Vintage Mongoose

People > Riders >Cash Matthews

Cash Matthews

How did you get into BMX?
I had a couple of influences that ultimately drove me towards what would eventually become known as bmx. My uncle, Jerry Matthews, was a fairly well-known flat track racer. In the late 60’s, we would imitate him on our bicycles and make motorcycle noises as we raced around concrete ovals! Then Evel came on the scene and we began jumping ramps in the early 70’s. As a kid, all I wanted was a motorcycle to be like my uncle and Evel. There was no way we could afford one at the time, so we made due with our bicycles. We attached number plates and made the bikes look like motorcycles. Around 1973, my friend Matt Raymer and I began hosting the first bmx races at a concrete oval. We would buy the trophies, charge an entry fee, and run the races. Those days were the early formation of bmx in the Midwest. In 1974 we received a call from Ernie Alexander of the NBA. He wanted to sanction our activities. We had moved to all dirt tracks at that point and in 1975, the first NBA tour came through Shawnee, Oklahoma. This was the catalyst for what is now the Grands. So, to get into bmx, I had to help create it first. There were lots of us who made up that local scene, including my brother, Carey Matthews, Mark Carlton, Mike Horton, and others.

What was your first encounter with a Mongoose?
 The first summer tour in July of 1975 was sponsored by Shimano. John George, John Palfreyman, Eric Richter, Bobby Encinas, Byron Friday, Anthony Galati and Jim Emerson were on that first tour. John George had just switched to Mongoose at that time, and I believe Mongoose helped fund that first tour to some degree. John had a mongoose frame that he carried around with him to show the bike shop owners along the tour route. He was the first Mongoose salesman!!! I was on the Factory Webco team at the time, but that was in the final stages of dissolution when Chuck Robinson left for DG. That tour was the catalyst for much that happened in BMX the following decade. I got a call one night from Skip Hess and he basically asked if we wanted to be part of the Mongoose Factory team. Of course I agreed and a lifelong love affair with Mongoose began sometime in early 1976. We had just raced the first Grands in California as Webco team members and we were on Mongoose sometime in February of 1976. We were on Webco with Stu and Bottema as well as Rick Collins and the legendary Watson brothers. Going to Mongoose was really cool as John George, Perry Kramer, Tinker, Curnell, and Danny Oakley were part of that program. I was so fortunate to be part of some really awesome teams. Of course, we were all so early to the game, we didn’t realize that Stu would become "Stu" and how our lives would evolve from those early days.

Does the sport of BMX have more impact on your life today than it did when you raced professionally?
 BMX has had a massive, positive impact on my life. Today, I get to look back and see so many things. There may be some accomplishments back then that are noteworthy, but the real thing I see looking back is how many great people were in my life and how those folks helped me along the way. Chuck Robinson, Bob Osborn, Skip, Elaine Holt, Ernie Alexander and so many others all helped and took it upon themselves to recognize us and to promote us. And on a local basis, those adults who helped us with the tracks and promotions are the real heroes of BMX. Larry Smith, Jay Gunter, Cy Raymer, Charles Matthews and several others are the folks whose shoulders many of us rode on. Without those people, we had absolutely nothing. The impact that BMX has on me today is that I feel an obligation to give something to the sport that may be meaningful in the long term. Today, I get to recognize how wonderful something is, whereas when I was young, I thought and acted like a kid. I am so appreciative today of all the things that I was shown in those days. One of the great things recently was being voted into the ABA BMX Hall of Fame. But even better than that was being asked by the ABA to help with the 2007 HOF Ceremony as a guest speaker. Both were great honors and I was so very excited to participate. I look forward to making a continuous contribution to The BMX Hall of Fame in the years to come. Thanks ABA!

Do you feel BMX has a better future now with the 2008 Bejing summer Olympics inclusion of it?
 I was reading an old BMX News from 1975 where the possibility of BMX in the Olympics was first discussed. Thirty Three years later, that dream is becoming a reality. I believe that BMX being on TV with the Olympics will help legitimize our sport and give it a much needed boost. I hope that we have another day in the future where the Pros can make a great living and that bmx grows into its full potential. It will certainly be interesting to see how the sport does from the Olympic exposure. It will also be cool to see how the USA riders will do!

When was the first time you met Skip?
I went back to SoCal in the summer of 1976 right after joining the Mongoose Team. I think we raced The Mongoose Grands at that point, perhaps at Devonshire Downs. Skip was always a classy guy and really took care of us. I recall going to the Mongoose plant with Curnell and he showed us how tube benders worked and how they formed the frames in the jigs. The factory was a wonderland with Moto Mags everywhere and I recall those as magical times! Skip always made sure we had the newest bikes and equipment and I am thankful for that!

Would you agree that he is a pioneer of production BMX wheels and bikes?
Skip was more of a pioneer of the production methods than of the bike design. Once the straight tube design was created and promoted by Webco, everything else was just production and Marketing. Skip was the master at marketing. He was one of the first to take marketing seriously and he was gifted at that. Think about it, why on earth would you sponsor a kid like me in Oklahoma? Well, he sponsored all the top local riders, and Mongoose dominated those areas like nothing before or since. They sold MILLIONS of Mongoose bikes through the local bike shops because of Skip’s marketing savy. On the wheel side, Skip’s MotoMag is the single coolest thing I ever saw. Coming from the days of the warped Schwinn wheel, the Moto Mag was iconic in how cool it was. Opening my first box of Moto Mags is one of my most memorable moments in my cycling career. The moto mag lost favor to the lighter wheel pretty quickly, but the cool factor remains today.

What's your take on the collector's side of vintage BMX stuff?
I think it is great for the sport. There are so many awesome collectors out there. I kept a few things, but nothing like some of these collector types. When I go to Rockford each year, I am amazed by the quality of how these old bikes are put together and restored. Pat Quinn, Jeff Haney, Tim Cook and many others have helped write the physical history book of bmx. There are so many others. Some guys collect bmx as a business, and that is ok too. For me, you can just never have enough Moto Mags!

Any cool BITD stories you'd like to share about the particulars of vintage Mongoose bikes or Motomags?
Being on the factory team was a real treat. Every so often a new bike or frame would show up for us to use. Skip told us we could sell the old ones to help pay expenses. So we always had the newest of the frames. Being part of the Mongoose culture was a real special experience. If you look back on that team, it was made up of guys from all over the country just like me. Tim Richardson from Kansas, Charley Litsky from New Jersey, Matt Raymer from Oklahoma, Curnell, Oakley, Tinker, Perry and John from California. The team had a couple of guys with "star power", but mostly it was hard nosed guys like us that made up the largest part of the team. Skip wanted the team to sell bikes as well as be ambassadors to the sport. He saw both sides and did an excellent job with his business. I couldn’t beat John George on my best day, but I helped promote the sport a great deal and I know I helped sell a massive quantity of Mongoose products!!!

Anything you'd like to say to Skip?
I think Skip knows where he stands with me. He was definitely a catalyst in my bmx career as well as many other people. He set the standard for bmx production and distribution and is viewed as one of the most prolific industry leaders in bmx history. I do owe him an apology though! I was staying at his house one night and his step son had this new Mr. Microphone thing that we got a kick out of! About 2 a.m., Skip was beating on our door during our rousing version of Stairway To Heaven. He put his head inside the door and said, "Uh, you sing real pretty, but we have to race The Grands tomorrow! GO TO BED!" I never apologized to him for that! Sorry Skip!
Thanks Pete for keeping history alive. It bodes well for our future.

Thanks again Cash. You rock.

Many thanks to Pete. Interview Dec 07