Odyssey was started in 1985 so to say that they have a history in BMX is quite the understatement. They have created multiple innovative products, they have won design awards, they have continued to make products that have helped BMX progress to the level it is at today. Not only that but they have also put together an amazing team both pro and flow and they continue to set trends while the average company tries to keep up. Odyssey as a whole seems to be doing something right these days and it’s a company that has the respect of its fellow peers. They give back to BMX in the form of quality, trust-worthy parts and help support riding by putting on one of the best contests to date otherwise known as the Texas Toast Jam. I recently got the chance to head down to the main offices/warehouse in Norwalk, California and spend the afternoon hanging with Jim Bauer. Grab a drink, get comfortable and find out why Odyssey is one of the leading companies in all of BMX.
So, since you are going to be the voice of this interview and represent all things Odyssey, why don’t you fill us in on who you are, what you do and your history with the company?
Jim Bauer: Creative Director, Graphic designer, Marketing guy…I have been at Odyssey full-time since my graduation from Syracuse University in 2001. I was actually an intern at Odyssey the two previous summers. So basically my entire professional life, if you want to call me professional.
What is it about working for Odyssey that has kept you around after all of these years?
Since the beginning I have referred to it as winning the job lottery. I get to do what I love to do, in the industry of the activity I enjoy most, all while working for / with people who I respect and enjoy the same thing. Why else would you stay in the same thing for so long?
You guys as a company have done some pretty impressive things product-wise and seem to have a pretty amazing design team. Who is behind all of the product design?
Chris Cotsonas and George French. I have my hand in some of the products but the lion’s share of the most innovative and important products are from the brain trust of Chris and George. I sometimes describe them as the yin-yang of product design. George is the mad genius and Chris is the cool and collected wrangler of ideas and design. They both are a wealth of knowledge on their own, and together they are pretty impressive. Chris and I met in the Syracuse Industrial Design department, having two of the three BMX bikes that were locked up outside in the snow. George and Chris actually met online via BMXboard.
When we were talking earlier you mentioned Odyssey having a great warranty program. Not very many companies will stand solid behind their products and back them like you guys do. Where does that mindset come from and what should kids know about the warranty before they buy anything from you guys?
This is a loaded question because I find it hard not to talk badly of other companies warranty claims to express how deeply we take pride in ours. All 41 Thermal products we make have a lifetime guarantee. Lots of companies claim lifetime warranties, but you have to read the fine print. They offer it against defects or manufacturing mistakes, not for what they deem correct. So basically you will have to fight with them to get anything replaced, and usually lose. We pride ourselves on making the best stuff out there, which is why we can offer a guarantee against ever breaking while riding, regardless of the situation. Beyond modifying a part beyond reason, using a hammer to beat a product to death or other ridiculous claims, we will replace your 41 thermal products. It’s as simple as that. We have been doing it since 1999, and will not stop. The only reason any other company’s claim a lifetime warranty is to compete with us. The difference is we offer the warranty because we know the parts are built to the upmost strength, while “they” need to say “warranty” to make you buy theirs. Some have said in the past that we do it as a
Marketing ploy or that we get our products so cheap we can afford to give replacements away. Nothing could be further from the truth. Less than 1% of 41 Thermal products that are sold are returned for warranty. No one else can make that claim. No marketing ploy lasts for fourteen years. Now that I say that number, fourteen years out loud it seems insane that most riders out there today have ever had to deal with how bad parts were before 41 Thermal. Back in the day some riders were used to replacing forks once a month or more. Even if you have never had a 41 Thermal product, I think I can say with confidence, that any fork, or bar, or crank that holds up well does so because they followed the lead that 41 Thermal products made, and they made the industry better for it. Enough patting ourselves on the back and more answering the question exactly. We pride ourselves on our warranty department, and hope that if you do have an issue we can deal with it in the most prompt and efficient way possible and getting you riding again, as soon as possible.
Speaking of design and new products, what’s in the works? I know you showed me a few prototype products but what can we expect to be coming out in the near future?
The Antigram cassette has been out for a while now, and the Antigram front hub is on the way. This was made to match the rear, and will have hub guards available as well. That’s the same with the Quartet hub, front and rear. The TDFL (Tom Dugan Front Load) Stem and SXTN (Sean Sexton) Stem are both on their way for worldwide release. We had a “soft-release” so there are about fifty black ones out now. The new shipment will also have the limited edition and numbered Oil Spill finish stems. I am sure you have seen these blowing up Instagram. New seats, new grips, wax, and pegs are all on the close horizon. The most famous product coming is probably the Key Chain. It has an Allen key master link/half link, special pins, special plates and too much cool stuff to list right here.
What does Odyssey represent as a company? If you had to give some sort of mission statement, what is Odyssey all about?
Wow, that’s a heavy question. Quality and Innovation while applying good design and good sense to products to make BMX better. Good design also includes price by the way. If something is pretty sweet but costs you a kidney that is not good design.
Obviously you guys like to give back to BMX, and with original events like the Texas Toast Jam it’s obvious that Odyssey knows how to do it right. What’s the motivation behind that?
We have always wanted to do our own contest, our own way. We have always contributed to BMX from local jams to international contests, but we wanted to do something special, on our own terms. We never had time or manpower to do it right until we had Taj take the reigns. We were talking earlier about modern riders maybe not knowing who Taj is. If you don’t know, go Google Taj Mihelich-BMX and learn. Taj is unquestionably one of the most important riders of all time, although he would be the last person to tell you that. Which is part of why he is. When he started working with us in more of a desk way and slightly less from the bike seat, he started the Texas Toast Jam. As much as we wanted to do it our way, a different way, Texas Toast is the Taj way. And we are actually more than happy to have it like that.
For those out there who don’t know Walter Pieringer has just been named the new “Team Manager” at Odyssey and for anyone that knows Walter, that is an awesome addition to the crew. What can people expect to see from him?
Walter back flipped the Mega Ramp first try. Do I need to say more? If that is not enough for you, I will give the short version of Walter, as I know him. Walter is a rider, and a great one at that. In the Early 2000’s when I moved to California there was guy who shredded the black bowl at Vans as hard as the Blue Falcon and Nate Hanson. Walter had long hair and no teeth and was just a nut-job (in the best possible sense). Since then he went on to go to, and graduate college and establish himself not only as a rider but a Photographer, Filmer, Filmmaker, Editor, Travel Agent, Trip Creator, Globe Trotter and many more things I am probably forgetting. He is a guy you can depend on, and he gets things done, no matter what. When the option came to light that he could take control of the team it was a no brainer. I had worked with Walter for years and knew he was the man for the job of curating and facilitating the Odyssey…and Sunday…and GSport teams to the fullest. This is while creating the content and art to display their talent the best way possible. No one who does know Walter would doubt that.
Speaking of the team, who is currently on the official Odyssey team?
Odyssey, G-Sport, Fairdale, Flatware and Sunday are all brands under the Full Factory Distribution umbrella. How is it working closely with legends like Jim C. and Taj?
To me that is what brings those brands to mean more than most. Sunday is the brainchild of the Jim, the inventor of a large portion of the grinds and street style we all know today. Another person for those who just got into BMX to Google, just search Jim Cielencki-BMX. Say thank you if you have ever done a grind on anything other than your pegs, and then go buy a Sunday. Taj we already spoke about but when you ask Taj what he wants to do, you do it. “I’ve always wanted to make big bikes”, and Fairdale was born. If you want to get around and it’s too far for the BMX, you should have a Fairdale. Whatever flavor fits your taste. I guess that doesn’t answer the question, but what stands out about JC and Taj is the limitless creativity and passion for all things bicycle. That is a great environment to work in.
You guys also have a design office in Austin, Texas. Can you explain the difference between the two locations?
They are really two arms to the same creature, with different fingers. Chris does his thing there in the same office with Taj, Jim, Bobby Parker, Mike Gonzalez and Logan Beyhl. They run Full Factory, which is the place to get Sunday, Fairdale, Odyssey, GSport and Flatware. Nuno Oliveira moved there from So-Cal to better manage all of these people and brands. The Warehouse in California is where all the ordering, shipping, warehousing, online store, accounting, and general making happens to takes place. That is all done by Art, Marco, Robert, Louie, Josie, Brian, Michael and Chris. They all keep the ship afloat while the captain and owner, Richard steers the course. This is in addition to myself and Kaboe Kavapalu, street wear and apparel legend, turned BMX’er. We are part of the design team that is left behind to hold it down in So-Cal. Arguably two of the biggest hot beds for BMX is Southern California and Austin, so we figured we better have both on lock. Our two from the nomad chapters are George French in sunny England and Francis “Reagan” Delapena holding down Boise, ID. Two more people we have to mention, since we couldn’t do it without them. How many companies Engineers have been on the cover of a magazine?…George was on Ride UK. And how many companies Web guys have jumped the Mega Ramp (to flat) while wearing dress shoes… Francis AKA Wildcard.
What is on the horizon for Odyssey for the next few years? Total world domination?
Pretty much… watch out.
I think that about wraps it up. Is there anything else that you want to add?
I would like to thank our whole team, Domestic and International distributors, and every shop that carries us. Most special thanks goes to those riders out there who know that when its important, to use Odyssey/Sunday/Fairdale/GSport products. We put all we are into this stuff, and we think it shows. That is proven when we see you out shredding on whatever we make, and it makes us happy.
Follow the crew:
That’s it for this week. I just want to say thank you to Kurt and The Union for giving me a place to share this column with everyone out there in the BMX world. It’s an honor to be a part of The Union and I honestly can’t believe that this is the 52nd column. One full year down and it’s been one hell of a ride. I also want to say thank you to any reader, fan, or follower of the Through the Lens series and I really want to say that I couldn’t do it without the support of you guys so thank you. Also, be sure to check back next Wednesday for the fifty-third edition of Through the Lens and as always feel free to leave any questions in the comments section or email me at [email protected] and I will hit you back as soon as I can. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram @jeremypavia.