As a young BMXer in the late ’80s, you pretty much went one of two ways in regards to bike choice, favorite team and clothing options: GT or Haro. (Redline and R.L. Osborn were a close third. No offense R.L., but the RL-20 ll had a five-inch head tube…)
If you went the Haro route, you most likely rocked Haro leathers, rode a Master or a Sport, and looked up to riders like Ron Wilkerson and Brian Blyther. And if you went the GT route, you rocked a Pro Freestyle Tour setup, wore Dyno shoes and emulated riders like Eddie Fiola, Josh White and Martin Aparijo.
I loved Haro, but out of necessity (my local shop was a GT dealer), my first legit BMX bike was a GT Pro Performer. So the walls of my bedroom became a growing catalog of GT ads, and the GT Demo Tape (also featuring the Dyno team) was pretty much on repeat for most of 1988. I bought everything I could GT-related, and sought autographs from riders like Dino Deluca, Brett Hernandez and Eddie Fiola (before he left in 1988…)
GT/Dyno was everything to me at the time. When I cracked my first 1988 Pro Freestyle Tour frame, I mailed it back to the brand and they replaced it without even asking a question. When I needed new shoes, I went to Bicycle World in Howell, N.J. and loaded up on Dyno shoes. GT/Dyno sweatpants? Sure, why not. The brands represented a world that I idolized and wanted to be a part of. To wear their shirts and ride their bikes was my avenue into that world.
But by 1990, things were starting to change. Kevin Jones, the best flatland rider in the world, signed on to ride for GT in 1989, as did Joe Johnson. They were at the top of their game, and they were riding the same bikes and wearing the same clothes as little old (young) impressionable me was. I was elated. And then Kevin Jones showed up in Freestylin’ Magazine wearing Nike shoes and Life’s a Beach shorts, a slight deviation from the standard GT uniform of the time. As the story goes, the bosses at GT were not happy with his clothing selections, discipline was taken and Jones ended up quitting not long after. (I can’t verify if this is true or not: JPR is asking McGoo right now though and according to them, it was because he was not into traveling or promoting the brand, but there might have been more…)
But you can imagine what that story would do to a kid and their favorite bike rider in the world. I had thought that they asked one of the best bike riders in the world to change, and when he didn’t, they dropped him, or he quit, or something good didn’t happen between the two. There was no internet, no Twitter or Instagram for Kevin Jones to give an explanation: just word of mouth from bike rider to bike rider up and down the East Coast.
But there was more to my allegiance than Kevin Jones leaving. Bikes and clothes to a 15-16 year old kid were expensive, and I couldn’t just go out and change my kit overnight. I continued riding my GT bikes and wearing their clothing, and then riding started to change.
I was improving at flatland. And I was starting to experiment with grinding and nose wheelies and peg stalls on ramps and street. And my bike kept breaking almost as quick as I could get it fixed. My axles broke weekly, my dropouts bent along with them, and I was going through a lot of tires, handlebars (they were cracking) and frames (also cracking).
Something had to change and quick. I stopped riding as much street and that helped a little bit, but I was still going through tons of bike parts. They just couldn’t handle the riding at the time, and I wasn’t really knowledgeable enough to now how the bike industry worked at the time.
As it happened, BMX was going into a dark time. Popularity was down, and as a result, bike sales were down. The big brands at the time saw little need to innovate new technologies to keep up with the riding of the time if the end result (money) wasn’t there. Mat Hoffman killed forks by the day because of this. And GT was doing anything they could to get rid of inventory from the BMX boom of the late ’80s.
This is where my allegiance died. By 1990, everyone rode pegs on their axles. And deep socket versions were being engineered by the riders themselves instead of by brands. (Sean Leslie and Brian Ulrich were too early East Coast innovators of the technology and I still thank them for their contributions.)
But for GT in 1990, the bikes they advertised featured bolt on angled frame standers and bolt down fork standers. They were essentially stating that serious riders needed their aging technologies to advance their riding, when the opposite was in fact true. They were attempting to dictate a future direction in BMX based on a surplus of frame standers and wheels that featured hollow axles. I took one look at the “Attention To Detail” ads from mid 1990 in Go: The Rider’s Manual, and knew my fascination with GT was done.
The brand wasn’t mine anymore. It was the mean old person trying to tell me what to do. It no longer represented the freedom I once envisioned — it was now on the opposite side of the fence and not ready for the massive changes that BMX would endure for the next several years.
It was out of touch with me.
(This is in no way an assault on GT now, just a recollection of how a BMX brand impacted me when I was a kid and how that relationship ended.)