A lowrider bicycle is a highly customized bicycle with a long wheelbase and stylings inspired by lowrider cars. These bikes often feature a long, curved banana seat with a sissy bar and very tall upward-swept ape hanger handlebars. A lot of chrome, velvet, and overspoked wheels are common accessories to these custom bicycles.
Noted American bicycle mechanic, technical expert, and author Sheldon Brown wrote of lowrider bicycles,
|“||they are built purely as an exercise in styling, with no real concern for riding qualities. Some of them, in fact, are not rideable, because the cranks are so close to the ground that the pedals cannot turn around."||”|
Lowrider bikes first appeared in the 1960s in America. Kids would copy the work on lowrider cars on their bicycles, usually starting with common muscle bikes. This allowed those who were too young to drive a car to have a custom vehicle. In 1963, Schwinn was the first company to launch a muscle bike, in the form of the Sting-Ray.
Eddie Munster's custom bicycle, created by George Barris and Skip Barrett of Barris Kustom Industries, is sometimes credited with spreading the popularity of lowriders, but the bike was not made public until the 1990s.
Manny's lowrider bicycle shop in Compton opened in 1974, Manny has built more bikes that have won Lowrider Bicycle Of the Year title then any other shop. Manny’s is the most influential lowrider bicycle shop of all times hands down. Manny actually introduced one of his friends to the lowrider bicycle culture, that friend would later open up F&R who would copy Manny's parts and then sold the parts wholesale all over the world. Since 1968 Manny has been working in lowrider bicycles all around the city of Compton. All lowrider bicycles history leads back to Manny as being the pioneer of culture.
Fantasy Toys Lowrider Bicycle & Hobby opened up as father & son venture in the spring of 1995. At first they offered custom paint, custom engraving and custom upholstery. They carried all of the parts offered by Warren Wong's Slam N' Ride and Lowrider Bicycle INC. Once Slam N' Ride started fading out production, Fantasy Toys filled the void for custom parts. Among all their specialties, they’re most popular for fabricating custom wheels and parts.
Some makes of bicycles are particularly popular among lowrider builders. Most well-known of these are the American-produced Schwinn Sting-Ray (usually 20", but 16" and even 12" Schwinn Tigers are used) and in Australia the Malvern Star long frame dragsters and bratz beutie bikes. Another favorite of the period was the Iverson Dragstripper, which featured a long "exhaust pipe" body that gave it a distinctive look.
The new lowrider trend is also related to the trend in Cruiser or Beach Cruiser style bikes. Today, pre-built and even custom-made one-of-a-kind lowriders are available from lowrider bicycle shops and even some lowrider car workshops. Some top lowrider bicycles shops are Manny's (Compton), Fantasy Toys Lowrider & Hobby (Cleveland), Krazy Kutting (Yuma).
Basic or classic characteristics of a lowrider bike (most accessories are highly polished chrome, though gold can also be used for added flare):
- Baby Daytons — like the car rims, they are over-spoked — 144 chromed spokes per wheel is usual — and radially laced, with white-wall tyres
- banana seats
- custom upholstery
- customized sissy bar
- Ape hanger or Schwinn-type handlebars
- "Springer forks" — "old school" spring-action suspension for the front forks
- Fenders both front and back
- Chain steering wheel
Some custom modifications include twisted forks, spokes or handlebars, what are known as "bird cages" (twisted metal strips that resemble a bird cage) that are cut and welded onto handlebars, sissy bars or pedals. Many bikes also feature custom framework such as tanks and skirts which are the addition of sheets of metal, usually welded onto the frame to give it a "filled-in" look. Some lowrider bicycles even have air or hydraulic cylinders set-up to emulate the height adjustable suspension of lowrider motor cars.
Some lowrider bikes are modified into lowrider tricycles, allowing them to sit much closer to the ground while still being rideable, to hop without falling over if they have airbag or hydraulic suspension and give them extra carry-space in the back. The space between the two rear wheels is often used to mount either a two-seater "love seat", a "boombox," or even pumps for hydraulic or air "suspension." Street Lowrider created a bolt on conversion kit to convert any existing lowrider bicycle into a tricycle.
Lowrider Bicycle magazine
LRB notable moments:
- first cover bike: "Claim Jumper," by Danny Galvez, Jr. of Los Angeles, California (LRB Winter 1993)
- first out-of-California cover bike: "Smile Now, Cry Later" ('69 Huffy), by Patrick Torrez of Silver City, New Mexico (LRB July/August '95)
- first Hawaii cover bike: "Tribute to the Gods" (candy-painted '77 Sting-Ray), by Kainoa Piscusa of Hawaii (LRB March/April '96)
- first Texas cover bike: "Space Age Cruiser," by Freddy Velasquez of Houston, Texas
- first Arizona cover bike: "Fire Dragon," by Julian Cons of Arizona
- 1993 — Gold Rush
- 1994 — Field Of Dreams
- 1995 — Twisted Obsession
- 1996 — Casino Dreamin
- 1997 — Casino Dreamin
- 1998 — Casino Dreamin
- 1999 — Casino Dreamin
- 2000 — Wolverine II
- 2001 — Spawn
- 2002 — Spawn
- 2003 — Wolverine III
- 2004 — Prophecy
- 2005 — Prophecy
- 2006 — Pinnacle
- 2007 — Pinnacle
- 1997 — Fatal Attraction
- 1998 — The Crow
- 1999 — Knight's Quest
- 2000 — Knight's Quest
- 2001 — Livin Legend
- 2002 — Lil Outer Limits
- 2003 — Dragons Revenge
- 2004 — Dragons Revenge
- 2005 — Lil Outer Limits
- 2006 — Pocket Change
In popular culture
Also in 1996, as part of Kodak's Advantage camera systems advertising campaigns, the company shot Rene Vargas and his "Gangster Madness" bike (featured on the Nov./Dec. '95 issue of LRB) for a nation-wide commercial, which debuted during the 1996 Summer Olympics.
This was the beginning for more usage of lowrider bikes in commercials, as the industry loved the lifestyle involved with the bikes and wanted to capitalize on the hot youth trend.
In 2000, Sprite shot a television commercial focusing on the youth of lowriding, which featured four-time LRB Bike of the Year Champion Mike Lopez, Jr. and his club, Finest Kreations. (After "retiring," Lopez, Jr. also traveled to Europe to display his bike in a cultural exhibition.)
- Brown, Sheldon. "Lowrider". Sheldon Brown. Retrieved 2010-06-30.
Lowrider bicycles are a fad design of bicycles, inspired by the wheelie bikes of the 1960's with very long wheelbases.
- "Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Glossary L". sheldonbrown.com. Retrieved 17 September 2010.
- Liz Fried (August 1997). Schwinn Sting-Ray. Motorbooks International. ISBN 0-7603-0330-4.
- "Lowrider Bicycle History". Retrieved 2010-06-30.
Joining these was Eddie Munster's wildly modified '64 Sting-Ray.Every self-respecting kid in America wanted a Schwinn Sting-Ray like Eddie Munster's.
- John Brain. "History of Kustom Biking: George Barris and the Munster Chain Bike". Retrieved 2010-06-30.
Kids who watched the "Munsters" in the 1960s never got to see Eddie's chain bike, and only a few insiders knew anything about the chain bike story until about ten years ago.
- "Lowrider Bicycle History: LRB looks back on a decade of pedal scrapin'," Lowrider Bicycle (June 24, 2003).
- Collective Brands (April 14, 2994). "AirWalk Lowrider Bicycle Commercial". ZuluKilozOner. Retrieved 2014-07-30. Check date values in:
- M.A.S. Burrito (April 14, 2012). "low y cool". Pocho. Retrieved 2012-04-15.
- Pepsi CO (July 21, 2001). "Whats Your Thirst". ZuluKilozOner. Retrieved 2014-07-30.