In 1980 GT Bicycles Inc. releases their first bike the “GT Pro” and begins to sponsor BMX racers such as Lee Medlin and Denny Davidow. GT’s first magazine ad appears in Bicycle Motocross Action (BMX Action) in the January 1980 issue.
In 1983 GT signs freestyle BMX riders Bob Morales and Eddie Fiola to design and eventually ride a new freestyle bike the Performer. At the time, the Performer was the only other dedicated freestyle bike besides the Haro Freestyler. The unique bent down tube was instantly recognizable and a design and marketing game changer which became a trademark look for GT. Bob Morales eventually left GT to focus on his own company DYNO Designs while Eddie Fiola became arguably the most famous and popular BMX personality of the 1980s until his contract was not renewed in 1987.
In 1985 GT bought BMX accessories and apparel company Dyno. Bob Morales said “GT Bicycles made an offer to buy Dyno. I accepted their offer because Dyno was severely under-capitalized and in need of investment. I negotiated a contract with GT to design bicycle frames and components and to consult on a marketing strategy for them.” Morales developed a line of Dyno frames and bicycles for GT. Dyno also produced a line of clothing apparel and shoes under the Dyno brand. 1985 also saw GT produce their first Mountain bike for the emerging sport and market.
Robinson Racing was acquired by GT Bicycles in 1987 from founder Chuck Robinson due to financial troubles with the company. Chuck went to work for GT and did promotion for them as well as heading up the South America sales because he spoke Spanish as well as other languages. Robinson Racing was found in the late 1970s after Chuck worked for DG BMX and Webco Bikes Inc.
In 1989 GT Bicycles acquires Auburn Cycles another company that Bob Morales started along with Todd Huffman only one year earlier. Originally Auburn was going to be Honda Cycles but the Honda Motor corp. pulled out at the last minute declining to license the name. Bob and Todd continued with the project and Huffman came up with the Auburn name and Bob designed the original logo. When Auburn merged into GT Huffman was hired by GT to manage the brand in addition to his Marketing Director title. GT produced Auburn frames and bicycles until 1997.
Also in 1989 GT acquired Powerlite. Powerlite was founded in 1977 by Steve Rink in Orange County, California as a frame for Peddlepower bike shop called the Peddlepower SR. In early 1979 this would change and the decals would read Powerlite. The company name was resurrected as an independent in 2002 as Powerlite Bicycles USA which produces BMX racing bikes and accessories.
With lost public interest in the sport of BMX and declining sales, Long and Turner sold a controlling interest to Boston-based investment firm Bain Capital in 1993, which then took the company public in October 1995.
In 1996, GT won the commission to manufacture a highly aerodynamic bike design that would later become known as the “Superbike.” and later banned by Olympic regulations. A byproduct of a year-long development program with the U.S. national team known as Project ’96, the bike featured a carbon graphite frame with no top tube, extremely thin seat and downtubes, a seat tube with a deep cutout to accommodate the rear wheel, as well as differently sized aerodynamic wheels. Describing the bike, the U. S. Cycling Federation’s track endurance coach Craig Griffin said “it’s so thin and light, and it’s as strong as anything built. It’s so aerodynamic that when you look at it from the front, it disappears.”Controversially, just prior to the 96 Summer Olympics, Rebecca Twigg quit the team, citing her Superbike’s ill fit as one of the reasons for departing.
On October 11, 1996, GT announced that it had reached an agreement with Nike whereby Nike will be an official sponsor for all of GT’s bicycle racing teams in 1997. Under the new agreement, all GT team athletes will use Nike shoes and after-race apparel. This new sponsorship agreement represented an expansion of Nike’s current sponsorship as the official shoe of the GT mountain bike team by the then CEO Michael Haynes. GT Bicycles had the first and the only mountain bike and BMX teams that are sponsored by Nike. GT had a total of 57 athletes on various teams in 1997, including nine mountain bike racers, 32 BMX racers and 16 freestyle/GT Bicycle Air Show performers.
A week before GT’s debut at the 1996 Summer Olympic, GT co-founder Richard Long was killed on July 12 in a motorcycle accident on his Honda Valkyrie en route to a national championship series race for the National Off-Road Bicycle Association at Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino mountains.
At the time of Long’s death, GT maintained an office at the factory in Santa Ana as well as a factory in Huntington Beach — and manufactured 600,000 bicycles annually under the GT, Powerlite, Robinson and Dyno brands, distributed bikes, parts and accessories via its Riteway network and had annual revenues of $150 million.
Less than two years after Long’s death, in 1998, Bain Capital sold GT to another investment group, Questor Partners, which at the time also owned Schwinn, for $175 million. Five years to the day that Richard Long had died, Questor would file for bankruptcy on June 27, 2001, and was acquired by Pacific Cycle, which was in turn acquired by Canadian company Dorel Industries in 2004.