United/Rooftop and the bashguard frame

Yesterday, a unique United Bike Co. prototype frame popped up on Mike “Rooftop” Escamilla’s Instagram account, featuring a Haro Sport-style bashguard from the early ’90s. Me, wearing my love for early ’90s BMX proudly on my sleeve, hit like and moved on with my day as many of us goldfish-brainers do. But I kept coming back to this unpainted oddity, now regrammed by United, thinking to myself that I will probably read about it on a BMX website in the coming hours. I was wrong, no one picked up on it. I can’t say I blame anyone, I know our attention is being pulled in a thousand directions at once these days, and that it’s only a matter of seconds before you miss out on something, but I figured this deserved some attention.

For every BMX rider in their middle to late 30s and 40s, bashguards were a unique occurrence. They signified the arrival of street riding as legit and something that needed to be addressed by the BMX industry at the time, but the technology was kinda forced on the riders of the time as the next trend. They also signified the start of a new generation of rider-owned brands aimed at street riding, but again, bashguards were kinda forced on riders as part of the new paradigm. And around the same time, the arrival of bashguards coincided with a strange purging of top paid pros, magazines, contests and legitimate ways of making money as a BMX rider.

Basically, it was awesome that street riding had finally arrived in the eyes of the brands making BMX bikes, but it seemingly happened around the same time that the bigger brands started to bail out on a market that was quickly imploding on itself. “Hey, street riding is cool, here’s a bike that you can bunnyhop to disaster on, it’s gonna break soon though, you don’t really need it anyway, and we’re not going to be around to answer warranty claims. Have a nice day!”

Maybe the bigger brands of the time didn’t understand street riding and wanted to cash in on the next trend? Or maybe BMX had just coincidentally reached a point where it needed to cleanse itself of its checkered past before it could move forward in a more soulful direction? I can’t say — I was on the outside looking in through a magazine that ceased to exist when I needed it most.

It’s no secret that modern day BMX needs dictated that a sprocket guard of the Havoc Sprocket Pocket type would make a return. Those arrived over a decade ago when sprocket disasters made a resurgence in the late ’90s. Only they were alloy and bolt-on and did not cover the entire sprocket. Sprockets are a different story though. Grinding/sliding on the bottom bracket was a concept Chris Day started to explore in the early ’90s, followed by a slew of people I’m probably forgetting before arriving at Ruben Alcantara and Fly Bikes trying in vain to offer a bolt-on bottom bracket/bashguard that could slide/grind.

It never took off. Subrosa attempted to recreate a Bully-type bashguard, but it never went into production. A company named BMX Grind introduced a bolt-on bashguard a few months ago, and again, I’m not sure that it’s going to take off. Russ Bengston wrote a dissertation about the phenomenon — it’s still available to read.

But this Rooftop bike, I’m a bit more optimistic about.

Rooftop_zpswa67fmgy.jpg~original

For starters, this is not Rooftop’s first foray into a bike with a bashguard. He had a custom-made Hoffman Bikes Deebo with one of the most luxurious welded-on bashguards that I’ve ever seen in recent times. And he did a lot of unique riding on it. Of course, Rooftop is not like any of us out there. He has never limited himself, he could give two shits what anyone thinks about him or his riding, and he’s a natural when it comes to BMX riding. He’s also not trying to eek a meager living out of BMX, so he’s able to do what he wants with a sponsor that respects what he’s brought to the table behind him.

Do I think the younger generation of riders will go in on a new generation of bashguard frames? Probably not. Do I think that there’s at least a few hundred people around the globe that would rather buy a United bashguard frame for $320 than purchase a used Bully off of eBay for $2000? Yes I definitely do. Maybe it took a very long time to get there, with a lot of missteps along the way, but that’s okay with me.

In a way, I think this is part of BMX becoming comfortable with its dark days, or it could just be a rider and a company saying fuck it. But again, that’s okay with me. Here’s to bashguards as an option and not something forced on us as the next big BMX trend.

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3 thoughts on “United/Rooftop and the bashguard frame”

  1. “And R.L. himself, who was about as street as Richard Marx, “. That had me laughing out loud and woke up the dog.

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