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The BMX Society Interviews - Christian van de Groenendaal


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#1
Spur

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Finally another interview, and long overdue on my end. I thought I would change direction in the type of interviews we do here. Seemingly all of the interviews we have done are U.S. based and are very familiar to all of us. There is so much BMX and many members outside of our own country that I found it time to go beyond our borders. If you were around BMX in the late 80's and early 90's you are probably familiar with his old softgoods company Groenendaal Prime Racing, better known as GPR. Also you may be familiar with the outstanding quality of his current company ONE Bicycles. So please, sit back, and enjoy The BMX Society interview of The Netherlands own, Christian van de Groenendaal.

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BMXSociety.com: Hey Christian, first off thanks for taking the time to discuss all things BMX with me and the BMXSociety.com members.

First, let’s get the formalities out of the way. Please state your complete name so I can cut and paste it through out the interview, age and hometown. (Laughter)

Christian: Christian van de Groenendaal, 45, Vught (Netherlands)

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BMXSociety.com: What was your first BMX bike and what was your favorite (give set up details if you can remember).

Christian: Due to Bechterew disease, a form of arthritis, I was never able to race. If I would have been able, I would have kicked ass J

BMXSociety.com: How devastating, this is a stiffening of the spinal cord correct? It must have been hard to watch your brother race and I assume this is why you jumped into the business side of it?

Christian: Correct,mine is fixed now for ¾. That hasn’t caused me too much problems though. It is the side effect. By avoiding the pain and because of inflammations you get problems in other joints. So after walking with crutches for 7 years, because doctors said it might get better (yeah right), in 1990 I found it time to have surgery and got artificial hip joints on both sides. In 2000 I had to have one replaced and 5 weeks after that I fell while walking with crutches and got a spiral fracture in my upper leg. Fortunately the new hip was still in place and my leg was fixed with wires and a metal plate from my hip almost to my knee. And it is still in there.

It wasn’t that hard to watch others race. I didn’t know any better, I have had problems since I was 11, and my brother started racing when I was 16. But yes, I wanted to be involved and it has made me to what I am and do now.

BMXSociety.com: Name your early influences U.S. and Dutch? Who were some of the popular riders of the time amongst the Dutch BMX culture?

Christian: U.S.: Pete Loncarevich, Greg Hill, David Milham, Bernard Gant

Dutch : Nico Does, Bas de Bever, Wilco Groenendaal

BMXSociety.com: What companies, U.S., European, or otherwise were big in the Netherlands, say from the 80’s to the mid-90’s? Where there any Dutch BMX Bicycle manufacturers during this era? Also what were popular bikes and set-ups?

Christian: US companies like GT, Redline and SE were dominating. I think Kuwahara was popular all over the world because of ET. In Europe there was Sunn, MBK and Raleigh. In Holland there was a brand called ASCO. They made frames and chainrings and a good team.

Most popular bikes were GT and Redline. The high handlebars and huge number plates are still the most memorable.

BMXSociety.com: Did BMX go through the ups and downs in the Netherlands like it did in the US or did it always stay fairly consistent? How is it today?

Christian: Yes, I guess it has had it’s lows after the big boom in the 80’s. When it didn’t get the attention on TV anymore the amount of riders dropped. Today the kids of the old BMX’ers start racing and so do their friends, so BMX is growing again.

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BMXSociety.com: You started making plates as GPR in 1987? Was it only plates or did GPR produce other soft goods?

Christian: I started making number plates in 1986/1987. First it was like making pieces of art, totally by hand, the plates end designs were cut out by hand or even painted. Later I started screen-printing them and the plates die cut.

When starting screen-printing, I also started making T-shirts and stickers.

BMXSociety.com: It is well known you hand cut and handpainted GPR plates, was this method the entire span of GPR?

Christian: I was running the company on my own, so yes J




BMXSociety.com: Wow, so you manufactured, marketed and distributed all by yourself, incredible. Was this a 40 hour a week job, your livelihood or was GPR just a side business? Do you remember the volume of plates and sales at GPR’s peak?

Christian: Yes I did, of course I had the help of my mom and dad when needed. In fact I started GPR when I was still in school in my old bedroom. I finished school, in 1991 as graphic designer and focused on screen printing. GPR was all I did. Designing and making number plates. And later on the T-shirts, all made in the bedroom.

The volume was a joke. I mean if you compare it with the numbers of plates that were sold by Zeronine and Haro, GPR was a very small company in the market. If I don’t count the plates for the World Championships, I think the peak was about 900 plates a year.

BMXSociety.com: How long did it take to crack the U.S. market?

Christian: We never actually cracked the US market. For a European company it is hard to get on the US market, unless you’re BMW or Mercedes. After the Worlds in Florida in1987 it kinda took off and in the early 90’s we even got someone in Florida to distribute the plates. I forgot the company’s name, but I remember they also sold handlebars by the name of RAD.

BMXSociety.com: Were you sponsoring riders and teams or just flowing them plates? Who were some big U.S names that ran them? I can think of Eric Carter, Alan Foster both with Hyper around ’93/94.

Christian: Yeah, Eric Carter and Brian Foster ran our plates when they were on the HYPER team. In fact all big names used the plates, when we sponsored a couple of World Championships (Norway 91 and Holland ’93) J

BMXSociety.com: Alan or Brian? Alan was on Hyper and Brian was on Cyclecraft around this time, or did you sponsor them both?


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Brian Foster


Christian: I made a Brian Foster T-shirt that I gave him at the Worlds in Norway. He was on Cyclecraft then. But in 1993 Brian was on Hyper and Eric and Brian were using the GPR plates back then.

By the way, Terry Tennete and Pete Loncarevich raced myplates too.

I also made plates for the Dutch AMEV team, Dutch National team and BlueThunder team

EDIT: Brian and Alan Foster were both on HYPER for a time and both ran GPR plates - Jake


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BMXSociety.com: There is an interesting parallel between you and Bob Haro, you both had similar entrepreneurial beginnings that led to much bigger things. How hard was it in the beginning to transition from GPR to ONE Bicycles making frames? What were some of your biggest obstacles?

Christian: Yeah, that is cool, I never thought of that. I can’t be compared with him though. He’s the Master.

It wasn’t hard to go from GPR to ONE. There weren’t that many brands that had the perfect geometry. What was hard is to get a new brand on the market and make it competitive in price and quality. Through the years I think people saw it was one of the best frames and today, I think there aren’t many better then the current frame we have. The price may be a bit higher than other brand, but then again you can’t compare a Mercedes with a Hyundai.

BMXSociety.com: I know you were not a racer, so in the beginnings of ONE, how did you come up with a design for frames early on? Give us a brief evolution of ONE framesets and maybe a timeline of components (from the the mid-90’s until today).

Christian: The key is to listen to what riders have to say and use that information to develop your product. My brother Arjan raced BMX back then and we have had some great riders when we had the GPR team and raced on BLOCK and later HYPER, who gave us input. Of course every rider has their own preference, but if you find a way in the middle, it will please most of them. Through the years we have changed the frames looks, but since 2006 the main geometry has not changed.

The first ONE’s were heavy, especially the CrMo ones, so aluminum was the key-word. Our frames will never be the lightest. I believe ifthe geometry has proven itself, quality and strength will boost a rider.



BMXSociety.com: Block as in Richard Bartlett’s Company (manufactured by the Cyclecraft), those were pretty obscure here in the States?

Christian: Richard opened the frame sponsoring for us in the US. Through him we got in touch with Clay Goldsmid (Hyper). Block was a long frame, perfect for the tall Dutch riders.


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How sick is that, Blocks with Tange Switchblades!!!



BMXSociety.com: Sorry I got off topic.

I know all about the weight of your early chromoly fames, I have a 95 Pro version and the drop outs must be 1/2 a lb or in your case, 226.796185 grams (laughter) a piece. Of all the frames I have, it is one of my favorites, unique and of superior quality, right up there with the best US frames of the time. ONE is still not a very big company here and people that I know that own them, love them and rave about the design and quality. Why is ONE not as accepted here but huge in Europe? Is it cost, a saturated U.S. market or simply location?

Christian: ONE is hard to sell in the US. Distributors find them too expensive, but don’t realize they will never get a complaint from any customer. That means no warranty hassle, no sleepless nights worrying about mad customers. That means, less stress, which leads to lower medical bills. Guess I got off topic now.

People can order straight from our webshop, but I think they worry about shipping. Funny thing is we can ship it cheap. To ship a frame to the US is only 35 euro. It takes up to 14 days to get there, but you will have a great and for the US market almost unique ride.




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BMXSociety.com: How big is ONE Bicycles in terms of employees and your facility? Do you manufacturer frames and components in-house or is that work done overseas?

Christian: JIt is still the same story as with GPR. I work alone and yes, I still have my office in my old bedroom.

I make the frame designs here but the frames are made in Taiwan. The company we work with over there also makes parts for Harley Davidson.



BMXSociety.com: I know from trying to arrange this interview that you spend a great deal of time traveling to different events, how much time do you spend on the road and how many countries to you visit each season? Do you have a favorite stop?

Christian: During the season me and my buddy Paul Vakkers (our mechanic) are on the road nearly every weekend, in Holland or abroad. Each season there are about 6 different countries we go to for racing the Euro rounds. Then when I get back to the office there is a pile of emails waiting for me to be answered. In Europe I always love the races in France. The events are well sponsored and they have alot of riders attending races there. The Supercross in Frejus (south of France) is the best. Sun, sea and BMX for the riders and for us babes, beer and BMX……ok beer and BMX.

I used to go to the NBL Easter Classic and Gator National when it was an NBL UCI points event and held over weeks. 2 races in 1 trip was worth going to Florida. Now I have my daughter Makia racing, so I am not that far from home anymore.



BMXSociety.com: Lastly, thanks again for letting me pester you with such random questions. Please let our members know how to get information and/or purchase items from ONE.

Christian: Thanks Jake for the interview. I was surprised to see one of my old frames in your pics. It is nice to see the old ones every now and then. It means I have done something right and created something good.

I hope people now understand I am in it for the sport. Loving what you do is important and what you have in your mind can be done.

I would like to ask people to email me pics or articles about GPR if they have them. I would like to collect them and put them online in my Facebook account.



ONE Bicycles can be reached through the website: http://www.onebicycles.com or email: info@onebicycles.com

ONE Bicycles, PO Box 2102, 5260 CC VUGHT , the Netherlands

#2
Spur

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The GPR picture page!!

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#3
S.Brothers

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Good reading, and a very grassroots hardcore bmx story. Some of those plates are simply awesome.

Nice work, Jake. We needed to broaden the horizons and pay our respects to the international BMX community.

Thanks, Christian. It is cool to read about your company and personal history too.

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#4
Jarvi

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Thanks for the interview. ONE Bicycles have a decent presence at the racetracks down in Australia. They have a superb finish and look great.

#5
steve bourke

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you see alot of ONE bikes in Canada as well.
what is the bottom bracket height of the pro xl frames?

#6
keep_it_warm

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I was learning as I was reading. Very cool. So cool of you to take the time to share your story with us Christian. Good work Jake!

#7
getset

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Cool interview, I need to look a little deeper into the BMX seen next time I'm in Holland. I spent a summer there years ago and was impressed to see some kids ripping up a half pipe in the park by the Van Gough museum. You gotta love the cross pollination.

#8
DBS

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Great interview Jake..... thanks for sharing!!

#9
I am the owl...

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One of my faves so far, super informative, and cool stuff too.

#10
JJR

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Cool interview!
I'm glad I could help you to contact Christian ;-)
Show your ONE bike Jake!
BTW that's my Brackens with my GPR plate from the 93 Worlds in Holland :-)

#11
Spur

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Yes, I totally neglected that JJR, Tweaker and the squad at Dutchbmx.com all were quite helpful with getting me in contact Christian. Sincere apologies for forgetting to post that. You guys are awesome. Also wanted to thank Christian for all his help with pictures. He really went all out to help, totally gracious guy.

My ONE is still waiting it's build. I need to acquire a set of the early ONE decals and some GPR stuff....Posted Image

#12
JJR

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Just found a old GPR plate that was made for a Belgian BMX club (BMX Galaxy Habay la neuve).

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#13
mmmmitsajelly

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Awesome interview Jake. Thanks. What a cool look at some inner workings of a unique company.

Those plates though, now knowing dude was Bob Haroing out in his bedroom doing serious art. I would roll to a gallery to see an exhibition of plates over the years. They're almost too nice to run on a bike. Really trick.

Thanks again Jake and Christian!

#14
Monster-Robot

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Awesome interview! That was a great read..!
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#15
ONE Bicycles

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I wish I still had the decals, but they were all screenprinted back in the 90's.
Every decal set was one of a kind.
I do have production sets, but I think that is not what you want :(

Christian

#16
JJR

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Hey Christian!
Nice to see you found your way to this forum ;-)
BTW don't you have the material (cliché) anymore to print those old decals?

Edited by JJR, 15 November 2010 - 04:29 PM.


#17
Spur

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Christian found me a set of OG ONE decals, unbelievable and are on the way to the States!!!!! The fact he went out of his way to look for a set speaks volumes, and giving them to me is super generous. Should be able to start building my 95 soon! Hopefully I can locate a GPR plate and maybe a padset.

#18
S.Brothers

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incredible find, big ups to Christian, and congrats Jake.

#19
JJR

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wow a big + for Christian :ThumbsUp:

#20
Spur

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Got them today. Unbelievable. Thanks again Christian.

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