From the Top: Carter Holland

Feb 15, 2013
by Mike Kazimer  
 
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From the Top:

CARTER HOLLAND

For this edition of Pinkbike's 'From the Top' we interviewed Carter Holland, the owner of Black Market Bikes. Carter has been a fixture in the bike industry since the late nineties, and over the last nine years has helped evolve Black Market into the brand it has become today. He's no slouch on a bike either, equally at home at the dirt jumps, the skate park or the trails. We spoke with Carter to find out more about the path he took to go from being a police officer to bike company owner, as well as what the future holds for Black Market Bikes.


What was your childhood like? Have you always ridden bikes?

I grew up in a Volkswagon van – my dad was a hippie. I had kind of a crazy childhood – I didn't meet my mom till I was 11. I've been riding bikes basically since I was four years old. My dad taught me how to ride on a little 10 inch, hard wheeled bicycle; it looked like a little motcross bike. I've been riding pretty much my whole life, but I've had times when I didn't ride – military, or skateboarding, those kind of things.

Carter getting rad in New York City.

My first mountain bike was a GT Karakorom, all steel, and I rode it one day in the mountains and then went home and bought a Univega something-or-other with an AMP fork that used to rip the knobs off my tires. I rode that bike for a long time, and then I raced downhill, all through the Big Bear days. I had a Foes Weasel, I raced Hannebrink forks. I have a lot of history mountain biking, but BMX was my love. When I moved farther away from the mountains I just rode Sheep Hills, and it was easier to do that. At that time most bikes sucked – it didn't make sense to go out and spend money on anything except an Intense, which I couldn't afford. Later on, mountain bikes started coming my way through Tara Llanes - Giant used to hook me up with bikes because I would do her component switch overs so they wouldn't have to send her bike to Colorado, and in change I would get frames, which let me go mountain biking. That opened my eyes to places like Whistler, and learning how to turn. I had a cutty track, me and Jared Rando built one, and I discovered that flat turns were one of my favorite things to do.


What were you doing before you were a bike company owner? How did you end up owning Black Market Bikes?

I went into the military when I was 20, actually I was 19 when I signed up, but started right when I turned 20. I did five years in the Marines - I was an airframes mechanic and door gunner on CH53E helicopters during Desert Storm and Operation "Restore Hope" in Somalia. After that, I was a police officer for Chino PD for two years, and then went into the concrete business. I owned a concrete pumping business and lugged around 100 pound concrete hoses when they were empty...that's why my hands are so messed up.

I've always been a bike rider, and in my late twenties I was riding a lot, getting some support from S&M for racing and stuff. I had ridden a mountain bike brand called Storm, and really liked how those bikes rode. BMX bikes were getting steeper and harder to ride, so we redesigned the S&M cruiser, and that was the first bike I ever had a hand in designing. It was really well received, and I ended up doing a drawing for Tara Llanes for her personal frame. She really liked the bike, but by that time she'd starting riding for Yeti, so I ended up riding on the bike I'd designed. That gave me a really good idea of what my geometry felt like.

I started trying to find a bike to buy, and went through about two years of buying frames that sucked, and the final straw was when Avent sent me a Jibster. I built it, stood back and looked at it and just started laughing. I called Moeller (S&M CEO – Ed.) up and said, “Dude, you need to make a 26” dual slalom bike," (back then dual slalom was big). I convinced him to at least come to a race with me, and when he showed up it was a lot different than he thought it was going to be. He said, “I'm not going to make a bike, but if you want to do a brand I'll build your bikes and sell them to you.” So basically, that's start of Black Market.

For the first five years S&M funded everything. At the end of those five years I had the choice of taking over the brand or losing it to S&M as others had been lost...but that couldn't happen - it just wasn't going to work. I had to go from being a concrete guy to being a bike brand owner. Kind of a forced option. I love Black Market, I love bicycles and the bike industry, and I'm not lugging around 100 pound concrete hoses.


How many people work for Black Market?

Two (including me). It's just me and Jess Sims, my sales and warehouse guy.


Who comes up with the frame designs, particularly the suspension designs of the Killswitch and the Roam?

The suspension designs are a collaboration between my parameters and Pablo Tafoya doing the design work. Pablo does all the suspension work, and I do all the other stuff. Pablo is the guy that designed the Corsair line, and now the bike that Cam Zink is riding on, the Hyper, which is actually a design Pablo came up with for Corsair.


Where are the frames made?

The Mob and the Edit 1 are made in the US, and the other frames and bars are made in Taiwan, and we make our 31.8 Underboss stems in America, here in California. I cut all the tubing for the Edit 1 personally, and Ryan Robinson, who was S&M's top welder, is doing our frame manufacturing.


Carter Holland destroys a corner on his Black Market Roam bicycle
Foot out, flat out - Carter Holland berm blasting aboard the Black Market Roam.


Black Market is known as a rider owned company - do you think that riders respect a brand more if they know the owner is passionate about the sport?

I think it helps. I'm still a relevant rider – I haven't gone to that old school thing where I just do one handers.

I'm a bike rider, and it's just that simple. I'm a bike fan. I build things that I like, and that I think we can do justice to. Even the NSF single speed road bike we make – it's a 5.5 pound road bike frame that can take an eight foot drop and you can manual. It's fun as hell – way more fun than any road bike you've ever ridden. I just like making riding bikes fun, to put my twist on it. I'm small, and it really helps for someone small to design bikes because they design “smaller.” A lot of other brands just go to a factory in Taiwan and they're buying off the shelf stuff, they're buying off the shelf geometry, and they take whatever design is given to them that somebody who doesn't ride a bike thought was a good idea. I've been to Taiwan – I know what kind of bike riding is done over there, and it's not good. Just go to the skatepark there and take a look.


Lookback at the Montclair skate park.

Do still feel like you're progressing?

Every day. The all-mountain riding is so exciting to me because it reminds me of when I first started riding mountain bikes... Every day I go out and ride - I love pushing myself. I'm on Strava, but not to compete with anyone but myself. That stuff cracks me up.


Riding seems to have come full circle – people seem to be rediscovering how much fun it is to go out and actually pedal their bikes.

Yeah, it's cross country riding, but now we have fun bikes. Now the only thing is to convince these guys who are 5'9" and think they need to be riding on a size large that they need to be riding on a small. That way their bike will look the way Steve Peat's bike looks under him, instead of being lost in the frame. I think most people ride bikes that are too big for them. You want to have control over your bike. The trend for longer top tubes seem backwards. I'm 5'6” and I'm racing an extra small Roam with 650B wheels as my downhill bike. With a 50mm stem and 6 inches of travel I'm doing great against dudes on their big-ass downhill bikes, and I'm having fun. Trail riding I ride a size small, but if I really want to jump and have fun in the turns I ride the extra small. If I ride the medium I feel lost in the bike. You have guys that are 5'9" riding a 23.25 inch top tube.


Where do most of Black Market's sales take place? Online, or through dealers?

Through dealers, and BTI. Right now we don't really have a Canadian distributor, we need to find one. For now we'll be selling direct. Our website runs directly through Shopatron, which lets us connect riders with their local shops. We'd much rather have the shops sell to the rider rather that have it come directly from us.


Is the Roam available now? Tell us more about it.

Yes, BTI should be getting them any day now if they haven't already received them. They have about 15 bikes coming or something like that. Ours will start arriving in March or April and they'll be arriving monthly after that. It's really rider friendly. It lets the rider play with their bike in ways that have never been possible before. There's never been a 6” travel bike that someone under 5 feet tall could comfortably ride, let alone set up with 650B or 29" wheels.

All of the Black Market Roam s shock linkage and AWD System hardware are easily sourced and replaced through your local autoparts hardware store in emergencies saving those days when you unpack your bike in a foreign land only to find your shock bolt missing Trip ruined Not anymore... we got your back. Small Roam Pictured Visit blackmarketbikes.com for more info
Black Market's Roam frame features 6.3" of travel and can be set up with 26", 650B, or 29" wheels.


What does the future hold for Black Market? Any big plans?

Right now the plan is to get the Roam off the ground, and develop a base that will support the brand. When you're selling mainly to dirt jumpers you're selling mainly to kids, you're trying to be the flavor of the week. Right now we're not the flavor of the week. It's hard – for the old school guys and the ones that want a bike that will last forever, we are the choice. For someone looking for a bike just to get them through the season we're not the bike right now. We don't sell a lot of completes, but we do a really cool build kit setup speccing all Profile USA products. We use as many US based brands as we can. We're going to start making some handlebars in the States as well. A lot of brands that have a US made “feel” have never made a single thing in the US. Kids don't realize that, but when they get older they realize the value, and it pays off in the long run.

Ultimately, I want to have my own frame shop. I'm a hands on guy – I've done construction my whole life, I'm not happy unless I'm building something. It's way more fun for me to build it instead of going to Taiwan and watching someone else build it.


Looking back, what advice would you give your teenage self?

I'm really pretty happy with the mistakes I've made. My choices, both good and bad, have led me to where I am right now and I don't think I would change it. I'm struggling, but I own my brand and no one has their hooks in me, which is hard for anyone to say.


Black Market Bikes


Interview by Mike Kazimer

65 Comments

  • + 18
 Great interview and well written. Really gave me some insight into what sounds like a solid and passionate small American company. Roam with ability to switch between 26, 27.5, and 29 wheels? Nuts! Would love to have a tear on one.
  • + 6
 And the best part of the roam is it is the best manualing 29" bike ever
  • + 4
 If you follow Carter on Strava he is always riding, so he def. has the seat time on that bad boy!
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  • + 10
 I love the simple looks of that thing. Minimalistic yet fully functional. I hope this comes in raw finish! Then really short chainstay - fk yea! These guys really do awesome looking stuff, Killswitch is iconic for me. Awesomeness +5000
[Reply]
  • + 8
 Had a MOB for 2 seasons and then sold it to try something new and got a jackal... Biggest regret ever. That MOB was the best hardtail I've had hands down. Next year I'm gonna buy another black market
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  • + 8
 Inspiring and plain bad-ass. Props to you Carter for getting something like this up and running and maintaining it. Makes me want a Roam for my next rig
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  • + 6
 Great interview. I remember when Carter came into the scene nearly 10 years. I used to follow his great stories through websites like matchvideozine.com or grindstate.com, and how he was laying concrete during the morning and building the bike company during the rest of the day, and still riding with the boys everytime he could. Up to this day I still tell my friends that my business model is having a regular 9 to 5 job and then working on your own thing in your spare time until it gets big. And that was definetely inspired by Cater's history.
[Reply]
  • + 5
 I would like to thank everyone who took the time to read my interview... and specially those who posted a comment!!! Means a lot to me!!! Please feel free to e mail me at carter@blackmarketbikes.com with any questions or concerns regarding anything above... I will send sizing charts to anyone who needs one, sorry ours decided to quit on us... I will try again!

Take care & go ride your bike!!!

Carter
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  • + 5
 The Roam would be a good frame for me that way my wife will never catch on to the different wheel sizes and forks I'd have to accommodate the 26,27.5, and 29!! Genius!!!
"What do you mean honey? This is the same bike!"
[Reply]
  • + 6
 "no one has their hooks in me" well said!
Love Black Market stuff and the Roam...sick!!
Keep up the hard work
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Carter is the sh!t. I have had a chance to ride with him and he is down with helping out a local annual kids Mtb event I put on each year. Have a riot and some other Blk Mrkt stuff on my 4x and dh. It doesn't get more real than they way he built his company. Cool article and cooler dude.
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  • + 2
 I would have to agree about the smaller frame size. As our sport has become more and more progressive the " old school " train of thought of treating everything like a cross bike or roadie style of riding ( was the only thing to compare to back then.) must be overcome. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard that the larger frame sizes are easy to ride for those new to the sport only to have them come back and say why can't I throw my bike around like so and so. Right tool for the right job. The new roam looks awesome, I would really like to test one out in 26" and 650B. Will be looking for it soon. Great article, sweet bikes. Thanks PB and thank you Carter.
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  • + 2
 Cool post - I really like the look of that Roam. His theories on sizing however, I think are kinda wacky. For skatepark and street riders, sure, a small frame might work. But for big mountain and DH? I don't think that is a universal theory. I think Peat's bike looks wee under him because he's a tall, lanky rider. I don't think he rides small frames.
  • + 2
 I agree I perfer long TT over short TT anyday within reason, I'd rather sit in between the axels not on top of them. To each their own, he's a short dude so small bikes are more flickable, but I love the stability of a bigger bike personally, and yes I've owned a MOB. The Roam looks tiitty tight though!
  • + 3
 His point is that people tend to ride bigger bikes than they need and that they'd be able to handle their bike better if it was smaller. Peat's bike looks small under him because he rides an appropriate sized bike for his height but there is no doubt that he doesn't ride a small.

Personally, I have a small DH bike and a small AM bike. At 5'6" 150lbs, I have MUCH more fun on the AM bike as the 10lbs difference makes it so much easier for me to handle. I would have liked to try a XS. On the other hand, my 6'5" 260lbs friend keeps complaining that there isn't enough XL frame options around...
  • - 2
 So basically what your saying is... to each their own, which was my point
  • + 0
 I wasn't replying to you either.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 got my edit 1 frame 2 nights ago built it right away and road all day yesterday. road a riot before both are awesome bikes edit one weighs in at 22.1 currently without my brake mounted. got a new brake in the mail. overall feels sick and would love to shake carters hand one day for it sounds like a awesome guy. Rider owned company Wooo woo!
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  • + 1
 Two people working for Black Market Bikes?! Amazing feat, let me know if you need a third: a shipper, receiver, janitor, graphic artist, boxer, bathroom cleaner, marketing/sales rep, coffee fetcher. It's good to see self-made bikers being successful in a highly competitive "big box brand" world.
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  • + 1
 I have ridden most of the frames, Riot, KillSwitch, Contraband, and Mob with the exception of the Roam ( being a money thing). I still have the KiIllswitch as my mountain bike. The Badaboom bars are by far the best bars to ride on any MTB. I have tried other bars and always go back to the Badabooms. I have 3", 2" .75" and 1.5" best bars on the market. All the products that Carter (Black Market) produces are top notch, solid product, and have a look and feel that sets the standard. US owned, and an avid rider in his 40's, and still killing it says a lot about the brand. Carter is committed to bringing his vision, experience, and hard work to a reality for DJ, MTB riders to enjoy. He is a staple in the scene of, MTB, dirtjumping, and park. I remember 10 years back there was no such thing as riding park on MTB that was designed for it unless you could find a female version of a MTB. And even then the frame wouldn't hold up to the abuse. Once the MOB hit, MTB has never been the same. Thanks for changing the game.
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  • + 5
 Call me crazy, but I think a Black Market Downhill bike should be next.
  • - 2
 No a 29er AM hardtail.
  • - 1
 I feel like a 29er AM hardtail would be a step backwards for them.
  • + 1
 Why? I just built a Honzo and really like how it rides. I just think Black Market could make a nicer frame when it comes to tube shapes and weight.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Im going into season 5 on my MOB! Starting to twist the back end a little, but still solid. I have never got more than 1 season out of a hardtail frame until the MOB. Grinds and everything, still goin strong!
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  • + 1
 Awesome bike, lots of detailed work involved. I hope PB gets one to test? www.blackmarketbikes.blogspot.com/2012/11/roam-production-update.html Only thing is I need a 20" Probably a good thing 'cause I want one pretty bad!
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  • + 1
 Carter is the sh!t. I have has a chance to ride with him and he is down with helping out a local annual kids Mtb event I put on each year. Have a riot and some other Blk Mrkt stuff on my 4x and dh. It doesn't get more real than they way he built his company. Cool article and cooler dude.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 i'm going from carbon to aluminum...Santa Cruz carbon to a usa hand built aluminum Intense. plastic bikes have their place and it depends how there built, but there's nothing that makes me more stoked than riding a well built hand made aluminum frame made in my own country!
  • + 3
 I know what you mean man, but America has it's shortcomings too...especially in the QC department lol.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 So true! Long life Carter. Also I totally agree, am 6'2" and I've been riding smaller frames for over a decade now... Even in Xc races.
Met Carter couple times, so cool to meet enthusiastic people like him
  • + 1
 Agree, I'm 6 feet high and ride small frame AM, XC and downhill. When I ride Larger frame, I can't feel my bike.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 "I think most people ride bikes that are too big for them."

Does he means in height or in length? Or both?

Thought about this a lot, I am 6,1.2 Inches and I ride a Large Frame, sometimes when I feel like not being able to control my Bike it feels a little like damn, my bike ist to large to handle, don´t know if this comes from my lag of experience or the size of the frame... besides, I don´t have the money to buy a new frame... Smile just curious...
[Reply]
  • + 3
 Those air shocks have come a long way , you don't even notice they are there in some pictures ! On a serious note I love the look of their bikes , simple but still stylish.
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  • + 2
 I love my OG MOB from the S&M factory. The GEO is sick and it even has a bottle opener built into the frame. I will keep this frame for the rest of my life for sure. Even so, I still lust after a ROAM!
  • + 2
 I Still have that frame as well only with a big dent in the CS from falling on some train tracks..
[Reply]
  • + 1
 I own a killswitch and a linkage bolt somehow fell out. Sent a very detailed email to Mr. Carter explaining my predicament and got no response. Called and same thing. Weird to think that I spent $1500 on a frame to get ignored. Cool article though.
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  • + 1
 great great interview !

i dont understand.... there is only one size about roam ? if its mean yes, wich size match ? medium.. M/L ? S/M ?
i compare the specs but reach and stack are missing...... im 6.1"
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  • + 2
 You need a better geo chart on your website mate with all wheel sizes geo figures. I've been looking at the Roam as a 29er for ages.
  • + 1
 Great , thanks
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  • + 1
 The next step to a do it all bike have an xc setup with the 29er and then go shred the park with a coil shock and some 26in wheels. I definitely need one
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  • + 2
 He feels the same way i do about frame size. I feel more in control on a smaller frame
[Reply]
  • + 2
 f*ck Giant, Im buying one of these!
Like @sethd said, sex on wheels... and with the right build... its an orgasm on wheels
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Good call ditching the cop job for something way more fullfilling, love all his bikes.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Sad to hear Carter is struggling. Met him at Ray's Cleveland and he's a super cool guy. Blk Mrkt stuff is so awesome.
  • + 1
 For some reason, you got neg. repped by someone. I propped you up. I've ridden with Carter myself, and he's a great guy. I hope he visits Ashland again...
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  • + 1
 I've got an original mob, still has up to date geo even after 6 years and it's never let me down in that time ,love my mob, enough said !!!
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  • + 1
 Never had ridden anythink from BM.. Look sweet.. I`d love to give it a ride.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 he should do what brooklyn does and have the frame come with some nice chromo cranks...
  • + 1
 and a mid bb
  • + 2
 We offer a mid BB on both the Edit1 and the Contraband... The Edit1 can also be built brakeless and with either a 25.4mm seat tube (BMX) or 27.2mm seat tube. 14mm drops and removable 990's versions coming soon.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 I'd buy anything Black Market makes oretty much
[Reply]
  • + 2
 The roam looks like sex on wheels
  • + 1
 Yup! This looks like it could sedduce even a carbon fibre lover
[Reply]
  • + 1
 my blk mrkt mob has been holding strong for 4 years now. love it. looking into the killswitch or roam for a fr bike
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  • + 1
 i want one but i cant afford it :'(
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  • + 1
 BlackMarket Bikes are the stuff. I now have 3 of them. Rob
[Reply]
  • + 1
 I like blkmrkt alot. no bs. gotta respect a guy like, Carter.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Pretty damn motivating! Good story
[Reply]
  • + 1
 My life now requires a roam does it come with a shock or no?
  • + 1
 BTI lists it without shock. Mostly so you can pick long or short travel, besides getting to pick the damper of your choice. I dig it!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 That bike is beast, sickest looking 29er I've seen yet!
  • + 1
 think it is a 27.5 based on the rims
[Reply]
  • - 2
 How many ppl work for Black Market? Two. Where are the frames made? Blah blah blah, Taiwan...

??????????????? LMAO

HOW MANY PPL WORK FOR BLACK MARKET?????
  • + 5
 Yes, 2 people work in my office, me and Jesse... that does not include the U.S. based frame builder (Ryan Robinson) who has maxxed out our US made Edit1 production at 10 frames a week... the U.S. based CNC shop ( Ed and Patty... Ed just had his 2nd heart attack... ) , our U.S. tubing vendor (True Temper) who now sells to us thru another U.S. frame parts supplier ( Henry James), our anodizer, our polisher, Phu', the owner of Epic BMX who builds our wheels and makes our decals locally..... The list goes on and on of the U.S. based companies Black Market helps attempt to bring some bicycle manufacturing back to America...

If I solely stuck to Taiwan manufacturing like most brands I could just give my drawings to a trading company and wait 60-90 days lead time and forget about even trying to build in the states but we do constantly strive to do more to support North American industry...

I almost forgot about AT Designs... the Canadian company that produces our pewter headbadges over the foil China and Taiwan versions that adorn most bikes... as well as all the riders we support with both $ and products...


blah blah blah....
[Reply]

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