The Undeniable Shittiness of Early 90's Freestyle Bikes
by Brad Storch
I don't think this column will successfully determine exactly why BMX bikes of the 90's were so bad, but at least it will poke fun at them, and the companies responsible.
First off, let's start with the big companies. GT and Haro were just huge in the 80's. They sponsored every big name, and I know each of you rode at least one of their bikes once. Their 80's bikes weren't even that bad, but so many people used them that problems became obvious. The old "ring around the seat tube" crack on Haros, or the detachable fork dropouts. They came with weird parts, like fold-down fork stands and integrated frame platforms with shoe-eating studs, but that's a whole other column.
Anyway, as that period passed and there were suddenly less riders out there buying bikes, companies got desperate to attract customers. Any marketing student can tell you that when manufacturers of previously good products become desperate for more business, they turn to the page called "gimmicks". Well, GT and Haro especially took a big bite of that shit sandwich. Remember GT's first "street" bike, the Aggressor? This was a bashguard bike that had the most boring, unfunctional straight tube frame. Two Dyno dropouts welded together was the strongest part of this piece of crap, and the bash guard was about 1/2" short of the circumference of a normal sprocket, so good luck protecting anything with that. Anybody remember that ad with Gary Pollack doing a grind on some picnic table solely on his Pearl Izumi euro-white chain? How many of you tried that and broke your chain first try? Me, too. So, if a guard guards, make sure it actually guards something.
Haro disgraced the legendary Master when its 1989-90 bashguard version had pegs at the bottom of the fork, thinner than my pinky. Combine that with a nice thin wall, tapered fork leg and you have some shitty-ass forks. And still, they had trouble keeping the dropouts attached!
Thank goodness people wised up regarding bike construction, but I think today we're spoiled...in the rider-owned days of late, we take our STA's for granted. If you suck at riding, no way can you blame the bike for holding you back.
Imagine today's riding styles matched with Ron Wilkerson's Wilkerson Airlines bikes. Let's see, should I begin with the fork that let no brake reach the rim, and if you could deal with the three inches at the the top of your tire? How about the peg holes at the end of the overlength fork leg? What the hell was that for? Says Ron: "I don't know...balance...I don't know" (actual quote). The concept of a real rider making real bikes was great and he had a LOT of interest, but the product was just not up to par. Pedals hitting tires keep in mind these were normal cranks and low-ass 1.75 tires! And I also heard about people not able to turn the bars more that 90 degrees because their stem would collide with the top tube!
Jeez Ron, Before you go into production, put one together! And if you wanna advertise the thing, (this goes for all you other bike company owners), a can of krylon is three bucks. Was it so fresh off the jig you shot the photo of a raw frame and sent out the ad that day?
And the "other" guy in those days, RL Osborn...I guess his company's name (Bully) is still there, but I hope that products are not the same. It can't be, the bikes SUCKED ARSE. More tiny dropouts, (not even room for a 1990 axle peg?!), integrated seat clamps that held about as good as the the vise grips the ghetto kids use. They were so shitty, the mail order places would only take back the ones that were really REALLY bad. So we dropped a frame off the top of a quarter pipe repeatedly so it would appear even more defective than it was right out of the box.
It's cool to ridicule people you never met, and companies that are long gone, especially when it's still funny ten years later. I hope I didn't offend anybody in particular, I just hoped to get at least a few chuckles from those who were there. And thanks to all those who make gimmick-free, strong bikes you won't be ashamed to own in a year!
Uploaded February 2000