History in BMX is a difficult thing. We’re a fickle bunch and it’s hard to tell kids what’s up without sounding like an old salty dude. But, some things need to not only be revisited, but celebrated. Cue Dom Phipps and his latest project with Haro, First Generation Innovation, that recreates two of the most iconic freestyle frames in the early era of the sport…
Images supplied by Dean Bradley, Mike Dominguez, and Dom Phipps
What motivated this new project?
Haro has a history of innovation. Bob Haro designed and released the first BMX Freestyle frame 38-years ago and some of the greatest freestyle riders that ever picked up a bike—from Mike Dominguez and Ron Wilkerson, to Dave Mirra and Ryan Nyquist, and now in the present day, Dennis Enarson, and Chad Kerley, have represented this brand. The modern scene is 100% focused on progression, and that’s how it should be. Projects like these allow us to celebrate the people and the moments that made a difference to the culture and evolution of Freestyle from day one. BMX doesn’t do a great job of celebrating its history. But it’s good for culture to look back sometimes and credit the people that moved the needle along the way.
This project celebrates Haro’s role as a leader in a market that Bob Haro essentially created. 1984 was the first significant year of growth for BMX Freestyle as it cut the cord from BMX racing and connected with a new breed of rider. During those twelve months, Bob designed and launched two of the most iconic and innovative frame and fork models in the early history of the sport: The Haro Master, a bike that set standards for a decade. And the Haro Sport, the first dedicated vert bike and signature Freestyle model. Both evolved year-on-year and stayed ahead of the competition. Mat Hoffman, Ron Wilkerson, Brian Blyther, Lee Reynolds, and other top riders in the 1980s chose to ride the Haro Sport in contests and on tour.
What prompted the decision to have the frames produced in the U.S.?
It points back to the original story. Bob was a rider and a designer. He was sponsored by Torker, a BMX Racing brand with a frame building workshop in Fullerton, Orange County. That local connection enabled him to develop and launch these two new bikes and establish Haro as the first rider-owned freestyle bike brand.
Back in the day, Orange County and the south bay of Los Angeles were the epicenters of the BMX industry, and for reasons of authenticity, we want to stay connected to that part of the story. By the mid-1980s, when demand for bikes, frames, and accessories blew up, most of the BMX brands, including Haro, began working with factory’s in Taiwan. The Asian bicycle industry was specialized, versatile, highly motivated, less expensive, and geared-up for mass production. With the race-on between the leading brands to deliver a complete “out-of-the-box” Freestyle bike, 1984 marked the end of an era for many of the U.S. manufacturers.
How long did it take to get this project together, and what were some of the hurdles in doing so?
Back in 2012 we (Haro) launched a similar USA Made project that celebrated the Haro Freestyler—the first dedicated BMX Freestyle frame and fork, produced in 1982. That experience gave us the road map. We started planning in the summer of 2019 and recently launched the project alongside a new in-depth Haro BMX history website.
One of the biggest challenges in these projects is manufacturing. Due to the way the modern industry operates, with so much overseas sourcing, there aren’t many experienced BMX frame makers in the U.S. that can deliver production level volumes. The brands that manufacture here like S&M and Standard make top-quality products, but they have their own demand to meet. Our frame builder is John Severin, a first-generation BMX racer who has been building 70s and 80s era Chromoly BMX frames for over 30-years. With John’s expertise, we are confident that we will deliver an authentic product that does justice to the original, built here in southern California.
Are Bob Haro and Mike Dominguez involved at all, and what do you have planned?
Both Mike and Bob are contributing their recollections and archive photography to the project. We started filming an edit in January that blends manufacturing footage of these limited-edition frames, archive videos, and stories from the wider freestyle scene. A lot of factors combined to drive growth in 1984. Wizard Publications launched FREESTYLIN’ Magazine in June, and the sport had a dedicated media source that was produced by riders, for riders. In February, the AFA (American Freestyle Association) sanctioned a professional class at round 1 of The King of the Skate Parks series. Riders were able to make a living doing what they loved, and it was Mike Dominguez, riding for Haro, that signed the first pro-registration form at the Pipeline. The BMX Racing industry also sat up and took notice. Established brands like G.T., Redline, and Hutch, all entered the Freestyle market with dedicated bikes and hardware. So, having Mike and Bob involved is essential because they were both leaders in the early scene.
The advert with Ron Wilton, Rich Sigur Bob Haro, and Mike Dominguez is iconic and basically launched these two bikes.
The “Trick or Street” advert combined Bob’s vision for the identity of the sport, James Cassimus’s stellar photography, Haro’s 1984 Freestyle Team, and two of the most iconic Freestyle bikes in the history of the sport. I found a padded envelope full of transparencies and negatives in a safe at Haro. Most were b-roll from old catalog shoots, but then I found this gem, which perfectly represents this project. It’s an image that a lot of riders from the 1980s remember well. Every kid wanted the Haro Master, and Mike Dominguez was the most exciting skate park rider in the scene.
The Haro Sport prototype frame design changed from its single top tube design when it went into production. Why did you choose to make the prototype version?
The Haro Sport prototype represents day-one for the vert bike concept. This prototype had a straight top tube, while the final model went into production with a standing platform around the seat mast to make it more versatile. Mike rode the prototype in a contest at the Del Mar Skate Ranch in March of 1984. At Haro, we consider that frame to be the first dedicated vert frame concept. Bob tells me the design and geometry were motivated by the growth of the BMX pool-riding scene. Most of the SoCal skate parks closed in the late 1970s due to the rising costs of public liability insurance following some incidents where kids got injured, and lawyered-up. The skaters retreated into their backyards, building wooden ramps, and writing the next chapter of their story on half-pipes. For a short window of time, the BMXers flooded into the vacuum as the park owners tried to stay in business. Then in the summer of 1982, Bob Morales created his King of the Skate Parks contest series held at Skate City in Whittier, Del Mar Skate Ranch, and the Pipeline in Upland, three of the gnarliest and most diverse vertical skate parks ever constructed. Everything that has happened since owes a debt to the KOS series and riders like Dominguez, Fiola, Blyther, Hugo Gonzalez, and numerous others.
We settled on making the prototype version of the frame because it was the very first design concept for a vert bike. The front triangle was an inch longer than the Master, with a steeper head-angle that made it easier to X-UP, and more stable at speed. The first generation Haro Master, on the other hand, was an evolved version of the 1983 Haro Freestyler, so there wasn’t a prototype to speak of.
What’s included in each First Generation Innovation kit?
A USA Made 4130 Chromoly replica of the First Generation Haro Master or Mike Dominguez Prototype Haro Sport—serialized from 001 – 150. The frame and fork, and all items, are packaged in a numbered display box and signed by Bob Haro—the Master, and Mike Dominguez—the Sport. A replica vented contest jersey—Bob Haro Master, or Mike Dominguez Vans / Haro Sport. A set of “First Generation” Haro frame, handlebar, and stem pads. A printed softcover brochure with a back story of the frame and fork development and archive images.
Where can people get more info on the project?
The Haro BMX History website can be accessed at harobmxhistory.com with pages dedicated to the history of the company, the First Generation Innovation project, and also a diary blog that shares behind-the-scenes footage and insights from the process.
Are there plans for any similar type of release in the future?
Nothing committed to a plan yet, but certainly lots of ideas to continue celebrating Haro’s unique history in Freestyle…