Anyone who has ever stepped foot into a bike shop growing up can relate to that euphoria from seeing all the fresh bikes and new parts on display. And I know I’m not the only one who used to go through those giant Dan’s Comp catalog size ads in the back of RideBMX and circle all the parts to make that dream spec’d bike. Whether you were trying to match the ride of your favorite pro, slowly swapping out for aftermarket parts on your year-old complete, or you were one of those kids who always had to have the latest color components (even when your current parts were fine), we’ve all had some 4130 desires that were just out of reach. These are the things I reminisce when I see the old-school BMX collectors. Dudes who have since grown up, got jobs, and can now finally afford all those bikes they used to sweat. The old-school BMX collector scene is robust, with meetings, jams, swap meets, chat rooms, and so on… Personally, I’m a product of the very beginning of the mid-school era, so although I appreciate those old-school bikes, I still can’t quite relate—and I sure as hell don’t miss 1” headsets and 3/8” axles! To my limited knowledge, it seems like the zeal for collecting mid-school bikes pales in comparison to the old-school, but it’s maturing—literally. A stand-out mid-school collector is none other than Ohio based gritty grind guru, Ryan Howard. Much like his old-school predecessors, Howard has been stock-piling 4130 that as he put it, “represents my passion for riding and the time I got into riding… A connection to this era and all the memories I have of being a kid and only caring about riding.” Ryan’s collection is a walk down mid-school memory lane that I’m sure you’ll all enjoy… —Jeff Z.
Does your collection only consist of mid-school bikes?
Most of my bikes are mid school, but I have an OG Sunday and a Fit Series 3.5 that I’m slowly building. I would consider those more modern day bikes.
Is the collection bikes you actually rode, or clean versions of similar bikes you once rode?
I tend to hoard old bike stuff so some of the parts on these bikes I did ride back in the day, but they are mostly stuff I got for the sole purpose of these bikes.
How many bikes do you have?
There are 12 or 13 complete bikes in my basement. A few of them are bikes I was riding over the last few years built up, including a pegless bike, a bike with a freecoaster and brakes to play on, and a couple of my old set ups.
What is it about mid-school bikes that makes you want to collect them?
That’s the era I grew up in. I would flip through magazines and go to skateparks and see all these bikes that looked awesome. You could tell what a bike was from a distance. I never got to own a lot of the bikes I wanted back then, so I’m building them up now.
Do you have any interest in old-school bikes?
I think the 80s GT and Haro are really cool, but it’s not my era so I don’t really have a connection to the bikes. I’m really into the early 90s pre 1 1/8th” S&M’s. All the old graphics to those bikes were awesome.
There’s a pretty big scene for the old-school BMX bike collectors, what’s it like for mid-school?
There is a ton of dudes building and collecting mid-school bikes and parts. I think people have a connection to the bikes they grew up riding and when we get older we can afford to own the bikes we didn’t when we were younger. I haven’t seen the same outrageous prices on mid-school stuff like I’ve seen on older bikes, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.
What are some criteria for a bike to make it into your collection?
It’s been a combination of bikes I wanted when I was younger and what frames I found for a good deal. Parts I have laying around and stuff I pick up for cheap dictates builds, too.
How long have you been building this collection?
I got the Kink Fiend in 2012, so I’ve been piecing together bikes ever since. I’ve kinda slacked for the last year and just been collecting parts and haven’t built anything new in a bit.
Did you get any of these bikes as they are or piece them together?
A few of the bikes I got as competes for really cheap and switched parts to make them how I wanted. If I see a frame I want and it’s a complete bike I’ll buy it as an investment with the parts going to other stuff. The 97 DK SOB was a $100 Craigslist find. It was factory complete so I only added the Mirra seat and Pipe Bomb pegs and left the rest of it how it was.
Do you have bikes that you’re in the process of building?
Yeah, I have an DBI [Dirt Bros. Industries] Short Bus that’s been partially built for a while. I got the frame for free so it’s been a place holder for some of the parts until I decide to track down some industry stuff and finish it. I have a Fit Series 3.5 that I’ve been working on—I think it might have been Robbie’s [Morales] bike at one time. I want to mimic Aiken’s bike. I have a Haro Blammo that I’ve been collecting parts for four years. All of the mid-school Haro stuff is super expensive so I’ve been taking my time to find deals. The local bike shop had one when I was in middle school and it was the first bike I ever wanted so it holds a special place for me.
Is there any rhyme or reason to how each bike is kitted out?
I build the bikes the way I think they should have been built back in the day. If you saw a dude at the skatepark on T1 it most likely was built with all the best Primo stuff. The Fiend is set up similar to how Dave Young would have rode it. A certain style of bike should be built a certain way, in my opinion. The Fit Series 1 is modeled after Edwin’s bike—that was an iconic bike when the first Animal video came out. I set up the MacNeil with stuff Jay Miron would have rode, the XS cranks and Araya rims seemed like the perfect touch for the bike.
Are there any Holy Grail parts you’re still trying to find?
I wouldn’t call them Holy Grails, but I always wanted to use old Primo rims and I get never find sets for cheap. Those rims were everywhere when I was a teenager. I used to have a stack of trashed Hula Hoops and now I can’t find them. I’m always looking for old Animal stuff too. I have a stack of old sprockets and stems a few sets of packaged old OG pegs and some other random stuff. There were so many parts I had back in the day that I threw away. I wish I had all that stuff now.
Do you have a favorite bike?
The tan Barcode is probably my favorite because it was the last bike I built and the front brakes are fun. The bike feels really good to ride still.
What was the most money and/or greatest length you went through to get a part/bike?
The DK SOB had to be driven to me from New York so that was kinda annoying. I’ve been pretty good about not paying crazy prices for stuff. I grew up with these bikes and parts so I know what they cost back then and I have a hard time paying more than retail for stuff. I was looking for a Haro Hevron stem for a long time because I didn’t want to pay $150 for a stem that I used to see all the time as a kid. I just paid $80 for a NOS S&M Enduro stem—more than I wanted to pay, but I loved the stem.
Which of the bikes is the closest to the bike you actually ride?
The Fit Series 1 is probably closest to my bike just because it’s brakeless and has four pegs and a bunch of Animal stuff. My bike has an inch and a half shorter rear end and my bars are 2 inches taller so they aren’t that close, though.
Do you ever ride the collection bikes?
When I build up a new bike I’ll take it to the skatepark and ride it a little bit but all these bikes are super heavy and kinda suck to ride compared to modern bikes. I did manage to tailwhip the Fiend, which really felt like an accomplishment. The bikes with brakes are super fun too.
Tell us about the ’98 Next Gen S&M Holmes that you’re getting a custom modern bike build around…
Spooky Dave is building me a frame right now that’s modeled after a S&M Next Generation Holmes with modern thinner tubing and the [modern] geo that I ride. I designed and printed us/them rip-off stickers of the Holmes frame sticker set. Matt Smith from The Yea made me a custom pad set that I’m going to screen print the shield rip-off logo onto. I’m building a whole new bike that will look like a 2020 street version of the old iconic 90s Holmes trails bikes with all chrome stuff and tan walled tires and the pad set.
What do these bikes represent for you?
I guess they represent my passion for riding and the time I got into riding. I’m not someone who says riding sucks now and was better back then. Bikes are 100% better now and riding is better than it’s ever been, but I’ll always have a connection to this era and all the memories I have of being a kid and only caring about riding.