Oh the BMX Mailorder humanity

Three days ago, Indiana-based BMX mail-order giant Dan’s Competition pushed the sale of the new 2018 complete bike line from Stolen Bicycles, saying “ride it like you stole it” and urging social media followers to buy, buy, buy. But all was not well behind the scenes at the longstanding mail-order, which was founded in 1986 as a mobile bike shop by Dan Duckworth and moved into the mail-order biz in 1997.

Hours later, Dan’s Comp team manager Scott Towne, who had worked at the brand for the past seven years, let the world know that he was done with the brand, thanking his co-workers and team riders along the way. “My mission was to make Dan’s human, and I feel I was able to accomplish that goal, and much more. It was a good run,” said Towne as he posted a photo of the Dan’s Comp lightning bolt logo adorning his top tube aside lyrics from the Washington D.C. band Fugazi.

In many ways, Towne did accomplish what he sought out to do, employing a respectable team of top riders across all disciplines and producing a full-length video along the way. He held actual BMX jams at Dan’s Comp HQ and sponsored events and websites on top of that. Both himself and the team had become the human side of Dan’s Comp.

But there is humanity and there is business, and the two sides don’t often meet up in copacetic ways. Unfortunately, the writing had been on the walls for months now: Dan’s Comp was unable to pay for product or stock new product. Dan’s Comp was selling product below what it was worth, and shipping it for free on top of that. Monthly checks to team riders had stopped showing up.

Dan’s Comp, the mail-order giant, was spending more than it was making, and the resulting business model was unsustainable. The humanity of the brand was the first to go.

The majority of the team has chosen not to weigh in on losing their sponsorship (and a paycheck), although former Dan’s Comp rider Grant Castelluzzo weighed in via Instagram. He thanked team manager Scott Towne and stated that he was not “stoked on the way this all ended” or how “the little guys are the ones getting screwed,” but urged riders to support their local bike shop and keep fighting the good fight.

Kink BMX pro Tony Hamlin remarked that he had no worries that shit was hitting the fan. Other riders quietly removed Dan’s Comp from their list of sponsors on their respective social media pages, while Nigel Sylvester posted a video of himself doing a barspin peg wheelie to stand in solidarity with the NFL.

How this affects the everyday BMX world varies from person to person to person. Personally, I think I ordered some tires from them in the late ‘90s and that was about it, but I did often get the mail-order catalog and nerd out over weights, colors and low, low prices, which had for years, consistently made myself stop to ask, “How are they making money?” Yeah, it’s taking a few hundred bucks a month away from a few of my friends, but I’m not sure if riding for Dan’s Comp was ever more than another paycheck for anybody. It was typically a reluctant sticker and t-shirt in exchange for a few hundred bucks a month. It was never going to be a BMX brand that riders eagerly/soberly tattooed on their bodies.

In many ways, it’s an end of an era, but one that can potentially push BMX forward in a more holistic direction. And in other ways, it’s a scary reminder of a constantly shifting market place in BMX and beyond, less “ride it like you stole it” and more “buy it like you can pay for it.”

There may be some brand casualties along the way, formerly dependent on a now extinct cash flow from Dan’s, but the human side is harder to kill. Best of luck to Scott Towne and the Dan’s Comp team (except for that one guy)…

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