Interview – John Parker Founder of Yeti Bikes.
Over the last years MTB products have reached a point where products have a similar styling and detailing despite being from different companies. In-fact when looking at bike design and product design it seems that California comes top of the list when it comes to a place that leads influence in design. That probably isn’t surprising considering the whole sport started off there.
After looking over the history of California related to design and bikes, two brands came to light that influenced MTB design history quite significantly during the start of the expansion of the sport these were Troy Lee Designs for helmets/apparel and Yeti for bikes. This first article on this subject starts with Yeti.
Yeti the current bike maker seemed a great place to start asking questions about bikes and what happened at the beginning, alas though the original founder John Parker no longer worked for them, in-fact he was retired from the bike world it seemed despite being a member of the mountain bike hall of fame. However with a bit of determination and help he was tracked down and managed to answer a few questions about MTB and design history.
John Parker Today – Mean what you say…
We were very interested in where his influences came from and his drive to succeed, it turned out that John had had a difficult start in life but was guided well at a reform school in southern California, The Boy’s Republic, which enabled him to do some great things. In the following interview we managed to find out what happened there and his thoughts on the bike industry now.
When looking at yourself and another famous resident of The Boy’s Republic, Steve McQueen, you both had a similar humble reforming experience and then went on to achieve some great things in your respective worlds, what happened at The Boy’s Republic that gave you the drive?
Boys Republic was a place for boys with some serious problems in their life! To grow up and learn about the ways of the world and prepare you for life outside of the reform school!! You learned to look someone in the eye and say what you mean and mean what you say! Be humble show honour and respect to all others if you ever hope to have any of your own.
Looking back at old Yeti machines, are there any elements in modern day bikes that you created?
Yeti Bicycles had many distinctions during my run. We were the first to win a mountain bike world championship with a carbon fiber bike, thanks Juli, Chris & Chuck. We were some of the first to win on full suspension bikes, thanks Mert Lawwill. We made the worlds first thermal plastic mountain bike & raced it at the mammoth Kamikazzi, thank you Glenn Martin from Kaisers Space Products! ALL MADE IN THE USA !!!!
Yeti full suspension DH speed record bike.
Why do you think that in the MTB world many cultural and design influences originate from California?
Like it or not California has always been at the forefront of the cutting edge. It has mild weather with lots of opportunity for all. California has always been a melting pot of people. You meet very few people that are from California that go back more than a couple of generations. During World War Two the talented Californian’s that worked in all the aircraft factories went on to build all the Kool Hot Rods, Indy Cars & Kustoms. (sic) Its just been that way since I was a kid and I discovered BMX also started in California HAHA…
What are you up to these days?
I continue to collect antique motorcycles, I have a chopped & dropped 50 Ford leadsled that I cruise to car shows. I live on the beach with two Chihuahuas. (sic)
One of John’s Motorcycles.
What is your opinion on the modern bike world?
Not very impressed with the new, what you called modern bikes. I don’t like bikes made in third world countries that take advantage of their poor labor force half way around the world and that are abominations of nature with all their manufacturing by-products and their non existent laws on pollution !!