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?