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Release Date: 04.06.2018 | Location: All Metro Atlanta | Organization: Free-Flite Bicycles

Free-Flite Bicycles Celebrates 40 Years: Dreams Realized and Destinies Foretold

Celebrate 40 Years Of Free-Flite Bicycles In Marietta Sunday With Open House 7-10 p.m.

The story of Free-Flite Bicycles and the Thornton family’s 40 years in the family cycling business is one of dreams realized and destinies foretold.

From a first bicycle with training wheels attached under gleaming holiday lights muted only by the glow of a surprised child’s eyes, to the heart-pounding action of BMX dirt track racing and gravity-defying stunts.

To greater still a headlong rush of wind as spirit on a road bike ride or mountain trail adventure: Free-Flite Bicycles and the Thornton family has been there and back with its customers and extended cycling family for as many thousands of miles as memories made.

The flagship shop hosts this Sunday from 7-10 p.m. an open house and rider reunion celebration at its 2949 Canton Highway, Marietta, Georgia, 30066, location. Google Maps link:

The event is free and everyone’s welcome.

Door prizes, free pizza and snacks, and complimentary Terrapin Beer Co. for those age 21 and older with valid ID.

Former Tour de France multi-stage champion Jens Voigt will join guests to sign autographs on keepsake posters.

“If a bicycle retail hall of fame existed, Dan Thornton would be in it,” said Cane Creek Cycling Components president Brent Graves of his former boss. “Actually, he should be one of the first inductees. What always set Free-Flite Bicycles apart was the level of professionalism and commitment Dan instilled. From creating one of the most successful BMX teams in the country, promoting mountain bike races with world-class racers at the dawn of the sport, creating retail stores that exuded the enthusiasm for cycling, to being a non-stop advocate for cycling in the Atlanta area, Dan has no peers.”

“For all of that, and the support and friendship I have received, DAN IS THE MAN,” Graves added.

What began in 1977 as a small skateboard shop in Smyrna, Georgia, Free Flite Skateboards, became one of cycling legend not soon after when the late Jeff Thornton and his then-teenage son Dan packed up their pegboards for north Cobb County and a move to Marietta’s Canton Road corridor.

An obscure location at the time but positioned along a slower-traveled eponymous northern trajectory almost halfway between Marietta and its Canton counterpart, word on the street about this new bike shop with all the cool and newest toys traveled fast.

Then BMX mania hit the early 1980s on the heels of skateboarding’s retail California Gold Rush.

In a twist of fate after their initial move, the Thornton’s bicycle-focused business model would eventually put them on a path to paydirt while fulfilling a new generation of teenage boys’ archetypal dreams following a BMX stunt riding sequence in Steven Spielberg’s 1982 blockbuster hit movie ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial ’.

A thrilling downhill cliff jumping scene where lead character Elliott and his friends on their BMX bikes left pursuing government agents in the dust after absconding with their alien friend captured imaginations worldwide. 

But while the stunt sequence was only minutes long, it would jumpstart an era and lifestyle culminating in the 1986 cult movie classic ‘Rad’. 

Many of those uncredited E.T. stunt riders would instead go on to be superstars and legends in the Freestyle BMX sport themselves. Their riding styles evolved over time and in future generations' artisty to one day form the globally recognized X-Games. 

Even Free-Flite got in on the act back then: The Free-Flite Mountain Dew Freestyle Team toured the southeast United States promoting the shop and soft drink giant PepsiCo with stunt ramps, uniformed riders, and tightly choreographed performances. 

Today, Free-Flite Bicycles operates three full-service Trek Bicycle anchored shops––north Marietta at 2949 Canton Hwy; East Cobb at 4177 Roswell Road; and Sandy Springs at 6014 Sandy Springs Circle––with third-generation general manager Daniel Thornton leading the company’s day-to-day operations.

The quality of life Free-Flite has provided its customers over the years is matched only by its workforce and former and currently sponsored cycling teams.

Trey Smith, owner of Cycle Therapy in Rome, Georgia, recalls competing against Free-Flite’s mighty BMX racing squad in the early 1980s when he was sponsored by family-owned Bob’s Cycle Shop there which closed after an 80-year run when the Moore family retired. 

“I went from racing against them at Powder Springs’ Wild Horse Creek Park BMX track to working for Dan at Free-Flite while in college at Southern Polytechnic State University,” said Smith, whose grassroots trail-building efforts in Rome through the non-profit TRED (Trails for Recreation and Economic Development) of Northwest Georgia has opened up both mountain and paved trail systems there where many hadn't envisioned possible.

“Dan taught me hard skills but it was the soft skills that I learned from him that have stuck with me now that I have my own bike shop, how to give back to people, your community, and to use your passion for bikes for good,” Smith added.

“Dan is a mentor and someone that I am so honored to call my friend.”

“The Thorntons and Free-Flite Bicycles have been one of if not THE driving forces behind cycling’s success in all disciplines here and across the southeast, if not the nation,” said Margie Hatfield, who many refer to as the patron saint of Cobb County BMX for 38 years and whose son Shan has held some of the world’s most prestigious titles in his 30-plus year racing career.

Another champion BMX racer the cycling community won’t forget is John Kovachi, a Free-Flite employee in the early days who’d go on to become one of the most revered bicycle wheel builders the industry has ever known.

Kovachi died in 2011 at age 46 from complications from lupus. But his flash of brilliance, and the opportunity to showcase it first through Free-Flite, burns as intensely still today with the same strength his signature wheelsets were known for, Hatfield recalled.

“This sport has been really great to me,” Hatfield said. “And the Thorntons and Free-Flite have been really great to it.

“But now that I think about it, the Wild Horse Creek Park BMX track celebrates a 40-year birthday this year, too,” Hatfield recalled.

“Thankfully we all have a lot of candles to blow out together and hopefully many more to come.”

Free-Flite Bicycles in its 40 years in business has earned the highest awards, recognitions, and designations the cycling industry has to offer, including Trek’s coveted Elmer J. Sorensen Legends Award in 2010 for industry excellence that included a name plate in Dan Thornton’s honor and on public display in perpetuity in the main lobby of the global cycling manufacturer’s Waterloo headquarters.

The shop(s) has also continually been recognized as one of ‘America’s Best Bike Shops’ by The National Bicycle Dealers Association and for its contributions to advocacy and cash and in-kind donations to trail building efforts with the the International Off-Road Bicycling Association and its local Woodstock Southern Off-Road Bicycling Association (SORBA) among many others. 


 Free-Flite Bicycles has been in business since 1978, specializing in bicycle sales, parts, service, apparel, and accessories to accommodate all cycling styles, abilities, and disciplines. The company, now with three dealer locations in north Marietta, East Cobb, and Sandy Springs, is an authorized dealer for Trek Bicycle, Santa Cruz, and many other top cycling brands. Past and current organizational memberships and/or lifetime affiliations include: North Georgia Bicycle Dealers; National Bicycles Dealers Association; Bicycle Retailer And Industry News magazine’s ‘America’s Best Bike Shops’; Georgia Bikes; Bike Cobb; people for bikes; and Georgia Interscholastic Cycling League. Free-Flite Bicycles has proudly supported the National MS Society –– Georgia Chapter Bike MS® series; Tour de Cure; Six Gap Century ride, Georgia Rides to the Capitol; neutral technical support for the Bicycle Ride Across Georgia (BRAG); lead sponsor of the North Atlanta Racing Club since 1983; and three factory-backed regional mountain bike teams; along with continual support for many other various local rides, paved and off-road trail projects, races, and other cycling events across the southeast United States. 


Contact Info

Contact Name: Charlie 'Poncho' Wilson

Company: Wilson Media

Phone: 404-783-6362