We recently had this 14″ custom BMX drop into our inbox …and boy is it something. This bike has been built by North East frame builder Mike Hill at Deathpack and photographer Tom Bing.
We spoke to Tom and this is what he had to say…
“Billy Bing is a nearly 5 year old BMX rider who is lucky enough to have the backing of his mate Mike Hill. Mike is a North East Trails rider (Great Ayton) who has been riding and for three decades in the UK and is arguably building his most ambitious set of trails currently with Evergreen and Ayton locals in the North East. Billy is a kid who is passionate about riding bikes, being outside and we, as parents try to facilitate his passion for riding. We’ve got to four and a half years old without playing a game on a phone, no tablet, just bruised shins, mucky face and a hobby that fills him with confidence on and off the bike. BMX brought a lot to my life and riding, surfing or skating with my kid and my wife as a family is a feeling for us all that can’t compare to anything else.
When Billy was about 18 months old, Mike gave him a Strider balance bike and he was away. From that point on, wheels were all he was interested in. By two years and three months he was peddling a Specialized Hot Rock 12 around the streets. We’d take him to the skateparks and quickly it became his domain. We drummed skatepark etiquette into him, exposed him to the culture, rode with him. Just before he was three, Mike built him a custom Deathpack frame and modified a lot of parts to put together the Pizza bike – a full custom 12″ BMX built based on Mikes idea of good geometry for a BMX for his size. He’s been on that for two years now, riding at least 2-3 times a week and he’s always looked so comfortable on it. The bikes been all over the UK hitting concrete as well as southern California and Mexico, getting laps in at OB and other San Diego parks as well as mid-day laps at Venice, egged on by the skaters.
Billy’s growing and still just as passionate so after two great years on the Pizza Bike it was time to start thinking about his 14″. We looked at a lot of different options, took him to a couple of Backyard Jams and checked out all the kids bikes, explored a few options and came to a conclusion for the best way to put it all together. Weirdly, 14″ BMX’s are a pretty new concept and still quite rare, 12″ are common, 16″ common but thats a huge gap between those two sizes. The completes are getting better but it was a no brainer that Mike was going to have to get creative. Partly, because he’s Deathpack family; but also because the completes aren’t made for 5 year olds with three years BMX riding experience already. It’s quite rare that kids Billys age even ride bikes without stabilisers yet, so naturally to appeal to the market the geometry of the complete bike is designed for kids of 4/5/6 who are learning to ride bikes, not ride BMX. They’re tall, short and heavy. Parts to fit 14″ BMXes are hard to come by so whacking a few premium parts on a complete wasn’t really an option.
Together with Deathpack, we wanted to build a 14″ BMX that was unlike anything out there, something that was a ‘proper’ BMX, looked and felt right with proper parts, a scaled down Silent Victory. The work, craftmanship and level of detail in this bike make it totally unique. It’s a mini BMX, not a kids bike. From doing a lot of trawling of forums and YouTube, there is nothing else like it out there, it sets a new standard for 14″ BMX builds.
The frame is a work of art, snake stays with hand made bullet tips, teardrop downtube, proper headtube and BB with 10mm drop-outs and an integrated seat clamp bolt, all finished in Translucent Brown. Mike used 20″ WTP forks cut, shortened and drop-out’s added to make them 14″. I bought a used 38mm reach front load Profile Race stem which is for a 1″ steerer, this provided some issues for Mike but the reach was perfect for a 14″ BMX. Mike cut the steerer and stepped it down from 1 1/8″ to 1″ perfectly, fabricating a new top-cap system too and finishing beautifully. He took a set of Odyssey Thunderbolt cranks and shortened them to 100mm, the only set in existence that look amazing with the Odyssey sprocket. We decided to run brake tabs although Billy has been brakeless up until now so we can work on a line at the trails together. The whole objective of the build was to offer a platform for Billy to ride that can be scaled up incrementally until he is on a standard 20″, the 14″ is closer to a 20″ in terms of its relationship in geometry than anything we’ve ever seen, drawing on many years of fabrication skills, experience riding BMX, creativity and frame building expertise from Mike Hill. This is British BMX and British Engineering coming together to create a kids bike that breaks the mould.”
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I was intrigued by this build and Tom managed to hit every question I had wanted to know about this bike except for the most common thing I’ve had parents talk to me about when wanting to get a bike for their kids…weight.
How much does it weigh? and was weight something you thought much about when researching the next step for Billy?
“Yes and no, I think no matter how big or small a BMX is there is a certain mass to it, with cranks, BB etc being heavy and sitting right there in the middle of the bike, the wheels are relatively heavy too but it’s all proper parts; Relic BB, United Headset – it’s proper gear so the performance and longevity of proper parts is a big benefit. This bike comes in a 7.15KG, so it is a bit lighter than the bulk of the other 14″ completes available, it’s actually lighter than the ‘lightest mini BMX Bike build ever’ on Youtube, but it is still not featherweight. It’s smaller but the extra bits on a 20” are the bits that done weigh too much, thin frame tubing, thin bar tubing etc. All the bearings and drop outs etc all have to still be on a bike no matter the size. Weight was definitely a factor, but I feel like geometry would have as much of an impact on a small kid being able to get their wheels off the ground and ride comfortably. I’m stoked it came out lighter than anything we could have got on the market but I don’t think you could go much lighter without being totally over the top, titanium everything.
Do you think weight should be the main factor they consider when they’re looking for a bike for their kids?
I’d say that weight matters and advise parents to check out comparative weights on the stock bikes for their kids but there isn’t too much between the better ones and they are only a but heavier then this one.”
Frame: Deathpack BMX Mini Victory
Forks: WTP 20″
Bars: off a Specialized
Stem: Profile 38mm
Wheels: Fit 14″
Tyres: Cult X Vans
Cranks: Odyssey Twombolt (cut and re-threaded to be 100mm)
Pedals: Early Rider
Sprocket: Odyssey 25T
Photos: Tom Bing