Wilkerson Airlines (1989–2013)
I'm happy with where these little bikes have taken me -- and i'm still here doing what I love.
Wilkerson Airlines (WAL) was Ron Wilkerson's own BMX brand, as well as the start of a new era for BMX bikes -- an era that championed strength over weakness in frame construction, with attention to the newer riding developments such as bash guards, peg bosses, 990 mounts and more.
Wilkerson Airlines' first ad appeared early in 1989. A mugshot of Ron was positioned above the Wilkerson Airlines graphic designed by Andy Jenkins with a declaration of sorts: "If something isn't happening for me, I make it happen. Freestyle is the raddest sport. I have been into it for 10 years and it is my life. I wanted rad ramp contests, so I did 'em. I wanted street contests, so I did 'em. Now I want a rad bike..."
Over the next several years, Ron Wilkerson and Wilkerson Airlines endured the first major recession of BMX, manufacturing US-made frames, forks, bars, stems and components for riders that had outlasted the '80s wave of BMX success. Everything branded with the name Wilkerson Airlines was built to last. It may not have been the lightest or the best looking thing going, but it was made by a BMX rider that was in it for the right reasons and trying to push the organic growth of BMX into the next millennium. When I started WAL, I had 2hip promotions and that was a pretty big thing to me. I thought, "Well, maybe companies won't send their riders to a 2hip jam if we also made bikes." So I started WAL with brilliant logo, design and input from the likes of Spike Jonze, Andy Jenkins, Dave Carson, and myself. A couple years later, we combined everything into one: 2hip. Then, Mat [Hoffman] started doing more events, and he started a bike company with the same name as his events. Doh.
Over twenty years later after WAL's inception, Ron Wilkerson is still at it, now manufacturing bikes under the 2hip Bikesname. And the bikes he created through Wilkerson Airlines have grown to become somewhat of a phenomenon with BMX collectors the world over, sometimes tripling in value depending on the condition of the frame.
We basically used the same geometry of the Sport that I'd been used to and made a US-made beefed-up version, including a removable bash guard. which was pretty revolutionary at the time.
We went to the then-current Long Beach manufacturers of SE Racing products at the time, Mike Devitt and SAL, and they did amazing work because they knew quality top notch BMX. But, USA manufacturing, being a "small-guy," was pure hell. Parts were extremely expensive to manufacture, and production times were extremely long. For months, we'd be waiting for product that was "at the painters and platers." The battle for production was always a major thorn.
it was the very beginning of the times of riders taking over BMX production. The riding was getting more and more burly and what had been produced up to that time was just not cutting it anymore. Riders were jumping off buildings, going big and landing hard. [Chris] Moeller had already started S&M, but they were more BMX racing, and Rick Moliterno started Standard not too long after WAL. Not long after that, the world of the super overbuilt BMX bike was born.