In racing there are thousands of components and parts that need to perform and last while providing performance in adverse conditions. In the sport of motocross and Supercross, wheels take an immense amount of abuse and can be the difference between winning and losing. John and Kristin Anderson started Dubya Wheels almost 12 years ago. Used by many of the top teams in the industry, they have proven their ability to hold up to the demands. John Anderson took some time to tell us how Dubya USA came to be.
For the full interview, check out the YouTube video right here. If you're interested in the condensed written version, scroll down just a bit further.
Jamie Guida – Vital MX: John, how did you get involved in the motorcycle industry?
John Anderson: Like many of us in this industry, we all started out as riders and then became racers. My dad took me riding and then I got into racing. Unfortunately, the downside of the sport is injuries. No pity party or anything like that here. But I got hurt a lot. I was just a racer and then worked my way into the business, I guess.
Vital MX: When you were racing, how far did you take it?
John: It's funny, I did pretty decent. I did a lot of the night racing scene. We did Ascot Park and then we did OCIR on Thursday night, Corona on a Friday and then Saddleback on Saturday and Sunday. I actually worked my way up and became a decent intermediate. I did turn into a local pro, if you will, didn't have a lot of success, but I got to race some small supercross stuff. I just loved the sport and that's one thing that hasn't changed over the years.
Vital MX: Was your first industry job with Tom White at White Bros.?
John: Well, in the industry, yes. Back in the day when Cycle News was still a print newspaper, they had a section in there for help wanted and that ad changed my life. There was an ad for a parts driver for White Brothers back in 1985 and I went and filled out an application. It's crazy man. But Tom White, he actually interviewed me and gave me a job for $5.50 an hour to be the parts driver. And I was stoked. I just couldn't believe it. I pulled out of the parking lot after he said, “Okay, I'm going to give you the job. We'll try you out”. I remember pulling out of the parking lot and just looking at the building and I said to myself, “I can't frickin believe it, man. I just got a job at White Brothers”. And I never looked back from there.
Vital MX: For the younger people that don’t know, that's like a kid now going up to Pro Circuit or Star Yamaha and them getting the parts guy job. White Brothers thought four strokes were cool before four strokes were cool and they were legendary.
John: It really was right. You're right, a lot of the younger generation probably think, “White Brothers? What's that?” Today everyone knows about Western Power Sports, Parts Unlimited, and Tucker Rockys. Tom and his twin brother Dan, they started White Brothers in the seventies. They made their own products, and they went on to become quite a powerful distributor. It turned into a huge business. It was an amazing company to work for. Some amazing people came out of that building. A dear friend of mine, Donnie Luce, who's with Yamaha now, we worked together at White Brothers. He likes to refer to a lot of us that came out of that company as, “Graduating from White Brothers University”. You can pretty much go anywhere in our business and people you will cross paths with have either memories of White Brothers or worked there, including Bob Webber that owns 6D helmets. Stuff that Tom White taught us back then we now use in our own business today. It was an amazing company. I don't know if there will ever be another place like it. I'd probably still be there if Tom was still the owner, you know?
Vital MX: What are a couple of your favorite stories or things you saw through your years there?
John: Highlights would be from a couple of years when we started our own race program. We did a lot of four stroke racing with Doug Dubach and a very good friend of mine who I was a mechanic for, Spud Walters. We did that for many years. That would have been in the late ‘98, ‘99, 2000s, all the way up to through 2003. So those were good times for sure. Getting to travel all over the country and racing motorcycles with Spud and our team. And then a couple of years after that, something I'm very proud of, we became the official exhaust supplier for Factory Honda in the beginning of the modern four stroke era. Back then we had Ricky Carmichael, Nathan Ramsey, we had Kevin Windham, and we also became the factory exhaust supplier for Yamaha. So, we had David Vuillemin, Chad Reed, and Tim Ferry. It was an amazing time.
Vital MX: Through that job you meet your wife, Kristin White. Years later after White Bros. is sold you start Dubya USA with her. What was that process like?
John: Well, a lot went on in that time frame. I'm a fair amount older than my wife. So, in the beginning I worked there, I knew who Kristin was. She would just work part time on Saturdays and after school and many, many years later she went on to do some amazing things within White Brothers. She was Tom's right hand lady. When you're around somebody for so long we ended up dating and we eventually got married. We just celebrated our 20th anniversary, and we have two kids, an 18-year-old son, Zane, and our daughter, Andie, is 17. But in 2001, Tom sold the company. He was tired and he was kind of burned out. He sold the company to an investment group and unfortunately these big corporate companies they have their own way of running things. And in this case I think it's safe to say that it was the wrong way. I think within five years the company was gone. I saw the people that I work with were leaving the company, and I just didn't want to go out like that. I went out on my terms. I went and worked for a company that did all the Brembo brakes for Supermoto and a wheel company called Marchesini, which is a mag wheel. That's what I did for about four years and traveled all over the country and the world for them like a brand manager. The opportunity came up for us to start our own company with Talon Hubs. The opportunity came up to basically be the importer for them and things were getting a little bit tricky with the company we worked for. So, we made the switch and lo and behold, Dubya was born.
Vital: And for those that don't know, Dubya is in tribute to Tom White.
John: Yeah. If somebody asks me, “Hey, how did you come up with the name for W?”. Dubya is a play off the letter W from White. Because John and Kristin's Wheel Company is not very appealing. It just doesn't have a real good twist. All those years of work at White Brothers we had so many great relationships based around the fact that we worked there. We really wanted to figure out a way to tie the two together. The logo kind of stuck and we haven't looked back since.
Vital MX: You’ve been in business almost 12 years. Was the upward trajectory of the company fairly steady?
John: As I mentioned, when the opportunity became available for us to start importing Talon Hubs, White Brothers had been the importer for Talon, which is how they knew us. We were able to get a small building in Orange, California. We’re still in the same complex. We just expanded a little bit and have a bigger location. Tom was kind enough to co-sign for us to get into the building. If there's a benefit of having so many great relationships and just doing this business for so long it’s we were able to quickly get a phone call answered, an email answered, or even some of the local shops and mail order companies gave us a chance. We're forever grateful for that. I believed in the product. I wasn't scared to ask a team to try it and see what they thought, and they were receptive to that. In the beginning, Ronnie Renner, who a lot might know from doing Step Up and all that, he was our first guy and we had neon orange powder coated spokes. And he did that Step-Up thing for Red Bull on the Santa Monica Pier. It kind of took off from there. The next thing you know we were working with the Deegans and Twitch, and all these different freestyle athletes. The cool thing about that is we still work with most of those guys to this day.
Vital MX: Although you build wheels for many of the top teams and elite riders in the world, you couldn’t have a business that only catered to those groups. You also have multiple products and lines to fit many budgets.
John: That's an excellent point, and I'm glad you brought that up. At the end of the day, the dealers, our customers, we treat everybody the same way. The wheels are all built the same way. A lot of times in our production room our production team, they might not know that they're building wheels for Jeremy McGrath or Jason Anderson or Jamie Guida. Or the guy that just goes out to the desert for the weekend having fun with his kids. It's very important. And we do look at it like that. Those are the folks, the dealers and those customers that really keep us in business. Racing's great to be involved in and we're very thankful for that. But if all we did was rely on racing to keep us in business and keep the lights on, we probably wouldn't have made it very far.
Vital MX: I want to finish up with the topic of the World Vet Motocross Championship which Dubya sponsors. The 38th annual event is coming up at Glen Helen and your father-in-law, Tom White, started this. Why was he so passionate about this event in particular?
John: The vet race started as the White Brothers Vet World Motocross Championships. Tom loved racing. It’s coming up on five years since we lost Tom to cancer, and we do it to honor his legacy. He loved this event so much. Pre-COVID times there were 22 different countries that attended this race and 31 different states here in America. Our motto is we just want everybody on Sunday when they pack up to go home, they're tired, they're sore. You know, they might be walking a little bit funny, but they had a hell of a good time. And they got to experience an iconic racetrack in Glen Helen.
Vital MX: This year it's November 4th through the 6th. Every year you have a guest of honor that comes out to the event, and you honor them. Why don't you tell everybody who this year’s is?
John: It’s called the Edison Dye Lifetime Achievement Award. This is an award that Tom White created to recognize people that have contributed to the sport of motocross, the accomplishments on the track and whatnot. The likes of Rick Johnson and Roger DeCoster, Torsten Hollman, Brad Lackey, you name it. If you go on the website, you'll see all these just iconic figures that have been inducted. Mitch Payton, we inducted him a couple of years ago. Jody Weisel from Motocross Action, who is a huge part has always been a huge part of Tom White's life and certainly a friend of ours today with Motocross Action. This year we're really stoked Jeremy McGrath is going to receive that honor. He's pumped. His mother and father, Jack and Ann, are coming. Mitch Payton is going to come and Jeremy's going to race. So that's pretty sweet. And this year we're going to do a little party Saturday night. 805 Beer is going to sponsor it. It's going to be a little meet and greet. It's going to be a good time. If people want to know more about the race go on Glenn Helen's website. It'll explain everything. It's all there as far as practice and the moto format and all that stuff.