Duane Brown is a connoisseur of good invention, but more
importantly he's an avid mini bike rider - a mini-holic if
you will. He even jokes that right out of the womb he was
riding anything that had an engine and wheels. Today Duane
has switched his focus strictly to mini bikes, and rides
his inventions every day. That sure doesn't sound like a
bad job to us. We caught up with one of the three Brown
brothers to discuss business, mini bike mayhem, and
Recently you moved from an old building, located a few
miles from the Seattle-Tacoma airport, to a new facility.
Why did you make the move?
We started off in a small warehouse that was about 3,000
square feet, and over the last four years we'd taken over
every other building around there until we ran out of
room. We decided to get one big 25,000 square foot
building and move everything into one area.
BBR still produces quite a bit of its products
in-house, instead of outsourcing to other countries. Why
keep production in the U.S. when costs are more expensive?
We're one of the only companies that are still making 90%
of our products in the U.S. We like to do it because we
can control the products that come out of here, we can
fine tune things, change things on a daily basis, and
update on any moments notice. A lot of people have taken
everything overseas, and we even see a lot of our parts
getting taken overseas and knocked off. It's actually kind
of funny to see that. Most of the products we're still
doing in-house. We actually do our bore kits and some
other things done overseas. You just can't cast, forged,
or chromed things in the U.S. anymore.
It doesn't seem to bother you that other people are
copycatting your equipment. How does it make you feel when
you see a near clone of your own product that you've spent
so much time creating?
We laugh, because generally by the time someone gets our
product, takes it overseas and gets it knocked off BBR is
well on its way to the next product. Sometimes even we're
two or three parts removed from the original product.
It was lonely four or five years ago when we were
the only people making some of these products. We used to
get laughed at for making billet aluminum gas caps and
complete frame kits, but now it seems like everyone's into
it so it's good. Competition makes things grow and we
Would you say that you set the standard in aftermarket
mini bike accessories?
Yeah, we try to. We look at every part and try to make it
good enough to be on a factory bike. We ask ourselves if
the products we make are good enough to be outfitted on a
factory Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, or Honda. We're
definitely selling to the Porsche-type guys and it
trickles down to every little piece we make.
Not to let the cat out of the bag, but where do you see
the mini bike market going? What needs to be designed to
make mini bikes easier for adults to ride?
I think it's going to gravitate towards a little bit
bigger bikes. 50's are great because they're relatively
cheap, but with 110's and 150's anyone can ride them. Mom,
sister, or brother, the bikes won't throw you down like a
50 will. They seem to be a little more reliable and
they're cheaper in the long run just because they'll stay
You have a whole slew of BBR mini bikes in your shop.
Do all of the Brown brothers ride?
Yep, all three of us ride quite a bit. I ride more than
anybody because I'm the head test rider, and I'll ride
everyday for an hour or two. I have a track at my house
and I just pound the parts into the ground. Then we have
some in-house test riders as well, guys like Kyle Coen.
My brothers Chris and Brent spend more time running
the business. Brent handles the paperwork and oversees the
look and design of how BBR is going. Chris sits at the
computer quite a bit and designs every single BBR part,
and he designs them with the help of in-house engineers.
Those guys like the hands-on part of the business whereas
I like to ride every single day.
How many new products do you have sitting around just
waiting in the wings to be introduced to the mini bike
We have hundreds of new parts at any one time. It's just a
matter of picking the right parts and what order to
release them in. We try to perfect one bike at a time and
one part at a time, but we definitely have a board full of
new parts for all the different bikes. We laugh when these
other companies can't even come up with one decent product
and we're sitting here with hundreds of new parts that
people at BBR have thought up [laughter].
With your frame design, how long of a process was it
for the aluminum frame to come to fruition?
Usually the frame designs are a one to a one-and-a-half
year process. I'll start by hacking one frame out by hand
machining it, hand welding and grinding the thing. That
usually takes about two to three months, then we'll ride
on the frame and perfect it from there by changing the
geometry, seat height, swing arm length, and head tube
angle. We'll keep tweaking it until we get one that's
good, and then we'll hand it off to Chris and the
engineers. From there they'll try to turn it into a
sellable production part. By the time the plastic molds
are done and that, it's about a year-and-a-half long
Who is the fastest mini bike racer in the world?
There are a bunch of guys who are super fast on the 50's.
It seems like every state has some really fast guys.
Overall though, someone who can ride 50's, 110's, and
150's really fast is Chris Gosselaar. He's done some stuff
that just doesn't look doable on those bikes.
He wanted to go up against the mini bike guys in
Las Vegas, but Honda pulled the plug on that. Rightfully
so, because they needed him to race the Vegas supercross
the next day and the way he hangs it out on a mini bike he
might not have made it to the next day [laughter]. He's
done some crazy stuff on those bikes.
What do you think of an organized mini bike series?
It would be great. We would like to see a sanctioned mini
bike series, and lots of guys are just waiting for it to
happen. It would be great to see factory teams and factory
riders. Let's make it happen.
Could you take us through a regular day at BBR?
Usually I show up and half my day is spent on the business
side of things. I deal with magazines and make sure things
are rolling that way. Also, as new parts get thought up
and tested, we have an in-house mechanic that bolts the
bike together and I'll take the bike from him. Then I go
ride and pound on the bike to test the products. I let
everyone from my kids to the in-house test riders test the
bike and products. I have 12 bikes at my house -
everything from a perimeter 50 to a perimeter 150 and all
the stock bikes too. I have the stock bikes just to make
sure we're going in the right direction.
Where is BBR headed in the future?
We just want to keep building the absolute trickest parts
there are and growing things slowly. We've been careful to
build the business slowly. We own everything here and
we're not going away. We want to be on the cutting edge.
We're absolutely passionate about bikes and we ride and
How is it that you get to build bikes for guys like
Kevin Windham and Ricky Carmichael?
A lot of those guys call up here, and it seems we build
bikes for almost every factory rider. Those guys will call
up and order a bike for their wife, kids, or themselves.
It's amazing. With Carmichael and Windham it's a Honda
deal and we're really good friends with the guys from
Honda R&D and the race team. We're always building
bikes and testing stuff back and forth with those guys, so
it's just natural that those guys would be riding our
What did you think of Bubba's 24K gold bike?
That was cool! We can appreciate that kind of work, and
we're friends with all the guys over at Two Brothers so we
were excited for them. Those guys are great competitors
with us and we push each other to the next level. It's
cool that they did that for Bubba.
It's weird because you doesn't seem like you're cut
throat with your competition. Why?
We love everybody in the sport. We know all the other
companies out there and as long they don't knock us off
straight up then we don't get mad. Occasionally we'll get
mad if someone takes one of our parts and sends it to
Taiwan to get knocked off, but we usually laugh it off and
move on to the next thing. We see those guys at the races
and we know that if we've done our homework things are
going to come around for us.
What is the one product that someone should immediately
purchase after buying a mini bike?
The CRF50 can practically not be ridden without a bar kit,
pipe or skid plate. On the 110, probably a tall seat,
triple clamp that moves the bars out of your lap, and an
exhaust system. For the CRF150, the pipe is number one, as
well as a triple clamp and stiffer springs.
Thank you for the interview, Duane.
Thank you, now if you'll excuse me I have to go ride some