Suddenly It’s 1986!

I’ve been putting bikes together since I Vise-Gripped brother Bark’s Huffy Stu Thomsen into adjustment thirty-two years ago. So it’s somewhat embarrassing to admit that it took me the best part of an hour to assemble my 1986 Haro Lineage Master Cruiser using a variety of primarily automotive tools. I don’t know what happened to all of my bike stuff in the past ten years. The good news is that I was able to find the two really expensive but almost necessary items that made adjusting the rear U-brake less of a chore — my cable cutter and third-hand tool that I bought from Park Tools during the (only) Clinton Administration.

The Master Cruiser (as opposed to the Master Compressor, which is a Jaeger LeCoulture watch costing between five and hundred times as much as this bike) is a deliberate historical fabrication. The first skatepark-oriented 24-inch Haro was the Nyquist X24 Backtrail. I bought one in 2001 and rode it almost every day for about a year. I remember it very well because while I was riding it at the skatepark in Lancaster, Ohio after work one afternoon I hung up the back wheel on the coping of a seven-foot quarterpipe. I lost both feet and tumbled to the asphalt, ringing my bell hard enough to taste colors and putting a sprain in my left ankle that never really went away.


Unlike that Nyquist, which was a stout and surprisingly usable beast, this Master is strictly a showpiece for old men to relive their glory days in low-speed neighborhood cruising. If I swapped out the Skyway Tuffs for proper wheels it might work better at a park, but that would ruin some of the fun. The purpose of this bike is to amuse and thrill all the old men who really, really wanted a 1986 Haro Master but couldn’t come up with the money. I was certainly one of those kids. I can close my eyes and remember sitting in the back row in many a high school class, reading and re-reading the Haro advertisements.

THE PORSCHE OF FREESTYLE BIKES! That’s what FREESTYLIN’ magazine said about the 1986 Haro Master, presumably after some close consultation between Bob Haro and Bob Osborn, whose Porsche 911 Turbo had been paid for with Haro ads. There was nothing like a “Chinese Wall” between the magazines and the manufacturers back then in the cycling press. It drove me nuts when I was in my teens. I spent a solid decade of my life campaigning for ethics in bike journalism in an utterly quixotic quest that went absolutely nowhere.

I guess all you can say in defense of the magazines was that the stakes were pretty low. There were no Jonny Liebermans out there taking a half-million dollars’ worth of travel and perks every year. And the close-coupled integration between the bike makers and the BMX mags meant that there was always fun new stuff and a bunch of great new advertisements to read. The kids all knew that the bikes were fundamentally flawed back then anyway. You bought a new bike and then you set about swapping, upgrading, and fiddling the parts so they lasted more than an afternoon. The ads were for dreaming, that’s all.

As a kid, I always figured I’d be a Sport rider rather than a Master rider. Not that I had much exposure to either. The lower-lower-middle-class neighborhood of Riverside Green didn’t have any Masters or Sports. There was one kid with an FST, which was the entry-level version of the Sport. That was it. But sure enough, when I finally got around to buying a Haro freestyle bike, it was a Sport, albeit the black bashguard 1990 model.

Amazing just how much style that bike lost in four years, isn’t it? I loved my Sport, ugly as it was. It served as my primary transportation to class during my sophomore year at Miami. I have some really goofy photos of me doing freestyle tricks on campus wearing Zubaz pants. I’m going to keep them to myself.

If you’re following me on Instagram you know that the Master didn’t arrive at the house without some company. So watch this space, all of you forty-year-old former riders. If any of you are out there. Hello?

20 Replies to “Suddenly It’s 1986!”

  1. nici

    Those pedals bring back fond memories of bloody calfs and shins, and the looks you got from people while going to the shop after a ride all caked in mud and with bloody legs. Good times, and rad bikes. My first two real bikes were second-hand BMX bikes, the second one in a very fancy beige.

    Just got my Orange 222 DH-bike in 2001. Sold it to a guy from Sweden after my little accident a year later; last I heard he sold it to Norway about 10 years ago.

    My other bike was closer to a BMX, a dirt jumper with a Planet-X Bommer frame with constantly changing parts, in it’s last iteration it had 8-speed XTR derailleur gears, hydraulic Magura rim-brake on the rear, no front brake. Tubular cro-mo cranks. Sold that too, but bought back the frame a few years later and hung it on my wall.

  2. DirtRoads

    Too old for the BMX thing, I only saw it in On Any Sunday’s opening scenes… But I had a Honda 90 back in 1970 and that was all I needed to stay addicted to motorbikes for the next 45 years.

    Yeah I see where your love for lime green stems from.

  3. Joe

    If I could go back in time, I would retrieve my stolen schwin Orange Krate, complete with slick and stick shifter, they make reproductions, but not the same, I think was 1974.

  4. E. Bryant

    I picked up a S&M ATF 24″ last year, partially to give me something to ride alongside my 6-year-old, partially in an attempt to relive past glory. It quickly became clear how much bike handling skill had been lost to a couple decades of riding 26″ mountain bikes with clipless pedals, but it’s still fun being one of the few 41-year-olds with shims that look as if I’m the recent victim of an oddly-localized predator attack.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Props on the cruiser… My old bike shop, Squidco, sold one of the first cruisers Chris ever built. Maybe THE first production model. To this crazy dude who looked like an axe murderer and could ride like Pete Loncarevich… he sent me a photo after he put the bike together, I’ll have to find it.

  5. CJinSD

    I have quite a bit of riding experience, but I’ve never known the reason for the horn-high seat mounting configuration. What’s the reasoning?

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      In BMX, it’s so when you slip a pedal you won’t catch on the seat. When I was a kid racing, I would also tuck my chest against the angled seat in midair. For road and MTB, I don’t angle the seat.

  6. GMAN

    Back in the 80’s…
    I WANTED a PK Ripper (or Hutch)…but could afford a Huffy Pro Lightning (not as bad as you would think).

    Last year…
    I was buying my kids their first BMX (a HARO and SE Racing), and I said what the hell, and bought myself a HARO Downtown (red, gumwalls, badass).

  7. Jonathan H.

    My first real bike was a ’84 Diamond Back Formula 1. I was eleven. The local bike shop owner was friends with my dad so he let me make payments on it. Took me close to two years of slaving away for pennies on my grandfather’s dairy farm to pay for it. I can’t imagine the amount of miles I put on that thing. We lived in the country here in Kentucky so it mostly saw cow pasture duty and homemade dirt ramps.

    I came across this ad the other day. http://louisville.craigslist.org/bik/5921106660.html

    There’s no way I can justify this kind of money on a nostalgic purchase. Especially after just dropping nearly four grand on a new mountain bike. Maybe if I sold my road bike and old hardtail…

  8. Felis Concolor

    By the time those Haro models made their debut, I was enjoying the heretical Cannondale 26/24 aluminum mountain bike, swapping rides and comparing notes with a fellow rider and Ritchey owner as we descended the now forbidden Skyline trail from the summit of Haleakala. The 2 bicycles were an eye opening study in contrasting styles.

    The Cannondale’s smaller rear wheel caught every imperfection along the trail, making for a very rock ‘n roll style of letting the back end oversteer at will and simply keeping the front wheel pointed wherever you wanted to go. Even with the frame’s sensitivity, the damping factor of the aluminum meant you were feeling every bit of grit, pebble and rock encountered, but through thickly padded gloves.

    The Ritchey was much more sedate; if you felt yourself going wide, simply crank the front wheel over a little bit more and the rear wheel would follow. There was very little drama over the rough stuff; just let the wheels track and keep your eyes on the target. While the frame’s geometry was significantly smoother to ride than the Cannondale, it was also much more transmissive of shocks and vibration.

    Once we reached the lower trail sections, the ride became much less dramatic albeit significantly faster. The paved switchbacks were terrifying; I don’t know how much grade is needed to reach 40+ within several hundred feet, but it was enough to nearly destroy our new brake pads as we traversed that brief section. The rest of the ride was an uneventful journey along the Haleakala Hwy until we reached home.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I had a Cannondale SR500 in 1987. Rode it thousands of miles. Got an M800 “Beast Of The East” a few years later. The seat stays on my bike were really flexy, which made the cantilevers in back less than reliable. I always thought the 26/24 thing was interesting. In Ohio there’s a lot of short climbs and I bet it would have shone.

  9. ninjacoco

    You HAVE to bring back the Zubaz pants the next time you do a crapcan weekend. Instant domination.

  10. rpn453

    I once had a bike with blue tires and Skyway mags. I had grown out of my 16″ wheel Sears Constrictor BMX and wanted the red 20″ wheel Free Spirit freestyle BMX out of the Sears catalogue. My father, however, had cheaper plans. He brought home a used chrome Leader with a coaster brake, blue tires, and yellow Skyway mags. The tires were an older design that had large, widely-spaced blocks in an alternating 1-2-1-2 pattern when looking at the center. A Google image search suggests that they were probably the Tioga Comp 2, or an imitation. I didn’t like those tires. The yellow ones on my friend’s bike felt bumpy on pavement compared to my Tioga Comp 3 copies. I also disliked the coaster brake and the dated styling. It wasn’t cool to me. I don’t think I even tried it. My mother got me the Sears bike instead and I was happy. The relationship between my parents had little to lose, as did the relationship between myself and my father.

    A few years later, I started high school and needed transportation. I didn’t want to leave my Robinson in the bike rack so I dug out the Leader. I can’t recall what happened to the Free Spirit, but it was kind of junky so I never missed it. I couldn’t have ridden that Leader to school more than a couple times before, one morning, on the way to school, I put my weight back far enough while hopping a curb that I activated the coaster brake and went flying over the bars. I left the bike behind in a rage and walked to school for a few weeks until my birthday came along and I picked out a blue Giant Rincon rigid mountain bike at the year-end clearance sale; the frame, fork, and headset of which still forms the basis of my current city bike.

    The green and chrome reminds me of the Kuwahara Laserlite.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I raced for a year on Comp 2 tires. Got a set really cheap from a bike shop that was closing out. You’re right — they weren’t great.

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