The History of GT Bikes

The History of GT Bikes
December 9, 2020 Brand

How GT became a trusted name in the world of BMX

GT Bicycles are known for their BMX bikes and mountain bikes as well as selection of over 4,500 parts and accessories ranging from frames and components to helmets and apparel.

Headquartered in Santa Ana, California in the United States, GT is noted for the “triple triangle” hard-tail mountain bike frame design. This bike frame is characterised by a top tube extending rearward past the seat tube, which is known to reduce the vibration from the rear wheel to the bike seat.

In 1996, GT won a commission to manufacture a $30,000 carbon fibre “Superbike” for the Summer Olympic games. The company has sponsored numerous race teams and racers including notable riders Rebecca Twigg, Bob Morales, Juli Furtado, and Eddie Fiola.

Back in 1972, Gary Turner couldn’t find a durable BMX frame for his son, he decided to put his welding experience into creating the very first GT frame. The rest, as they say, is history.

A Brief History of GT bikes

A Brief History of GT bikes

Most frames in the 1970s were modified Schwinn Stingrays which were heavy and broke easily. For Gary Turner, who was a former drag racer and engineer by profession, these were not durable enough to withstand the stress of BMX racing and jumping. Gary’s son, Craig, was about to compete on the SoCal BMX race circuit. Thanks to Gary’s welding skills in drag racing cars, he was able to design a bike frame with 4130 chrome-moly tubing. The resulting frame is impressively sturdier and lighter than regular carbon steel – the same chassis he built for dragsters.

Craig’s bike got noticed at the BMX track. That’s when Gary started making frames for the other kids, and this became an instant hit.

From a small garage in Fullerton in California, Gary Turner teamed up with Richard Long, BMX racetrack operator. Together, they started GT Bicycles in 1977. Named after Turner’s own initials, the company specialised in BMX bikes. Their sales surged right away, reaching $4 million by the end of 1981.

GT Bicycles

GT Bicycles

GT Bicycles have had one mission – to help riders push the envelope by creating the most innovative and reliable bike frames.

In 1980, GT Bicycles launched its first bike called the GT Pro. They also started sponsoring BMX racers which included the likes of Denny Davidow and Lee Medlin. On the same year, GT had its first magazine ad published on Bicycle Motocross Action.

Soon, GT bikes became the darlings of the racing circuit, bringing home more BMX wins than any other brand of that era.

Three years after its launch, GT created its first freestyle bike called the Performer. They also signed popular freestyle BMX riders Eddie Fiola and Bob Morales. The unique bent down tube was a game-changer and became a trademark look for GT. In 1984, GT entered the fast-growing mountain bike category competing head-on against industry leader Cannondale.

In 1985, GT acquired Dyno from Bob Morales along with its apparel and footwear collection.

GT Bicycles picked up a few more companies in the second half of the decade. These include Robinson Racing in 1987 and Auburn Cycles and Powerlite in 1989.

Going public

Going public

The company was incorporated as GT Holdings, Inc in August 1993. Three months later, the GT management led a leveraged buyout (LBO) which allowed the company to post revenues of $123.8 million and a net income of $3 million even as the competition struggled with losses, with sales declining and the public losing interest in the BMX sport. Because of the struggle, Long and Turner sold a controlling interest to Bain Capital in 1993.

In October 1995, the company completed its initial public offering – selling 4.7 million shares at $14 a share. Its first day as a public entity coincided with a recall of nearly 8,000 bicycles with potentially defective front forks, resulting in a dip in stocks by $0.75.

GT bikes bounced back in December 1995, with a development centre in Colorado, distribution centres in four U.S. states, and claiming a 40 percent market share of youth-driven segments.

In time for the 1996 Summer Olympics, GT won a commission to manufacture a highly aerodynamic bike called the “Superbike” developed with the U.S. national team. Known as Project ’96, the Superbike featured a carbon graphite frame with no top tube, extremely thin seat and down tubes, and uniquely sized aerodynamic wheels.

Craig Griffin, a U.S. Cycling Federation track endurance coach, described the Superbike as: “it’s so aerodynamic that when you look at it from the front it disappears.

In the first ever mountain bike event of the Summer Games, GT Bicycles sponsored two athletes at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Team USA brought home two silver medals riding the custom handcrafted Superbike. Due to this success, GT enjoyed a slight boost in sales following hours of international television exposure from the games.

The following year, Nike became the official sponsor of all 57 athletes on the GT roster – including 32 BMX racers, 9 mountain bike racers, and 16 freestyle/air show performers.

Tragedy strikes

Tragedy strikes

A week before GT was set to debut at the 1996 Summer Olympic, co-founder Richard Long was killed in a motorcycle accident on his way to a mountain bike race in Big Bear, California.

At the time of Long’s death, GT was manufacturing 600,000 bicycles per annum under the GT, Powerlite, Robinson, and Dyno brands. The company also sold bike parts and accessories through its Riteway network, bringing in annual revenues of $150 million.

The late 90s

The late 90s

When retro-style bicycles made a comeback in 1997, GT released the Dyno Roadster model which featured a low-rider frame, shock-absorbing springer fork, white-wall tires, rims with chrome-plated 10-gauge spokes, and oversized balloon fenders.

The company also signed an agreement with Harley-Davidson to build a limited edition series of 1,000 numbered bikes that closely resemble Harley-Davidson motorcycles. These bicycles retailed at approximately $2,300 and boasts a distinctive 1950s-style chain guard, chrome accents, thick fenders, and a motorcycle saddle. To top it all, the bicycles have a Harley-Davidson front insignia combined, along with a modern, quick-shifting, seven-speed internal drive train. Launched in time for Christmas, the Harley bikes raked in an estimated $2.3 million in profit.

GT Bicycles continued to soldier on after the death of Richard Long. In 1997, its bicycles captured the eyes of audiences in the movie Leave It to Beaver. GT bicycle jerseys were then sold at Niketown stores across the United States. Coca-Cola also purchased GT bicycles for a promotional campaign for its Fresca drinks. Popular Science magazine even named the GT electric-assist bicycle “the best new recreation product” in 1997.

The following year, Bain Capital sold GT to another investment group – Questor Partners – for $175 million.

In an effort to boost media exposure, GT Bicycles – together with Pioneer and Honda – invested nearly a half-million dollars in a new television show called Crank. The half-hour program featured BMX riders performing stunts, wild rides, and aerial demos amidst a background of flashing lights, loud music, and computer graphics. Focused on racing, freestyle riding, and other bicycle events, the show debuted on The Fox Sports Network in March 1998.

On the 5th death anniversary of Richard Long in 2001, Questor filed for bankruptcy and was acquired by Pacific Cycle. And then in 2004, Pacific Cycle was acquired by Canadian company Dorel Industries.

Shop for GT bikes Newcastle

Shop for GT bikes Newcastle

The BMX is where it all started for GT Bicycles. Here at Stead Cycles, we carry a great range of GT BMX bikes backed by over 40 years of refinement and development. Whether you’re a freestyle rider, race competitor, or mountain bike aficionado looking for GT bikes Newcastle, we can help you find the perfect bike.

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