To the Max: The History of Torker (Part 7)

Chasing a New Market Nineteen-Eighty-Two was a year of big changes year for Torker, as well as the rest of the BMX bike makers.

As many serious BMX racers were custom building their high-end racing bikes rather than buying complete bikes off bicycle shop showroom floors, retailers were asking for less-expensive bicycles to meet the growing demand from kids who wanted BMX-style bikes, but who had no need for expensive race-quality builds.

For Torker, this meant the introduction of the 280, 280X and 340, three low-price bikes. The 280 and 280X chromoly frame sets are identical to the L.P. and L.P. Long, which no longer appear in Torker marketing materials. The 340 was a 24-inch cruiser.

BMXA tested the 280X in its September issue. According to the article, the name came from the suggested retail price of $280. Unlike their pricier predecessors the Maxflyte and Torkflyte, the 280 and 280X were spec’d with price-point components. In many cases, Shimano and Torker components were replaced with less-expensive Sugino or Sakae Ringyo (SR) parts.

The BMXA test bike looked like this: Torker 4130-chromly frame and forks; Torker chromoly Pro “T” handlebars; SR MS-240 stem; A’me Tri grips; Tange AW-27 headset; Araya 7X rims with Suzue large-flange hubs; IRC Z-1 tires; Dia-Compe 890 rear brake; Dia-Compe Tech 2 lever; MKS BM-10 pedals; 175 Sugino one-piece cranks with Sugino 44T chainring and spider; Suntour 16T freewheel; Torker saddle and SR fluted alloy seatpost.

Torker, however, didn’t forget about the high-end. Prior to the release of the 280 and 280X, Torker replaced its 26-inch cruiser with a professional-level, 24-inch frame set—now the standard size cruiser for racing. Many pros had started racing the new cruiser class the previous year and the smaller bikes were gaining popularity with amateurs and the general public. Like the 26-inch cruisers, they were available in chrome and black.

Torker also organized its growing component line under a new name—Ultra Series. All the components were machined by sub-contractors and assembled in-house, sometimes by Torker Factory Team members.

“Every time I flew into town, we were at the Torker Factory discussing racing strategy, and we sometimes would help assemble the Torker goose necks. It was great every time we got to visit the Factory. We always got to pick out any kind of part we needed for our bikes,” Mike Aguilera remembered.

Ultra Series components included the Ultra-6 and new Ultra-4 stems, sealed European and American bottom brackets and sealed bearing hubs. The hubs, which closely resemble Sunshine’s three-piece hubs, appear to have been sold in very small numbers. Only one set is known to exist.

The new, four-bolt Ultra-4 stem was similar to Jason Jensen’s custom-modified stem and made its appearance in the summer of 1982. They had the same dimensions of the Ultra-6 stems, but featured a split cap, 1-inch hole in the base and a shorter quill. Several non-split, four-bolt, stems also are known to exist. These are often considered to be prototypes, but this has not been confirmed.

According to Torker ads, the stems, American bottom brackets and hubs were available in red, blue, black, gold and silver, while the European bottom brackets came in black, gold and silver.

Rarely seen and virtually unknown, Torker also dabbled in the new sport of mountain biking, building four Summit bikes. The location of one bike and one frame are known, while the remaining bikes belonged to the Johnsons until they gave them to friends several years ago.

“We had them on our motor home for years. I gave one to a friend for his kid to ride and the other to another friend on extended loan,” John Johnson said.

The known bike appears to be stock with the exception of the grips, saddle, tires and pedals. The bike features a Torker-made frame with an American bottom bracket shell, cable braze-ons, cantilever brake bosses and forks with standard Torker BMX dropouts. Among the components are a Torker Ultra-6 stem, Torker sealed bottom bracket, Torker chromoly mountain bike handlebars, Ambrossio rims, Galli hubs, Mafac cantilever brakes and a Suntour drivetrain.

“We made a handful of these things [mountain bikes] and I remember at that time I thought they were really ugly,” Doug Olson said.

Johnson said the reason they never made more was because mountain bikes at the time had silver brazed frames.

“We were welding our frames and we didn’t want to get into silver brazing. We didn’t think a welded frame would sell,” he said.

The Torker team was still finding success with Clint Miller in 24-inch cruiser and new addition Kelly McDougall, while Eddy Fiola was winning freestyle competitions on a Torker.

Torker’s marketing also consisted of ads in BMXA and BMX Plus promoting the component line. They were less-expensive, 1/4-page, black and white ads.

Torker started promoting the 280 with the infamous full-color, full-page Torker the Barbarian ad. It featured a shirtless Clint Miller covered in war paint a la Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1982 film Conan the Barbarian.

Starting in September 1982, all serial numbers start with three letters as opposed to two and look like this: TYY 244 SC (24-inch cruiser) and TWW 2339 0 (280X). The serial numbers, perhaps for the first time, easily identify the frame model and the month and year it was built. Frames made in September 1982 have serial numbers that start with TZZ. The last frames made by Torker in Fullerton in September 1984 have serial numbers that start with TBB. To decipher a three-letter serial number, start with TZZ and go backward consecutively toward TBB. (TYY = October 1982, TXX = November 1982, etc.)

The new 24-inch cruisers have serial numbers that end with “SC,” which may stand for small cruiser. Torker stopped using the “L” at the end of serial numbers on its standard 20-inch frames (Now the 280.), but the 280X frame serial numbers still end with a “0” just like the L.P. Long. Torker-built Haro frames had serial numbers such as TNN 2185 F, with the “F” presumably representing “freestyle.”

Frame and fork stickers remained unchanged at the beginning of the year, but by the end of 1982, some frames had a new oval headbadge as seen in the September 1982 issue of BMXA. The following year, the 280 and 280X got totally new graphics. Frames were available only in chrome.

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8 responses to “To the Max: The History of Torker (Part 7)

  1. does any body have pictures of these bikes?I’d like to send a picture of mine.

  2. hi have a frame i think its torker serial is TSS7389 only thing im confused is on thec drop out it has a pieace of tube kind of if its a freestyle peg ever heard anything like this

  3. I have a 280X but the top tube is different from other 280’s & 280X.
    The serial number, how it appears exactly is –

    TDD 8743 OP

    Does the ‘P’ mean prototype…?

    All info welcome!
    Thanks

  4. Just need to post this in order to receive the notification email!
    Thanks!

  5. Hi Richard,

    As far as I know, “P” is for Pro.

    Curious about how the top tube is different. Can you send me a pic via email? info@fortyfour16design.com

    OP should be Pro Long.

    Cheers,

    Michael

  6. Hi Michael

    Sorry but i wont be able to email a photo until tomorrow evening or Tuesday. Im working tomorrow & may get chance in the evening but im off on Tuesday. I would do it now but I live in the UK & its rather late here- 00:25 & i need to be up early for work! Im in bed as i type!
    For now what i will say is that the twin toptube makes contact with the seat tube as there is no plate at the seat tube & no gusset between the toptube & the downtube. Plus it has a rounded brake bridge.
    From what Ive described, pending photos, were these produced in limited numbers for a short duration?
    I posted a photo of the frame on one of the bmx forums where i was questioned about why it has that design!

    Thanks for the info & rapid response!

    Best Regards
    Richard

  7. I’ve seen one other like that and it was a mini/junior/expert ridden by a Factory Team rider in 1984. The SN on it was TXX XXXX RP. I assume he “R” stood for mini. “P,” Pro. Yours likely follows with “0” as Long and “P” for Pro.

    Not many made as they were done just before the company closed its doors. I think I mentioned it in my article. Unsure of the name of these frames. The “RP” also is covered in my bog article here about Torker Serial numbers.

    According to Craig bark, who raced one of these for Factory Torker in 1984, they broke easily. He was quite small and broke his.

    Love to see those pics. I’ll reply with pics of the mini of the same era.

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