BEYOND bicycles


by Larry Bull

By the summer of 1988 it was clear that Freestyle BMX was changing in significant ways. As the appropriation of ideas from skateboarding continued apace, street riding emerged as a new creative outlet - just as the number of retail outlets began to dwindle. The AFA closed at the end of the year, the magazines struggled, companies folded, and surviving teams dropped riders. But the riders began to have a more direct impact: Ron Wilkerson's 2Hip vert and street events continued to show a way forward, new bike designs were rushed out for 1989, and riders started their own companies. Original rider company Haro, quickly followed by GT, produced a version of their current frame with a bashguard underneath:

But most of us had spent 1988 breaking the frames the companies of the time manufactured. The seatstay plate remained on Haro's new Master which was a renowned point of failure on all bikes. It was also heavy. Both had removed the welded brake lugs which had been the best innovation in the previous two years. R.L. Osborne, that other founding light, was first to bring out an alternative with his Bully, and was followed by Wilkerson with his Wilkerson Airlines:

The Bully also had a plate at the toptube-seatstay junction so they broke there. Although, the bashgaurd was much better than those on the Haro and GT. The WAL Riot also had a plate in the same place but the junction was generally more reinforced due to the enormous toptube. The bashguard was removable and of a good size but lacked the Bully's skateboard rail cover. And this was by far the heaviest frame of all, to put it mildly (update: the lump got put in the ESPN 20 most progressive frames list). Neither had brake lugs upon release.

I had spent 1987 and 1988 riding for Hutch bicycles, sticking with their marvellous 1984 Trickstar as opposed to the shopping-trolley Trickstar II. In 1989 it seemed Hutch were about to disappear and seeing as I had broken a couple of frames in quick succession - the headtube gusset would cause the toptube to rip - I decided to make my own frame. Beyond bicycles was born and registered with Companies' House in 1989 (Bristol or Evolution were other possible names). I had talked about the idea for some time with various riding buddies like Jason Davies and Mike Cameron (and Cardiff lot) and I knew exactly what I wanted: simple, strong and light.

In 1988 Diamond Back produced a BMX racing frame with a wishbone seatstay design which appeared to increase strength. So I took that idea. I had also thought of a removable bashguard but it would be made purely from skateboard rail-like material. For overall geometry the starting point was my 1984 Trickstar frame but with the seat angle kicked back to that on Haro Masters for more room. A small toptube platform would be achieved by putting two shaped tubes alongside the toptube at the seatstay. And GT Performer-sized tubing (Reyonolds 531) would be used throughout. Brake lugs were essential and to be tucked under the wishbone. Having found a small bicycle builders in Bristol, the B-1 frame was eventually created in the autumn of 1989, in black or black, although dark green was the original plan:

Actually, during the summer of 1989 I ripped the ligaments in my right ankle on a smooth-it gone wrong and so, unable to ride, I finally got things moving. It almost certainly kept my sanity whilst I waited what seemed an age for such a stupid injury to recover. Having ridden a bare metal frame over the winter during my recovery, I managed to get everything together and showed it off to mixed reaction at the first UKBFA event in the spring of 1990. Mark Noble of Invert magazine very kindly agreed to a photoshoot and splashed me all over Issue 12 in July 1990:

My tricks. My bike. My moment in cycling.

You can see the whole article here, and an interview based on it that I did for Ride a few years ago here. I also have a couple of other cringe-inducing magazine interviews scanned in, such as my first ever which was in Action Bike in 1987 here, and one I did with Jason Davies for Invert in 1989 here.

Jason Davies agreed to ride for/with me and I was trying to get him hooked up with my then sponsors Converse and Life's a Beach but things started to go increasingly wrong. There were lots of people interested in importing B-1's around the world and I had a pile of mail orders waiting (along with some great letters from riders). My parents' garage was full of boxes, stickers and packaging. But I didn't have any frames and it was the summer. Then my frame cracked along the seatstay by the wishbone. The wrong tubing - 5/8 rather than 3/4 - had been used. That was the final straw. I pulled the plug due to frustration and a lack of funds to do anything else. We'd never even made a set of forks.

(from Mark Noble's '22 book Emulsion: great pics)

In the following year of 1991, other riders, notably Matt Hoffman and Rick Moliterno, would do a much better job of starting their own bike companies. The rest is history. However, it will be noticed that many proper modern frames look very much like - often almost identical to (e.g., 2000 Haro Master) - the B-1 (minus the bashguard). You can't say the same for the freestyle frames of the other companies which came before Beyond Bicycles.

(The images of the Haro, GT, Bully and Wilkerson were taken from the BMX Museum)

News 2013:

Sad news 2021 :

This centre-spread picture was taken by Mark Noble for the Invert magazine article in 1990 (NB My foot appears in the bottom right). Jason is on my bike as I only had one frame at that point(!). The geometry and setup were very different from his Haro but he wasn't bothered, of course. Turned out he was the kid in all the Haro gear competing against me at the 1985 Bristol Bicycle Show. We started hanging out after we'd both been in an Action Bike/R.A.D. visit to Bristol in '87. We lost touch when he went to the US but it seemed like he did what he'd always wanted in BMX during the '90/00s - what we talked about during those dark, cold, wet nights practicing in Kingswood multi-storey, or on the drive to a Petersfield session, or wherever. We last met by accident in a club in Bristol around the time he was riding for Wilkerson. His signature frame for another company shared some similarities to mine :-) I cycle past the site of Lockleaze skatepark where we sometimes used to muck about (as here) everytime I go to work and I would really have liked to catch up with him again one day. Very sad.

1987 Action Bike/R.A.D. ---- 1988 World Cup (Freestyle Mag)