Vintage Mongoose

Skip Hess

Skip Hess was born in Chicago, Illinois on February 6, 1937. Twelve years later, his father passed away, and he and his mother moved to California. Skip’s mother, according to Skip was “ill for many years and didn’t play much of a role in his early interests.” In the early 1960s, Skip’s passion became race cars. He raced Anglia’s with partner Jim Shores and on the weekends, they would hang out at a local body shop honing their automotive skills. Even though Skip had an extensive background racing cars as young man, he also raced both track and road bicycles and in 1953 placed first in the California State Road Championships during the same year he won a bronze medal on the track at the National Championships in St. Louis at 16 years old. To this day Skip still has the jersey in his closet and the medal in his office from those memorable days. Sadly, his mother was unable to attend any of his races due to her health.

Despite the loss of his father in his early teens, Skip did have others that influenced his life; like bicycle shop owner Bob Zumwalt. Bob had a son the same age as Skip and would take the boys to races and was very helpful in Skips early years. Skip attended and graduated from college in 1958 at San Diego State University with a Bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering. As Skip and rest of the world would realize later, his designs for BMX wheels and bicycle frames would benefit immensely from this mechanical engineering education and extensive background racing cars. After Skip graduated from college, he worked as an engineer designing new automotive aftermarket products for Superior Industries. After about three years, Skip started working from home as freelance designer for numerous car wheels manufacturing companies.

While at home working, he noticed the neighborhood children jumping their bikes and doing tricks. It was then that the idea to create a wheel designed exclusively for bicycles began taking shape. Skip started working on a design for a lighter and stronger wheel that could take the abuse of jumping and pounding that these kids were doing with their bikes. Shortly after, Skip came up with the first MotoMag wheel design. With his new designs in hand, Skip approached the wheel manufacturers about producing his innovative bicycle wheels. They declined, because they did not see a “market” for the wheels. Skip, a budding entrepreneur, decided that he would develop the molds and start producing the wheels himself. So in 1974, Skip with the help of his friend Bill Miller started his new company called BMX Products, Inc right out of his home in Simi Valley California and his first product was the MotoMag wheel. It was sometime between 1975 and early 1976, Skip trademarked the Mongoose name and logo which he recalled from fellow friend and racer Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen. Skip successfully directed his company from 1974 to 1985, and then sold the company and all of its assets and trademarks to American Recreation Group but remained its president until 1991.

Moving forward, Skip is now semi-retired and lives in California. He has a wife and two young children, three grown children from a previous marriage, and six grandchildren. He enjoys tennis and race cars and among all these innovations and successes, even today, Skip Hess can still be found hanging out at drag strips tinkering with race cars.