Pick It Apart // What School Are You? A Conversation On The Era’s Of BMX.

Mat Hoffman

So I wanted to open a conversation about the titles we give each generation of BMX. I know it really doesn’t matter in the long run but I am a BMX nerd and I like to go over and analyze everything.

This is how I break down each generation and the reasoning behind it. I’m not going to crazy on my descriptions because I’m hoping to get some good dialogue in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it and if you agree or disagree.

Tinker Juarez

First Gen / Gold School: 197? to 1984
I feel this is fairly self explanatory. Whatever year you want to say BMX started to about the first pro class at the King Of The Skatepark contest series.

Josh White // BMX Plus

Old School: 1984 to 1994/95
These are the years that I feel like have influenced the most through BMX’s young life. Contest series, companies, and pros all rise and fall. BMX had an extreme high during these years and then the big crash. The era ends when the 1 1/8″ headset comes out and bikes and the way people ride starts making a drastic change.

Stuart King // Photo: Brad McDonald

Mid School: 94/95 to 2005
New super stars rise and BMX hits a new high point! Money is pouring in and there is no shortage of over built bikes. Everyone looks forward to the new Ride BMX mag or Props Video Magazine.

The internal headset marks a change around 2005 and we start seeing a new shift in riding and bike setups.


Mike Aitken

Vid School – 05/To the end of Ride BMX magazine.

THis was the most recent era. From message boards to youtube & Vlogs.Things are changing fast! How would you describe the era we are in right now? Who are the influential pro’s?

Leave a breakdown on how you see the era’s in BMX in the comments!

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22 Responses to Pick It Apart // What School Are You? A Conversation On The Era’s Of BMX.

  1. Brett Downs says:

    I asked my mom when I first put a board on a cinderblock. She said 1972.
    I was just at Woodward yesterday riding what they have to offer.
    I’ll be riding flatland later today.

    It’s all one continuous session to me.

    If you must define these eras, you need to specify the criteria. The bike era doesn’t completely mesh with the media era which doesn’t mesh with the progression era which doesn’t mesh with the competition era. I think enough time has past that we just need to go by decades of bmx.

  2. Wade says:

    Everybody thus far has had some good points – even Isaac.
    It depends on what you want to stress as important – that is, what your criteria of valuation is. You could go by bike technology. You could go by riders / styles. You could go by media. And more, and combos of these.
    I could write you 100 pages on this (ask Shad, I think he has a 388 page dissertation that I wrote on BMX.
    When I worked for Scura at SST, he told me that he considered himself, Woody and Martin as second generation (following Haro and RL). And that doesn’t even consider pool riding in 1974 / 75.
    1984 is a big year for the industry. So that could be a turning point. And 1988 was a peak. 1989 was street and bashguards. 1992 was the end of GO, and the start of Ride US, Ride UK, Standard and Hoffman (late 1991, debuted at the first BS contest.
    1989 – 1995 could be considered Dead School from a certain perspective, but so much important stuff happened.
    1995 is the first Extreme Games in Rhode Island, and the end of the first style of BS contests (Daytona Beach – We Are 138).
    1996 – 2002 was TV, corporate sponsors, agents, training, and VHS over print mags (but also a glut of print mags).
    2002 – 2008 was peak street, brakeless, Ride US mag, Props. Levis. Spinner.
    Etc.

    So this doesn’t get to 100 pages – the point is, again, it depends what you want to emphasize. The media scholar in me wants to say – Pre-Mediated, Print Magazines (brief aside – ET, Rad, BMX Bandits), VHS, Video Magazines, Early Internet , Web 2.0.

  3. Isaac Mccrea says:

    Honestly, fuck your era bullshit. If you ride because it’s what you love and it’s the only place to get that unique feeling, then nothing else matters. BMX has always been great and will continue to be great, no matter the timeline. BMX doesn’t change, society does. BMX is what you make it. – Isaac

  4. Richard says:

    I like the way you have broken it down. I started in 1990, went thru the end of 1″ headsets and bmx being “dead” but we watched Aggroman, Head First and Ride On so it wasn’t dead to us. Thanks for that Mat and Eddie! The rider owned companies arrived, by ’96 I was riding an HB Big Daddy and then in ’98 I got my first STA. Those were golden years, so I guess if I had to label myself I’d be a mid school rider. Still riding today, and I think all eras of BMX have been good, albeit markedly different. Ride on!

  5. Tony Piff says:

    In my mind, Midschool starts with a slow burn in 1990. The novelty of rider-owned companies is what defines this era for me.

    The Midschool era ended for me by 1999 with the launch of Volume, Metal, Federal, and T1 — all brands started by riders who had full careers riding for S&M, Standard, Homeless and Hoffman. I see this second wave marking the establishment of rider-owned companies as the industry norm. Those are all MidSchool companies, but their arrival marks the end of the Midschool era.

    • Shad says:

      I feel like those companies you mentioned, the Standard,Homeless,S&M and so forth still land in old school because when they started those bikes were way more similar in the way they worked ten lets say a Haro Blammo or a T1 on the way the worked and were designed. I do see how you can break down an era like that. Sometimes i feel like we try and stretch the eras to long or shorten them up. In each era i think there will be drastic differences in the beginning to end but still enough similarities as to where they can be included in one era.

  6. Darren Hough says:

    There’s no one right way to divide these, but this is how I think of it (at least as how I make this up right now off the top of my head) I’ll stick to the freestyle side for this one. I’ll use generation numbers since “old”, “mid” and “new” keep shifting as time goes on.

    I think of first gen as being up until 1988.
    GT/Haro/Skyway/Hutch/CW/Kuwahara/AFA/Wizard/quarterpipes and flatland….The end was marked by the last real AFA comps (with ramps), Wilkerson’s crash, the closing of the So Cal concrete parks, the first street comp, the collapse of the industry, and almost all of the companies either going out of business.

    Second gen was from 1989 until late 1991/early 92. Industry dead years. GT/Haro/Dirt Bros/S&M/WAL/King Of Vert/Meet the Street/GO/2B…..Very little outside interest in the sport, very little money, independent videos/zines/contests, no real national contest series. Ended when GO folded and Hoffman, Standard, Ride BMX magazine, and the Bicycle Stunt series started.

    Third gen started around 1992 and went until 1996. GT/Hoffman/Standard/Homeless/S&M/Play/burly heavy bikes/Bicycle Stunts Series/Ride BMX magazine/Props. Ended when ESPN got involved and the Bicycle Stunts comps were rolled into that.

    Fourth gen was from 1996-1999. ESPN makes some riders wealthy. Big companies like Schwinn/Trek/etc. try to get back into the industry. Bikes are still tanks. Lots of media, videos, magazines, sponsors, video games, etc.

    Fifth gen 2000-c.2005. Started with a move away from “freestyle” four pegs 2 brakes kind of riding, much lighter bikes, and an emphasis on Aitken style trail riding instead. Ended when the integrated headset and mid BB became standard equipment on high end frames and nobody under 25 had brakes on their bikes.

    I’m not sure after that. Everything since 2005 seems kinda similar to me, but I’m not really paying close attention either….

    • Shad says:

      I do like this break down but i feel like these are such short time spans. To me an era is usually around a a decade or so. Enough time for a generation. Enough time for that new blood to have a hard time recognizing or relating to the era before them. I do like the term dead years but i just think it was oldschool dying and the midschool was about to start.

  7. TEAM SANO says:

    I’d say anything pre- E.T. (1982ish)would be vintage bmx, with old school lasting up to around 89 as previously mentioned. Mid school starts the 90s with a bang lasting to the start of the online era 2005ish.

    • Shad says:

      ET Would be another good measuring stick for the change from vintage bmx/first gen. These all kinda blend together and that is only about a year or 6 months off from that contest i mentioned.

  8. Zach Newman says:

    I would say the vid school may have ended before ride. I’m of the school that can sit on a clip for a year as part of a project before using it.

  9. Gary Sansom says:

    Hmm, I am a school drop out…I enjoy all the eras of bikes…
    I feel personally, that the headsets and brakes kinda are markers..
    threaded headsets to me are old school..I know that spans over 20 years..
    threadless is midschool to me..and internal new school..
    call em waht you want, I enjoy riding all of them, even my new OM Duro, with 10 speed and disc brakes..
    And hwatever school you like, Shad can help!!

  10. Jeremy Wilder says:

    87 was when the explosion really happened. The parts were all so bad! At a time when riding was progressing at a fast rate. The parts weren’t up to the task, which I think was part of why the crash happened. By 91,when companies like Haro and Diamond Back were making bash guard bikes that were junk, riding was so expensive. I think there is a sub era going on right now… The old schooler getting back into riding, in their forties!

  11. Casey Smith says:

    I have a question. Which era (or school) had the most riders? I’m not talking about pro riders specifically, just people who ride Bmx. I remember the first time I went to SCRAP Skatepark, it was around 1998 and it was a weeknight, perhaps a Tuesday. Before going to SCRAP, I had ridden a few skateparks; The PIT, The Pipe, etc; but none of which prepared me for what I was about to stumble upon.

    Upon arrival at SCRAP, you walk past some giant plexiglass windows, and that’s where I saw it, a huge Skatepark, jam-packed with riders. I would estimate there being 50 or so riders there…on a random Tuesday. After experiencing that, I had to ride Bmx, it wasn’t an option.

    Nowadays, well, we all know the situation. Skatepark’s are, for the most part, empty.

    What’s odd to me though, is how social media makes it appear as if there are an incredible amount of Bmx riders in the world. So, I ask again, which school has the most riders in your opinion?

    Anyone can feel free to answer, and I’m sorry to sidetrack the conversation.

    • Shad says:

      I think around 87′ or around 2001. There are so many more parks now though that it has thinned people out and i think it makes things feel smaller.

  12. I know this is splitting hairs because it’s only a few years. But there were BIG changes between 89 and 91. I remember actually feeling like things were different. Spike, Lew and Andy were gone. Those guys were the directors of the style of Freestyle in the mid / late 80s.

    Shit, we cut all our vert ramps down into mini ramps. Even the Enchanted ramp got cut to a mini. If that’s not the end of an era, I don’t know what is.

  13. I think era changes are marked by a paradigm shift.

    I really REALLY have to disagree with you on the end of Old School.

    Old school ended in 91/92 or basically with Ron off Haro / Go closing up shop.
    This is when Ride, Standard and Hoffman all started. Vert was basically dead and street was really starting to take over. It was a paradigm shift

    I think the beginning of Standard and Rampage contests was a lot closer to McNeil and Metro Jam in an era sense, than AFA quarter pipe contests with leathers was to the first Hoffman comps.

    • Shad says:

      I think you could make a strong case for those years but i dont really think we saw much of a change in BMX and the bike until the rise of Mirra and the 1 1/8″ headset. I think the Rampage contests were ahead of their time but still were more recognizable to what had happened a few years before than a Metro jam. Like i said earlier all of these era’s can be broken down into sub era’s.

  14. Kurt Hohberger says:

    I’d say I probably fall in the mid to tail end of the Mid School. I started riding around ’99 and was very influenced by the early website / video era with scenes like San Diego BMX and Midwest BMX. Both of those were a motivator for me to learn how to code a website, film and edit a video, shoot photos, etc. Plus I’ll take a clip of a fufanu, cranked turndown or style over grind combos all day.

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