1986 Redline RL-20a
Entry level Redline, priceless to me
This is the bike that, for me, started it all. I was fourteen, had worked all summer in Arizona for my dad as a carpenter’s apprentice with the promise that by the end of summer, I would get a bike out of it as pay. I wasn’t sure exactly what my parents were going to buy me, so I dropped the word Redline a lot around the house that summer, and it paid off. At fourteen, I spent a lot of my free time on the curb of the local seven eleven convenience store with a big gulp, snickers bar, and the latest copy of Bmx plus or freestylin magazine, just dreaming about the day my new bike would arrive. In my mind it would have a sleek paint job with chrome parts, lots of chrome. Most of my friends were either into the local bmx racing scene, or were skateboarders, but I knew what I wanted. I'd rented Rad at least five times from the video store and freestyle was it for me.
When the day finally arrived my parents went to Swiss American bicycles and picked out this 86 Redline rl20a that had been slightly customized by the shop owners son with a pair of dyno pretzel bars and GT flip down fork standers or, "shin rippers" as I soon came to know them. It also had an ACS rotor which I’m not sure if it came with stock, or had been added. I didn’t care either way, It looked like a Ferrari to me! I should point out that up till this point in my life, the bikes I’d been riding were all hand-me-down or yard sale specials, and they usually required a good deal of steel wool, spray paint, and naval jelly before being ridable. But this was altogether different, this was a real bike, and it was a REDLINE, and it was MINE. Once I had this bike I was GONE! This was my ticket to Freedom, and I rode the tires off it, literally. I couldn’t wait to get home from school every day so I could practice what I believed would be a career in freestyle, which started with endo’s, lots of endo’s. Then came the tailwhips and before I knew it I was pulling cherrypickers. This bike was my life at this time, and it all came to a sudden end one day in front of a local Kmart. My best friend and I had gone there to get some slurpee’s and I NEVER left my bike outside, EVER! My friend had a piece-o-$h!+ mongoose that he didn’t mind flipping over and leaving outside when we went into stores, but I would always stay outside and watch my bike which he was pissed about this particular day since he would have to pay for, and carry my slurpee. This was an ongoing argument, and this day, I was tired of having the “what are the chances anyone’s gonna steal it” argument with him so I reluctantly flipped it over and hurried inside to grab my drink, you all know where this is going, sure enough, walked out the door and all that’s there is the piece-o-$h!+ mongoose! It only took 30 seconds! To this day I can still feel that sinking heart pounding feeling that comes over you when you realize your bike just got snagged, I’m sure I’m not alone here, IT SUCKS! But this story has a happy ending, well sort of……..
After my bike got ripped I kinda went into a depression, I don’t really remember much about that time except that I thought a lot about getting it back, somehow, anyhow, I had to get it back. My best friends STEP MOM, had a brand new Toyota supra turbo, she was a trophy wife, 23 yrs old, his dad was in his 40s. She was a major b!+ch and always managed to get my buddy grounded for lame reasons that usually coincided with her p.m.s. cycle, and she loved to narc me out to my parents in the hope of getting me grounded too. My parents didn’t really care, and more to the point, she didn’t deserve such a cool car. We weren’t yet old enough to drive….well… legally, but that didn’t seem to be an issue in our minds and as soon as his parents were asleep, we would grab the keys, push the car down the driveway aaaaand......well, we were gone.
We were getting pretty good at sneeking it out, (not to condone underage driving kids! It’s bad for you, and the environment! ) but one day, just a few miles from home, I saw her again, my first love, MY REDLINE!!!! She was mounted by some punk, and by the looks of her, she had been abused, but it was her, I could spot her a mile away. The thief was riding in the opposite direction and on the opposite side of the road so like a scene from the dukes of hazzard or knight rider (two of the most inspiring shows of my childhood) I jerked the wheel to the left while pulling the e brake, spun sideways as I began to gas it, straightened out, slammed into first and launched toward him (I’m not exaggerating here, it was a perfect 180,......well it was similar to a 180, we had been practicing on side roads, but I was too intent on catching him to be impressed with myself at the time, accolades would have to wait, although If someone had caught it all on video I doubt it would look as cool as we remember it, I may have popped the clutch ) Back to the chase, My heart was pounding, adrenaline surging, mind racing, we caught up in seconds, cut sharp in front of him as he was passing in front of a cul-de-sac and hit the brakes, effectively blocking him. My friend recalls that I ran toward him and shoved him from the bike as I yelled “GET OFF MY BIKE!!!!!” I still remember the look on his face was utter surprise and I’m pretty sure he pooped himself, a little at least. He said it was his and started in with some bull about buying it at a yard sale or something. It didn’t matter as I was well prepared for such malfeasance, I flipped the bike over to show my name neatly etched near the serial number, to which he had no reply. Im still surprised my name as still there and not sanded off. My buddy later noted that he knew of the kid in grade school and he was always in trouble for stealing bikes or something. All I knew was that I had my bike back, I knew it, I just knew I’d see her again! I wasnt the type to start a fight but in this case the kid got lucky that he didn’t get pounded right then and there, but parts were missing, and he said he could get them for me, so we refrained, looking back I shouldn’t have, because I never got them.
For one thing, the black peregrine master mags were gone, replaced by some cheepo 36 spoke huffy type rims with junk tires. The stickers were all gouged up, as was the paint, but most of it was still there. The ACS rotor had been bypassed with a single cable to the back brakes, she just wasn’t the same. She sat in my closet for years after that, I just didn’t have the money or means to fix her up the way she was before. I remember searching for replacement stickers to no avail and contacting redline directly, and them sending me some other green and white lame set that I gave to my little brother. Eventually my brother inherited the bike from me and he took good care of it for many years, although he painted it forest green against my advice. He rode the crap out of it too, and had lots of adventures with it so for that I’m grateful; it’s lived a few good lives by now.
A few years ago he gave it back to me, and I got the idea to restore it, along with an 88 ozone method one we’ve kept in storage. The age of the internet is awesome, and I could now get a good set of stickers, a set of white peregrine masters, tires, seat and a few other things it needed. This website has been an invaluable asset and inspiration to get me back into something I once loved so much. Thanks to Gary and all of you guys out there who grew up with bmx and still have the fever. I’ve had a ton of fun bringing her back to her glory, I know she’s not the top of the line but her history means more to me than a hundred rl 20ll’s or any of the more expensive bikes from back in the day. Plus I’ve got three sons now, the oldest will be 14 next year, so she’s got a few more lives yet to live…………..
To see some more photo's of the restoration and completed bike click below!
frame: 86 Redline rl20a trimoly #86064833
fork: Redline tapered 4130 chrome-moly
rotation device: acs rotor
brake calipers: diacompe
cranks: sugino cr-mo
front sprocket: anlun
grips: A'me tri
tires: kenda / norco patch
bars: dyno pretzel bars
pedals: victor vp-300
levers: generic peregrine style locking
wheels: peregrine master graphites
seat post clamp: suntour
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