By Adam Newman
Profile Racing has been building high-end, race-worthy chromoly and aluminum parts since before BMX hit it big and before mountain bikes were but a glimmer in the Klunkers’ eyes. But it wasn’t bicycle parts that got the wheels turning—company founder Jim Alley opened his first motorsports racing shop in New Jersey in 1968 and a few years later moved his growing brand to Florida.
The company’s motorsports experience is hard to miss.
Once he and his family arrived in the Sunshine State, he found his way to cycling just as many adults do: through his kids. In 1971, they went to a local BMX track, where they quickly fell in love with racing and the burgeoning sport quickly became a family pastime. What they didn’t love, however, were the components on the bikes they were racing. With a background in high-end fabrication, Alley knew he could do better. In 1979 Profile Racing introduced its first product, a three-piece tubular chromoly crankset with a 48-spline axle—a design derived from the steering gears in Alley’s sprint car.
As BMX exploded in the 1980s, most of the industry was focused on making cheap parts for kids who they figured would eventually outgrow the sport. Profile, on the other hand, concentrated on making only the highest quality parts with its new computer-controlled CNC machines. Soon enough the spline design became an industry standard and the brand continues today to dominate the high-quality, American-made component market in BMX racing and freestyle.
BMX frames, bikes, and trophies are everywhere.
Tucked away in a crowded corner of an industrial park in St. Petersburg, Fla., is Profile Racing’s manufacturing and warehouse. Mixed among the shelves and desks are industrial machines ranging from decades old to brand-new, plus a small fleet of hot rods in various states of assembly, historic BMX bikes, and race trophies waist high to an adult.
The company employs a small fleet of CNC machines.
Like many riders who grow up on BMX and later expand their two-wheel horizons as they grew, Profile designed and built new products as its riders and customers pulled in new directions. Eventually riders began asking if products could be adapted for mountain bikes. “Since most bike shops carried mountain bikes but not BMX, it was an easy opportunity for growth,” said Marketing Manager Charlie Fernandez.
As a small, maneuverable company it wasn’t difficult to begin making mountain bike specific parts. Not all of them are cutting edge (a 52-tooth downhill chainring, for example) but in the past two years they have been investing in new product designs that can compete with any on the market.
A hub shell, fresh from the CNC machine.
Based on their high-end BMX hubs and introduced in 2010, Profile’s Elite mountain bike hubs have a six-pawl driver with an insane 204 points of engagement. Forget buzzing—the sound it makes when freewheeling is loud and angry, as if the pawls were trying to claw their way out of the shell.
The finished product: a pair of Elite mountain bike hubs.
Because all the design and manufacturing is done under one roof, it’s easy to make changes to products and try new ideas. Fernandez says a prototype can go from design to reality in two days, and into a production version in as little as two weeks. For example, website guy and wheelbuilder Christian Carlqvist, an avid road and cyclocross rider, wanted a set of set of hubs to race with, so he built some. Now they’re a part of the brand’s lineup.
Crazy colors have become a Profile trademark.
Thanks to a local anodizing vendor, Profile is able to offer its products in a range of colors, many of them in limited-edition batches. It also employs a graphic-wrapping process that can create patterns like camouflage or graffiti.
Pre-production Elite mountain bike crankarms. Watch for them to become available later this spring.
New for 2013 is the matching Elite mountain bike crankset. Based on more than three decades of BMX experience, the cranks feature tubular chromoly arms, a 22mm spindle, and a center-mount spider. Currently being used by Elite’s BMX and gravity riders, it is stiffer than aluminum while being comparable in weight, said Sponsorship Manager Termite Hudson. While the first version is built around a single ring, Profile is readying a triple version as well, he said. Look for it to hit the trail in the spring.
Profile’s signature splinded chainrings are cut from these slabs of aluminum.
Though most of Profile’s competitors manufacture overseas, the brand has steadfastly refused to even consider the notion. Fernandez proudly points out that the only piece of the hubs they don’t manufacture in that very room are the pawl springs, but those are American made, as are the tins the Elite cranks are packaged in (Maryland) and the boxes they are shipped in (Florida). In fact, Alley himself tack welds the Elite crankarms and stamps the logos on them before they move along the production line.
BMX stems are cut from the CNC machine as well.
You won’t find a lot of hubs sitting on shelves at the Profile warehouse. When you place an order for a certain specification and color, an employee builds and packages the shell, driver, axle, and other parts before boxing it up and sending it out the door. Orders placed in the morning can usually be shipped that same day, Fernandez said.
Each hub is assembled to a customer’s specs after it is ordered.
It’s clear Profile Racing isn’t just content with making cycling products; it needs to make the very best, most durable products it can. It’s in the company’s racing DNA.
“We owe so much to the bicycle. It’s not just a kid’s toy,” Fernandez said.