There was time when you couldn’t say GT without Dave Voelker in the same breath. With his aggressive go fast and blast style, huge wallrides, and years of wowing spectators touring on the BMX Air Show, the Lord is undoubtedly one of the most iconic riders in GT’s freestyle history. After 17 years, GT and Dave have reunited with the special edition 29” Dayglo Orange ’87 Dyno Pro Compe, inspired by the year Voelker turned pro for GT/Dyno. A 29”? Yup, you read that right, a modernized 29” version of the bike Dave rode 32 years ago. Keep reading for a conversation with the Lord… —Jeff Z.
It’s been over 17 years since you were with GT, what brought about this collaboration after all these years?
Ben Ward hit me up out of nowhere and said, “Hey Dave, what’s up? I think we want to do a bike with you.” I said, “What?! [laughs] Alright, that sounds awesome to me, man! Let’s do this!” Then he tells me it’s a 29”. At first, I was shocked and was just like, “Aw man, a 29”?” Then Ben sent me one, and I instantly got used to it and loved it. It was exactly what I needed in my life – a big bike. It’s working awesome.
What kind of input did you have on the project?
We discussed things, like the pretzel bar, but Ben was on top of everything. Like everything I wanted he already had. I was concerned about the brakes. With the way everyone is riding wheelies around, and if my name is on this, I gotta have really good brakes and he already had it dialed. He was even on point with bigger tires which were important because it’s like suspension for the bike. As you get older you want to have that little bit of cush when you land. The colors were my input. I enjoyed this color scheme the most out of all the bikes I’ve ever ridden. I had this one for about six months out of my Dyno/GT years. There was one year I had a Dayglo Orange frame and all blacked out components that was really cool.
What do you think of the final product?
It was way better than I expected. I had ridden Mike Buff’s [former BMX pro] and liked it, but it didn’t feel quite right. As soon as this bike showed up, it felt amazing. I’m not brown nosing or whatever—it was a perfect bike. The size of the slick tires, the way the bike feels… I thought the bars were a little tall for me, but then I slammed down the stem as far as I could, and now it feels more like a BMX bike. So now I’m really doing even better than when we did the photoshoot on the bike a few months back.
How does this bike compare to the original 1987 version?
I feel a lot safer for one! The technology of everything has changed so much. We were riding bikes with butter forks, that’s what I used to call them. They were like butter, and they would just flex all over the place. You’d have to straighten them out. We also had paper thin drop outs back in the day. The quality of everything is just awesome.
What’s your favorite part of the bike?
It really is the pretzel bars. It’s amazing to hear everyone talk about how they want to get their hands on a pair of bars. The new ones are amazing and way better than the old ones.
What’s it been like reconnecting with the brand?
It’s been so good. I was practically begging for it. I kept hoping it was going to happen, and once it did, and I received the first bike, it was amazing to feel that again – feel like you’re wanted and part of something. It’s super exciting to be part of GT again.
You originally got on the GT team after doing show’s with Brian Scura, what was it like riding in those demos?
Yeah, Brian was amazing because he taught me so much about how to get reactions out of people, and it wasn’t just the shows that we were doing. We’d be at McDonald’s, and he couldn’t decide what to get. So, in front of the person standing there, he’d go, ‘I don’t know, I think I’ll flip for it,’ and he would stand there and do a backflip. Trip the people out! Made them smile, made us smile, just fun to entertain people with him. He definitely had his own way of entertaining people and it really taught me a lot.
Did you have any reservations about joining the show?
I was just a small town, little white trash guy that had no clue. He was telling me, he was gonna pay me money to ride my bike. And I was like, dude, I’d do it for free! I just want to go make people smile. I didn’t know anything about anything. Going out and entertaining people was all I cared about, you know? I felt very fortunate to be a part of it. He gave me a bike! I never had new bikes. I always had to just piece crap together. I worked every day after school so I could buy a pair of forks because I had bent mine.
You were inducted into the BMX Hall of Fame in 2017, what was that experience like?
Getting inducted into the BMX hall of fame seriously pumped me up so much that I could be a part of BMX history. I just never ever dreamed of anything like it. I just rode my bike, and somehow now I’m being inducted into the BMX Hall of Fame, and I was amazed. I was nervous as hell. I talked to my other buddies that already had been inducted and they had all studied for it. I was like, oh God, I didn’t expect to be doing this now and getting a speech ready, thinking about how to word everything up. It was nerve wracking, but it felt like a big deal to me and it meant a lot. I appreciated it.
How did you get the nickname ‘The Lord’?
Yeah, it’s a trippy name, right? McGoo needed to come up with a nickname, he was team manager at GT at that time and all the riders on GT had nicknames. So, they were trying to think of one for me and I was winning all of the street contests at that time and he just came up with the idea of “oh you’re the lord of winning all these contests so we’ll call you ‘Lord Voelker’”. And that’s kinda how it came about.
When did it come about?
I guess it was ’87 or ’88? I think it was ’87. I was so bummed when the ad came out. I’m all chained up and looking all mean. That wasn’t me at all. I just wanted to ride bikes and smile. All of a sudden, I’m this image guy like, who the hell is this ‘Lord Voelker’?!
When you were a kid, you were the self-proclaimed “Wheelie King” how do you think you would’ve done growing up now with the Bike Life movement?
Still the Wheelie King? [Laughs] Yeah, I would imagine? It’s so different, there’s so many varieties of riding now. Honestly, I couldn’t picture just being excited about wheelies anymore. Like when I was growing up, you had Evel Knievel that rode wheelies and jumped far. So, what did we do? Rode wheelies and jumped far. You know what I mean? How high could you jump, how far could you jump, and riding wheelies.
I love the whole movement that’s going on right now because it’s getting people into bike riding. Just totally out of their normal daily routine. To where there are these big bike rides with everybody and seeing different things, riding wheelies and learning how to do exactly what I’ve been doing my whole life. You know, I dig on the whole scene, and it feels like the early 80s when I’m on these bike rides because they’re amazed by the simplest things. So, it feels like the 80s again.
Does the new generation of wheelie kids even know of your BMX background?
That’s an awesome thing. I can go out on these bike rides and nobody knows who I am. Nothing is expected of me, which is awesome. It’s a whole new generation, and anything you can do on a bike is amazing to them. Totally refreshing. Nobody really talks to me too much about anything. They just seem to be into what they’re doing. They kind of keep to themselves, you know, just doing what they do.
Speaking about BMX, how often do you get on a 20” nowadays?
I pretty much just stick to the 29” right now just because my 20” bike feels like a little kid’s bike. It’s hard to switch back. Gabe Weed [former GT pro BMX rider] just got done doing a big ol’ edit on the 29”. He did this flatland run, and when he went back to his 20” he was falling for half of the day because everything was so different. That’s somebody who rides every single day, spent two days on the 29” and went back. I’ve been on the 29” now for four months so it’s really gonna be a difficult transition. I plan on riding the 20” some more. But, when I’m at a skatepark on a 20” I’m expected to do things, and that pushes me to do things that I could really get hurt on. But if I’m there on a 29” nobody expects anything, and I feel comfortable. I can just relax and do whatever. They’re like, ‘Hey can you do something, I want to get a photo.’ And that’s all right, but it’s hard. It’s difficult. So, the 29” is my savior, to be able to go out in public.
Do you see yourself taking the 29” beyond the wheelies and riding like it was a 20”?
Yeah, I would like to do some sort of edit on the 29” and do some good stuff on it. You know, I wouldn’t mind doing a back flip on it just to do it.
Coming from a BMX background, where do see the Bike Life movement going?
Man, that’s a tough prediction. I’d hate for it to get to where it’s segregated. You got the wheelie guys, the cruising guys separated or whatever, you know? I don’t know. I can’t predict this one. This is a tricky one. I mean mountain biking, it got totally popular, went insane, and then all of a sudden now it’s getting pretty much segregated to where people are like, “ah, you’re a freestyle mountain biker I don’t want to hang out with you.” I’m looking at it like, when you’re in to motocross and you go camping and riding, with age comes the cage, so you end up driving around those razors and all that stuff as you get older. So, I think as BMXers get older, most of us will switch over to the bigger bikes just because they’re more comfortable. And like I said, you’re not expected to do certain things, but you can still play.