What happened: BMX wasn't BMX yet...nobody was saying that. Everyone was using the term "motocross" or "moto" back then even though we were riding bicycles. Although we had all been riding moto for years...this was the first time any of us competed to find out who was really the best. It was so intense and a hell of a lot of fun!
Why This Photo: I shot this photo with my Kodak Instamatic 110 camera (the only camera I owned at the time) at the first organized bicycle motocross race we ever competed in - Friday night racing at Indian Dunes in the middle of Summer vacation. I can't remember how we found out about these races, but Russ Okawa decided we were going and loaded a bunch of us kids in his Dad's station wagon and had one of his friends bring all of our bikes and gear in his pick-up. This became a regular thing for us... what an amazing summer! It was surreal! Motorcycles all over the place, the smell of burning two-stoke fuel filled the air, the huge flood lights, the announcer calling the shots over the loudspeaker and lots of trophies! I used up all my film before the racing even started. I also learned a good lesson; Instamatic cameras didn't cut-it for shooting the fast moving world of motocross racing and an upgrade was going to be necessary asap.
Who: Bill (Billy Mac) McIntyre. BMX designer, innovator, welder and fabricator.
Where: Randall Ranch, Newhall, California. The original layout of this fast NBA downhill track by Ernie Alexander.
What happened: Billy Mac's speed through this particular section of the track was exceptional. The original course was fast right out of the gate and this section was the especially tricky. A left hand sweeper with a steep drop into a slippery off-camber. Go-downs a plenty here with the photographers and spectators to prove it. To make it even more interesting, Ernie built a 3 foot launcher right after this section, so if you didn't have your feet back on your pedals...not pretty. Balls to the wall - Billy Mac on his mono nailed it every time during practice and took first overall in his class that day.
Why This Photo: There isn't enough photos of Randall Ranch in the BMX history books, which is odd to me. There was always a lot of people with cameras hanging-out, but they're not sharing. Also, Billy's bike is a Wayne King Mono Shock made by Bicycle Innovations in Los Angeles. Both Billy Mac and Thom Lund raced on these bikes and they were the first mono shock bike that I can remember being competitive on the downhill tracks.
Who: Wayne Catalde, Canoga Park, California. I met Wayne while traversing the local hot spots we used to ride. He rode a lot and he was good. When Russ Okawa formed the first Canoga BMX racing team in 1972...Wayne was inducted. He raced Indian Dunes, Malibu and Palms Park for a little over a year but that ended unexpectedly when his family packed their bags for San Diego and we lost touch with him. About three years ago Wayne and I reconnected via social media and I showed him the scene.
He remembered that day like it was yesterday and how he missed the great times he had riding and racing with all his friends. He and his wife, Robin, attended the 2019 BMX Society Reunion in Van Nuys. It's been 46 years!
Where: Orcutt Ranch flood control channel, Canoga Park, California. An overgrown swampy riverbed surrounded by tall trees with lots of mud and rocks...and this drop-off jump combo. Wayne lived in the subdivision directly across the street so he owned this place.
When: Fall of 1973.
What Happened: After a exhausting morning of long distance street racing through our neighborhoods, a bunch of us landed at this spot with the intent of getting some airborne berserko-pics. I shot some super-8 and a roll of Tri-x and Wayne consistently blew us away pancaking the whole afternoon.
Why This Photo: Pure oldskool BMX radness. Wayne is just killing it here. This shot has accumulated the most views, comments and favorites than any of my other archived images so far.
Who: My long time friend and fellow bike mechanic, John George. Little did I know when I shot this photo that John would land the NBA National #1 position later in the year. John worked as a mechanic for Canoga Cycle Center and raced for their team exclusively. He raced NBA sanctioned events almost every weekend of the year as well as many week nights. He was fast, hard to beat and had piles of style. Whether he was on a long gnarly downhill course like Malibu Country Club or a Friday night flat track bash at the Van Nuys Teen Center, John always held his own.
Where: Encino Velodrome, infield BMX flat track, Encino, California.
When: Early Spring of 1975.
What Happened: BMX was really starting to catch-on and tracks were popping up all over the southland. Much to the dismay of many of the track bike racers the management over at the Velodrome thought it would be a good idea to build a motocross course in the infield and host some BMX races. I shot this photo on their grand opening night after helping with track layout and construction. It was a success! And some of the BMX racers became interested in riding track bikes.
Why This Photo: Out of all the pictures I took of John, this one is my personal favorite. Take a close look at John's bike. The frame is a hand made 4130 chromoly top and down tubes with Schwinn Stingray rear stays and head tube. The bottom bracket was raised two inches to allow the use of a longer Schwinn Varsity crank for more leverage and higher gear ratios. The fork was made by Redline. Wheel set - AJ 36-spoke aluminum rimmed front and Motomag rear with Bendix coaster brake. I fabricated his seat from an old Schwinn banana seat by adding extra padding and covering it with Levi's jeans. There were only a handful of these team bikes made beginning in the spring of 1974 by Russ Okawa (manager) and Mike Frankowich Mechanic/welder) at Canoga Cycle Center in Canoga Park California. When John was on that bike, he was practically unbeatable.
Who: (L-R) Bill Ford, Mike Aldred, Butch Baum and John George. We had just received our new Canoga Cycle Center BMX Team shirts that Russ Okawa had made. Completely stoked, we decided to head over to our closest hot spot wearing our new shirts for some photos. I shot a roll of 36 exposure black and white film and got a lot of killer pics but this one was the money shot. Tight formation, everyone has decent air, the light was good and none of the guys hit me after landing.
Where: Our neighborhood hot spot for jumping next to a new industrial building in Canoga Park, California. It was a 4 foot high launcher with a fresh asphalt runway to build speed and hard flat landing pad. Nothing fancy but lots of air. We used to meet at Lanark Park after school which is a block away from this jump.
When: Winter of 1974.
What Happened: We had a blast and got some epoch shots for the shop.
Why This Photo: I chose to send you this image because it unequivocally defines BMX in the early 1970's. Friends on their customized Schwinn Stingrays having fun and getting rad. My idea was to get all of my buds in the air at the same time. Sounds easy, not so much, but we had a blast trying!
Photos by Mel Stoutsenberger