../people/Robert Lewis Osborn

Sources: BMX Action, Freestylin, Bicross magazine, Ride BMX UK, Maurice Meyer web sites, www.vintagebmx.com, ...
If you want to add any info, please contact buissonrouge@23mag.com.
1963 DOB: april 9,1963. osborn rl 1967

rl osborn bicycle motocross news 06 1974
Bob Osborn: When R.L. was 8 years old he spent his time on his bicycle learning new things to do. He could Wheelie farther than anybody I'd ever seen. However, as I admired what he could do, as a dutiful parent I felt responsible to tell him that there was no future to those 20-inch bicycles, they were dead end street. Of course R.L. kept right on riding. And a couple of years later when BMX racing came along, we got totally involved.

Windy Osborn, Art BMX magazine february 2013: After my parents divorce in 1968, my father fought in court for 5 years to gain custody of RL and I, and when he finally did, he suddenly became a single father of a 10 and 13 year old... and what to do? As a fireman on the Torrance Fire Department, he worked 3 out of 9 days, which allowed lots of time to have extracurricular hobbies, as well as spend time with his kids. Wanting mostly to keep us involved in something constructive, my father and brother all ready raced motocross, so we would go to the dirt bike races... mostly I would watch and they raced. Of course, we also attended the pro races at the Coliseum in LA, Saddleback and other great events. My father also worked on his own motorcycles, and taught RL how to maintain is motorcycle too... they were always in the garage working on their machines. My father welded, built cabinets, gardened, and was into photography. As it wasn’t always convenient to drive all the way out to the races, the kids in the neighborhoods began treating their Schwinn’s like motorcycles, by stripping down their bikes: changing the handlebars to a lower profile or motocross style with appropriate grips, swap out the seats, strip the bike of fenders and chain guards and all the pansy-garb, and of course, change to knobby tires. Then they could ride their bikes in the dirt fields and so they built little motocross tracks and jumps and wood ramps in the front yard with concrete blocks and plywood. ALL the kids in our neighborhood hung out at our house...

of course, I had big interest in the scenery for most of those kids were BOYS. Anyways, as things progressed, there was a track up in Redondo that held BMX races, so we began going. My father contributed time by being the race starter, RL would race, and so I wouldn’t feel left out, my father let me shoot with his Minolta SLR. My father and RL actually tried to get me to race a couple times, so I tried racing on a sidehack with my trusty girlfriend Theresa Geenke... scared the shit out me, and I realized, being behind the camera was a perfectly safe place to stay!! After the first roll of tri-x I shot, my father said I had a good eye, and of course, I thought he was pulling my leg and trying to make me feel good. My dad was pretty serious about photography, so we had a darkroom in the house. He taught me everything, shooting, developing, printing B&W... and he made me read Ansel Adams’ Zone System... which for a 13-14-15 year old, is no easy read... but extremely scientific about working with black & white images. So we began attending the races on a regular basis.

RL shares an early story about how the kids kept breaking the motocross bars they had on their bikes. There was a local Schwinn shop in Redondo Beach (California), owned by Pauline, and every time RL would bring in his broken bars she would complain and argue as to what “these kids were doing” and why they kept breaking their bars... it frustrated her and she fought the kids’ attempts in mimicking the motocross motorcycle racers... she saw no future in BMX. A year later, she ended up sponsoring RL and actually sending to the Schwinn factor where he had the pick of his choice in equipment, and where they picked his brain for information and advice about how to build better
BMX bikes. RL was 9-10 at the time! As things progressed and we were attending races on a regular basis in Redondo, out in Sylmar with the NBA and at Yarnell... and there was Bicycle Motocross News, owned by Elaine Holt. My father and I contributed to the paper, my father writing and shooting, and me just shooting. As I took my first pics at 13, I was first published at 14, and became staff photographer soon after that. In 1976, Elaine offered to sell the newspaper, and my father was interested in buying it for her asking price of $7000, at the time of closing the purchase, she tripled the price to $21,000, and my father replied with “Well, for that price, I could start a magazine!” And literally, the rest is history! So in 1976, my father borrowed $10,000 from his sister, and launched Bicycle Motocross Action Magazine with the panning shot of Brian Lewis at Corona, on the cover... shot by myself. The magazine began as a bi-monthly publication and soon ended up monthly.

Do you have memories of that time?

At age 12, RL and Greg Hill owned their age group class, always one and two. RL was racing like seven events a week, and after a year of that, burned out and quit. At around 13, when Bob Haro came to live with us, Bob knew how to do a curb endo, and RL and Haro began riding together. RL also says that some guy out of San Diego, John Swanigan knew a lot of tricks, he was like one of the original freestylers, but RL and Haro started riding together and making up new tricks and then started doing shows. I think one of their first shows was for the Bicycle Source, in Torrance.

RL is on the april 1975 cover of Bicycle Motocross News.

R.L. was part of he first ever “BMX test team” for Bicycle Motocross News (from late ‘75 to late ‘76)
rl osborn bicycle motocross news bmx 04 1975
Bob Osborn, R.L.'s father, is starting BMX Action magazine.
1977 An entrepreneur at an early age, R.L. started up his own company, Hot Stickies at age 14.

R.L. Osborn water splashin' with the Torker MX on the cover of BMX Action september 1977.
rl osborn bmx action cover
1978 In 1978, R.L. teamed up with fellow BMXA employee Bob Haro to form the very first freestyle team, which made its debut at ABA’s Winternationals in Chandler, AZ.
Local Torrance hotshoe racer Mike Buff joined the BMX ACTION test team in 1979. Buff soon crossed over to freestyle and in the absence of Haro, the longtime teaming of R.L. Osborn and Mike Buff began. As the “Nerd herd”, R.L. & Buff were vital in setting BMX trends during the 80’s, from jumping styles in bike tests to the 4x4 vehicle craze, to clothing fashions and hairdos.

RL Osborn on the Raleigh test bike on the cover of BMX Action december 1979.
rl osborn bmx action cover
1980 Little did they know what it'd start. Haro, R.L. and "The Beast". The original BMX Action Trick team.

R.L. Osborn testing the Powerlite Thrasher on the cover of BMX Action may 1980.

Our first tour was in 1980. Mike Buff and I had heard about a bunch of BMXers goin' on tour, so we figured we could do the same thing. Only, instead of racing, we could do trick shows. It wasn't cheap, either. It cost us each about ten grands to do the first one. Starting from scratch, we had to buy everything -from the ramps to the P.A. system. We also had gas to worry about, and we had to pay Duke, who booked the shows and announced for us. It was a succes in its own way. We were going out there and doing shows, and sometimes we wouldn't even get paid for doing them. We wanted to build a name for ourselves. I'd say it was a success.

BMXA Trick Teamer R.L. Osborn on the cover of BMX Action october 1980.
bmx action trick team

rl osborn bmx action cover

rl osborn bmx action cover
1981 COVER.
RL Osborn bunny-hopping through the Ring of Fire during the BMXA Trick team show at Anaheim, CA. on the cover of BMX Action january 1981.
rl osborn bmx action cover
1982 COVER.
One-footed x-up kick turn by RL Osborn on the cover of BMX Action april 1982. Photo taken by Oz during filming for "That's Incredible".
bunny-hopping through the Ring of Fire  bmx action 04 82
1983 That's Incredible
TV show featuring RL Osborn racing a horse through an obstacle course. Also includes footage of Mike Buff in a skatepark and bunnyhopping 16 people laying down.


BMX Action november 1983.
horse race

rl osborn bmx action cover
1984 COVER.
BMX Action may 1984.

1er Indoor de Paris Bercy
Eddie Fiola, toupie volante, et R.L. Osborn, le missionnaire du Free-Style, attaquent les banks du 1er Bicross International de Paris Bercy. Personne en France n'avait déjà vu ça. Désormais beaucoup de freestylers en herbe vont sévir dans l'hexagone.
RL just before the show, BMX Action Bike UK magazine, february 1985: This is the first time me and Eddie have ridden a performance though we've worked out and goofed around together plenty of times. It should go good. We have a lot of new tricks. We got one called the Miami Hopper, another called the Osborn Twirl where I do a spin on the ground four times around. With the Miami Hopper I take the bike, throw it forward and balance on the handlebars, switcharound and take off my hands.
rl osborn bmx action cover

rl osborn bercy 1

nterview in BMX Action Bike february 1985.

Interview dans Bicross magazine #30 mars 1985 lire un extrait de l'interview

A propos du BMX TRICK TEAM

BMX Action june 1985.

R.L. Osborn separated from the BMXA Trick Team to devote 100 percent of his time to the Redline Trick Team.
rl 1985

bmx action cover
1986 COVER.
BMX Action january 1986, Eddie Fiola and RL Osborn.

Freestylin march 1986

Red Line Engineering has announced that it has dropped R.L. Osborn.
bmx action cover

rl osborn freestylin cover
R.L Osborn revealed backwards grip ride at the 1987 AFA Masters round 1.

RL could be picked up by General....who else could afford his rumored $70,000-plus price tag.

Interview in Freestyle Spectacular february 1987.
I recently bought a 1986 Corvette convertible. I also have an 1985 Toyota 4-Runner and a 1985 Corvette.
I recently started a small-scale advertising agency; R. Lewis Advertising. We do Redlines ads and are going to be doing Peregrine's stuff too.
grip ride
1988 COVER.
Freestylin july 1988,

BMX Action october 1988.

RL Osborn leaves General Bicycles to focus on his own compnay, Hammer Bodywear. RL was thought to be the highest-paid rider in the sport, drawing an estimated $100,000 a year from General, but he says Hammer is doing so well that he'll make out better now than before.

Freestylin #44 december 1988.
I had a goal when I was nineteen, I wanted to be worth a million dollars by the time I was 25 and I've hit that goal.
rl osborn freestylin cover

rl osborn bmx action cover
Cover of Freestylin july 1989.

Yearly earnings: $350,000
rl osborn freestylin cover
1990 RL. Osborn's Bully in Go #4 february 1990.
Interview in Ride BMX UK #1 october 1992.
2004 RL have a carpet cleaning business and has had it since at least 1992. It does well for him as a day job but his passion is in building custom choppers.