*If you’d prefer the cliff notes version please visit the film trailer at https://vimeo.com/308016816
Homestead Bicycles began as AE Designs (Alden Enterprises) when I was just a high school kid, scrawling logos on my homework and using a then-new digital drawing pad via my Atari home computer. During my first year of college I had a horrible case of senioritis - which I would later learn was really ‘Olmsted-itis’ - a condition only treated by chasing big dreams and following a staggering amount of different pursuits. I had some practical sense though and so went straight to the master - I wrote a letter to Bob Haro. To my surprise Bob wrote me back and a phone call followed where I heard my options, including learning of a company called Cycle Craft, who might be able to weld my dream frame and fork set. I was all in.
A plane flight to Tennessee, meeting the Martino's, picking paint colors with Brian Foster, and talking with the welders about my rear triangle and Homestead Bicycles was born. I was tired of my own surname ‘Olmsted’ being misspelled and I wanted a homegrown, grassroots sounding name echoing my small town roots - and ok yeah the Mountain Dew commercials I was raised on I’m sure played a part.
A few months went by and a freight delivery showed up - my prototype had arrived! I’ve never put a bike together so fast in my life. All the parts from my Haro Sport went on the unpainted Homestead - Redline flight bars, Hutch XL stem, Bullseye cranks, Crupi pedals, Peregrine 48 spoke rims with high flange sealed hubs, the Homestead was looking good and I rode it that day with a smile I thought might never disappear.
I quickly fell in love with the handling of the frame but I knew I was biased, so I took it to a few tracks locally including Sunol BMX near Livermore and the Napa track closer to my home in Sonoma. Feedback was positive - the frame was lean and low and felt fast. A few tweaks including lowering the fork dropouts to raise the front a bit and my company was underway. The first batch of five bikes arrived and I had decals ready. I promptly drove south to Go: The Rider’s Manual and showed off my new bike - the metallic green racing frame and fork set I called the “Basilisk” - after a south American lizard known to run so fast it actually skims right on water. Thankfully Mike Daily offered to place it in the new buyer’s guide issue - October 1991 - and together with the only ad I could afford I was in business. Letters poured in from literally all over the world, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Canada and the U.S., encouraging my ego but hey it was high time to sell some bikes!
I found a 16 intermediate racer at Roseville BMX - Neal Skadden - and hoping he’d turn expert on a Homestead I offered him the most basic of sponsorships - a free bike and Jersey and as many race fees as I could afford. The next three years were a whirwind of hitting every ABA race we could in the Western U.S., selling stickers and shirts, promoting the bike and trying to spread the word. Todd Lyons and the POW’s were some of the big names at the time and meeting Pistol Pete Loncarevich was a highlight of those years, along with memories of riding Vegas at midnight and the sweltering heat of the Bakersfield Nationals.
With the shuttering of Go and the end of the BMX Action reign of journalism the BMX landscape was changing. Matt Hoffman was doing mysterious crazy things in a warehouse ramp in the midwest and the big companies and factory sponsorships were ending or at the least being shaken up. Heck even Bob Haro got out.
Four years and 30 bikes later I was almost out of steam myself when I met VANS sponsored rider Neil Sundblad at Santa Clara PAL BMX track who offered me a job running CityTeam’s Camp May-Mac BMX program that next summer. With little thought I said yes and began a three summer stint in the Santa Cruz mountains, altering my life again by meeting Ken Kingsley who was impressed with my frame and offered to outfit his entire Ben Lomond Bike Shop Team on Homestead Bicycles.
That’s when the unfortunate happened..
I called Cycle Craft to ask about the remaining 20 frames - from my initial order of 50 and got silence. When I finally reached someone I learned the news - the owner Joe had retired and didn’t know what had happened to my 20 frames - did they ever get made at all? I would never know.
That was a blow that would take a few years to recover from.
I bounced around at odd jobs, finally returned to college (and graduated), and became an advertising salesman, short hair, suit and tie, heck I even got a cat. Life was good.
It wouldn’t last.
In 2006 I made my first movie, a low - low - low budget dry comedy called “Dill, California,” and moved back down south to pursue screenwriting. When my father John Olmsted got cancer I reconnected with him, making my first documentary "My Father, Who Art in Nature” and after his passing another doc “The Story of Jug Handle,” both receiving some film festival love and a run on PBS.
In 2012 the most random email came my way. A mysterious Homestead Basilisk appeared on a site called bmxmuseum.com. The bike had no serial # and the dropouts looked like Cycle Craft but I was intrigued. Did the 20 missing frames actually get made? Where was this bike and maybe it would lead to more.
I realized it was time for my two loves - bikes and film - to meet. I placed an ad online, telling my story and throwing out the idea of “what if we tracked down the 30 bikes?” and found the perfect team - documentary filmmakers Kevin and Brian Flint - and in the fall of 2018 we began shooting 30 Bikes: The Story of Homestead Bicycles. Phone calls to old friends, ads on Craigslist, posts on bmx museum, and any other avenues I could use - trying to find as many bikes as possible, who bought them and still had them, what impression did the bike have on them and what are they doing now? I had to know.
Hopefully as you’re reading this the past has caught up to the present and the editing is underway; and after “how many bikes did you track down, the most common question is: are you going to make more bikes?
That’s what I’m here to find out too. Stay tuned.