The 22″ wheel, a lot of us had passed judgment before even seeing one, let alone riding one! I myself know that as soon as I heard of this new stead making a name for itself in our little sport, I had visions of 40 year old men having a midlife crisis riding around the woods on cruiser like machines doing hip hangers and turn bars, but after actually seeing one and riding one, I can personally vouch for their awesomeness. Below is a little Q&A I did with Kye Forte, the man behind United’s new 22″ K22 complete which is due to hit the shops mid August at a retail of around £650 (Approximately $840), which in my eyes is going to make it a regular sight at the trails.
Interview By Chris Coutts
When I first heard the rumors of 22″ BMXs hitting the scenes I was extremely dubious, and to put it frankly, thought it was just another fad. A few months later I got to ride one at Sheet Trails and was VERY impressed and totally sold on the concept after my first run. What were your first thoughts when you started hearing about 22 inchers?
I heard about them roughly 5 years ago now. I thought they looked cool & would be good for big jumps, but not every day riding. To be honest I dismissed it without much of a thought. My thinking was that it would be cumbersome & awkward to ride, comparing to how 24” cruisers felt whenever I have ridden them in the past. BMX was 20” don’t mess & moved on! ha
What made you guys want to design a 22″ bike?
I have kept it reasonably personal until now, but over the past few years I have been having issues with my back & getting really bad neck pain as a result. I have quite severe scoliosis (twisted spine from birth). When I was younger I didn’t really have many issues with it, but years of riding a BMX takes its toll. I have been to see loads of specialists & I’ve been pretty serious about physio & tried to get on top of it.
To cut a long story short, I realized that no matter what I did, off the bike I could be feeling great, but the moment I got back on the BMX, I assumed the same riding stance I have for the past 25 years & everything just undid itself & I was in pain. It got to the point where riding the BMX was not fun, it wasn’t worth the days of having a sore neck that followed a half decent ride.
I have always ridden MX & over the past few years started racing DH pretty seriously. I was enjoying pushing myself in new areas of riding. The crazy thing is, as physical as MX & MTB racing can be, I was still feeling tired & beat up after a ride, but it wasn’t giving me the same back & pain as I was getting from riding my 20”. I figured it was down to suspension but after looking into it I figured it was more down to riding a bike that actually fitted me & generally MTB’s & Motorbikes have a more relaxed riding position.
This is when I decided to try a 22” front wheel & longer fork on the front of my UTD 20”. My thinking was that it would raise the front end & slack the head angle out & make the bike less twitchy & more relaxed. I tried it & looked a bit odd, but I could feel the difference. The main downside was that it made my bike super easy to loop out. From the success of the experiment, I really wanted to run a 22” on the rear & dial a frame in to suit me. After a few phone calls & emails to Ian, he was on board.
Why release it as a complete and not a frame set like other brands?
We figured that riders may just want to try it, without the outlay of a hand made custom build, perhaps just add another bike to the stable you know? I can only compare it other sports you ain’t gonna take a road bike on a DH track, or a super bike on an MX track. This is just my opinion, as versatile as a BMX can be, the sports genres have progressed & segregated. The majority of people are running bikes intended for street riding on trails. There’s only a couple bikes on the market that are dirt bikes. Everyone’s too busy trying to re-invent the 1 bolt seat post combo.
Can you see more parts brands offering 22″ accessories such as rims and tyres, and does United have stuff in the pipeline?
I think so, it works, there’s been a lot of interest in my bike, especially from older riders. There’s been a bit of a revolution in the MTB world with 650b so perhaps this will be the BMX equivalent?
Personally I can see the 22″ wheel being more popular with the older rider due to the fact it felt nice and roomie but still has the traditional look and feel of a 20″ wheeled BMX, rather than looking like rad dad at the trails on his 24″ cruiser. When you designed the complete what rider did you have in mind?
Yeah I did have the older rider in mind when designing this bike. It’s got a slack head tube & longer backend. The bike is proportionally bigger than 20” BMX bike, making it more comfortable to ride but way more maneuverable than a 24”. You can still do turndowns & X ups & your foot won’t hit the front wheel.
I think this bike will appeal to the taller rider as well. The only options until now for taller BMX riders have been to lengthen your top tube, or put on higher bars & perhaps a longer stem. Riding a long low limo isn’t ideal & putting on really tall bars is likely going to either shorten your top tube if you run your bars back like I do, or if you run bars past the forks put your weight forward over the front. The 22” United looks like a bigger, in proportion BMX when you put it alongside a 20” with similar specs.
What are the key benefits to a 22″ wheel?
It’s just my opinion, but I am gonna go ahead & say it’s better than a 20” wheel for trails & bigger concrete parks. It’s more stable, grips better, benefits a bigger rider & rolls faster. It’s way less twitchy than a 20” & thats the first thing you notice when riding one.
How easy is it to switch between both your 20 and 22? Do you favour one over the other? There’s still a lot of traditional dudes out there who shun change and see the 22 as a trend/fad. How are you going to convince these old dogs of the woods different and open their eyes to the benefits of the bigger wheel?
If I am honest, since having this new bike I haven’t ridden my 20”. I feel more comfortable on it than I have on any other bike in a long time. I can’t see myself going back to 20”. I will always keep one in the garage, it would feel weird not to own one. The benefits for trail riding are huge, it’s the the tool for the job. I think as a dirt bike it looks sick & sets it apart from the scooter look BMX you see at every skate park these days.
I will say, if your riding others bikes on the regular, like I am, or perhaps not riding as much as you used to. Then a 22″ is easier to jump on & get straight back to the fun without wondering if you are past it…ha,ha
Anything else you’d like to say?
Before going ahead and hanging that BMX up for good & buying a roadie or a Harley, give a KF22 a try – it might keep ya rolling for another 10 years.
2017 United KF22
Frame: 100% 4130 Chromoly Tubing, Tapered Top Tube, Down Tube, Seat Tube & Chainstays, Removable Brake Mounts and Guides, Integrated Head Tube, Mid BB
Fork: 100% 4130 Chromoly with 1pc CNC Steerer Tube, Integrated Bearing Race, Tapered Legs with Angled Ends and CNC Dropout Holes
Handlebars: 100% 4130 Chromoly 8.7” x 29” with Large Dual Radius Bends, 11° Back Sweep, 3° Up Sweep
Grips: United Jimmy grips w/ United Nylon Bar Ends
Headset: United Sealed Bearing Integrated
Stem: United 52mm Reach Supreme Stem with Embossed Logo and Machined Recess for Top Cap
Brake: Tektro 990
Brake Lever: Alloy
Seat: United Slim Tripod, Kevlar Material with Custom Sewn Patch
Seat Post: United Alloy Tripod
Seat Clamp: Alloy with Machined Detail
Cranks: United Supreme V3 175mm 3pc Cranks
Sprocket: United 25t Alloy
Chain: United Supreme X410
Bottom Bracket: Sealed Bearing Mid
Pedals: United Valentino Nylon
Front Tire: Innova 22″ x 2.125 High Pressure Tyre
Rear Tire: Innova 22″ x 2.125 High Pressure Tyre
Front Rim: Revenge Arc 22″ Welded Seam Double Wall 36h
Rear Rim: Revenge Arc 22″ Welded Seam Double Wall 36h
Front Hub: United Supreme 36h Sealed, Female Bolts
Rear Hub: 36h United Supreme Sealed Alloy Cassette, 14mm axle, Sealed 9t driver, 4 pawl Ultra Loud Mech
Top Tube Length: 21.5″
Head Tube Angle: 73.75°
Seat Tube Angle: 71°
Chainstay Length: 14.1″ Slammed
Bottom Bracket Height: 12.25″
Weight: 26 lbs
Colors: Semi Gloss Black, Gloss Dark Army Green