The Primo V-Monster

V-Monster tread

In 1995, a Carson, CA based bicycle distributor named Tip Plus released a BMX tire through their semi-new in-house component company Primo. Designed by Southern California area flatlanders Sean McKinney and Day Smith, the Primo V-Monster revolutionized the way BMXers looked at tires, and if you were around during the initial heyday of the V-Monster, you'd have been hard pressed to find anyone not riding the tire.

But what made the V-Monster so special? Well, you've got to think about the time frame we're looking at. It's 1995, and BMX freestyle was just coming off of the lean years. There were new rider-owned and directed companies addressing the frame, fork and handlebar needs of the new generation of riders, but not many component companies manufacturing tires at the moment. Let's see. I just picked up a Ride BMX from early '95. On sale at Trend Bike Source, we had an assortment of GT tires (which worked well enough but blew out,) Tioga Comp 3s (if you raced or rode trails) and Odyssey Barefeet (if you wanted to laugh) for a somewhat affordable price. And then there are two more types of tires, the ACS RL Edge and Peregrine HP tires, with price tags twice as steep as the rest of them, both from companies that weren't doing much, if anything, at that point. I can actually remember taking a few Saturdays out of the year to drive around to bike shops in my area, searching for the last remains of the ACS RL Edge tires, and stowing them away in my closet for use in the future.

Even before any of us had gotten to actually ride the V-Monster, the whispers had been spreading from the West to East Coast: "A new tire was coming. McKinney and Day has designed it. Its sidewalls wouldn't blow out as easy as RL Edge tires. The tread was knurled. And it came stock as a 1.95" size." I took it to mean, "Your tire hunts were coming to an end."

The V-Monster didn't come without a fight though. The designers of the V-Monster pushed hard to make the tire as perfect as they could for a variety of purposes. According to Sean McKinney: "We were kind of surprised about Primo. It all started with that V-Monster tire. Me and Day Smith approached the owner of Primo, told him all of his imitation BMX components are lame, they suck and nobody wanted it, why are they fooling themselves, let's do something with freestyle. We had a meeting with the guys from Cheng Shin from Taiwan, described to them what we needed in a tire, what we thought would work for most people, we wanted it to work not just for flatland but for everything. Small specialized parts usually don't go too well. So we gave them patterns and told them the nylon wall had to have so much TPI [threads per inch] so it wouldn't blow out. The final touch was putting that knurling on the tire that you can find on most road bike tires believe it or not, that's where we got that one from. So we gave them the whole scoop. We even researched rubber compounds to make sure the tire didn't wear down too fast, because it wore down real fast at first. It still does, but it's way better. Once we'd done that they basically said, 'Thanks for the ideas, you guys are salesmen and warehouse workers, so go back to work!'"

Primo V-Monster ad, 1995.

Ouch. And sad, but true. The V-Monster was released. BMXers around the world rejoiced. Everyone in every discipline of riding, from Jay Miron to Chad Degroot and in between, was riding the V-Monster. And the designers didn't get much more than a pat on a back for their efforts. McKinney further goes on to say, "It wasn't just me giving ideas, it was Sean White, Nate Hanson, Leo [Dumlao], Day [Smith], all of us. Once [Primo] saw that things were going well we were basically treated as if a secretary could have done the same job that we did, but Primo wasn't a very reputable name until we came in there and made it something. Not saying that we single-handedly did it because without their money we couldn't have done anything."

On the strength of the V-Monster, Primo began to expand further into the component market, developing seats (the Hemorrhoid), gyro cable converters (the Pervert) and a freecoaster (the Bomb.) Eventually, Primo hit big time, expanding their range dramatically to include cranks, hubs, grips, handlebars, stems, pedals and different types of tires. Primo also sponsored a huge team, boasting such names as Joe Rich, Taj Mihelich, Brian Castillo, Chad Degroot and more. Videos followed, along with a few personnel changes, a few new company directions and everything that seems to follow a respected but non rider-owned BMX company that's in it for the long haul.

I'm not sure if Sean McKinney or Day Smith were ever fully compensated for designing the very tire that helped build Primo up from day one though. I mean, it's great that the people behind Primo were smart enough to step back and let the V-Monster happen, but what would've happened if Sean McKinney and Day Smith didn't step up and design the V-Monster? Where would Primo, and better yet, BMX, be right now had they not done so? Yeah, another manufacturer probably would've had the good sense to let a BMXer design a tire, but I don't know if it would have been so well received. So I'm glad that the V-Monster was allowed to happen when it did. Even if there was some drama behind the scenes, the entire BMX scene progressed as a result of Sean McKinney, Day Smith and the Primo V-Monster tire. And that's something that not too many people realize today, especially since we've now got more than 80 BMX-specific tire designs currently on the market. (No one has to take a few days out of the year to search for dependable BMX tires that aren't in production anymore.)

In the years since the V-Monster was released, Day Smith went on to ride for Odyssey, designing the Bermuda Triangle signature tire for them, while Sean McKinney would go on to found Revenge Industries, which currently produces high-end tires for all types of riding. I don't think either of them are too interested in riding V-Monsters anymore. And as for Primo, well, you can still get the V-Monster at most bike shops in a variety of sizes. It's stood the test of time very well, despite those horrible blue and red versions that would later follow... - Brian Tunney

References:

McKinney, Sean (1997). Ride UK BMX Magazine #28. England: 4130 Publishing.

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