Robbie Morales and Cult BMX

Robbie Morales is one of the few people involved in professional BMX that has been present for the entirety of my interest and participation in the sport. First as trail shredding pro, then as the brand manager of maybe the biggest rider owned success story in BMX so far – FIT Bike Co.

Tensions at FIT came to a head a few years back and Robbie made the difficult decision to  split from the company he built. His decision to leave shocked the BMX world at the time, and while I won’t dwell on it too much, all eyes really were on him to see if his new venture, whatever it would be, would repeat the same success.

The venture was Cult, a new brand that came out of the gate all guns blazing, featuring art direction by the talented Adam Roye, a stacked team featuring legitimately some of the best riders in the world, and American-made quality products.

In their short history they’ve already put out two groundbreaking full length videos, a video of their AM team thats better than most other brands entire pro teams, plus a collab with America’s best loved cartoon – solidifying their spot as BMX’s most exciting brand.

First things first can you explain where the name came from? Because right now, out of anyone, it seems like you guys have the biggest following in BMX. 

Thanks for the kind words. The name comes from Adam Roye, and the Cult zines he makes, Chase Hawk suggested we use the name as Adam would be a big part of what we do, from graphics, image etc.

When you first launched it, was it a risk coming out with something so boldly different to anything else on the market? 

Definitely, we knew we didn’t want to do what already had been done and personally I welcomed the chance of doing something more edgy.

Adam Roye really went left with the graphics, or at least for BMX at the time, was there any negative sentiment? 

Yeah, plenty of “I can’t read the font”, combined with dumb jokes, but I back Adam’s style and vision 100% – I knew it would catch on and I’m thankful for working with someone as creative as Adam.

Back in those days too, what with the controversy, did you feel very open and that all eyes were on your guys, watching and commenting on your every move? 

Totally, but we thrived on it and it made us go harder, I’ve dealt with that type of sentiment the whole time I have been involved in BMX.

Feels good to prove everyone wrong, surely? 

True, but we really wanted just to do us and maintain what we believe in.

How has the BMX industry landscape changed since you were running FIT? 

The main thing would be complete bike sales shrinking do to there being a shit load more companies doing them. FIT had a nice window of time where it was the only core company doing completes, which is not the case any more.

I know you still very much support US manufacturing, forgive me for asking the obvious but why is it so important to do this, after a lot of your contemporaries have moved manufacturing to Taiwan? 

We struggle so hard to keep USA manufacturing going, for our vendors it got to the point where they were making more Cult stuff than their own brand so something had to give. Even though we were pre-paying and never late on payment, so many different factors make it hard to do. Price and consumer demand make it nearly impossible to keep making USA frames compared to Taiwan, plus the BMX media has not supported the USA movement to help support the USA sales and image.

BMX bike designs are becoming largely homogeneous, do you think there’s still room to progress and new develop new products and design techniques? 

The desire to make things better will always be there but we are at a point where things are pretty even, I always wanted this to happen so the focus of the brand could be team and marketing, rather than trying to invent better widgets. Luckily we have Neal Wood who is good with widgets haha.

Keeping on the hard goods theme, when it comes to signature frame time, how much freedom does the crew get with regards to design? Total freedom or is it centred around ‘what will sell’? 

They get total freedom, but they all like the same/similar geometry. Just now we are switching things up on the new Hawk, Butter, and Trey frames.

You recently opened the Cult Clubhouse, do you think it’s important to have a retail venture where you have total control over the environment and experience for the customer? 

That’s is exactly why we opened it, a rider can come and dial in his bike, ride a grind box, hang with a pro, check out the warehouse, freshen up his clothing and shoes and just get a full Cult experience with what we are about – in an environment that we think other shops should be like.

Talk is cheap was absurd. How long did it take to film and were there any difficulties? 

Cheers, I’m really proud of Talk Is Cheap. There were plenty of set backs, like any project but we lived through it and it has made the brand stronger. Overall just over 2 years in the making, injuries were tough, Dakota alone had 4 trips to the emergency room, shit got real a few times. I care about the crew so much, seeing them come together and create such a amazing project has been epic.

How has the reaction been to $MALLTALK? It’s kinda mental that your AM video blows most ‘pro’ videos out of the water. 

$MALLTALK was a cool project because doing a AM only vid was new and the Pro team wanted it to happen for the guys. The support for the project came from the top so it made it that more special. Proud of the AM crew and how hard they went in, I love how all the team riders have their own unique style and stick to doing that regardless of whats so called popular. Also having a AM bust ass on a full section and that launched him to PRO status, props to Andrew Castaneda.

The bikes you guys have done with the Simpsons are awesome, how did that come about? 

We had a booth at the Agenda tradeshow in Long Beach and the people from Fox studios who are in charge of licensing the Simpsons were walking by our booth. Adam happened to be wearing a The Simpsons shirt and they immediately were attracted to what he was up to and our bikes. The rest is history and it has been a learning experience to say the least. I love both bikes, the Bart and Duff cruiser, there’s hopefully more to come.

Do you think more BMX brands should be exploring collab or partnership opportunities outside of BMX? Because if it gets more kids interested it’s only good right? 

Funny you ask, we actually had to defend the project to the BMX media, they did not understand why we did the collab. That is how far off the back BMX is with mainstream culture, its sad. The most popular and longest running TV cartoon in the world approached us to work together, we were honoured, but we had people asking “why?”

Where do you see the BMX industry as a whole now? 

I want there to be more unity but people are quick to judge and hate so it creates the us versus them vibe within the brands. So, people are constantly working against each other, it can get old but I still believe that recently BMX is the best it has been in some time.

We interviewed Nigel Sylvestor in a previous issue and it’s exciting to see riders like him finally break through onto Hypebeast etc, into what was previously Pro Skater territory in the public consciousness. With that, do you think BMX needs to make more of an effort to have more people like Nigel be exposed in the right way? So BMX can get mainstream exposure on our terms? 

Well I think it has to be more than a rider, the brands and media have to make more of a effort to make BMX cool. Once the brands and media expose the riding, products and lifestyle in the right way we start to look more legit, then the riders are a extension of that and we gain momentum and credibility. A lot of what some riders do gets lost in the mix because they don’t have the right brand backing them, it has to be the full package. I could go on for days but the current system needs help on all levels.

Whats next for you guys? Any more video projects in the works? 

We are releasing a Vans X Cult tire in May, I’m really psyched on that. As for video we keep filming but nothing concrete yet…. Stay tuned.

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