BMX GOES FIXED

(Another story from issue #2 of The Industry BMX Mag.)

cutter-brn-tight.jpgIn recent years, the popularity of fixed-gear bicycles has surged throughout urban areas of the U.S., and many parallel the subculture of fixed-gear bicycling alongside that of core BMX in urban and suburban areas throughout the U.S. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find the average adult BMXer owning bikes outside of the 20-inch realm, including, for many, a fixed-gear bicycle. So it came as no surprise to find several brands in the BMX section of Interbike ’07 debuting fixed-gear completes, frames and components alongside their BMX ranges. Respectively, Volume, Profile and FBM. Volume’s contribution arrived in the form of a limited edition complete fixed-gear bicycle dubbed The Cutter, Profile’s in the form of fixed-gear specific hubs, and FBM’s in the form of a US-made fixed-gear frame dubbed The Sword and produced at their manufacturing facility in Binghamton, NY.

For Volume and FBM, the decision to enter the fixed-gear market marked both brands’ first foray into bicycles outside of the direct BMX realm. For Profile, whom already manufactures hubs outside of BMX, producing fixed-gear hubs simply meant modifying an existing Profile design which could withstand the abuse of fixed-gear riding. As for all three brands, the decision to enter the market varied slightly. According to Volume, the resources to compete in the market were already in place. For FBM, it was simply a matter of diversifying their in-house frame manufacturing and production, while Profile points to multiple requests from existing customers. All three brands are also quick to point out the fact that a fixed-gear bike is easier to get around on than a BMX bike, and that as BMXers get older, their interests can grow outside of the BMX realm while still retaining a core BMX loyalty. In plain English, the fixed-gear bicycle has become the modern nighttime cruiser, and if a BMXer is going to be riding a fixed-gear back and forth to the local watering hole or grocery store, then a familiar brand with BMX roots would be the likely choice.

Currently, FBM’s fixed-gear frame is still in the production stages, while both Profile and Volume have enjoyed some early success with sales despite the inevitable slowdown of bicycle purchases typically accompanied by the winter months. But with spring rapidly approaching and the price of gasoline steadily increasing, the emergence of fixed-gear bicycles in the BMX industry has only just begun. Recently, all three brands were kind enough to speak to The Industry about the decision to enter the fixed-gear market, the initial reaction and what’s next in the way of both marketing and production….

VOLUME BIKES/BRIAN CASTILLO

What made Volume decide to produce a complete fixed gear bicycle?
I think the final decision was that there was a market for us to do it and we already had all the resources to get something out there that we felt could compete with some of the other chromoly track bikes. It didn’t seem too far off base on what we were already doing with our BMX frames.

How difficult was the Cutter to produce overseas? Were the same agents used that Volume deals with for your BMX products?

We used the same the same frame vendor where our high-end BMX frames are made. As for most of the components, it’s the same as speccing out a complete BMX bike. We go to the old TBS book.

What was the initial reaction when word got out about the Cutter?
We had such a good reaction on our samples from word of mouth and online forums that we decided to go ahead with production.

What made Volume decide to do a limited run instead of going into full production on the Cutter?
It’s not a market we really know a lot about and we figured we’d get our feet wet and see how it goes on the limited runs first.

How many were produced? And how quickly did they sell out?
We produced a total of 75. Most of them were sold out the first week we got them in.

Were shops able to obtain Cutters, or was this a direct from Volume only product?
Most of the sales were from Volume dealers. We did deal direct with the public on the bike, but few went that route since they really wanted to ride the bike and see it in person.

What would you say to the BMX purist that might get angry about a BMX company making a fixed gear bike?
It’s just a bike guys. When you get older you get into more than one thing and you actually have an open mind towards other things in life. It beats putting in $4 at the pump!

Any chance the Cutter will make a reappearance?
Yes, we might be doing just a frame and fork for next year.

PROFILE RACING/CHRISTIAN HENRICH

What made Profile decide to produce fixed gear hubs?
We started making fixed hubs because of multiple requests from customers, which led to us researching the market and seeing that there was, primarily, a distinct lack of coloured fixed hubs, and secondarily, a lack of seriously abuseable hubs. Utilizing an existing axle and bearing design of ours, we were able to bring a simple, light, strong hub to market, initially in 6 colours. The fact that it’s Profile Racing making the hubs in the US hasn’t hurt us any either. Our price point is pretty attractive for a made in USA product ($265-275 per pair MSRP 2008 pricing), and they are tough as nails.

How difficult has it been to sell and market Profile’s fixed-gear hubs?
We’ve had more difficulty keeping the hubs in stock than we’ve had selling them. We’ve already shipped about 600 sets worldwide, with relatively little advertising. In 2008, we will launch a Profile Fixed Web site to further promote the hubs, as well as other track bike items we plan to introduce, and do more actual advertising, both online and in print. Our distributors were immediately enthusiastic, and have assisted us greatly in getting the hubs out there, from QBP in the US to Motocross International in Japan, and lots of places in between.

What would you say to the BMX purist that might get angry about Profile making a fixed gear hub?
In my vision, there is crossover between BMX and fixed, because a fixed bike is transportation, too. You can obviously go further faster on a fixed bike, and as gas isn’t going to get any cheaper, it follows that people are going to want to ride to the store, or the bar, or wherever. It’s not easy to get groceries on a 20″, but I do it all the time on my fixed. It’s really about how the BMX rider views bicycles in general. If they love bikes, they will love fixed, too, but if they’re only riding their BMX from the car to the skatepark and back to the car, then they probably won’t get fixed, or any other style of riding, for that matter.

FBM BIKES/JOHN PAUL ROGERS

What made FBM decide to produce fixed gear frames?
Several of us that work here ride them. It’s pretty simple. We are a frame builder. It’s a positive move for us to diversify our frame manufacturing, and it helps us reach our monthly goal for the number of frames the machine shop needs to produce to justify the cost of its existence. Still holding fast to the D.I.Y. frame building ethos the best we can without vanishing into thin air.

What type of demand is there for US made fixed gear frames?
First, you have to look at what we are making, a TIG welded steel frame. There are still hundreds of small frame builders in the U.S. making steel frames, but the majority are making small quantities of lugged frames, and the average base price starts at around $1,200 and sky-rockets from there. You get what you pay for though, a beautiful work of art made by some cycling nutball with love, sweat and a file. You’ve got stuff like IRO’s and Pake’s that are inexpensive, mass produced import TIG welded frames, then there’s a huge gap up to the custom frames. We are in the middle with our production capabilities and price for the Sword. We can produce hundreds of quality frames a month consistently when we are cranked up, other than S&M, there can’t be many small U.S. frame builders capable of that.

Who is FBM trying to reach in the fixed gear market?
Anyone who enjoys riding a bike, the same person that buys our BMX stuff. In BMX, as you get older and you have ridden a variety of parts and set-ups, you know what you like and you don’t need to experiment with all the new stuff, or have your bike just right to be accepted. You also probably hate BMX, BMX kids, BMX companies and what BMX has become; consequently, you rarely buy anything. I think FBM appeals to people who don’t give a shit about what negative, stuffy, arrogant people say is right or wrong, whether it’s BMX or the big time world of cycling. It’s nice to be able to take a step back from all the negativity that is so pervasive in BMX at the moment and deal with people who are stoked on bikes and building a bike that suits their desires. There’s no norm for fixed gear set-ups, it’s all over the map.

How has The Sword been received in the fixed gear market thus far?
It looks to be a hit so far. Having the prototype at Interbike proved to be a huge deal, the response was overwhelmingly positive. We had no clue. It has snowballed from there with shops we have never done business with calling up and ordering. A lot of shop employees are buying them, which is kick ass. You can’t beat positive word of mouth advertising, especially amongst sales people working directly with bike consumers. A couple of our foreign distributors went koo-koo with it. MX Intl. in Japan placed a monster order. Domestic dealers can make a minimum 40% margin without competing with mailorder pricing. That makes life easier.

Does FBM have any plans for increasing their presence in the fixed gear market?
We have started sponsoring alleycats. We already make beer coozies, flask and t-shirts. It’s a perfect fit for us. They are races, but they aren’t very serious, and the people we have worked with so far have been awesome. Without a doubt, that will be our main focus as far as spreading the word about the Sword. We are giving frames to Jim Bauer at Odyssey and Sunday’s Ian Schwartz. Who knows what we will do outside of alleycats for promotion, but it won’t be sponsoring individual riders.

What would you say to the BMX purist that might get angry about a BMX company making a fixed gear bike?
Don’t stress out so much. You’re only a teenager once. If you’re a grown ass man, get a life.

Who designed the Sword?
I came up with the geometry, which isn’t rocket science. A monkey could figure it out. Dave (FBM’s head welder) did the hardest part. Figure out how to put it all together. It’s not too quick and it’s not too slack, and you can’t do barspins with a 700c wheel.

How difficult is it to make compared with FBM’s BMX frames?
It’s a double diamond hardtail, same thing, just bigger. The guys actually have to walk around back and forth to each side of the fixture, doesn’t look too fun. The most difficult part has been getting the fixture finished. We’re rolling now, so give us a call.

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