So, the history of GT Bicycles.
IT IS THE EARLY 1970’s. Moto Cross takes off and MX racing is big. Between moto’s parents allow the youngsters to race bicycles on the big dirt tracks. Dad’s get involved and Bicycle Moto Cross was born. In 1973, a father named Gary Turner is one of the dads that goes to Moto Cross races and watches the kids racing, including his own. He notices that the bikes are heavy, slow and fragile. Gary is not only a musical instrument repairmen with experience welding things like trumpets and trombones, but is also a professional drag racer and has experience welding and building cro-mo “rails” or chassis, for drag racers. With the high grade aircraft cro-moly tubing used for dragsters, Gary starts to make frames for his son to race at the MX track. His son’s bike gets noticed and Gary starts to supply the frames to other kids and building his reputation one frame at a time.
- 4130 Cro-mo Frames / Forks
1974 THE BEGINNING. Richard Long owns and runs a bike shop in Orange County, California. He notices Gary Turner and his frames. He notices that they are selling and that people want to know how to get them. Richard calls Gary and asks him if he can stock and sell the frames. Gary agrees and the most famous partnership in BMX history starts.
- 4130 Cro-mo Frames / Forks
- 4130 Handlebars
- Forged Stems
- 4130 Seatposts
1980-86 THE GLORY DAYS OF BMX. GT expands exponentially every year and enters the new off shoot sport of BMX, Freestyle. The first frame designed by Gary for freestyle, the Performer, becomes a legend in freestyle and, still today, in 2002, is one of the most recognized brand names in juvenile bicycles. The company moves into new digs on 2300 Container Lane in Huntington Beach California. Soon, they grow from one office into 4 separate buildings that handle welding, warehousing, shipping and administrative. During this period GT would come to dominate BMX racing as the sport matured into a worldwide phenomena. GT establishes itself as the preeminent racing brand in the sport and begins to dominate the race venues that would lead to the nickname “the firm”. For better or for worse GT goes from garage to corporate in a big way.
- Full assortment of USA made BMX frames and parts
- Full assortment of USA made Freestyle frames and parts
- Performer frame and GT Freestyle parts challenge Haro for dominance in the market place.
- 1988: Full assortment of USA made 4130 BMX and freestyle frames, components and accessories
- Complete BMX bikes sourced from Taiwan, range expands to over 10 models Introduction of MTB line with 5 models: Outpost, Timberline, Tequesta, Karakoram, and Avalanche all featuring triple triangle technology. This would become a GT hallmark of frame design Dyno brand name introduced to market place as a hard core freestyle brand.
- 1990: MTB range expands to 12 models including the Titanium Xizang LE and the ill fated 700D series of trekking / cross bikes.
- Dyno brand name introduced to market place to be a less expensive line to complement GT.
- 1991: The legendary USA made Zaskar (frame only ) is introduced. This is one of the first USA made aluminum frames that can withstand the rigors of offroad use.
- The Quatrefoil off road tandem is introduced.
- 1992: Huge proliferation of GT innovations such as the Groove Tube, Flip Flop stem and 2 x 4 forks are introduced.
- GT “Tech Shop” concept introduced to allow GT shops to buy custom USA made Titanium, Aluminum and Cr-Mo ATB frames.
- Taiwan aluminum arrives in the form of the Pantera
- 1993: RTS hits the market and GT becomes a leader in full suspension.
- GT USA begins to assemble complete adult bikes with the RTS-1 and Zaskar LE.
- 1994: “Fueler “ frame introduced, at the time it was one of the only dirt jump specifc frames in the market. The Fueler featured massive over size cro-mo tubes with plate cut dropouts and 1 1/8” headtube.
- 25 models in the combined GT / Dyno line
- 1995: Fueler is offered as a complete bike.
- Power Series tubular cro-mo cranks introduced.
- Line grows to 27 models and over 20 framesets.
- Powerlite and Robinson lines are also introduced with a combined total of 16 models.
- 1996: Aluminum hits the track with the all new “Speed Series Team” . This is a huge step for the former Cro-mo driven BMX product line. GT applies lessons learned with Zaskar production into BMX technology.
- GT and Dyno both feature price point Taiwan frames to capitalize on the trend. There are now 50 models between GT/Dyno/ Powerlite and Robinson.
- 1994: RTS becomes a complete line of suspension bikes.
- GT is the first company to mass produce a functional full suspension bike in Taiwan.
- GT introduces a line of road bikes.
- High end custom bikes are ridden by the US Olympic Team
- GT is the official sponsor of the US Team through the Olympics in Atlanta.
- The ground breaking LTS, a 4- bar linkage frame is introduced in the January of 1994
- The LTS wins the 1994 “full suspension shootout ” among all the major brands.
- 1995: LTS ruled the MTB line up and GT is the first to supply dealers with a fully functional 4 bar linkage MTB made in the USA and damped by the infamous ALPS 5 by Fox.
- The Karakoram won “1995 bike of the year”
- 1996: Adult line features two complete suspension platforms in the LTS and RTS. RTS dies a quick death at the hands of the functionally superior LTS platform
- LTS-2 and 3 is the attempt to bring LTS technology to an affordable price. The Rock Shox coil sprung 2 is a hit. The elastomer sprung 3 is late and a dud.
- 1997: Monocoque constructed “Box series” chainstays appear for the first time on the Speed series team.
- Shimano V-brakes are used for the first time on a GT BMX bike.
- Spin wheels are introduced to BMX.
- 1998: Aluminum is introduced to freestyle by the groundbreaking “Show” flatland frame. With close input from legendary flatlander Rueben Castillo, Robert Kahler and Jeff Soucek designed a frame specifically for the discipline of flatland that has yet to be equaled in the business.
- 1997: With the massive press of the 1996 Olympic Superbike 2, and the revolutionary “STS” technology GT threw out new model after new model on the adult side.
- Carbon fiber and aerodynamics drove the Mountain and Road lines respectively.
- In 1997, GT introduced 3 new carbon fiber high end LTS full susp. MTB’s and 3 new Aero road bikes including the alien looking Vengeance triathlon bike.
- The Vengeance was based on the old SB-1 or first generation Superbike and turned out to be a template for almost all TT bikes in used in the world today due to the enforcement of stricter rules governing aerodynamics brought about by the SB-2 and others.
- 1998: STS technology drove the product line and GT introduced the LOBO DH bike.
- Full suspension represented almost 80% of the models over $1000.00.
- The LTS –2000 won “Bike of the Year” .
- GT hires Steve Peat for DH and Team Saturn rides our bikes on the road.
- Summer of 1998, I drive is introduced to the press with one of the most controversial launches in the history of the bike business.
- 1999: Niche takes over the line with the products firmly going into three categories
- BMX racing: Speed Series sets the tone for all the models
- Trails: Fueler, Bump and Thumper mark a new segment for GT
- Freestyle: Dominated by the Show platform and “Vert” bikes
- 2000: ULTRABOX !!!. An all new creation by PM Robert Kahler and Industrial Designer Alec Tam blows away the BMX world. With super exotic monocoque technology the Ultrabox gives GT a much needed boost in the BMX market place.
- Fueler and Show platforms carry on in their respective categories
- 2001: In an effort to catch up to the rider owned companies GT switches the focus to the X Games crowd and starts to market their athletes more aggressively with an all new model line up.
- Vert legend Dave Voelker and new schooler Jamie Bestwick are the centerpieces for the new line of jump bikes.
- Ultrabox leads the charge in the shrinking BMX category and the Show carries on unchallenged in flatland.
- 2002: Basically a bust due to the bankruptcy.
- 1999: I-Drive is born and marks a new chapter in MTB suspension technology. Suspension guru Jim Busby invents a whole new way to suspend the bicycle.
- The buzz is huge and so is the hype. GT features the technology on 7 models for an across the board roll out designed to leave the competition in the dust.
- LTS carries on in it’s last year and the final model, the XR-1000, with sealed bearings and FOX air shock is actually the finest LTS ever made and sets the stage for light weight cross country full suspension bikes.
- 2000: GT acquires the Syncros brand and gets into the Tour De France. With a vastly revamped road platform GT does what only Cannondale has accomplished and is the second US bike brand in the Tour de France.
- The new line of triple triangle road bikes is as light or lighter than the competition and has a much smoother ride making it a natural for team Lotto to use in the brutal classics of the spring.
- The I-Drive line is refined and lightened.
- The world beating DH-I is used by the team to replace the aging Lobo platform.
- In August Roland Greene pilots a prototype I drive to a silver medal at the 2000 world championships in Madrid, Spain. It is the highest ever finish for a suspended bike in a UCI world championship.
- 2001: The new I-Drive Team (inspired by the bike Roland raced) weighs in at about 24.5 pounds and brings I-Drive onto the race courses of the world in numbers.
- The Dh-I is released as the most affordable and highest performing DH bike to date.
- The emerging extreme category is addressed by the Ruckus hardtail.
- The Zaskar Team weighs in at an unbelievable 22.5 pounds.
- 2002: The only real news is the Ruckus I-Drive which is the new standard for free riding.
THE PACIFIC YEARS. On 9/11/2001 Chris Hornung, then owner and CEO of the highly successful Pacific Cycles, LLC, managed to pull a rabbit out of a hat in a Denver bankruptcy courtroom and snatch away the prize jewel of Schwinn from the seemingly invincible Huffy Corp. 3 years later, Huffy would file for bankruptcy as a result of this loss. Hornung knew very well that whoever possessed the number three most well known name in American brands would have the golden key to the mass merchants floor space for a very long time. And he was right. However, very few people know that the sr mgmnt team at GT had a deal with Huffy to off load GT to a private equity firm the minute they won the auction for @25 million dollars. But as they watched the horrible spectacle of the twin towers burning and collapsing the irony of that image as personal metaphor could not be shaken.
2003, RISING FROM THE ASHES. PC had Schwinn….and they knew exactly what to do with it. Make Money. They had the bikes ready to go. They had PO’s with Walmart, Target and TRU. PC was a well oiled sourcing and delivery machine and Chris punched the gas pedal and accelerated towards one of the most successful moves in the bicycle business. However none of this applied to GT. PC had no idea what to do with this once high flying IBD brand….the mass was not interested and PC had no infrastructure to support it. All of the GT crew in Foothill Ranch and all of the Schwinn crew in Boulder were given their walking papers in the weeks that followed the sale of the company. The buildings were emptied. The equipment was sold or moved to Madison. All the accumulated history and people scattered to the winds. There was no Schwinn / GT left. At Interbike 2002, one of the most famous battles of all time in the IBD occurred when Chris Hornung and Byron Smith attempted to embrace the IBD at Interbike in Las Vegas. In three days of raucous, often highly vocal meetings, Chris and Byron tried to impose a whole new way of doing business on the IBD dealer base. It was complete disaster. No one signed up and it ruined the reputation of the brands until this day. But in mid November a senior member of the PC staff, Bob Ippolito, once one of Richard Longs’ right hand men, saw some potential in GT and asked Chris to keep 3 key members of the GT product and international sales team. He agreed. A tiny office space was found in Lake Forest in Feb of 2002 and GT was back in business. Sort of. From a high watermark of over 2000 global employees to three people is hardly “back in business” . But the small team, with the addition of three more staff, went to work to make a line of bikes for the 2003 season. None were sold in the USA. All were sold internationally. Richard had been the first, besides possibly Cannondale, to understand the importance of a global brand strategy. GT had purchased four international distribs, the UK, Japan, France and Germany prior to being bought by Questor. They were the first US brand to do so. Every other major American brand has done so since, as well as some Asian brands. GT was ahead of the curve here but the BK lost all of this momentum. However there were many ID’s that were still very interested in the brand despite the financial woes it had encountered. Their countrymen had no idea of the demise of GT to any great extent so the brand was still viable and powerful. So the 2003 model year was in actuality a moderate success. This impressed Chris and gave him some inkling of the power of the GT brand that he had purchased for virtually nothing…..
- I-Drive Marathon- Featured on the cover of BIKE (Germany) magazine buyers guide, full XTR fullie weighing in at 25 pounds.
- Ruckus Dullies- One of the first lighter weight 6 inchers
- Not much else as the GT crew was essentially cooking with left overs…….
2004, A HARD YEAR. With some success under their belts and a steady pay check in hand the meager GT crew did their best to follow in the footsteps of the once mighty brand. Prior to the sale to PC and the bankruptcy, plans were afoot to revolutionize the I Drive system introduced in Brian Head Utah in 1998. The goals were to simplify, lighten and improve the I drive suspension system. However it would prove very difficult to bring out a piece that would compete with the horsepower that the majors had acquired during those years that GT floundered. Specialized Trek and Giant were hard at work in the black arts of carbon frame construction and aluminum Hydro-forming and those two specialties would come to define the business in the middle part of the decade. To not have those processes involved in your design was to not have marketable products. Due to many internal factors GT did not have access to those processes and hence was handcuffed to good old mitered tubes and welding……this was to be a problem. While GT grew its lower priced business the high end languished as the majors rolled out model after model of incredible workmanship and weight. GT could only watch as the peloton of high end business rolled away.The rework of the new I drive system was slow and painful. However two new models of short travel full suspension were introduced. The marketing effort was not enough to make a dent in the onslaught of the competition however and the new platform was not well noticed.
- IDXC 1.0 and 2.0 The reinvention of I-Drive for short travel.
- The first full suspension bike that uses a Shimano BB tool and a 5 mm allen key for disassembly and service.
- Ruckus FlowtaThe first Air / Air free ride bike from an American brand
- Zaskar Team Sub 23 pound hard tail is a hit in niche markets like South Africa and Norway…the bike reinvigorates the Zaskar name in the world of racing
2005, THE REVIVAL. Slowly but surely the GT development engine gets more gas as two years of success convince PC that it is worth paying attention to not only GT but the IBD market in general. The international business is gaining steam and the US market is not a total failure. Team GT/ Hyundai is actually a good presence at the races and with Brian Lopes and Hans Ray representing the brand, press actually gets generated. With more engineering and design resources added the GT product team resurrects the “G-Box” concept bike for the 2005 Eurobike show. This gets noticed. Also a new 5 inch platform is introduced that uses the new idrive system and finally lays to rest the old eccentric based system. A new era has begun. The international markets begin to take notice of these new designs and sales begin to creep up. The IDXC 1.0 gets the coveted “Gear of the Year” award from Outside magazine. The last year for any eccentric based fullie is offered. After 7 years of history the original I drive design is gone.
- I-Drive 5 All new 5 inch all mountain platform. Uses same flex bone technology as the IDXC platform and a new modular drop out system.
- ZuM Zaskar Urban Machine. A new breed of city sport bike
2006, RETURN OF THE I-DRIVE. This is the year that all the full suspension models employ the new I-Drive system. The DH-i which is under a complete redesign will not be offered this model year. Also offered to the amazement of many is the IT-1….the commercialization of the original Gear Box design first shown in Anaheim in 1998. While not perfect it represents what could be done if a small group of passionate people work hard to make something unique happen. The IT-1 is fully functional production gear box design using a Shimano Nexus hub mounted centrally in the frame. The bike gets large amounts of press inside and out side the industry. To the lay person it represents something new and exciting in the world of bikes. The IT-1 sets the stage for a larger introduction of gear box designs.
- IT-1 First production gear box design.
- Zaskar All new hydroformed frame. The lightest aluminum MTB frame ever produced by GT.
- Double Down Kustom Kruiser super chopper.
- I-Drive 7 All new freeride platform using the new I Drive system.
- GT Ruckus 29" MTB for the singlespeed crowd
- Kustom Kruiser All new line of totally aluminum cruisers. The lightest most rust proof cruisers available
2007, THE YEAR OF CARBON. After extensive preliminary research and development GT is ready to offer carbon in more categories than every before. Road, DH, XC are all addressed with new carbon frames or structures. The new carbon road platform is met with excellent sales in key markets such as South Africa, New Zealand and Norway. The I-Drive 5 platform is also totally revamped and now meets the need of the market place with a great riding frame in a lighter more responsive package. Also introduced after almost two years of testing and development is the all new DH-I, the lightest production downhill bike available. With the former DH-i, although loved for its pedaling and handling characteristics, getting a bit long in the tooth, the product team at GT knew that they had to redefine the bike in order to compete with the best out there. Using the I drive technology in a whole new package that allowed for better optimization of the system the GT engineering and product team brought out a bike that is a state of the art piece for today’s DH courses. It is met with universal acclaim. Also offered is the new Carbon I drive 4. This is a complete ground up redesign of the I Drive 4 cross country platform.
- DH-i - All new downhill bike that weighs in under 40 pounds
- I Drive 4 Carbon - All new 4 inch XC platform that combines a mind boggling new front carbon triangle with a super light rear aluminum triangle for a bike that offers the best of both worlds.
- Carbon road All new proprietary road platform spread across three models.
- I-Drive 5 complete frame redesign that moves away from the “Flex bone” to a new forged I-Link as used on the ID 7. Also employs a modular drop out system.
That is all for now, 2008 marks a true return to form for GT Bicycles. With the introduction of the all new GT Zaskar carbon hardtail, Marathon, Force, Ultrabox 2 carbon BMX and GTR Series of carbon road bikes, GT have come a long way from the 2002 bankrupcy. To celebrate 20th year since introduction, GT also released a limited edition of GT Zaskar Re-Issue, in gloriously retro ball bearing burnished finish and decals to mimic the original Zaskar. In the pipeline, new GT Fury carbon downhill bike and Force carbon bikes are under development test by racers Bryn Atkinson, Jill Kintner and legend Hans Rey. Let's hope GT will continue and return once again to its glory days.
Article extracted from GT Bicycles Taiwan website & edited accordingly. www.gtbike.com.tw