Any bike person knows of the 1979 movie “Breaking Away”, in which an American teenager becomes obsessed with cycling and its Italian heritage, adopting an Italian alter ego to spice up his humdrum midwestern existence in Bloomington, Indiana.
The bicycle that the movie’s hero drafts a tractor-trailer full of Cinzano wine astride: a Ferrari-red Masi Gran Criterium.
It’s particularly fitting because the Masi brand has roots in both Italy and Southern California. Faliero Masi was a former racer who set up his frame building shop near Florence. Masi Bicycles went on to produce frames for such great champions as Fausto Coppi, Louison Bobet, Federico Bahamontes, Tom Simpson and Eddy Merckx.
Through a partnership with some American businessmen looking to promote an Italian brand for the growing cycling scene in the U.S., Faliero Masi traveled to southern California to open up a production shop in Carlsbad, California in 1973. Among the fruits of the Carlsbad shop were the use of the first investment-cast lugs, and the apprenticeship of several framebuilders who would go on to produce bicycles under their own brand names. Among them were Mario Confente, Brian Baylis and Dave Moulton.
About the time that Masi was laying down roots in the U.S., another iconic brand for the uniquely American disciplines of BMX and Freestyle was setting up shop. Haro Bikes got its start in southern California in 1978, and built up a quick and passionate following throughout the 1980s.
In the 1990s, Haro, which had branched out to carry a line of mountain bikes and even a cyclocross frameset, acquired the rights to U.S. distribution of Masi Bicycles (several years earlier, Alberto Masi, Faliero’s son, had sold the Masi brand name to his American partners but continued to produce Italian-built frames under the Milano label).
Although both Haro and Masi, along with sister companies Del Sol and Shredder now sell Taiwanese-made bicycles, the dual traditions of Italy and the United States continue to shine through.
Rickey Strawn, Vice President of Sales for Haro Brands, told us that bicycles that represent the dual traditions of the Haro and Masi brands are among their best-sellers.
“Growth has been really positive and very consistent for both the Masi and Haro brands over the past several years,” he said. “BMX is coming back strong.”
A nod to Haro’s BMX heritage was a replica of the 1989 Master Bashguard, unveiled earlier this year at Interbike. It’s part of a series of heritage replicas that are produced in small batches of 150. The 1989 replica Master Bashguard will be available in Haro dealers beginning in April 2019.
As for Masi, Italian tradition carries on through models made of steel, aluminum and carbon. Strawn told us that the gravel and adventure touring models are particularly popular right now, but Masi makes bikes suitable for a whole range of disciplines, including road and track racing.
With a Hollywood ending to make Dave Stoller, the hero of Breaking Away proud, Masi has recently released an aluminum Gran Corsa SL model, with race geometry that’s an homage to the Gran Criterium ridden in the 1979 movie. “It has a stiff, lively ride quality and it feels like a carbon bike,” said Strawn.