Text/interviews: Kurt Hoberger
Photos: Jeff Zielinski (studio photos courtesy of GT)
A few weeks back we dropped a video featuring Brian Kachinsky, Dan Conway and Albert Mercado putting their signature 2019 completes to work on the streets and parks around San Diego. These guys literally took their bikes out of the boxes and went to work without making any changes to the bikes to see what they could hold up to. The video, which we’ve re-embedded below, shows these guys didn’t hold back and the bikes held up to everything they threw at them from jibs and transitions to repeatedly sending it down a massive 20 stair rail! We decided to catch up with Brian, Dan, Albert and product designer and BMX team manager Ben Ward to get a little insight on what went into making the three bikes that the guys have their names on! Check out what Ben, Brian, Albert and Dan had to say, along with a look at each of the bikes and a bunch of great photos from the San Diego trip from the lens of Jeff Z.!
Ben Ward, GT product designer.
Going into every new line of completes, you probably have a good idea of some places to improve from the previous year. What were some of the main features you were looking into making happen for Brian, Albert and Dan’s bikes?
Most of the work went into the brand relaunch for the 2017 model year. I put everything I’ve learned over the years into making that the best line we could right out of the gate. Solid colorways are only as good as their foundation, so getting the foundation right was key. Each year we take a look at how the previous line performed and target areas for improvement. Fortunately, the foundation has been solid, so we are able to direct energy into other areas, like ride quality and affordability. We didn’t have much money growing up and it was a lot of hard work for myself to keep rolling. Mom took me to the bike shop once a year on my birthday to get what I needed to dial in my bike so I had to make sure to use that money in a smart way. We want to make sure if a young rider chooses a GT. Even if they can only afford our base model bikes, they get a true and real BMX experience. They get a bike that rides like a modern BMX bike should and just as important, looks as good as their friend that had an unlimited budget to build a custom bike. A lot of time and energy goes into our most approachable models for this very reason. Kids are rough man, so we want to make sure the future GT shredder owns a bike they are proud of. You put one of our base models next to a high end custom and 9 times out of 10 someone will choose our Air, Slammer or Performer over the high end custom.
When it comes to working with Brian, Albert and Dan, we would imagine these guys came into it with some ideas of their own as well. What were some of the main things that those 3 had for ideas right out of the gate?
I’ve been lucky enough to know and work with all three of these guys for a long time, well before I joined GT. I have a pretty solid grasp of what they like. In turn they have a lot of respect and trust for the work GT puts into the bike line. It’s an absolute collaboration. They share some key ideas and we get to work. BK, his love for travel, spot searching, his wife. Conway, rock n’ roll, motorcycles and simplicity. Alberts creativity, love for San Diego, sunshine and the 90’s.
Our graphic designer, Yunho Seo, is an amazing talent and he knows how to translate my sometimes floaty rambles into some pretty amazing bikes. We take the input from the rider, sit down at his desk and get to work on colors. It’s him with some direction from the team, a bit of translation from me, that creates the original graphic ideas. That is one of my favorite parts of the process, when he unveils his idea to me. It’s not foreign for me to jump up and do a bit of a dance in reaction to his work. He is a truly talented designer and GT is lucky to have him as part of the crew.
Obviously these 3 guys have pretty different personalities and that is something that reflects on their bikes. Can you take us through some of the details like the graphics and paint on Albert’s bike to the Translucent Blue on Dan’s bike that really make each bike stand out on its own?
We love the fact that each is such an individual. There is no way you can mistake anyone on the team for someone else. Something I learned over the years is that having a line that looks the same from beginning to end with the only change being a price point. We set out to make each bike have it’s own personality and they lend themselves perfectly to this. Alberts line reflects his artistic personality and 1990’s California when things were so much brighter. The maps and icons wrapped around BK’s downtube reflect a typical day in the streets for Brian. A skull and play on the Stink Pit logo on Dan’s head tube to the pinstriping details on the downtube and saddle are a testament for his love of motorcycles and his pops. Even a pro bike rider isn’t immune to having their favorite riders, and Dan’s trans teal is a reflection of one of his favorite riders past bikes that always struck a chord with him.
It’s not every day that you can see a rider send a huge 20 stair rail over and over again on a complete bike. Can you tell us a little bit about the specs on these bikes that make them able to withstand the heavier riding that we see these days?
I won’t lie to you all, I was nervous as hell going into this trip! I had confidence in the bikes. Dan has been riding one of his first model year bikes on and off for the last year putting it through it’s paces and its held up fine. Even though BMX completes have come a long way, we never truly see what kind of abuse they can take in traditional complete bike promotional videos. Some brands have high dollar complete bikes which are essentially aftermarket custom machines, but the bikes the crew would be riding retail for $485 (Mercado Team Comp) and $580 (BK & Conway Team Signature) respectively.
They are full 4130 Chromoly frame, forks and handlebars. For the most part are all built with our OEM line of GT products. We’ve worked really closely with our vendors to create parts, even at their lower cost, should hold up for any kind of riding. The bars were ride tested by the team for a long time, but I wasn’t sure how the frames and forks would stand up. In the end, the frames proved bulletproof and the forks are strong and reliable! The idea was to make a video on complete bikes not a complete bike video and I believe we succeeded.
There are a number of aftermarket parts built into these bikes. Can you give us a run through on some of the highlights for you when it came to spec’ing these bikes out?
Each feature our aftermarket Pool and LP-5 (GT Logo) tires in the desired size of each rider. GT Super Soft grips for a soft comfortable feel. BK’s signature Elevated CNC’d stem on the Signature models. Technically BK’s Signature Pivotal Seat, but a large part of our line features the Pivotal Seat System. The last custom bit is on the Team Signature models is the 19mm GT Power Series Cranks in a 2pc version that can only be found on the bike line, not aftermarket. The Signature models come with an unbranded 9t RHD Freecoaster that is made by the most reliable freecoaster maker in the game. It’s silhouette will look familiar to fakie efficianados.
I’d imagine it was tricky packing so much bike into an affordable price. What are these bikes going for again?
Mercado Team Comp (left hand drive) – $485.00
Conway Team Signature – $580
BK Team Signature – $580
If you had to pick a favorite bike out of the 3, which one would you pick and why?
I love Conways translucent teal, and definitely love the BK Translucent Red Camo, but the Albert Mercado Tequila Sunrise color way is my favorite. It is one of the last models we did for 2019 and it really turned out great.
Watch Kachinsky, Albert Mercado, and Dan Conway shred SD in the GT Complete Story video here…
I wanted these bikes to be the bikes I’ve been most proud of so far and based on what I experienced on the Complete Story trip to SD…we succeeded! There are a few subtle tweaks from 2018 and overall I just think they look and ride better. I’m pretty blown away by the quality/price comparison. What you get for the price on these 2019 bikes are likely unprecedented.
One of the most standout parts of the bike is the red and polished paint, and the graphics. Can you tell us a little bit about what went into this colorway? Was it something you had in mind or something that GT brought to the table that you really liked?
Red is my favorite color but I’d had a red bike before so I we thought we should add a twist. The red/black/raw camo looks better in person that I could have imagined. It has to run through 3 laps at the painter but it turned out to be worth it. The graphics are the most personal thing to me. They are an ode to digital maps and all the different modes of transportation that I use (trains, cars, planes, etc.) all to use my favorite mode of transportation: My Bike. There are also some little inside jokes snuck in there, my wife’s name, hometown references, Chicago references, and all sorts of other cool stuff. I was in awe when I saw the graphics on the bike for the first time. Thanks to Ben and Yunho for making that happen.
Can you tell us a little bit about your new signature seat on this bike?I would imagine there’s a story to it like the graphics on the frame.
The seat is perfect. Perfect size, grippy, strong, and has the Chicago train map embossed in the top. I’m really hyped on it. It’s personal without being too loud.
You spend a lot of time bouncing around the world with your bike. What was it like hopping a plane to San Diego of all places without a bike for a riding trip?
That was a bit crazy actually. I rarely fly without my bike and I was a bit anxious at first. It felt like I forgot something…something very important, haha! I was also anxious to see my new bike for the first time in the flesh.
Obviously working on a design and everything is one thing on paper and in emails, texts and phone calls. What was it like pulling your 2019 bike out of the box for the first time?
Surreal. It kind of felt like Christmas but even more special. The first thing I noticed was the color/paint. It felt like it jumped out at me right away. Assembling it was fun since the whole crew was unboxing their bikes at once.
You guys spent some time exploring street spots in San Diego and it’s safe to say you were able to stack so heavy clips on your bike. Was there much of a transition from your personal bike to your signature complete?
At first there was a bit of “breaking it in” but luckily we went to skatepark first to get things rolling and adjusted. Once we were in the streets I knew I could trust it and got more used to it everyday. There still is nothing like “your bike” that you’ve fine-tuned but I definitely went hard on my complete. By the last day I forgot that I wasn’t on my other bike while trying some bigger stuff. It was a cool feeling.
While filming, was there any spot you rode or trick you did that made you think “I can’t believe this thing can take all of this!”?
Yes, the wall pegs was one of those moments that I didn’t really consider that I was “on a complete” but rather I just found the set up, knew I could do it and didn’t really think about how the bike would hold up. It held up great, of course.
Looking at the bike, what would you say your favorite piece is for this one?
My favorite piece is probably the frame/color/decals because they’re personal to me and my life but all in all I just like how the bike looks. Nothing looks out of place or subpar. It looks like it’s ready for battle…and it’s now been proven on the battlefield.
90's California my man. It was pretty easy cause that’s what popped into my head during the first conversation Ben and I had about the completes. After pulling ideas from a certain 90's TV show and got some color ideas together it was pretty easy to move forward!
It’s safe to say going into this one there was going to be some creative paint and graphics.Can you tell us a little bit about how the Gold and Purple two tone color came about? How involved were you with the graphics on this one?
I helped with the general ideas and got together stuff that I thought was cool that we'd be able to incorporate into the graphics. After that Ben and Yunho at GT helped me land on the Tequila Sunrise color for the Team Comp. It was a pretty quick and fun process. Yunho really killed it, you know?
Brian and Dan chose to go with 4-piece bars on their bikes. Any reason you stuck with the classic 2-piece design?
I'm a huge fan of 4-piece bars. I just wanted the bike to look and feel like my personal bike!
You guys got a look at the bikes for the first time when everyone met up in San Diego. What were some of the first things that came to mind when you popped the box open and pulled your bike out for the first time?
First thought "this is incredible" a bike with my name on it! WTF right? Haha, it's my first complete ever so I was shocked at how well our ideas translated into a real life tangible bike. We were outside on a sunny San Diego day when I popped the box open so immediately I got to experience how badass the color is. You gotta see it in the sunlight for yourself. California Dreamin' dude!
How was it riding the bike versus your personal bike? Was there much of a change or was it pretty easy to transition into the bike?
Pretty easy transition. 2-pc bars, left hand drive, soft 60 psi tires, and similar frame specs! IT WAS ON as soon as I tightened the last bolt. Right out of the box ready to shred.
Based off the clips in the video, you weren’t scared to put the bike to good use. Were there any tricks or spots you rode that really surprised you with what these bikes could handle?
Got spooked at a couple spots but the bike held up and we were all good. The bike handled really well. Seriously like riding my personal bike.
What would you say your favorite piece or thing about your bike is?
It's hard to choose. The bike as a complete unit is my favorite part. Haha I know that doesn't exactly answer the question but that's how I feel about the complete.
Some main points I wanted were, making the bike slightly bigger than most, it had the taller bars and longer top tube. I feel like complete bike are easy to out-grow fast and want to move on to bigger parts, my model is solid all the way through. As far as graphics, we tried to make the font replicate the stink pit SP logo and through in some heavy metal and motorcycle details for good measure.
Looking at Brian and Albert’s bikes, they chose to go with a little bit wilder of color combos. What made you land on the translucent blue color for your bike?
Yea man, those guys have some dope colors for sure, I have always liked the matching frame and fork with the different color bar, especially chrome. Being the GT 4-piece, they are meant to be chrome, haha. But as far as the trans blue, way back in the day Ty Morrow had a edit with Dan Lacey and he had a blue and chrome set up that I sweated, still do! I usually get tired of color quick but something about trans blue just sticks with me. It's too good.
Going through your bike, there’s a good amount of aftermarket parts on the bike. What are a few of the main features you are really stoked on?
As I said earlier the big bars are definitely one of my favorite features of the bike! They are so damn cool looking. Also I am a big fan of the two-piece cranks, clean and simple looking.
When you hopped on the plane to San Diego without your bike, did you know what to expect when it came time to open up the box or was there still a bit of a surprise as far as to how your bike turned out?
Ah man, it was a complete surprise, Ben showed us some computer mock ups of what we thought they were gonna be but once we got there he told us he made some tweaks and they were all killer, haha! It was mad funny! Everything came out perfect.
Not too many complete bikes are able to stand up to a burly man like yourself sending it down a 20 stair rail over and over again.
What was that like for you to hop on a complete bike and charge spots like that?
It's was cool man, I had never been to San Diego, so I was completely stoked to just ride/ and be with the boys! The bike felt cool after a few runs in a bowl we were riding and the rest was history. Being with a rad crew of dudes on the road and some of the best filmers/photog in the game just makes me want to ride and get shit done, everything else just falls into place.
Was it much of a transition going from your personal bike to your signature complete? Did the bike beat your expectations as far as just what kind of abuse it can take?
Yeah, the bike is damn close to the same set up as my regular ride. The complete comes with a freecoaster and slightly shorter top tube than what I normally ride, as far as strength the bike held up just fine. I definitely was pushing it on jumping down that rail as many times as I did but that was a personal battle because I couldn’t get it quite how I wanted. I still can't believe how rad this bike is as a COMPLETE! I sure do wish I had bike available like this back when I was getting into the game.
It looks like you’re back on the brake game. What were some of the reasons you wanted to get back into running brakes? Any new tricks you are especially stoked on doing lately?
Yeah man! I have made the switch back to brakes. I grew up on them and used to be real into street spines and sub boxes. I'm not down playing today's style of riding, but I just get bored with all the click clacking on one single flat ledge. I just felt like once I put the brakes on it re opened doors at some spots for other moves to get done. Also they give me more confidence to haul ass at set-ups and jump dirt jumps. I kind of took a loss on some bar spin variations and x-up grinds, but it's an even trade for being able to throw down the fufanu! Also I’ve been messing with hurricanes, I missed out on doing them back when so it's been fun learning something new. I’m hoping to find a cool street set-up to get one done on.