids loved seeing it coming down the street. So now we have the inside tricked out with custom cabinets that doubled as beds, and storage for tour T-shirts, Power Bars, etc.... and we purposely left the safety grid up between the back compartment and the drivers area, if you know James, you know that he can pick at certain people until they explode. Well James loved to pick on Ray and Ray is a pretty big guy, and Ray had a bit of a temper. I think I saw Ray strangle James in that Homer and Bart Simpson kind of way at least 20 times. ( speaking of Bart Simpson that was one of the buttons James like to push on Ray, you see Ray has the PIL mascot tattooed on his calf, and it does not really look like the PIL guy as much as it looks like Bart Simpson, and Ray hates the reference of Bart Simpson to his Tattoo and James knowing this always refers to Ray's Tattoo as Bart so........ ) So with that in mind the thought of James driving and having Ray get so pisst that he comes up and strangles James and sends the Mystery machine off the edge of a cliff to a fiery demise, we though that it was a good idea to leave up the safety bars. And it ended up being something that James would taunt Ray more with knowing he was safe inside the confines of his cage. Yeah James likes having fun. So then Billy (griggs ) steps in and offers us up his old stereo system, and if you know much about BMX history you know that Billy was the king of all So.Cal mini truckers and when we bought this Van, Billy had jsut decided to get out of the booming Mini Truck Scene and had bought himself a Mercedes 190E, so he had an abundance of stereo equipment left over from his last Toyota truck that would not fit in the Mercedes, so the Van had an Awesome Stereo!! Heck the speakers cost more than the van did, but that was not too hard to do. Now Billy at the time was also becoming a bit of an airbrush artist and was custom painting helmets for all of the Orange Locals and decided that the Van was just like a big helmet so he painted it up a nice shade of Supercross Blue ( that same Cyan Blue we use still today ) added in a few Supercross logos and managed to upset a few of his neighbors in the process. You see we didn't have the money to get a spray booth to paint the van so Billy did it in his parents driveway!! Thanks Billy!!! So now we were painted up, had a kick ass stereo and a place to sleep. The morning we were supposed to head north for the first national on the tour we remembered we still couldn't go faster than 45 so Jons dad ran over to the local wrecking yard and pulled a set of rear end gears from a Lincoln Town car and dropped them into the van, now we had no guts on the start but had a top end of close to 110!! So with $60 in their pockets for gas they loaded up and headed out for tour. Now we had to get back to the business of getting bikes made, I mean heck we had the ultimate tour rig and the ultimate riders out there promoting now right? We need product to sell.