Greg Lanthorne - Still Shredding at 57
"life, work, friends, BMX... it’s all one big happy blur"
19 Jan 2022
Photos by Jordan Smith, Archive courtesy of Greg Lanthorne.
We’re into the 2020s, and despite all the craziness this decade has kicked off with, one positive is the fact that even after reaching the big 5-0, there are a number of BMXers who haven’t put the bike down yet for good. They’re BMX lifers through and through, and demonstrating that age really is just a number.
Greg Lanthorne is one such rider, who’s still shredding in his mid-fifties. During the early days of the massive Orlando, Florida race and trails scene, Greg was a staple during the Nob Hill trails era, and had a stint throwing elbows in berms with the top pros in racing. In recent years, he’s become integral cog in the designing process of parts and bikes for Shadow and Subrosa, working for his longtime friend Ronnie Bonner. Greg was kind enough to take some time out of his busy days and answer a few questions on a range of topics, from renegade races at his local trails to climbing up the ranks at Sparky’s Distribution.
When and how did you get into BMX?
I have always loved to ride off-road, trails and anything dirt involved from the start (around 5 years old) .We always had jumps and pretended to be on motorcycles. I lived in Ohio until I was 13 or so, and we only had some glimpse of ‘real’ BMX in the small town I lived in. My first BMX bike was a Huffy that I added a "10-speed" seat and motorcycle bars to. I moved to Florida in the late seventies and had kind of forgot about BMX. Had a job at Der Wienerschnitzel when I was 15, rode a 10-speed to and from work. My buddy borrowed it and it got stolen. He settled up with me for $45.00, I think. There was a BMX shop ( Motion Bicycles ) down the street and I bought a used Ashtabula there. Coaster brakes and heavy duty wheels. They had a BMX team, with a small practice track nearby, so I was back in! I officially started racing in February 1980. Been at BMX ever since.
Talk about the Nob Hill trails era in Orlando in the '80s, as well as the huge Florida race scene at the time.
Man, Orlando was definitely the hot spot in the early/mid 80’s. We had the best riders, raddest spots, and our crew’s main objective was to go fast, get rad and make it look good. Jump EVERYTHING and throw some style. We all were into good music ( punk/new wave), partying (a bit) and riding everything—the classic Burdines walls, street, backyard ramps, track—you name it. Nob Hill was an extension of that—we would build it as gnarly as possible, big doubles, some of the first rhythm sections. Dudes would come from all around the state to hang out and run the Saturday night local race, then on Sundays we would shred Nob Hill. We would have weekly races. Three-man gate, have qualifiers, sometimes quarters and always semis. Winner got to run the #1 plate at next week’s local; it was a big deal! One of the highlights of my BMX race career was winning it back to back.
How did getting 3rd place in A Pro at the ’87 BMX Worlds in Orlando change your life?
Not a whole heck of a lot, really. I turned A Pro (top class) in the summer of ’87, and had the rookie pro psych. Made the Vision World Cup main (at the time the richest race ever). I was also working at Woodward as a counselor and racing the summer circuit. Came home for the Worlds and laid down some hot laps and made some magazines. But at the time freestyle and weirdly scooters (not modern version, but the kind with 12” tires) started getting very popular, pulling money from racing, so many race budgets were slashed or eliminated. I was also outside of the “Town Car Gang’ style, a bit more ‘alternative’ so to speak, and probably scared off a few potential sponsors.
When and how did you meet Ronnie Bonner?
I met Ronnie B at the Brookside Trails around 1985/1986. Me and the crew kinda barged in and started building stuff up, and I don’t think that he was too stoked at first. But we were older and pro racers, so he had to take it, haha. They got really good at the end and semi-famous showing up in some magazines. Later when he was just starting UGP, I was the first sponsored rider, ran a hand-made UGP prototype number plate at the ’87 Worlds race, taking it to 3rd in A Pro. After that we got pretty tight, traveling to races, partying at wild disco nights downtown and ripping BMX.
I started working at Sparky's as a warehouse dude back in ’97. Kind of worked my way up from that, if an opportunity came up, I would jump on it. After warehouse manager, I moved into purchasing. Back then, we were just doing UGP; I learned about production, spec, logistics, but was all about clothing. Once we started Shadow, I took that knowledge and started working with the team on bike parts. As it progressed, I fell into the product manager role and was, and am super stoked to do so.
How is having a longtime friend as your boss?
It’s interesting for sure, everything is so intertwined—life, work, friends, BMX... it’s all one big happy blur—would not want it any other way. Thanks for believing in me, Ronnie B.!
Bikes and components seem to be in a consistent state of evolution, and even at times de-evolution with becoming overbuilt and heavy in the '90s, to the many advances in design strength in the '00s, with some parts even becoming too light at the sacrifice of strength in recent years. What are your thoughts on that, and where do you think product design is headed through the ’20s?
Our main focus is with freestyle and funny enough, freestyle BMX seems to want to stick to very traditional looks and materials. Not like BMX racing or MTB, where the function can dictate the style, and the more tech the better. Exotic materials and design, that kind of thing. When the lightweight trend started it really open up some tech, and now I think that we are at a comfortable—not too heavy and overbuilt, instead lightweight and sturdy. So much of BMX riding puts unpredictable forces on parts, it can be hard not to overbuild. Most BMX riders are on a limited budget, so that is another consideration. I think that we will see more ‘tech’ designs and materials moving forward as they get more affordable.
Being that you’ve been involved in many facets of BMX for multiple decades now, how do you feel about current state of BMX, both on the riding side and industry end?
It seems to be bigger than ever. Back in the day, nobody really knew anything about BMX, even when it was at its peak in the early/mid 80s. But now everybody knows what BMX is. Pretty rad; honestly never thought that would be the case.
On the industry side, the current state of affairs is a mess with capacity issues, material shortages and very long lead times. I would call it challenging and leave it at that. At the same time , I am impressed with the brands and products, you can really see the evolution. The level of riding is just insane and keeps getting better every year. So I am stoked on where it’s at now for sure.
How do you feel about BMX Park being in the Olympics?
I really have no problem with it; racing has been in for a bit now. It definitely puts more eyes on the ‘sport’. I think that main issue is the limited amount of riders—maybe it's not the best riders in the world.
What keeps fueling the fire to continue being a part of the industry?
I love bikes and BMX in particular. Being able to take a project from concept to market is very satisfying. Coming up with stuff that folks are into, innovating and really thinking about the function and looks of a particular part or bike. And getting kids stoked on BMX, to keep it going.
How old are you, and what keeps you riding your bike after all this time?
Just turned 57, but I have a hard time believing that, haha. I just really love the feeling of being on the bike, making it do what you want, flowing through the park, trails, track. The freedom of just jumping on the bike and heading out. Shredding never gets old.
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