Interview – Bill Husada (Yess)

Lot’s of good debates going on at the moment as regards to the Belt Drive, whether you’re a fan or not it’s definitely got everyone talking. We decided to fire some questions over to the President and head designer over at Yess Bill Husada and get some background on both Yess and all things Belt Drive.

How did you discover BMX & in what year?

I started in 1994, a (now) friend of mine Steve McCrae who raced from 1980 came to me and asked me to build a BMX frame with the condition that he would help me market/sell it to the public. He did that for many years until he moved out of town several years later.

I learned a lot and gained plenty of knowledge about BMX from Steve McCrae.

How did you get involved in the industry side of things?

In 1988 I took my first step into the bike industry when I went to Interbike in Anaheim, California as a distributor buyer. At that time, it was very difficult for me to get the distributorship because every time I approached a supplier or manufacturer that I wanted to distribute in South East Asia, they laughed and doubted me. They always assumed Indonesia was a third world country, and questioned how I would be able to sell in that market. But the following year I sold more products than expected and finally, they started to believe in me, this made it easier to acquire more products to sell and even some of the suppliers approached me to carry their product line too. The products I’m talking about are the high-end MTB of that time which included: Klein, Cannondale, Raleigh ( Joe Hawk was there ) Litespeed Titanium, Yeti, Rocky Mountain, Mantis ( Richard Cunningham ) Richie products, Gary Fisher and a few more that I can’t remember now. That is how some of the big guys in the industry know me.

Give us the history on Yess & the Team over the years?

I started Yess Products in 1994, people asked me all the time “what does YESS stand for?” Here is a great opportunity I can finally let the public know.

The way I want to live my life is very simple and positive, that is why my choice is YESS, I think this is the most positive message you can portray and the best name for any sports industry is positivity. Why not? If you compete (in anything) and you win what is the first thing you would scream out? Most times it would be pure enthusiasm and most of the time it would sound like the word of Y E S S!!! It is almost as universally recognized as Math!

As for the Team, although I don’t get involved, I know have had several of the best ambassadors of the sport. I also believe we have definitely set a positive movement in Canada for the BMX Racing. I would like to personally thank every member, past, and present for their involvement in making the brand what it is today.

What’s your day-to-day role look like?

My day-to-day is to keep evolving our product line with tools that the racing community could and would benefit from. From designing new products to improving parts already in the market without just adding a new color or scrolling through “the catalog.” My role for the company allows me to focus on innovation. Throughout the years, I have designed several MTB suspension platforms among other products outside of the industry. I have my son, Renny, to keep the wheels turning in the business.

What are your thoughts on the current state of the industry right now?

To be honest with you this is a very difficult industry to be in, but I feel proud to be a part of it because it is very family-oriented and it brings together a very supportive and positive community. As someone who didn’t grow up in the sport, I can clearly see the way families can travel together, compete together and make lifelong friends through competition. BMX Racing promotes healthy living as well as sports tourism.

As for how to improve the sport? I do feel that there should be some way we can all put our heads together, Sanctions, Industries, Track Operators to help grow BMX as it has a lot of potential that I’m sure has not been even close to being met. Negative energy only hinders the progression of this industry.

Before we talk Belt Drive, tell us a little more about the frame you put out a few years ago without a seat and the thoughts behind doing that?

Good question Dale. This is the reason behind that concept bike (which gave birth to the now very popular Elite World Cup frame which Liam Phillips won his second world cup title with). The seatless frame was made to prove a point that the top tube length is irrelevant. The most important measurement is from your BB Center to the bottom of the center of the head tube because it stays consistent throughout all BMX frames no matter what make or model. It doesn’t require different seat tube angles, or lengths or head tube lengths or angles. To prove this theory, I made a seat out of sheet metal and velcro to show it can be any top tube size they want. Of course with this “concept bike,” it had both good and negative opinions (as with anything unfamiliar).

Give us the history on the Belt Drive and how you guys got involved with the project?

This question needs Mr. Matthew Raymer’s involvement, however from our side, he is the one who has approached us (and many other brands) We were the only one that was capable of producing what he needed and wanted. We didn’t have any part in the evolution of the actual belt drive product. Our involvement was to develop a platform for it to be used with.

It goes without saying the Belt Drive has been a hot topic on Social Media in the last month. Are you surprised with the response it has gotten or was that the plan all along?

Yes, I knew this would be a big topic for BMX because, in general, the industry does not like change. We don’t have the capital to market with advertisements or Elite rider sponsorships or teams with big budgets. But what we lack in big marketing budgets, we make up with in products that have a reputation for selling themselves. In the last few years, I believe we had some influence on design. As for the belt drive as a future of drivetrain, I understand it is very hard to swallow for the companies who are afraid of something different. To be honest, we do ask the public each to judge for themselves and not fall to the influence of negative drama. The fact is that the belt drive is not for everyone. Everyone is fully entitled to have an opinion. Some are very vocal about their opinion but it doesn’t represent everyone.

How do you address the gear changing issue? Is it very common for riders young and old to change their gearing quite often to fit track conditions?

The whole gearing issue is something that is unique to this system, the chain system didn’t automatically have all the gears at the beginning either. It took time to develop the market to see the growth and the allow more size options. Same with this company, although Gates Corporation isn’t the only belt drive company around, they are one of the biggest advocates. It will also take time for them to see the potential in the BMX Market before they go investing in more sizes and gearing options (or even sponsorships). Matt Raymer actually kept an eye on their options throughout the years and when the gearing that worked for the most common 44:16 ratio became available he knew that he would be able to continue what he started way back.

Is there any specific, measurable benefit for the average rider – other than the fact that it might be smooth?

How do you measure benefit, is it consistency? Is it confidence? Maybe dependability of the product. There is no sure-fire thing that will automatically guarantee success. With the Belt drive system, it takes the doubt from a loose chain away from competition. This brings me to the reason why I designed the spring-loaded chain tensioner. Too many times I’ve witnessed with my own eyes a chain coming off due to improper maintenance or setup. This brings me back to my love of the sport, I do wish that we could simplify mandatory drivetrain maintenance. If this system is set up right, there’s not much you need to worry about maintaining for an extended period of time. So to answer your question, it may or may not make you win, but it can take out some doubt over equipment failure. If you want to look at hard numbers, the whole system does weigh half of a chain, so there is that too.

Long-term wear of the belt? Does it stretch over time? Or, weaken?

These questions are definitely better answered by the company producing the product. We never claimed that it is unbreakable, we never claimed it is a perfect magic answer to solve all your problems. It is an alternate drive mechanism, it has its pros and cons, we do believe that it has more benefits than cons, but that is up to the consumer to ultimately decide.

They do claim it lasts 2-4 times the life of a chain but that is also dependent on how it’s handled.

What are your thoughts on some of the vocal guys against the Belt Drive on Social Media?

My thoughts on the vocal guys against the belt are positive. I do believe in using constructive criticism to improve my products I need input from all people who are against the belt drive. If everyone just agrees with the product I will never find out any negative things. I will never know what I did wrong with my products but I don’t have to blindly believe everything they say. I can filter out the nonsense myself.

The funny thing is, most of the people who are against the belt drive have never tried one but they are the ones who talk the loudest. For me, I know that the positive messages expressed by the actual open-minded public have allowed me to determine this product is headed in the right direction. It still is in its infancy so there will be obstacles to overcome. Give it time and allow the product to show its true potential. I like to comment that although the belt drive isn’t anything new, the Belt Drive has finally gained some recognition from the UCI for 2018 and now is “allowed” to have a chance to let the public determine for themselves. If the belt drive is a fad or whether or not the market will support continued development (gearing, sizes, sponsorships, more companies embracing this alternate drive option)

Is the system stiffer than a chain?

That would be an opinion and the hard numbers should be provided by Gates Corporation. I believe anyone who says they are or aren’t is saying that purely through speculation.

Is it more efficient?

Again, this depends on a lot of factors, it is my belief being in the metal industry for over 50 years if I think efficiency, I know that anything smooth has lower friction, anything with lower friction has little drag and anything with no drag is efficient. I’m not saying the chain drive is bad but I know the chain has a lot of moving parts with varying friction on every link, every pin, and every bushing, The belt is one whole unit. With a Chain, every piece is independent of each other so the wear is less consistent

How did you ensure a belt drive frame stiffness isn’t compromised by the split?

We sent out a split frame and another frame with a solid stay (same model and size) to for a lab test to show stiffness deflection/stiffness. The results were similar.

Why is your Yess Team rider, Drew Motley back on a chain?

For Worlds he used a chain because this was before the UCI rule update, he was excited to get back on the belt drive. Drew also experimented with a few bumper designs that allowed us to reduce the tension on the belt. He was switching between setups while we worked on this bumper.

Surely, a lot of time, energy and investment has gone into this project. Any thoughts of picking up a podium-caliber Elite Pro Rider to run it?

Having a podium-caliber Elite Pro rider to run it will require a lot of resources which will be difficult for us to maintain our level of brand growth, I believe that these Elites put more time, effort and dedication than they get out of it. I don’t know if this something that will happen, but I hope Gates Carbon will find potential in this sport and input some of their outside sponsorship resources.

What are the long term goals of Yess?

We’re not trying to change things short term, our growth will be slow but steady. We will continue to try to deliver the best products we can from our own in-house manufacturing facility and to create a brand with a positive reputation. With this, because of the lack of BMX History in my family hopefully, we can provide a point of view or influence that comes from outside of the traditional.

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