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Jim Melton Interview

November 24, 2011

I had the pleasure if not honor of having lunch with Jim Melton at Cheesecake Factory and the conversation continued after, at his daughters house, who joined us for lunch. This is a bit of what I gleamed from him. The rest I will save for another project I’m working on.

Jim Melton clearly loves BMX, and was, is not just a guy trying to make money from the sport. He loved the whole lifestyle, the family aspect, the joy of traveling and the thrill of competition. He loved giving riders a chance, regardless of race or gender.
He got his start working at a bike shop in Oklahoma City. He would work on old bikes in the basement when things were slow. After moving to California he met the guys from CYC and decided to open his own bike shop, Jim Melton Cyclery, in Azusa, CA. In 1975 he was also working at the local BMX track in Covina, CA as a flagman. A local racer by the name of John Begin asked him to start a team.
The JM Cyclery team was born. Harry Leary would help dial in the team with uniforms for the factory look and they may have been the first team to use Bill Walter’s leathers for a BMX team. Jims son would dial in the bikes and numberplates later and actually designed the JMC shield logo.
In 1975 or 1976 he opened a second bike shop. Actually he bought it and just kept the name, Bills Bike Shop, in nearby Monrovia, CA. Monrovia as well as Azusa both had BMX tracks. Rich Long helped run the Azusa track and Barbara Foster (no relation to JMC ace Dennis Foster) helped run Monrovia.
With the success would came the first two bikes. Actually a bit of an interesting story behind that. But the short version is after a failed attempt to buy GT/Pedals Ready he would launch JMC/BMX.
JMC XP1 and XP2 were the first two bikes made. Jim told me who he gave them too but I’ll have to ask him again. The first production long bike, JMC20 went to Clint Miller.
Did you know JMC made a batch of Chainring adapter discs? I didnt. They made I think 50 of them. All were same color and all were engraved.
Did you know that the biggest dealer of JMC frames was Bicycle Harbor in Arizona?
Did you know why the seat post stamp is cutoff on the real JMC seat posts and not on the forged ones? Jim used the same stamp that he used on the back end of the top tube for both. Obviously the top tube is bigger then the seat post tube, hence the seat tube logo was cutoff.

All the detailed records were kept by his office manager. Jim also keep all the original bike jigs in storage, but a massive flood in the early 90’s by the Mississippi River destroyed the storage building and they have been lost since. After closing down JMC in 1985 he returned to the job he held between his his Oklahoma City bike shop days and JMC, a mechanical engineer in the Los Angeles area.

Presently he has brought back the JMC name by reissuing pad sets, decals and more. He hopes to bring the brand back as a bike company as well, but at this point there are no concrete plans. But if I can twist Jim’s ear, I will make sure to tell him he needs to do 20 and 24 and 26, that all us older guys want. If the name does return to bike shops and race tracks near you, I can tell you this. The frame sets will be made in the USA. But as of this writing, no prototypes have been made.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Rich permalink
    November 29, 2011 7:57 pm

    This may bend a few minds. As a kid living in SoCal(Riverside), I was into BMX as most
    kids were at that time. In 1978, my mom took me to a police bike auction where they
    would sell confiscated or stolen bikes that nobody had claimed. There were a lot of
    Redline, GT, and Mongoose bikes which was pretty typical for that time period.
    However, sitting quietly in a corner was a white JMC with gold rims and the classic
    blue tires. It absolutely cried out to me. I thought it had a funny frame as the
    downtube was eliptical(I now know it was a long standard). At the time, being only 8
    years old, I hadn’t heard of JMC… yet. I walked over to the bike and saw that it
    needed a little help. Brake cable was busted, rear tire and rim were flat and bent
    beyond truing. But this bike just said, “buy me”. Mom gave the okay and we took it
    with a couple of others to bid on. Apparently nobody else there knew about JMC bikes
    either. Not a single person bid against me. Not even so much as a peep.

    Here’s the real kicker. I paid all of $1.50 for it. Yes, that’s correct. One dollar and fifty
    cents. I thought I had gotten a pretty good deal and happily forked over my hard
    earned lawn mowing money. Took it to the local Schwinn cyclery to have the proper
    repairs done to get it up and running. When we walked in and showed the bike to the
    guy behind the counter, his eyes got real big. “Wow, nice bike!”, he says. “Bet that
    cost a ton.” When we told him how much we paid his jaw hit the floor. “Do you know
    what you have here? This isn’t just ANY bike.” He then proceeded to tell us how much
    it was really worth and we were shocked. Something like $250-300 at the time.
    During the late 70s, that was a pretty tidy sum for a bike. I then found out that it had been modified for racing. Racing hubs, two different front sprockets to accommodate separate chain sizes, SR cranks, special handle bars… the works. This was no ordinary JMC. This was someone’s racer and it was awesome! It was also now MINE! We promptly bought the thickest bike lock chain we could find. I wanted to make sure nobody stole my new baby.

    When I rode her to school a couple of days later, I suddenly went from being a little
    unknown nerdling to the popular “dude with the JMC.” Nobody else had anything like
    her. She was mine and she was the baddest bike at school. I took excellent care of
    her. Learned how to take her apart and put her back together. I had that bike until I
    was 14 when, out of dumb youthful decision making, I sold her to a friend. Two days
    later, she was stolen and I never saw her again. He had locked her up with a cable
    lock that was thinner than a pencil. I was so furious I didn’t speak to him for months.

    Oh but what a wonderful bike that was. I went everywhere with her and took her
    everywhere with me. I raced friends for fun, rode all over the hills and through the
    orange groves. Best bike I ever had, hands down. Finding this site has brought back a
    flood of great memories. Sorry for rambling. But I thought I’d share my story of how I
    got to ride one of the best bikes ever made. Thanks Jim, for creating a masterpiece.
    That bike gave a poor kid from the Inland Empire a chance to be cool. Not to mention
    many, many good times. 🙂

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