MONROVIA, Calif. (BRAIN) — Charles "Chuck" Stephens, the founder of BMX brand ACS, died Friday at his home. He was 83 and died with his wife of 57 years, Amy, at his side, along with his children Charles, Daidre and Keith.
Stephens formed American Cycle Systems in 1971. During his 35 years with the company, it grew from a domestic manufacturer to an international supplier with manufacturing in several Southeast Asian countries. Stephens enjoyed travel and made close friends around the world.
ACS got its start making aluminum hubs for "lightweight" 10-speed bikes. They were later used on BMX bikes. As BMX grew, ACS got increasingly involved, offering alloy hubs and stems and plastic X-Mag wheels and X-rims. At its peak, the ACS factory in Covina, Calif., employed about 300.
According to Keith Stephens, who joined the company in 1993, Chuck Stephens began traveling to Japan in the 1970s to set up manufacturing. He had the Free Coaster Conversion kit and RL Edge tires made in Japan. Later, he was among the first to go to Taiwan for manufacturing, and he had the Rotor cable detangler and BOA brake made there.
In the 1980s, ACS moved hub manufacturing to Taiwan and supplied the many Taiwanese bike assemblers. In the 1990s he began some production in India.
Stephens was born in Kansas City, Mo. He attended the University of Kansas on an NROTC scholarship. After graduating with a degree in engineering he entered the U.S. Navy, where he first served as engineering officer of a destroyer and later as a member of an Underwater Demolition Team (now know as the Navy SEALs).
Stephens then entered the California Institute of Technology, where he completed his master of science in mechanical engineering. He subsequently joined a small Pasadena high-tech startup, Electro Optical Systems, which was later acquired by Xerox. He served in several technical and management roles for the company, including a two-year move to Washington, D.C., as its federal marketing coordinator.
Stephens' at-home time was often spent at the piano, where he kept up an interest in both jazz and classical music. He performed at parties and charity events.
The family has not yet set details for a memorial service.