by Andy Holloway
With a long history in the BMX scene, it came as no surprise that Haro created a BMX-style inspired dirt jumper for the big wheel market. But most noteworthy is the price tag - for around $1,300 you get a complete bike that doesn't really require upgrading for more progressive riders. Gone are the days when an entry level bike was just a jumping-off point on the way to a custom setup. Haro writes on their website, "The Steel Reserve 1.3 is a custom built bike without the custom built price tag…" and while that might sound like carefully worded marketing copy, I can honestly say that's the impression this bike gave after a couple months of shredding it.
Right out of the box it is apparent that this bike is built solid and ready for some abuse. Best of all, the components are a great mix of affordable yet reasonably durable. You can be hitting the jumps and parks a few minutes after un-boxing your new ride, without worrying about replacing parts straight from the get-go.
Haro Steel Reserve 1.3 Highlights
- Frame: 4130 full CrMo with double butted DT; integrated HT and interchangeable dropouts
- Fork: X Fusion Velvet R fork; 80mm travel with 15mm "Tool-less" thru axle
- Cranks: 4130 3-piece tubular CrMo with Haro alloy 25 tooth sprocket
- Tires: Kenda K-Rad 2.3-inch width
- Brakes: Tektro Draco hydraulic with 6" wave rotor (rear only)
- Handle Bar: Gravity Gap OS Riser Bar, 25mm Rise, 31.8mm Clamp Size
- Stem: Gravity Gap Oversize Stem, 45mm Extension
On The Jumps & In The Skatepark
From the first ride, the most notable feature of the frame is the short chain stays, measuring in at 15.4-inches. Between this and a light front end, manuals to bunny hops feel very natural and do not require much effort. Additionally, the short rear end feels great in narrower transitions such as in skate parks, where smaller wheelbases usually have the upper hand. The downside to this aspect is that it does feel a bit loose and twitchy at higher speeds. While manageable on larger slope style features, it requires a bit more attention than a more traditional MTB style dirt jumper.
After numerous cases, over shoots and straight hucks, the X Fusion Velvet R 80mm fork shines through as probably the best reason to get the Steel Reserve 1.3 over the 1.2 or 1.1. At 80mm, 3.75-pounds and with a whole lot of air in the chamber, it works perfectly for dirt jump and skate park applications. Stiff enough not to suck power away from pumping off lips but responsive enough to take the edge off an overshoot or case. While the crown is machined down more than I'm personally used to seeing, it always felt stiff and confidence inspiring. The fork does make the front end noticeably lighter than the rear which took some getting used to early on. I wouldn't say the bike isn't balanced right, it's just different than what I and a few others were accustomed to from other companies. After a short session getting used to the geometry the balance feels great.
With a mellow rise and sweep on the Gravity Gap Bar/Stem combination, the cockpit feels very much like other BMX-inspired bikes out there. The bar/stem combo offers a nice middle ground, just enough rise to provide a good amount of leverage but not so much that the front end feels too tall. The 27.95-inch width was a bit narrow for my preference on higher speed dirt jumps but it certainly made the bike agile, with lots of clearance for barspins and unturns. The Tektro Draco brakes did their job and were surprisingly durable after tossing the bike multiple times, bars spinning wildly until there was no more brake line to wrap.
Things That Could Be Improved
While the complete bike is a bit on the heavy side overall, you can't complain for the price. As a hardcore single speed rider for dirt jumping, the 'Six Shooter' interchangeable drop out wasn't much of a highlight for me. Versatility is awesome but if I need gears, say for Four Cross, Slalom, or higher speeds, I'd also opt for a frame with a more traditional MTB feel with longer chainstays and wheelbase. That being said, the Steel Reserve really is at home in the skate park and at the dirt jumps. Higher speed slope style is certainly do-able too, although it gets a little twitchy. In the end, it boils down to personal preference and riding style, and whether you're comfortable with a smaller-feeling bike.
Long Term Durability
After a couple of months of abuse, the components are holding up better than expected. I was expecting to break a few parts along the way but it never came to that. The generic no name front hub did develop some play, but it wasn't enough to warrant a replacement. While the bike does feel like a custom-built rig, you should keep in mind that many of the components are mid- to entry-level and probably won't have the life span you'd expect from more expensive setups. But more importantly, the frame feels great and leaves little to be desired, so upgrading the stock components to your personal preference along the way can certainly make this bike a long term shred solution.
What's The Bottom Line?
When all is said and done, this bike really does have that custom feel to it, but at an entry level price. I'll admit, I was skeptical of riding hard on big name company complete builds, but this bike handled it no problem. For those looking for a great entry level priced bike that won't hold you back as you progress as a rider, this may very well be your bike. That being said, while it looks and feels custom, the components are still mid- to entry-level so you'll probably need to upgrade along the way, especially if you are a more aggressive rider looking to ride the bike long term. Personally, I did every jump, trick and huck that I would do on my usual hard tail without hesitation. Overall, a great bike at an affordable price that won't hold you back down the road.
For more details, visit www.harobikes.com.
Bonus Gallery: 15 photos of the 2014 Haro Steel Reserve 1.3
About The Reviewer
Andy Holloway has been riding bikes ever since seeing New World Disorder 3 back in 2003. Inspired, he immediately began sculpting dirt jumps and pump tracks that have a unique and technical style while keeping it flowy. After competing in a handful of professional level slopestyle events and a blown up knee in 2007, he decided to switch gears and focus on having fun while being the behind-the-scenes guy sculpting dirt and covering the Colorado scene over at 970Biking.com. Dirt sculpting highlights include the construction of Boulder's Valmont Bike Park, Rhyolite Bike Park and a host of private pump tracks. Recently, he has discovered the adventure and sense of accomplishment from trail riding and is one of those riders who will choose the jump-transfer over the faster line - after all, it's all about keeping it fun.