BMX Legend Eric Rupe Talks Race Career and Time with Mongoose
The famous call “Big Daddy coming out on fire!” was coined by an ABA announcer back in 1988 during a BMX pro race. That phrase turned into a nickname. That nickname turned into a legend. Of course, BMX race fans know that phrase describes the one and only Eric “Big Daddy” Rupe. Over 30 years after that call and countless podium finishes – whether ABA, NBL or USA BMX – Rupe remains a legend of the sport and we’re proud to say he’s back on a Mongoose.
This is Rupe’s fourth stint with Mongoose (BMX Products and Mongoose Bicycles), previously riding and being the face of the brand’s factory race team from 1981 – 1983, 1984 – 1990, and 1997 – 2007. We caught up with Big Daddy to ask him about his aforementioned time with Mongoose, what’s in store for 2021, and about his famous 80s Performance and Class photoshoot!
How has the Mongoose bike evolved since you last rode it?
ERIC RUPE: The new Mongoose frames have a great color scheme and graphics; the design is much cleaner looking than they used to be, and they are also lighter than the ones we used to race. Pretty much better, all the way around.
What do you remember most about Mongoose back in the day?
ER: When I first rode for Mongoose, Skip Hess Sr. was the owner. He took care of all of his riders like they were his own kids. It was such a great environment. Another one of the things I remember most is, when I first got on the team, going through their warehouse and literally… with a grocery store shopping cart and just grabbing whatever I wanted... and I mean whatever I wanted, no questions asked. Made me feel like a complete superstar.
How does the geometry of the Mongoose Title Elite feel?
ER: The geometry of this Mongoose Title Elite is slightly different than what I’ve been running the last several years, but it only took me a couple of laps to feel completely comfortable. Now I absolutely love it. I am very particular about geometry, so it’s great to know that I’m already in love.
How often do you get to race these days?
ER: I’ve been racing close to 20 nationals per year, for as long as I can remember. Sometimes more, sometimes less. If I had the budget for it, I would be at every national on the schedule and that’s no joke. This kid just loves to race and loves being at the track. I’m at my local track about four days a week, teaching clinics, teaching private lessons and doing personal riding. Some of that, all on the same day. LOL
What is it about BMX that makes you want to keep riding?
ER: Since I was a young boy, I just loved to ride, I love to push myself, I love to challenge myself and I love to jump. Mama always used to say... “If you ain’t comin off the ground, you ain’t BMXin.” I couldn’t agree more. As a racer, I have always felt underestimated, underappreciated and like an underdog. Not that I am those things, it’s just how I have always felt. Like I’ve always had something to prove. To this day, that’s probably what drives me to win. 47 years straight and still going strong.
Do you have a most memorable race?
ER: As you can imagine, I’ve had many memorable races in my 47-year career. My first trophy, my first win, my first pro win, my first national pro title, my first pro world championship. All of those, I remember like they were yesterday. But without a doubt, when I am asked this question, one race always comes to mind and stands out as my all-time favorite. It was the 2000 NBL single-A pro main event at the NBL Grands in Louisville, Kentucky. I was a 37-year-old former AA pro, racing against kids in their teens and early 20s. My oldest son Rocky had spent that summer traveling with me and racing. He was there in Louisville, recording this race on camera. I was the old man underdog, and nobody thought that I could win the year end title, much less that main event at the grands. The one person that truly thought I could and truly thought that I would, was my son Rocky. He was there to witness it. I was so thankful and honored, to have made my son proud that day. It will always be the happiest race day of my life. I will never forget it. And I did it on a Mongoose.
Tell us a little behind-the-scenes story of your Mongoose Performance and Class ad…
ER: It was a two-page ad. Right page, turn the page, then left page. It was supposed to be shot from the front and then the same shot from the rear for the second page. When we shot the studio shot, the photographer forgot to do the backside picture. He calls me in a panic on a Sunday night and asked me to come to the studio so we can get the backside shot. In a rush, I forgot my white socks. I was actually only wearing Vans with no socks, so we didn’t know what to do. I went into the bathroom, got some white paper towels, wrapped them around my foot and ankle and in the picture you can’t even tell. LOL