Category Archives: Uncategorized

Two New Plate Shapes for Forty Four 16

We’ve been busy developing new plate shapes of late. Since starting the company last summer with the Original Round plate we’ve added our own Square, Original Square, Wizard and our Micro-Mini/Cruiser plates. Now, we are offering two new plates that fit a little better the larger Pro-size bars that were popular starting in the mid-1980s. The two new plates are based on the popular Haro Type 2/Colored plates and Aero’s Stadium plate. Both are available with modified lightning-bolt graphics.

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The Wizard plates, which, for now come in red, white and blue and black and yellow digitally printed graphics also fit larger bars. These plates are special order only and may take more time to complete.

Our Micro-Mini/Cruiser plates fit modern cruiser bars, as well as vintage mini bars. Like all our plates the width can be trimmed to custom fir smaller handle bars. These, also, come with our popular retro lightning bolt graphics. These are quickly catching on with the today’s racers who are old enough to remember the originals. Soon, we’ll be announcing a team sponsorship with these plates.

BMX Society Show and Reunion Was Best Ever

Saturday I took part in the 2010 BMX Society Show and Reunion at the Bellflower BMX track. What a super event. This was the third I attended and the second I exhibited in. There is no doubt it was the best yet. The new venue at the Bellflower track, with live BMX racing and the opportunity for  show goers to ride and participate in two vintage races, was stellar. What great luck that Peck Park, the original site, was closed for renovations.

It seems that the new SoCal event may have reached a tipping point. The number and quality of the bikes on display was dazzling. There were so many spectacular bikes that I can’t even remember seeing a single mediocre build. From Denis Dain’s collection of his personal 1970s race bikes to a number of lager freestyle collections and even mid-school bikes the entire history of old-school BMX was covered. More old-school pros and elite racers showed up this year, too. The few I saw (or remember seeing) include Eddy King, Craig Bark, Toby Henderson, Perry Kramer, Harry Leary, David Clinton, Denis Dain, Mike Miranda, Kim Jarboe, Eddie Fiola, Mike Dominguez, Woody Itson, Todd Lyons. . .

Jim Melton, the JM in JMC, was there, too. Steve Brothers, the man behind the BMX Society website and the event, presented Jim with a special lifetime achievement award. It was obvious that he appreciated the recognition almost as much as all of us in attendance, especially we JMC owners, appreciated him making the trip out to SoCal from his home in Missouri. Jim and his staff built some of the most technologically advanced and beautiful BMX frames of the time. He continues to contribute to  the BMX community by sharing his knowledge, memories and production records with anyone who asks for his help. He’s a real treasure.

The freestyle show as, as usual phenomenal and master of ceremonies Dan Hubbard’s non-stop announcing was a perfection. Despite the hot SoCal sun and a lack of food and water consumption, he never stopped his narration of the event. He’s a real pro and I want to thank him for plugging Forty Four 16. I was blown away by Eddie Fiola. His skills are undiminished . And it was fun to see him and the other old-school freestylers juxtaposed with today’s young riders. Fifteen-year-old Daniel Sandoval, who rides for Eye,  blew everyone away with his big air and insanely technical tricks.

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(I’m still trying to track down all the names of the photogs who’s images I used here.)

I want to thank Steve Brothers and the BMX Society staff and the other volunteers (Sorry, I know you were there, but not sure who you all are.) for organizing and managing the show; Tammy Estep for stepping in at the last minute to host the event at the track; Steve Blackey, for his cool trophies and for encouraging me to go through with my idea of making mini number plate trophies; Paul Morton for use of this EZ-Up and for acting as my personal photog; Eric and Max at Garage Graphics for printing the mini number plate stickers; Toby Henderson and the Intense staff for the free food; Craig Bark for the Torker swag and William LaRoque for the killer Torker sticker.

Finally, congratulations to all those who won awards for their bikes. There were sooooo many killer bikes on display, the  judges must have been pulling their hair out trying to pick a single winner in each category.

  • 70’s 20 inch BMX – Donnie Baird with his Webco
  • 80’s 20 inch BMX – Hector Aguilar with his VDC Changa
  • Old School 24″ BMX Cruiser – Tony Hartt  with an RRS 24″
  • Old School 26″ BMX Cruiser – Shawn Duex with a Torker 26″
  • Freestyle BMX – Mark Webster  and his VDC Freestyler
  • Mid School BMX – Steve Arndt  and his Kastan
  • Retro BMX – Brian Garcia with a 2010 L&S 26″ Cruiser
  • Side Hack – Eric King  with his Two Wheelers Hack
  • Pit Bike – John Dunphy with a Redline Square Back Pit

Congrats. You guys deserve to be very proud.

Though barely recovered from the last-minute push to get ready for the 2010 event, I’m already looking forward to next year’s show on June 4.

More Media Coverage; This Time in Japan’s Pedal Speed Magazine.

Funny story: My brother-in-law was in a book store in Tokyo (He’s in the Navy Reserves and was there on maneuvers.) and saw a cool-looking bicycle magazine on the shelf that he thought I might like. He picked it up and started flipping through its pages. The magazine opened up to a familiar face—mine.

In April and May I did the interview and photoshoots for the article with Yasu Tsuchiya, a locally based freelance writer and photographer. I knew it was coming out, but still hadn’t seen it. Not until my brother-in-law gave me a copy today. Yasu said it would be “only six pages long.” I thought that was plenty enough. But the eight I got is killer.

I gave it a quick read this evening—my Japanese is rusty, but good enough to get most of this article—and it’s a cool little piece. I’m super stoked.

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.