After completing the Odyssey video, Rich Hirsch wasn’t sure what to do with the extra sliver of time he had in his schedule, so he started a shoe company called Lotek.Add that to running Salvation Clothing, editing the next zRide video, and going to school full-time, and it’s amazing this guy still has time to ride. We stopped by his home office to get the story behind his workaholism. I don’t think that’s a word, but you get my drift.

Why did you decide to start a shoe company?

The opportunity was basically presented to me; I always thought it would be cool--I love shoes, I love designing stuff... I never thought it was something I could feasibly do, but I talked to some businessmen, and they showed me how I could get it done. Basically, a company came to me a long time ago and they were like, “Hey, we want to get into BMX. Can you make us successful in BMX; do you know what people want?” and I was like, “Yeah, I think I have something valuable, and I think I could make you look cool.” Then I figured I’m going to be doing all their work and they’ll profit from it. I wasn’t that into it, so I was talking to them about it, and they were like, “Well, we can just help you with your resources to do it on your own, then.” They gave me the connections to the vendors, the Korean agents and whatnot, and all of the sudden it was right in front of me–I could just do it. All I needed was a little money to start it up and it was done.

What makes Lotek different?

Honestly, I don’t know what makes it different from other people so much, because I don’t know what they’re doing, but I’m trying to do something really light-hearted; I want it to be fun. I don’t want there to be anything serious about it. I’m trying to present the more fashionable side of everything I’m doing, really trying to go with cooler colors. On my shoe designs, I went with simple designs, and I tried to use cooler materials. I didn’t do any shoes in suede; I’m personally not into it. I think it gets beat up and doesn’t look that cool. I just tried to do stuff that I thought looked cool; basically, I wanted a fashionable shoe.

What products are you planning on coming out with?

I’ve got some softgoods coming out right now, just to hype things up and wear around for promotions and stuff. I have two shoes in three colorways coming out for the back-to-school season (next fall).

Are you handling all the design?

I design the shoes–I’m actually in college right now for design. I pick the shape I really like for the shoe and fill it in with the patterns I like. I try to make them lightweight, simple, and breathable; those are the things I was going for. I hate shoes where your foot’s really hot or they feel like a damn tank. I wanted it to be a lightweight, good-looking shoe.

Rich hangs out in the Salvation “warehouse”.  credit: Kevin McAvoy

Who are the current team riders?

Right now it’s me, Matt Puorro, Seth Kimbrough, Terry Adams, Sean “Fish” Hoskins, and some flow guys coming up, too.

What’s up with Salvation, your clothing company?

The main thing is that I started an online store and started selling stuff directly, and that’s been going really well. The mail order places are cool, but you’ll make certain things that you think are cool and maybe certain places aren’t that into. The online store is a good place for me to sell a limited-edition item or a color that I think is really cool that not everybody’s into. The response has been really good, so I’m really happy with that.

Do you see Salvation growing, or is Lotek your focus right now?

They’re all my focus. Now I have plans for a direct sale thing I’m working on, and I think that’s going to help all my projects grow a lot. I’m going to close the online store for Salvatn and open another one for basically everything that I’m into. I’m going to carry some Lotek, maybe a zRide video or two, some Salvation shirts...I’ve talked to friends of mine that have companies and they’ll probably have stuff like limited-edition shirts in there. I want it to just be a fun store that sells cool stuff, not just your usual black t-shirt.

How did you get the zRide gig?

The guy who owns it–Zack–we were working on a business venture outside of zRide that we didn’t go forward with, and we got to talking. Bruce (Crisman) was doing it previously, and he got too busy to work on it anymore because of his band and stuff, so Zack asked me if I wanted to take it over. I was kind of hesitant at first. We negotiated for a while and talked about it, and he said, “Well, you can have all the control. You can make it what you would want to watch.” I thought that would be pretty cool, so I decided to do it.

What are your plans with it; is it something you’re going to change up from the previous format?

It was kind of a video magazine at first, and I guess it still is, but it doesn’t have issues, it doesn’t have a timely schedule. It’s just videos we’re putting out with what we think are things that are fun to watch and are going to get kids stoked on bike riding. It doesn’t have a format; there’s not an interview in every issue or anything like that. I was talking with Rob-O, and we were saying that there’s not really a way for kids to come up in BMX and get out there. I know it kind of sucks to say that every kid wants to get sponsored, but you do, you know? We have to have pros in our industry, that’s the way it works, and to have pros, you have to have ams, kids that are coming up. I’m going to start doing a thing in these videos–you’ll see it up on the Web site soon–I want every kid out there to send me footage. I’ll take the best of the best and edit together maybe a five-minute section in every video with all the footage. If there’s a kid in Minnesota... I don’t know if that’s a good example because I’ve never been there... How about Chattanooga? Or Kalamazoo? I don’t even know where those cities are. If there are kids out there ripping, people would see their footage and be like, “Whoa, this kid shreds.” It’s a way for kids to come up.

What’s in the video you’re working on now?

So far, I have a section on Travis Lyons, this kid from Tacoma who’s an awesome bike rider, nice kid, so I did a part on him. I’ve got a part with Jeff Zielinski, who talks about his favorite video part ever, so we edited together the part to the music and the way he’s talking about it. It’s a way to educate the kids that have never seen the video before; it’s cool to get someone’s perspective on the way it made them feel. I got a similar part with Rob-O talking about his favorite video part. I want to Vegas for a day, so we have a “one day in Vegas” part that’s really good because there are so many good riders out there. I have an “Inside Volume Bikes” thing that Brian (Castillo) did, that’s pretty awesome, and I don’t know what else. I’m thinking about that right now, that’s the only reason the video’s not done.

Does filming ever get in the way of riding? Do you have to separate them?

I don’t ever film. I need to do more, but I honestly don’t think of myself as a filmer whatsoever. It’s just something that I do–most of the things I do are things that I needed to be doing for projects I was working on. Like with Salvation, I learned how to make Web sites because I needed to make one for my company. Then I wanted to make a video, so I needed to learn how to film, so I got a video camera and started doing that. Now I’m doing another video so I have to film more. When I was in Vegas, I went to some of the best parks I’ve ever seen, and I hardly rode them at all because I was filming. You can’t–I can’t at least–ride and film at the same time, it’s just frustrating. I just try to do one or the other; mostly it’s riding. The only time the filming got on me pretty hard was the Odyssey video. That was intense because we only had a week to film each guy, so I had to be filming all day every day because the dudes were shredding and I couldn’t take a break.

You mentioned going to school. Talk about that.

I’ve only been in since August. I’m going for digital media. I’ve already done a lot of Web design, so I just wanted to further that and get really good at that. I just got done taking a painting and drawing class, color theory...a lot of little things that fine-tune me on skills I didn’t have. Now I have a better understanding of why things work. I really enjoy drawing and painting stuff for people, doing Web sites and stuff. I didn’t know stuff like color theory and why stuff looked good together. Now I understand those things.

Are you going full-time?

Yes.

Can you say BMXonline.com exclusive? A look at one of the new Lotek designs.  credit: Kevin McAvoy

How do you find time for all these projects and still go to school full-time?

This year, the art institute is offering their courses online, so I go to school every night from 10 o’clock to three in the morning. I do all my homework, paint my projects, scan them on my scanner or shoot digital pictures of them and send them to my teachers, then they grade them...it’s pretty crazy. Without that, I wouldn’t be able to do it. I’m on a schedule right now; I get up really early, seven or so, I answer e-mails for Salvation, work on designs and stuff, then go out and shred until like noon, come back and answer some more emails, then go ride schools in the afternoon. You have to have a schedule or it doesn’t work.

What’s going on with Mosh?

Basically, they’re not doing complete bikes anymore; they’ve always tried to reach the older group of riders, doing cool things that are more design-oriented, awesome artwork in the ads and stuff, and that’s not what really appeals to the kids buying the complete bikes. So they refined their program, and now they want to focus on making, in their eyes, the best parts. And make them look the best too; they always put a lot of attention to detail into the style of the products as well as the design. I think I’m going to be doing some artwork for them this year, maybe helping out with some other things. It should be awesome; it should be a really positive change.

(Editor’s note: While I was editing this, Rich called to say he had talked to Sam Arellano at Giant/Mosh who told him that Heath Pinter, Mike Ardelean, and Rich would have creative control over the Mosh brand, so keep your eyes peeled for some new stuff designed by those guys.)

How long have you been in Southern California?

I have been here for one year exactly now.

What brought you down here originally?

It was raining so much, man; I had to get out. I knew I had an opportunity; I understand, as a sponsored bike rider, or pro, or whatever you want to call it, my only job is to promote the people I ride for. It’s a lot easier to do that down here, and it’s a lot easier for me to ride a lot because it’s never raining. I would imagine, with all these projects I’m doing, if I was back in Portland and it rained one day, I would only get two things done, or I wouldn’t get any riding done for three weeks straight.

Think you’ll stick around?

Yeah, I don’t have any plans to go anywhere. Mike (Ardelean) is moving in with me in two weeks, so we’ll be shreddin’.

That’s all I have. Any closing thoughts?

Check out the Web sites, all of them, all the time. SalvationclothiI just try to do one or the other; mostly it’s riding. The only time the filming got on me pretty hard was the Odyssey video. That was intense because we only had a week to film each guy, so I had to be filming all day every day because the dudes were shredding and I couldn’t take a break.

You mentioned going to school. Talk about that.

I’ve only been in since August. I’m going for digital media. I’ve already done a lot of Web design, so I just wanted to further that and get really good at that. I just got done taking a painting and drawing class, color theory...a lot of little things that fine-tune me on skills I didn’t have. Now I have a better understanding of why things work. I really enjoy drawing and painting stuff for people, doing Web sites and stuff. I didn’t know stuff like color theory and why stuff looked good together. Now I understand those things.

Are you going full-time?

Yes.

Can you say BMXonline.com exclusive? A look at one of the new Lotek designs.  credit: Kevin McAvoy

How do you find time for all these projects and still go to school full-time?

This year, the art institute is offering their courses online, so I go to school every night from 10 o’clock to three in the morning. I do all my homework, paint my projects, scan them on my scanner or shoot digital pictures of them and send them to my teachers, then they grade them...it’s pretty crazy. Without that, I wouldn’t be able to do it. I’m on a schedule right now; I get up really early, seven or so, I answer e-mails for Salvation, work on designs and stuff, then go out and shred until like noon, come back and answer some more emails, then go ride schools in the afternoon. You have to have a schedule or it doesn’t work.

What’s going on with Mosh?

Basically, they’re not doing complete bikes anymore; they’ve always tried to reach the older group of riders, doing cool things that are more design-oriented, awesome artwork in the ads and stuff, and that’s not what really appeals to the kids buying the complete bikes. So they refined their program, and now they want to focus on making, in their eyes, the best parts. And make them look the best too; they always put a lot of attention to detail into the style of the products as well as the design. I think I’m going to be doing some artwork for them this year, maybe helping out with some other things. It should be awesome; it should be a really positive change.

(Editor’s note: While I was editing this, Rich called to say he had talked to Sam Arellano at Giant/Mosh who told him that Heath Pinter, Mike Ardelean, and Rich would have creative control over the Mosh brand, so keep your eyes peeled for some new stuff designed by those guys.)

How long have you been in Southern California?

I have been here for one year exactly now.

What brought you down here originally?

It was raining so much, man; I had to get out. I knew I had an opportunity; I understand, as a sponsored bike rider, or pro, or whatever you want to call it, my only job is to promote the people I ride for. It’s a lot easier to do that down here, and it’s a lot easier for me to ride a lot because it’s never raining. I would imagine, with all these projects I’m doing, if I was back in Portland and it rained one day, I would only get two things done, or I wouldn’t get any riding done for three weeks straight.

Think you’ll stick around?

Yeah, I don’t have any plans to go anywhere. Mike (Ardelean) is moving in with me in two weeks, so we’ll be shreddin’.

That’s all I have. Any closing thoughts?

Check out the Web sites, all of them, all the time. Salvationclothing.com. Lotekkicks.com is updated frequently with random news about nothing. I’m saying stuff on there, so read it. Keep an eye out for the store; I don’t have a name for it yet, but as soon as I do it’s going to be on there. It’s going to be a place to get some cool stuff, not the usual suspects. ZRide.net isn’t up yet, it’s just chillin’, but it’s going to be hot and fresh in a minute.othing.com. Lotekkicks.com is updated frequently with random news about nothing. I’m saying stuff on there, so read it. Keep an eye out for the store; I don’t have a name for it yet, but as soon as I do it’s going to be on there. It’s going to be a place to get some cool stuff, not the usual suspects. ZRide.net isn’t up yet, it’s just chillin’, but it’s going to be hot and fresh in a minute.