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Freestyle Interview - RL Osborn - 2004

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Let me first start off by saying, Thank you R.L. for taking the time to do this interview with us. Without you, I honestly don't think we would've known this wonderful thing called "Freestyle". Now on to the questions...


What have you been up to since your freestyle days?


Let's see. I've been running my carpet cleaning business. And for awhile I ran Hammer and Bully. And then I sold that. You know, which that was a whole other story. Actually it was the carpet cleaning business was going real good. And Hammer and Bully were really going good. I chose to sell Hammer and Bully because I knew so much about the inside of the industry. You know, big company screwing the little company and stuff like that. I was basically in the industry for the money at that point, which was totally not the reason I got into it. So I sold the companies and got out. I just knew too much so I sold it. At that point I came back and I did keep riding. I just rode on my own. Earlier on I kept riding, and I started building custom Harley's from the ground up. All that and raising my kids.


Do you still ride?


As of right now, no. Too many injuries.


When did you stop riding?


Let’s see. I stopped riding probably about 4 yrs. ago? No. I stopped riding about 5 yrs. ago. If there's ever any kind of break-through surgery that can heal my injuries then I'll start riding again. I really do want to get back to it. The reason I sold my companies was to completely shed all the business side of the bicycle business, get all of that out. And just come back into it as a regular person. Just riding totally for fun, nothing involved what-so-ever, just riding clean. And for awhile I got to do that. And that was such a great feeling. Something I hope to do again someday.


When you look back on your riding days, what do you reflect on most?


Probably my touring with Mike Buff was the most fun. That was when we had the best times. Because that was before a lot of money came into it. And that was when Buff was a total character, just a total nut. Very entertaining. And that was when Duke and Winkle were involved. And that was actually the best time in my career.

What do you think was the reason for the decline in popularity of freestyle in the late 80's early 90's?


It came in so fast, you know? And it's just typical for anything, any kind of a sport. It always has to go through a cycle. And the industry runs in cycles. You know, it goes from freestyle to road bikes, to mountain bikes, and then back around again. Not necessarily in that order. So since this was it's first time around, that was part of it. It's just, some people thought it was a fad, it's going to die off, and it had been around for awhile, so everybody was just kind of looking for it to run it's cycle, looking for it to go down. And then came the recession. You know, a heavy recession came in. I think everything hit it all at once, and that kind of drove it back down. Which is very typical. Skateboards did the same thing. But then when it started back up again, if this sport does start back up again, that's when it makes its second strong stand and usually will be around forever.


What are your thoughts on the old school vs. new school scenes?


I really have been totally out of it. I really don't know too much about what's going on except for the stuff the riders are doing, like the double backflips etc. The tricks that the guys are doing now.. we couldn't dream. They're doing stuff that is crazier than what I dreamed about. It happens and then you think, "That didn't happen". They truly are amazing. Guys like Hoffman, Mirra, and Jay Miron. Before those guys there was Mike Dominguez. And Mike Dominguez set limits, set standards back then to show these guys what was possible. And these guys would not be doing any of that stuff without Dominguez. That was our teacher, that was the guy that showed us what was possible.


I used to race BMX. I was racing BMX in the beginning. With Stu Thomsen and David Clinton. And the reason why I quit racing BMX was we used to race at a place called Soledad Sands. We raced on downhill tracks with big gnarly jumps. Huge, huge jumps. And that was truly moto-cross. And then, BMX became a flat track with you know, bumps. And that was one of the reasons I got out of BMX. Because of the changing style of the track. When I was racing with Stuart and David Clinton I didn't race in their classes, they were just my heroes. David Clinton, he rode a Kawasaki bike and was factory sponsored by Kawasaki, and Stuart was riding for Dirt Master's I think? The tracks that we used to race on were insane. I mean, the jumps were 6ft. high right in the middle of a downhill straight away. And that was another thing that I missed. And I’ve got to be straight, I haven't been to a BMX race in a long time, maybe they do have some really big jumps now. I really do miss those downhill jumps though. When I was 12, and I was racing BMX, this is before freestyle, Greg Hill and I owned the 12 yr. old class. That's my history with Greg Hill. We were the fastest 12 yr. olds. We would change for the lead. We just owned that 12 yr. old class, anywhere we ran, either Greg won or I won.


Do you still keep in touch with anyone from the old school? Bob Haro?


No, nobody. When I got out, I got out. I knew too much about the inside of the industry, the ugly side of the industry. And so, I just wanted to completely shed it from my life, and I just wanted to go back to riding just on my own. Just be riding for myself. And that was the whole reason. But no, I don't keep in touch with anybody. I kept in touch with Mike Buff for a long time after I got out. We lived in the same area/neighborhood, so I did keep in touch with Mike Buff, but I haven't talked to him in probably 3 yrs. 4 yrs.

What are your thoughts on old school bikes vs. the current ones?


I really don't know too much about the current bikes.


Of all the bikes you owned/ridden, What was your favorite? Why?


Redline. Because Lynn, who owned Redline was all about quality. He was one of the first guys in the sport to taper a tube. Everything he did just had to be the best. And he taught me a lot about metal working which brought me into building Harley's. In my garage I’ve got a full mill, lathe, welder, etc, it's a whole metal shop. And a lot of what I do in here is from what Lynn taught me. So Redline was definitely my favorite bike.


What was the first trick you ever did? What was your favorite trick to do?

I think I saw Bob Haro do a Curb-Endo, or a Rock-Walk. That was when Bob came to live with us way back when. I don't remember when it was, but probably a Curb-Endo and then a Rock-Walk came after that. One of those two was my first trick. The Rock-Walk way back then was my favorite trick. The most amazing trick that I saw in the early days that really blew my mind; I was in Las Vegas and I saw a kid do the first part of a Rock-Walk (the 180), but when he did that 180, instead of landing the back wheel, he rolled out of it on the front wheel, backwards. He couldn't pull it off, but he could roll backwards about 10 feet. That just blew me away. He was doing it in a parking lot. It blew everybody’s mind. And that was where rolling tricks started, right there. That was the first time somebody started rolling in a different direction on the front wheel.


What was your most memorable contest?


Well, I always did well in California at the Dominguez Hills Velodrome contests. I would always win that contest, except for the one time Dennis beat me in a run off. But I would always win that contest. So I always liked that contest. No particular year. Just that one, anytime it was there. As far as the AFA contests, my most memorable one was the first freestyle contest that I ever went to. You know, all the guys were there. Everyone that was touring and doing shows like me, Bob Haro, Buff, Ronnie Wilton, and all those guys.


Nobody wanted to compete, but the contests were starting and I went to one back east somewhere, I don't remember where I was, and I was so scared because we were considered the best riders just because everybody knew us. We were out touring all the time and everybody else was at home practicing. And they wanted our jobs. They wanted to be touring all the time. So they were practicing all the time and we were working all the time. So, I had to go to this contest. And that scared the sh@t out of me. We were laying everything on the line. I know what Woody and Martin were thinking; "Hey, if we can go to a contest and beat these guys, we could take them out with one clean punch you know, and we would be the kings". So I went to that contest and I think Woody won and I got second, but it was really close. And it was really good because I think a lot of people thought that Woody and Martin were going to smoke me, but I had a lot of new tricks. And then from then on I won every contest that I was in for like a year or two straight. I just won everything. I was able to gain the respect from a lot of people. A lot of people thought that we were just famous because we were in the magazines all the time. It was a really hard time because I had to prove myself. It was really scary. That was the most memorable. Not memorable in a good way, but an experience I won’t forget.


What did you think of the AFA, and the whole "organization" aspect?


I liked what Bob Morales was doing. I thought it was cool. The AFA contests I thought were really cool. I thought everything was good about it. Those were really good times. Back then it wasn't so serious, everybody was having a really good time, we'd all meet at the contests. You always had your entertainers like Craig Grasso, and Large Ray. It was great.


What do you think of the tricks being done today?


The ground tricks are just as mind boggling as the ramp stuff. You know, no brakes and all that stuff, is just...I mean these guys are just...unbelievable.


What is your opinion on today’s underground look, compared to the sponsored, uniform look of the 80's?


Well, the whole thing about the uniforms that I didn't like was, the only reason why we wore uniforms was because we were trying to sell appearance. They served no purpose. They were uncomfortable, slippery, and so again, it was all about money. You know? So I think that people should dress how they want to dress. I really don't think they should try to be anything they're not. They should dress for what's comfortable for them.


What was it like being involved with RAD, any good stories?


That's an interesting story. You know Eddie Fiola was kind of a BMX director on that right? He was on the set, this is the way I remember it, and he was there to say, to tell the stars, to teach the stars to talk like we talk. They had called me originally and wanted me to do it, but I was burned out from touring. I remember I was sitting in a tub in Maryland and I was so burned out, I was just dead. And my manager was calling me on the phone, and they kept calling me and offering me more and more money, and it was very hard to turn it down, but I just kept turning it down. And that's why I'm only in the beginning and the end. Eddie did all the stunt riding. I was just too whipped. I couldn't do it. And so they went to Eddie. But Eddie was really good with that stuff so he did a really good job. I was just in the beginning and the end. I wasn't really involved in any of the shooting. We did a little touring with Talia Shire to promote the movie, press conferences, and that was about it. They just shot the beginning and the end at a couple of sites and that was it. I really wasn't that involved in the movie. I think I watched the movie one time. That's all I really saw of it.


What souvenirs have you kept from your old riding days?


I have two helmets. And that's it. I’ve got my General helmet with the #2 on it. And I’ve got a JT helmet.

Are you amazed at what the old school stuff sells for on eBay? Did you ever think things would be this collectable?


I don't know anything about it.


What are your future plans?


Well, I keep thinking of building another Harley. I might be starting one in the next 6 months. So I'm just starting to kind of get the bug to do another one. I just finished one up about 6 months ago, a year. ago. So, build another motorcycle. I'm going to probably slow down with work. Go to a half schedule, work a lot less, do more building motorcycles for fun, spend more time with the kids. Maybe I'll figure out a way to start riding bikes again, who knows?

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  • Admin

Very nice, Jeff. Thanks for sharing.


Seemed like R.L. was kinda underground or at least staying very low profile and out of bmx until the Joe Kid premier. Cool to see this early "scoop".

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The most amazing trick that I saw in the early days that really blew my mind; I was in Las Vegas and I saw a kid do the first part of a Rock-Walk (the 180), but when he did that 180, instead of landing the back wheel, he rolled out of it on the front wheel, backwards. He couldn't pull it off, but he could roll backwards about 10 feet. That just blew me away. He was doing it in a parking lot. It blew everybody’s mind. And that was where rolling tricks started, right there. That was the first time somebody started rolling in a different direction on the front wheel.


I was the kid RL was talking about doing 180s into a reverse wheelie in Las Vegas! TS

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Yes, Jeff the interviewer, had done it earlier and shared it here.


My friend just pointed out the thread on the museum.  :-)    The guy that posted the pic lifted it from Xavier Mendez's wall on Facebook, I'm guessing. It said that Dom had interviewed them.  Dom may be working on a book project.  Or... maybe another retro is in the works.  Can't wait!   :P

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