Eastern Bikes was started in 1996 by three freestyle flatland riders from North Carolina Keith King, Jon Byers and Mike Corley. The Eastern Commando was the first BMX frame made by Eastern Bikes. There is very little information online about these early frames with only a few listed on BMX Museum.
To help build hype for the launch of Eastern’s first frame, the Eastern Commando was reviewed in the November 1997 issue of BMX Plus magazine. “The first thing you notice when looking at the Commando frame is the way the oversized top and down tubes are pierced by the the head tube to create a natural gusset in the front.” The article mentioned the Eastern Commando was available as frame only and was priced at $239-$279 USD.
In the Feb 2001 issue of Ride BMX UK magazine, Keith explained the beginings of the Eastern Bikes company. “Since 1996, me, Jon Byers and Mike Corley all got together. Originally I decided I wanted to do a bike company, played around with some ideas in ’95. I decided to go in with two other guys, it made it a lot easier financially to get started up. We all decided to focus on it together, we have all been long lime friends.”
In 2001 Keith King sold his part of Eastern Bikes. From that moment it seems Jon and Mike pretty much wanted him written out of the Eastern history books. This is a quote from Jon Byers and Mike Corley on the creation of Eastern Bikes from the Eastern website (which is currently down). “We’ve been in love with wrecking our bikes since the 1970’s. Witnessing just about every lame idea from fold-up pegs to handlebar/ stem combos. But by 1996, we’d had enough and started Eastern Bikes to build the best bikes money can buy – a pretty arrogant undertaking for 2 guys with no money. Regardless, we forged ahead with our products building a reputation for quality and uncompromising strength. Today, we are a stronger company and offer a full line of BMX products made from the highest quality materials and parts available. You simply cannot buy a better bike than an Eastern Bike. Built with Love.” Notice the reference to ‘two’ guys, perhaps a sign of how badly the split went with Kieth? Only speculation of course.
In more recent years, Keith King entered his personal Eastern Commando into the ‘PORKCHOP BMX 2011 FREESTYLER BUILD OFF’. In his submission on BMX Museum he wrote about the early days of building and riding his Eastern Commando BMX. “In 1996 I was one of the Three founders of Eastern Bikes when we had our fist batch of frames made they were made by Greg Esser at MCS in Florida. I called Greg and asked him to make me a 19 inch top Tube for me to ride Flatland. This is the Bike that I rode in the 1997 and 1998 X Games for Flatland. This bike has been retired for a while and I recently took everything apart and polished and painted a few things and put on a new set of tires. This is the only 19 inch top tube Eastern Commando made in 1996. I also was on the cover of BMX Plus! in 1997 with this bike. The Decals are what we used in 1998, The original 1996/97 decals did not have bikes under the name. I sold my part of Eastern in 2001 and parted ways.”
Other than the above thumbnail, the photos of Keith’s blue and red 1996 Eastern Commando BMX are no longer available. The second photo above is one of the early Eastern Commando frames and the third photo is an early Eastern BMX magazine advert.
I became the proud owner of a very rare 1998 Eastern Commando in November 2014. This one had been sitting in storage for quite a few years. Most of the parts seem to be from around the late 90’s. I will be spending some time restoring, cleaning, removing rust and replacing a few of the broken parts and cables. It’s my intention to keep this as a survivor rider, but will replace a few parts to make it how I would like it.
Parts include rare Peregrine Madd Max chrome 48H rims laced to Primo hubs TNT deat clamp, Profile Cranks and Chainwheel, S&M Redneck head clamp, Hoffman Love Handlebars Primo Rod seat post, Primo pegs and Primo Tenderizer pedals.
The Eastern Commando was a rare bike in Australia as Eastern did not have distribution here. I don’t know when or how this BMX came to Australia. There is also no information on how many Commando frames Eastern made, however this one is extra special as it is the second frame off the production line with a Serial number EC00002.
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