To the Max: The History of Torker (Part 9: The Final Chapter)

The Post-Johnson Years According to McGruther who was there, in November 1984, the owner of Seattle Bike Supply (SBS) bought the bankrupt company at public auction. “Bob Morales bought the Max name for $300. Seattle Bikes bought the Torker name for $3,000. I bought my wooden desk and office chair for $25,” he said.

Johnson said he didn’t remember how much money the auction raised, but it was insignificant. “We didn’t get much out of the bankruptcy. We paid our big creditor, the bank, and that was pretty much it,” he said.

Todd Huffman said he and Morales walked the auction and bought all of Torker’s excess parts inventory. “We got all sorts of components. I remember getting a lot of Torker stems and wheels. We used those to start a distribution company that eventually became Auburn,” he said, adding that all of Southern California’s local builders were there. “They were buying the jigs and tooling. Some of them were just walking around. I think everyone was in shock to see all that being sold.”

Morales said he wanted the Max name just to put it out of business. As the owner of Dyno, one of Max’s main rivals, he got a bit of a thrill buying his competitor for next to nothing and then removing it form the market.

Torker would quickly find its way into the hands of the Marui Brothers, who also own Tioga. At the height of the freestyle movement, Marui reintroduced Torker as Torker 2 with freestyle bike and frames like the 360 Flite and 540 Flite and a newly designed 280X, which were built by Akisu in Japan.Torker operated under Marui until about 1989.

In the mid-1990s and under new ownership, Seattle Bike Supply (SBS) reacquired the brand from Marui, an acquisition that reportedly cost SBS $1, and brought it back to life with a race team anchored by Matt Hayden and Clarence Perry.

“We had a relationship with Tioga because we used their tires. They weren’t doing anything with Torker, so we asked about it and bought it,” said Craig “Gork” Barrette, SBS’s marketing manager.

The high-end ST frames SBS sold under the Torker name in the 1990s were built in California by Mike Devit, who also was building SE frames.

The Torkers were built using 6061 T-6 aluminum with modern features such as 1 1/8-inch head tubes and cantilever brake bosses, but retained the dual-top tube design.

Torker also offered a range of low-end and price-point frames and bicycles, some with the double top tube, some without. The revival, however, was short lived.

Torker is now a beach cruiser and unicycle brand. At the 2008 Interbike Expo, the bicycle industry’s largest U.S. trade show, SBS unveiled the U-District, a single-speed bike for college students. The all-black, flat-bar road bike has the original Torker logo on the down tube and the Torker 2 headbadge.

Now owned by industry giant Accel Group, SBS also owns Redline, which has become the focus of its BMX business.

SBS does, however, offer a re-manufactured sticker packs for early Torker frames. Sticker packs for later models are expected to hit the market in the future.

The Johnsons Now. John, Doris and Steve still live in Anaheim while Doug splits his time between Sitka, Alaska, and Puerto Princessa the Phillipine Islands.

After John, now 86, retired from the FAA, he wrote inventory control programs and operated a billing service for about 10 years. He remains active with computers.

Steve, Torker’s president, went to work at Hughes Aircraft in Fullerton, CA. He retired after 20 years with the company.

Today, he enjoys spending time with his kids. His hobbies include photography and computers.

Doug built a home on Maui, Hawaii, and worked a number of years for the Parsons Company, which removes exploded and unexploded ammunition from the island of Kahoolawe.

After the bankruptcy and prior to this article, no member of the family spoke publicly about Torker. “No one ever asked, “ John said. “We thought everyone forgot abut Torker.” —Michael Gamstetter


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s