Earlier this year Scottish John started up a new brand based in Australia called Pilgrim, but we didn’t know much about the company until we recently met up with him to learn more about what he has going on. We also go the low down on a limited edition signature complete he’s doing for one of BMX’s legends, Brian Blyther. Read on…
Interview and photos by Fat.
Who are you, where are you from, and what is your background in BMX?
I grew up in the east side of Glasgow, Scotland. We lived in council flat. We didn't have much money, and my father was a violent man. Most nights I would be too afraid to go home, so I would sleep on the streets. I was only five or six at the time. I was sent to a home at the age of seven and was fostered out when I was 10. Soon after my new foster parents adopted me and I became John Buultjens. This was 1982, and the Movie E.T. had just come out. As soon as I saw that movie I wanted to ride a BMX bike. So I got my first bike at the age of 11. This was my way of freedom. I could go anywhere, and do anything I wanted on my bike.
At the age of 14 we moved to the City of Discovery, Dundee, or as we used to call it “The City of Disco!” I left school early, as I was no good at it. When I was 16 a skater friend (Darryl Smith) took me over to the other side of Dundee to meet more riders. That's the day I met Scott Carroll. This guy taught me so much on a bike I can't thank him enough—you are still my inspiration today as you were when I was 16 years old (R.I.P., mate.). I still start my ride at the park with a Rock Walk drop in. He was always famous for that move. From then on I became great friends with Paul Robertson, Grant Smith, Dave Frame, Scott Timmins, Gordon Reilly, Sandy Carson…the list goes on. I miss those days!
How long has Pilgrim been around, and where did it all come from?
Back in 1992 I came up with the idea of Pilgrim BMX. That's when we used to make our own Pilgrim stickers from white sticky labels, drawing, and cutting them out for our bikes, along with creating the Pilgrim BMX video. It was never a difficult decision to go out on my own, rather more a decision based on the timing being right. Pilgrim BMX was always part of the big picture. Obviously starting any company takes work, commitment and dedication, but if you have passion and a strong belief in yourself and your product, anything is possible.
What has the process been like for starting a company from the ground up?
I am lucky to have been in the bicycle industry for 16 years, and wholesale/manufacturing for the last 10 years. It has been a massive task, however I love the process of creation, therefore to create an entire range is actually an enjoyable task for me. Whereas working on a technical part in comparison, can take years to perfect.
Didn’t you say something about basically leaving your family in Scotland to ride in Australia? Sounds like some serious commitment to BMX…explain.
Living in Scotland is rather cold and wet. Most of the wooden in door parks where always destroyed by hooligans or fire. I had family in Australia, so I always imagined one day I would live here. I always knew Australia was the land of opportunity, and embraced that in its entirety. It wasn't easy though. It took almost three years of paperwork with the emigration department. So back in 1995 all my papers came through and I made the move. Never looked back.
What kind of products do you have available right now, and what is in the works?
Pilgrim was launched in 2010, but my first production will be the 2011 range available now. The bikes are all made in Taiwan to the highest quality spec possible. The entry-level Protégé comes with unsealed 25/9 gearing, steel frame with single wall rims. The Quest has the top of the line Alienation wheels and a few Colony parts. At the moment I am working on a pro model complete bike. This will come with the Unit team frame full of Colony parts…wheels, cranks, forks, bars, brakes, etc. This baby should retail around $1,499 USD.
Who is on the team, and what does your team mean to your brand?
The team is the backbone of my company. We are a tight-knit family, and I have known my entire team personally for many years prior to sponsorship. When I look at sponsoring a rider it's not just about the skills they have as riders. I look at their personality and royalty. I have known Stevie McCann the longest, so lets start with him. As you all know, Steve can ride everything! As soon as I told Steve I was doing Pilgrim he said, "I want to ride for you."
Now the A-Z of the team. Adam Aloise I met a few years ago through Luke Parslow. I have always liked Adam's style, but it was when Cory Nastazio said I should speak to Adam as he would be stoked to be a part of Pilgrim. New kid on the block Andrew Ahumada. I have known Andrew since he was 14 years old. Andrew is now 21 and has just come home after a three month trip in the United States. Sadly he missed out on the Dew Tour, so he entered the Gatorade Free Flow tour. He managed to place second in the finals in Salt lake City. Check out his latest edit…it's amazing! Cam Pianta—another rider I have known for years. Cam is a great friend and rider. Cam rides dirt and park, but he loves big jumps…45ft at least. Cam has also taken on the role of Pilgrim Team Manager. Dane Searls is another dirt jumper who loves big gaps. I was stoked this year when Dane wanted to be on the team. Check out Dane hitting up the Giants Of Dirt in Brisbane next week. Another young gun, Jaie Toohey. No matter what he rides, park or dirt, he just loves to ride and go big. Jaie is currently in the USA competing in the Dew Tour. New Zealand heavyweight Jed Mildon…Jed is the most thoughtful and loving person. I can see this guy being the ambassador of New Zealand one day. Early this year Jed won sportsman of the year. Wildcat Nick Cooper…you got to love Nick, as he never pretends he is something he isn't…A rider that just loves to ride, dirt, park, or street. He kills anything he touches. Just like Stevie, Vince Byron rides everything…vert, park, and dirt. Watch out for Vince, as this boy is going places!
Why is it mostly Australian riders at this point? Any plans to expand more globally with the team?
I didn't plan on that, it's just where I live. As I said before, all the team riders are my friends. We all go back a few years. I am looking at other countries for sure, but again, it will have to be people I know personally. I want my riders to want to ride for Pilgrim ,not because I am putting the cash on the table.
What prompted you to do a limited edition custom complete bike, and why did you pick Brian Blyther to endorse it?
I am an avid collector of old school Haro bikes. I love it when something is limited or rare. As for Brian…well, he has been my all-time favorite rider for 25 plus years. He was the one that added that certain style to BMX. I have known Brian personally for a few years now, and when he asked me if he could help in anyway in the USA I was blown away. Do you know in all the years Brian has been riding, all the coverage he has received including countless magazine covers, he has never had a signature frame or bike? So this was something I wanted to do…give Brian the recognition he deserves, not just back then, but today!
Explain the meaning behind the bike, what’s so special about it, and why you are only doing 101 of them…
The bike is a full Sanko tubing frame. I have gone the chromed look to give it that old school look. It comes with every Colony part possible on the complete. As for the 101, well again, that's old school. Back in the day there was a video called 101 Freestyle Tricks. So I thought why not do 101 Brian Blyther signature completes? Also everyone does 100, so I thought I would be different…I like to live outside the square.
Why is the frame called “Unit,” and doesn’t that have some tie in with Unit Clothing, which is also out of Australia?
We are making the Pro Unit frame, and yes, it has something to do with Unit Clothing. I wanted to call it the Unit because the team is a unit. But also, because four of my riders actually ride for the clothing company, so it worked out well. Unit also helps me with advertising, including some T-shirts they have coming out. We are even working on a Blyther tee to come with the limited edition complete. The frame itself will come in four sizes, and three colors.
The difference with this frame is that I am giving 50% of my profits from the team frame sales back to the team. Well, it has taken so much to make this company happen, so I don't have much left to put back into the team. So I thought why not do frames for the team and give them 50% of what I make on each frame. It's not much, but every little bit helps, and I know the team will push the frame out there as it's their frame, not mine.
Why did you decided to put all Colony parts on the bike?
Clint Millar is one of my best friends. He has helped me so much over the years, including helping me set up Pilgrim. So, out of respect for him and Colony, I decided to run all Colony parts. Plus, they are the shit!
Will anything be different from the production models from the prototype we shot photos of?
The only difference will be the tires. The cranks will be in chrome, and the spokes will be silver stainless steel. Also, the Colony tires are not out just yet, but will be on the complete bike.
Who is this complete geared for, and how can someone get their hands on one?
Well, I thought it would sell to the 25 plus range of riders. Two reasons for this…they would know Brian, and they could afford such an expensive bike. But since I have built the bike I have all ages ask about the bike. I already have four of my team riders wanting to ride them. Plus, I just sold 30 to Apollo Bicycle Company in Australia, so I hope we manage to move the lot. I will be updating the Pilgrim site with where and when the bike will be available.
Limited Edition Custom Complete Pilgrim Bike Specs:
Frame: 21″ Pilgrim Unit Frame (Chrome)
Fork: Colony Dagger (Chrome)
Bars: Colony Teddy (Chrome)
Stem: Colony Official (Blue)
Grips: Colony Mount Joy
Headset: Colony (Blue)
Seatpost: Colony (Blue)
Cranks: Colony (Chrome)
Sprocket: Colony (Blue)
Chain: KMC Half-Link (Black)
Brake Lever: Colony
Front Tire: Colony
Front Wheel: Colony (Blue)
Rear Tire: Colony
Rear Wheel: Colony (Blue)