Building Childhood Dreams: An Interview with Mike from FATLIP USA

I got my first freestyle BMX bike in 1987 - a Malibu Mint Mongoose Decade - from my small hometown's bike shop. Most of my peers in the neighborhood also got similar bikes that same year, and we started learning some of the gnarly moves we were seeing in BMX Plus and Freestylin' magazines. We made some ridiculous dirt ramps in front of fire pits, rode way outside of our neighborhood boundaries, and we looked cool doing it. It's hard not to, when you've got a neon-colored thing of beauty and magic helping you to coast through your adolescence. It's these fond memories of a blip in our life's timeline, surrounded by friends, that makes a hunk of welded metal tubing feel so deeply connected to us so many years later.

Mike is the owner of FATLIP USA, and his goal is to help you relive that feeling.

 

First off, give our readers a little intro - what is Fatlip, and how did it come to be?

FATLIP USA, my BMX bike shop, started in the summer of 2019. I have been into BMX bikes, as most of us have, since I was a kid. It all started in the driveway when I was 6 or 7 years old, around 1986/87.  My first bike was a Murray BMX bike that my parents bought from Montgomery Ward. My first high end bike I got was around 1993 when my dad found a '92 GT Interceptor in the "Blue Splash" color, at a local pawn shop. This was my only opportunity to have a great quality bike, as there was no way my dad was going to pay $300 plus for a new GT.

Through those times, until about 2019, I never grew out of collecting and building high quality BMX bikes, such as GT, etc. As I got older, I found myself wanting, and building, every cool bike I saw in the magazines when I was a kid. Through the mid 90s and into the mid 2000s, it was easy to source the parts because the local bike shops still sold some of these parts, but as the years passed, BMX started losing popularity and the local bike shops stopped carrying a lot of parts and BMX bikes in general.

In the summer of 2019, with a little more money in my pocket, I decided it was time to create a bike shop dedicated to just old school BMX frames and parts. I decided to invest back into BMX and myself. I wanted to create a bike shop that was like going back in time and would take you back to your childhood! And that is exactly what happened. It was really tough at first, but I just kept pushing and pushing. We started getting full custom build requests and it took off from there!

Fast forward to today, I have built bikes for many celebrities such as Dana White, Trae tha Truth, legendary rapper Scarface and more. I've even done one for the Roadster Shop to put in the back of their GoodGuys giveaway truck that was featured in Block online magazine, Chevrolet Performance Media. I also built a bike for BMX legend Craig Turner that owns Gary Turner BMX - the company that started GT in the early 70's! For them to reach out and have me do one was an honor! I also sell new out of the box retro BMX Bikes as well, such as GT, Haro, Race Inc. and many more at FATLIPUSA.COM. I have built bikes for customers all over the world and still do, to this day!

So yeah...it basically started on the front porch and grew into what it is today! As a child, and even today, we've all fallen off of our BMX bikes and busted our lips at some point, and that's where the name FATLIP USA came from. It's all about reliving your childhood...building that bike you had stolen - or never got - when you were a kid! Making your kid self jealous...that's what I do!

 

What is your background with vintage BMX bikes? What era kickstarted your fascination with them?

I would say the late 80s and early 90s era of BMX kicked it off for me! Such a great time for BMX with so many companies building them right here in the USA.


 "The best years ever were the late 80s...for everything!"

I don’t have a ton of technical knowledge about bikes, but I know that there is something magical about late 80s freestyle BMX bikes that is infinitely more appealing than the same type of bikes from later years. Is there something on a technical level that really sets them apart, or is it just the nostalgia and paint colors that does it?

The mid to late 80's freestyle bikes are where we all saw a change to BMX bikes from companies that started making frames and parts just for freestyle riding. The platforms that were built into the bikes, the pegs and frame standers, rotors and gyros so you could spin the bars...and let's not forget all the bright colors that were introduced! Neon pink, maui blues, lime green, neon orange, and the list goes on. It changed the BMX forever! The ads that were coming out in the magazines were iconic as well - featuring riders such as Eddie Fiola, Hollywood Mike Miranda and many more. If you were a kid in the mid to late 80s and had one of these BMX bikes, it made you feel like a star as well! The best years ever were the late 80s...for everything!  

 


How difficult is it to find replacement parts when you’re restoring a 35+ year old bike?

It has gotten pretty difficult and expensive to find the parts these days! I think the the days of 80s BMX are back and bigger than ever, and they only made so many. With everyone building and collecting nowadays, I can see the parts and bikes are starting to dry up a little. Old school BMX has taken a turn into a category like classic cars, in value. Everyone wants one! It has gotten back to being so big today that old school BMX companies from the 70s, 80s, and 90s have come back into business and fired up their machines to start remaking these parts again! This is where the reproduction parts come into play, and it's a great thing! Although a lot of enthusiasts want all original parts, the repro parts can help keep the cost down and get your project rolling again without a super high cost. They still add up and can get expensive, but it's definitely a great option to have! Most are still the same great companies from back in the day that still make a great product. Take, for instance, your restored 1969 Camaro. Your restoration shop offers .to source and restore original bumpers for $1,500 each, or buy high quality reproduction bumpers for $500 each. You're more than likely going to go with the $500 bumpers if you're on a budget. But I build bikes both ways. We have tons of customers that have no budget, and we have tons of customers with a budget. So, depending on the project, it can be difficult at times!

 

What condition are the bikes in, typically, when you acquire/receive them?

Here lately, due to the supply chain, the bikes I have been getting in are in pretty rough shape, although we do get in some pretty nice survivors from time to time. If it's rough, it doesn't bother me though. It's what I do. If anything, it's more of a challenge to bring them back to life. I love restoring a rough bike!

 

Are most of your customers old heads, or are you seeing a renewed interest from younger generations?

My main customer base is from the ages of 35-55. I have been seeing an increased number of younger collectors, I believe because of the value, and because of how popular they have been becoming again. It's a great investment! We have been seeing old school BMX bikes recently in ads, commercials, and music videos. It's definitely reached all age groups today! 

 

What’s the most expensive bike you’ve sold?

The most expensive BMX bike that i've built for a customer has been a little under $25,000. Although I have a bunch of repeat customers that I build entire collections for that have spent well over $100,000 with me on their collections! It's not about how much money you spend...it's about getting that childhood bike (or bikes) back in your life! I have very budget-friendly builds as well that we do a lot of.
 

Do you have a personal grail?

I have had so many personal grails! Lol. By the time I get done building one for  myself, I always have customers that offer good money for them, so they don't usually stick around too long.  I love early 90s race bikes, and I am currently building myself a 1993 GT Pro Series XLE with all original parts. Everything has been freshly chrome plated, parts and all! It's been so busy around the shop that I haven't had time to finish it, but will definitely make time soon. I do have my 92 GT Interceptor as well, and it will never be for sale! 

 

Has there ever been a point where you’re “getting high off your own supply,” so to speak? Like, have you ever added a few too many to your personal collection that you maybe should have just sold?

I had a huge collection at a point in my life, and it was just starting to get out of control! I had to make the decision to run a business, or collect. I do still collect bikes and parts for my personal collection, but I keep it at a minimum now. I get my fix from building some of the coolest bikes in the world for my customers. I spend my time with each one by building it for the customer, and then I send it off. What's cool about social media is that I can still see the bikes I've built for my customers when they show them off! It's like the ultimate collection, but they're just spread out around the world. It's pretty cool, and a great feeling!! 

 

What brand makes and/or made the best bikes?

There are tons of brands that make, or made, great BMX bikes. But if i had to choose one, I would say GT. 

 

Any projects that stand out as a personal favorite or biggest challenge?

I have so many projects that I've done with great people around the world that it's hard to pin one down! I have so much fun with each bike I build! A personal favorite would be legendary rapper, SCARFACE. I'm a huge fan of his music, then and now! I've seen people describe him as "your favorite rapper's favorite rapper," and that nails it! For him to reach out and choose me to build bikes for him is like a dream come true! I have developed a great friendship with Brad though BMX bikes. Who would've thought?! He's a great customer and friend! We currently have more projects going on for Scarface as I write this. He loves BMX Bikes!


The most challenging one I would have to say is Dana White from the UFC. The project was to include UFC, along with Howler Head whiskey, all wrapped into one bike. It took me some time to create the vision in my head, but I think we nailed it! Dana loved it. We built him a 29" GARY TURNER 50th Anniversary bike - a full custom one off for him! It totally brought the kid out in him when he first saw it in person! It's like the ultimate fountain of youth, no matter who you are. 


What’s the best BMX movie of all time?

Come on now! We all know the answer to that. RAD. There were other great ones but nothing beats RAD!  

 

Do you have a favorite 80s BMX paint color?

My favorite BMX color of the 80s is lavender! Who will ever forget the famous GT ad in the magazines with Eddie Fiola, when they came out with the all new GT Pro Freestyle Tour bike in 1987? The bike was lavender in the ad, and is iconic to this day! I would say my second favorite would be Dayglo Orange. 

 

This is completely unrelated, but what’s your top 5 favorite non-BMX movies from the 80s?

1-Goonies
2-Back to the Future
3-BATMAN
4-Star Wars
5-BIG

 

Alright, anything else you’d like people to know? And where can people find you?

I am just a regular family man doing what I love! I have the best wife in the world, four great kids, and two awesome grandchildren!  I love building lowriders and trucks. I am a huge gearhead and love pretty much anything with wheels. Some of my trucks and cars have been featured in magazines like StreetTrucks Magazine, Truckin' Magazine, and I am still waiting for one of my cars to come out in LOWRIDER. When I'm not building bikes, I'm usually at the drag strip racing one of my trucks. It's just something else I love doing.

I have the Bobby Hills Outdoors Youtube channel with a big following, and we also recently started another YouTube channel for my BMX content that is growing rapidly.  Make sure you go subscribe for some great BMX content!

If you want to inquire about getting a custom bike built for you or your company feel free to shoot me an email. I am located in Bryan, TX and am currently appointment only. I ship bikes world wide.
Thanks to all my customers and fans around the world! Without you I could not do what I love so much: building some of the best BMX bikes in the world!

Be sure to connect with Mike and FATLIP USA
Instagram
Facebook
YouTube
mike@fatlipusa.com

 

Back to blog