We ran into Robbie Morales at the Bike Show in England and decided to have a chat with him to see how his FIT BIKE CO is doing these days. We sat down, had a diet Coke and got the Sony IC Recorder going.
When you started your company in 2000 it came as a big surprise. You had left the T1 squad and started your own thing. Looking back 5 years later, has it worked out the way you thought it would?
Rob-O: In 2000 coming off of T1 I was really excited, basically to get more products made because that was our main problem at T1, we couldn't get our products made, and then seeing them made on a more consistent level was exciting, you know and obviously S&M has helped me with that. As the company has grown I've been able to help the
team riders more and do more for them. As we're growing I can do more for the riders and that's why I think we've kept such a tight unit and it has been as successful as it has.
Who's on the team right now? Do you have like an A-program, a flow team, or how do you run it?
Rob-O: I've got about six, seven guys on salary, you know and then there's another five I help with money while I can and product. The main guys are Mike Aitken, Van Homan, Edwin Delarosa, Brian Foster, Chase Hawk, Justin Inman. I'm pretty much more of a team manager role now, you know brand manager type guy. I still ride, I still film. I think one of the reasons why some of the guys respect me a bit is, I wouldn't get the craziest stuff done but I could still ride with those guys and organize all the trips and all the product and stuff like that. We've definitely kept it tight.
You've always followed the skateboarding stuff. Did it have any influence on how you take care of business at FIT?
Rob-O: I definitely looked at it and have been influenced by it but I never wanted to be a skater at all. I was just always interested because it was an industry that could stand on its own feet and I was always confused why BMX had trouble. I kind of looked at that, learnt a few things but BMX is quite different. It's a different market. We're dealing with different shops and clientele. It's hard and the bikes are expensive. I want riders to know that I know how hard it is. Even at this point it's hard to even get some parts. When my bike got stolen in Vancouver, it took me a couple of months before it got back in the way that I wanted. People think that when you own a company you can get shit for free. Now with titanium stuff, that stuff is not really free, and if you get spoiled and that's the stuff you like, unless you're really our key rider, you're gonna have to pay for it. I understand what riders are going through. Half the goal is to make it easier for them.
Where do you see the riding go? Videos only? Do riders need contests? What's your opinion on that?
Rob-O: It's funny because the whole team, unanimously, decided to do a team video. You know, we've done some trip videos, let's work on a team video and show everyone that we're into it. Mikey basically stepped up and said: "This is what I want to do, are you guys down?" and everyone said: "Oh shit yeah!" But now, 2005, everybody's got bills to pay, people bought houses, they have mortgages, now all of a sudden the Mountain Dew Action Sports tour is not as gay as it seems, you know what I mean? It's funny because at the beginning of the year we were going to film this video man, it's all video! If a couple of the guys can go there and make some dough, I'm never going to discourage them from that. I'm actually going to help them do that because they need it to live and I respect those guys. I always put myself into their shoes and if I can go to this event and make some dough, why not. That's kinda our attitude. We're still doing the video but who knows it will get done in time.
Have you ever considered a major co-sponsor for the team or is it getting harder to find one now that everyone has their personal deals going on?
Rob-O: I think it's tough. The cooler ones that seemed cool are like bigger clothing companies and we had one that wanted to sponsor the whole team but everyone had clothing sponsors already individually. I'm not opposed to it at all, especially at this point because all I want to do is more of everything. I want to go on more trips, I want to pay the guys more, I want to do more for the team because they do so much for me and FIT and that's it. It works hand in hand and that's even for newer riders coming up. It's hard for them to find their place because most of the team is in place. What am I going to do? Tell a guy like Brian Foster, who's 33 years old, "Hey we're going to give you a pay cut so we can bring a 15 year old on....," it's tough. I would just rather do more of everything, that way we can continue to pay Brian what he's worth and bring a new guy on. That's my goal. It really pisses me off when a guy says, this guy is doing the company to make money or whatever. Yes, obviously, we're trying to make money but we want to give back, it's a big cycle. I'm not trying to make myself out to be insane but that's why I do it. If you would ask my why I do FIT, that's why.
You want to do more with the team etc. but do you think the market is there right now?
Rob-O: Right now it's tough because we say; "Yeah, we're gonna go to Poland!" or something but that will cost you twenty thousand dollars! I don't think the market is there to justify that trip down there. It's one of those things where I'm more interested in working with foreign distributors and say let's split the costs of this trip and I will bring Edwin Delarosa to your town and he'll ride with your riders because that's what we do. It's not like we're coming down to do one big demo. We're coming to ride with the locals and enjoy it and they take away from life experience that they can say like: "Yeah man, me and Edwin were chillin'," you know, "we were riding and listened to Fifty! it was all there...."
With product, how much feedback do you get from the riders, or who helps you out on that as it seems like you're the only guy running the FIT show?
Rob-O: Definitely I get little tips from the guys. They keep me in check. They make sure I don't go off too far by making a frame with an internal Gyro or something like that. Basically before any decision I make, before I pull the trigger on it, I check and that's for product design, team riders wanting to come on, we have debates about it, we talk about it. We've got this new ad which says "Communication" and it's me talking on a cell phone. It's kind of a cooky ad but at the same time it makes a lot of sense because I talk with these guys so much and I talk to riders in general so much that that is what it's about, it's about communicating and realizing that these riders do give a shit and they want their opinion to be taken seriously, so luckily I'm there for that.
Thanks Rob-O, good luck with the company.
Rob-O: Thanks Bartman, as always.