It’s crazy to think how much BMX frames have evolved over the years…
After the past Evolutions pieces (Seat Post Clamps and the Seat and Seat Posts) we started getting a lot of requests about what we should do next. Although BMX started from lighter race bikes and slowly as dirt, ramps and street became part of the scene, frames saw a lot of changes to increase the overall strength that could hold up to this style of riding. We figured to make it slightly easier, we would start from when frames were beginning to be 8 pound blocks of metal welded together and move towards these state of the art precision low 5 (or sub 5) pound frames that we see today. It’s pretty obvious that BMX frames have DRASTICALLY changed over the years and it’s honestly a little overwhelming trying to compile a good list of different frames for examples due to all of those changes.
I decided against trying to pick out frames on my own, and decided to give the guys over on BIKEGUIDE the chance to speak out on some good options to feature.
I couldn’t begin to tell you the number of frames that instantly came to mind, but how many that were refreshed in my mind once they were suggested on the thread we set up to get the discussion going.
Today I decided it was time to start the task of compiling a good list of some of the iconic frames that for one reason or another have stuck out in peoples minds as frames that changed the way things were done. Thanks to Google, it was a fairly easy process except for a few that we just couldn’t find anything on.
Now, before we get into this… I want to be clear that this list is soley based off a lot of minds tossing out ideas and that this isn’t going to be exactly chronological nor will it have all the exact specs and details. We also stuck to a late 90’s / early 2000’s up through now for our main focus so there are a lot of frames prior that were left out. Infact, I’m betting that you guys reading this will have a handful of ideas of what frames should have made it into this that we missed. We ask that you leave your ideas in the comments at the bottom of this post so we can add it in or at least have it for people to note.
With that said… Let’s do this…
As I said above, this list won’t be exactly chronological, nor will it go super far back to some of those original aftermarket frames. We aimed for mid to late 90’s and early 2000’s that “mid-school” era for the start point. I know we’re missing a good chunk of history but this is more or less supposed to be a fun way to look back and see the changes we’ve seen over the years from completely over built to the beautiful frames we see today.
At the very top of this post is the S&M Sabath frame and just above this is S&M’s Warpig frame which can give us a pretty good starting point since this was around the time frames were being built with big tubing, lots of welds and some pretty crazy geometry. The goal? Build a frame that could take the abuse of the street, dirt and ramp riding that was starting to push beyond the frames that were currently available.
It’s safe to say thanks to Mat Hoffman starting to send himself down handrails and the street riding world really starting to blow up, Hoffman Bikes were one of the first ones producing the heavier duty frames that would keep Mat from waking up at the flat-bottom or a set of stairs wondering where he was. Above is the Taj Mihelich signature frame that you might see a lot of similarities to…
The Terrible One Barcode frame that Taj and Joe Rich started producing on their own after they decided it was time to do something on their own versus riding for other people.
Another one of those mid-school era frames that were built to take on hell versus aesthetics and refined geometry was the 2Hip Pork. Pierced head tube, oversized tubing, massive drop outs, American bottom brackets… Over built? Oh yeah.
Here’s one I completely blanked on until doing some searches for a frame we’ll mention later, but the Kink Empire frame. I wonder how many dropouts now days could be made from one of those? 2? 3?
Edit: The Eastern Hercules.
This collection of frames is something I think most kids these days don’t realize is what we’re referring to when we say “I rode a 45 pound bike when I was your age”. This is a literal saying and it’s pretty clear why kids now days can pick up on all the tricks so easy today. It was a whole different game back in the day.
I think it’s pretty safe to say this is one of the more iconic and legendary BMX frames. Even without the paint and stickers on this frame we found on Google, you know you’re smiling saying “Standard STA500″. The STA500 is similar to those above, but it eliminated a lot of the bulk and used some key features like the gussets at the head tube, pieced top and seat tube junction and more for added strength. Even the dropouts were a little bit “smaller”. ‘Merican made.
Edit: The FBM Angle of Death! This was meant to make it in the first round but slipped through the cracks. Got it in here now though! Thanks, Cole Evelev for the reminder!
Another one of those more legendary frames that came through with some less bulky, but pretty heavily built features that we can’t go without mentioning was the Colin Winklemann signature DK S.O.B frame. This frame was put through some serious riding from Colin up until we lost him. Rest in Peace, Colin.
Well… We couldn’t just not mention the DK General Lee either.
Volume Bikes was working on some lighter weight frames that had cleaner designs around this period. This is a look at the Dinosaur frame that featured the oversized tubing, but some more traditional looks than before.
The Gack Gargoyle frame. I actually was looking for the Cannibal which was a little beefier, but this will do just as well. Gack was a smaller brand from the early 2000’s that was made here in the U.S.A and had some pretty progressive ideas at the time. This frame was their “light weight, high tech 6 pound trail frame” that was available in 2002. I’d be willing to bet that was the upper 6 pound mark, but still a lot of things stand out about this frame versus a few that we saw above.
Edit: After a bunch of people mentioning it in the comments, here’s one of the KHE frames with the internal gyro system they offered for a while. Does anyone know if any other brands gave this head tube a go?
This frame is one of those that really is one that I have love for. The Macneil Ruben Alcantara signature Ruben frame. This was actually the first aftermarket frame / custom build I had except in the blue colorway. That frame is in my collection and it won’t be going anywhere any time soon. The wishbone on the chain stay, pierced seat and top tube junction similar to the Barcode frame, smaller drop outs, welded gyro tabs, American bottom bracket. I’m not sure how many of these frames were sold around the world, but I can imagine it was good for Macneil, haha.
Here’s another early 2000’s frame that was starting to progress with the cleaner more practical frames. The Garrett Byrnes signature SFA Barcode frame with the integrated seat post. There are so many things about this frame that stand out like the machined gussets and the triple cable guides so you could run dual gyro cables with the London Mod.
The Josh Heino signature Omen frame from Wethepeople. This frame had features like the beefed up chain stays and grind plates to hold up against some serious abuse!
Right around that time was when the changes to bottom brackets started happening and we saw frames coming out with the Euro bottom bracket. Above is the Kink Cielencki which was one of the first frames with the Euro bottom bracket. Instead of pressing cups into the frame similar to the headsets, these were smaller and threaded into the bottom bracket shell. It was new and it did catch on for a few years, helping to kill off the American bottom bracket for the most part.
The other bottom bracket that came along shortly after would be the Mid bottom bracket that FBM introduced on the PW Moto frame and then the Capone frame that is pictured above. The Mid bottom bracket shell utilized the bearings from an American bottom bracket, but eliminated the need for cups that had to be pressed in first. This made for a simple install and some weight savings that were real appealing around this time period. This is also around the time we started seeing Spanish bottom brackets surface which are similar to Mid bottom brackets but smaller.
The introduction of the Integrated head tube came from S&M Bikes who borrowed the concept from road bikes. Like the Mid bottom bracket, this eliminated the need to pound in cups and made installing a headset a breeze — Between the Mid bottom bracket and the integrated head tube there was a lot less work involved in building a new bike.
Another notable frame from around this period is the Federal Steven Hamilton frame which utilized a shorter top tube and chain stays that made for a more agile street frame. Similar to the other frames we saw smaller tubing, less welds and I want to say a Mid bottom bracket on this one as well.
Pushing a little further, in 2005 Sunday Bikes launched with Jim Cielencki at the reigns. In 2006 they released their first frame that really pushed things. This frame utilized that signature gusset on the down tube, wishbone on the chain stay, thicker hollow dropouts, post weld machining on the head tube and bottom bracket and a 41-Thermal heat-treatment process. I would love to know exactly how many frames ever did make it back for warranty. It had to be a real low number.
Here’s one for the guys on Bikeguide. Around this time was when Canadian brand, Seshin Bikes was getting itself established which had a huge following thanks to the owner, Ted Efthymiadis, coming to the board for insight on geometry and features for the legendary Shithawk frame. Sadly the frame never came in Bikeguide blue and a few years later, Ted decided to shut it down and pursue some new opportunities outside of BMX.
Another frame we couldn’t just not mention would be the Mike Aitken frame from Fit Bike Co.. This is the Series 3 that became insanely popular for its geometry, weight and of course it being Mike Aitken’s frame. This was one frame I personally owned as well. Something about those graphics too.
This was around the time weight became a serious factor in sales for brands. Frames were getting more and more technical so brands could shave the precious ounces off without having a frame that would snap from the riding. S&M bikes released the L.A.F (Light As Fuck) frame that lead to future versions that were lighter and more innovative like the ATF, WTF and BTM frames that are available today.
Edit: By popular demand, the Ian Schwartz frame from Sunday that came out in 2008 with a built in pivotal post and a few other added features that came out on the 2nd Wave frame.
I’m sure this one has a few people shaking their heads. In a time where frames were becoming similar and geometry was seeing more “standard” angles, the Cory Jarman signature Killorado frame from Blackeye came out and dropped the seat tube height like a rock. These low slung frames became increasingly popular thanks to making it easier to do tailwhips. A lot of other brands followed suit but few ever went this low. Luckily, this was more of a trend and the seat post height has crept back up to the more traditional 8.5″ – 9″ range with barspins gaining popularity.
Another frame that really had a lot of attention was The Take Ivy frame. This frame was extremely popular from its introduction, produced by FBM with a lightweight, but strong design. This frame is on its 5th version these days.
Innovation has pushed a long, long way since the early 2000’s and a lot of the features have made it increasingly easier to work on a bike and have it be more reliable. Fly Bikes have been a huge innovator in BMX frame technology over the years with their unique approach on frames. Over the years they have used different ideas along with a lot of original ideas of their own. Things like integrated removable brake mounts that eventually turned into their Easy Brake System, the use of the Spanish bottom bracket, the Horizontal Cut System with an Investment cast seat post clamp, investment cast bridges, investment cast drop outs and integrated chain tensioners and much more making for some real notable frames. Above are the popular Luna and Pantera frames from the mid to late 2000’s that featured a lot of the detail they are known for.
With weight being a huge factor in a lot of innovation for frames, Eastern was always known for making some pretty ballsy moves that left a lot of people questionable on their products. The original Grim Reaper frame was well known for its cutouts in pretty much all of the tubes in the frames where there weren’t key stress points to help eliminate weight. The 2nd photo above is a combination of one of their most notable innovation — The Titanium Grim Reaper frame. I want to say this frame retailed for $1200.00 with a weight in the lower 3 lb. range (Does anyone have an exact weight?). It was safe to say this frame was more of a show piece versus a something you would ride, but damn was it crazy. I should note that Eastern did have a really good replacement program for cracked or broken frames which was really beneficial because they did have some rough patches with the Grim Reaper that left it with a questionable reputation.
This was ultimately one of the lowest points in BMX frame weights and brands started realizing the race to the lightest frame wasn’t necessarily the right way to build a BMX frame that was supposed to hold up to the constantly progressing sport that pushed boundaries on ramps, street and dirt.
Needless to say, strength over weight started to regain it’s momentum and innovation to help reduce weight without sacrificing quality was the demand. Sunday continued the evolution of their frame with wave tubing that helps to resist denting, butted and tapered tubing and more.
Moving on to more modern frames, one of the more common things we are seeing on frames is the use of Investment casting which helps to eliminate cracking from traditional welds on high stress points and moving them to less stressed points. Above is the original Andrew Jackson signature C.R.E.A.M frame from Wethepeople that goes all out on the Investment casting with virtually every tube getting the treatment. It had a unique look and I’d imagine it was more than strong enough.
And now on to a few current frames that we figured would be good to take note of. Above is the 2nd version of Simone Barraco’s signature Noster frame from Subrosa that is manufactured with the idea of quality without overdoing the price. The frame features butted tubing, heat-treatment on key places like the head tube, bottom bracket and drop outs, gussets on the top and down tubes, integrated seat post clamp, laser cut bridges on the stays and no brake mounts. Obviously a lot has changed over the years from where we started.
Can’t go wrong with a little classic. Haro recently released their Lineage frame which has all the current specs and features with a tribute to the past with the wrap around gusset for a little aesthetic value (and strength).
Edit: We added the Internal gyro from KHE above, so we better add their latest innovation with the Affix gyro that is partially internal and runs off a single cable. Definitely unique and original.
Above is a graphic that Flybikes has on their website giving you a look at all the details and features of their frames. This shows how using materials smart can eliminate the need for excess along with giving it a clean, simplistic look. Looking at this then looking at some of the first frames from this… It’s really amazing seeing how much has changed.
So that about wraps it up. We covered A LOT of frames in this, but we know we missed a bunch, so let us know in the comments some of the frames you were thinking of and maybe we can trace down photos to fit them in! Believe it or not this one was quite stressful because we know how easy it is to get things out of order or facts wrong, so we apologize for anything we goofed up on. Let us know in the comments so we can make any changes necessary! Also, don’t forget this was put together more as a fun look back over how things have evolved over the years for BMX frames. Thanks!