(On the pic with Don ‘T’ Flores, Prez of Outlaw Bicycle Club)
Ok… What can I say to introduce a pioneer that has influenced the most used platform in the modern kustom bike scene, the California stretch cruiser. He recently received The OBC/John Brain Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to kustom bicycle scene. Though, he might have been away from the scene for over a decade, his legacy has continued on due to the volume of work he left in the 90s through his then Huntington Beach Cruiser company that he started on Main St., Huntington Beach.
I caught up with Mr. HB Cruiser on a phone interview and had a quick chat.
Make: Any other names you go by maybe Mr. HB Cruiser?
Robert: No, just Robert.
Make: Where do you live?
Robert: Huntington Beach ,California. I was born in Compton. Brought up in Norwalk in the 60s-70s, just close by to where Roth and Barris had their famous kustom chop shops. Later, in the 90s I moved to Huntington Beach.
Make: What? You grew up near Ed Roth and George Barris kustom shops?
Robert: Yeah , we use to ride around to their shops on our bikes and check out their new rides.
Make: Wow! Cool! How did you get started into kustomizing bikes?
Robert: My dad taught me how to weld in the 5th grade. Shortly after, he bought us some new Stingrays that we cut up to make kustoms. He was really pissed off about that… Haha…
Make: How did you get started into stretching cruisers?
Robert: I started like everyone else, finding old beach cruiser frames and cutting them up and stretching them. I later couldn’t find enough frames , so I started building my own stretches and started HB cruisers.
Make: So, your style is influenced by the California beach culture?
Robert: Not really…In High School I hung out with the Lowrider guys, not the surf guys. The lowrider and the surf guys use to compete how slow they could go in the parking lot, no racing for me, just slow and low.
Make: What were you doing/job before you retired recently?
Robert: I was a pipe fitter, my dad was a pipe fitter, I’ve done it since I graduated high school til I retired recently.
Make: I know you just recently retired, is it true that you are sipping martinis with ice at 10am most mornings and beer by lunch time?
Robert: Haha… Well… Errrrr…(Papa E walks in 10 minutes into our phone conversation) Hey Papa E! Whats that? A 6-pack… Errr… Well , maybe just today! Haha...
Make: So… To be honest, I’ve just recently heard about you, maybe since last years OBC. I mean, I’ve heard of your bikes through history and some of the badass works you been putting out recently, but have you just recently got back into building bikes since the HB cruiser days?
Robert: Yeah, I’ve been away doing other things, I like hot rods , been working on a 1931 Ford. I actually stumbled into the 2014 OBC event in Vegas while I was there for other business. Also, Papa E and Wes Coastin really got me back into it by asking me to build them some bikes.
Make: So… The rest will be history… Glad to have you back in the game! I recently saw a badass square tube frame you did. In my opinion, your current work is at least as good as what is going on in the current scene. It must feel great to just jump back into the scene after being absent for over a decade and still create badass bikes!
Robert: I’ve been checking out the historic pics you sent me, well… I got a kick out of them and imagining HB in the 90s with your bikes around, always came down to HB from Montebello, thought it was the coolest beach! I remember in the 80s-early 90s they use to allow bonfires and BBQs on the beach. New Years parties there were insane! I miss HB! Would always see cool cruisers and now I’m sure I’ve seen a few of yours in the 90s.
Make: Anything you want to say about your relationship/history with DYNO ?
Robert: Well… One day I’d like to meet you and tell you the story over a beer…
Make: Well then… When are we meeting for a beer?
Robert: The wife is organizing a trip to Europe soon.
Make: Oh Yeah !?!? Any chance you might be passing Barcelona? There is a great street festival (La Merce Festival) at the end of September.
Robert: Maybe… Sounds interesting! Send me the details…
Make: So what you working on now?
Robert: Well… Papa E just walked in and is finishing up his wife’s bike that I built the frame for, to take to the Chopaderos 14th Anniversary ride. I’ll be heading there too.
Make: Hey Robert have a great weekend! It was nice chatting with you ,hope to do it over a beer… or two some day!