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A lowrider bicycle is a highly customized bicycle with styling 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 California. Children would emulate the craft of lowrider cars with their bicycles as a canvas for creativity, 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 Schwinn Sting-Ray. Lowrider bicycles had a resurgence of popularity the 90s, as lowrider bicycle competition at lowrider shows started to become intense, as a result of the increased popularity, classic Schwinns became far more scarce as well as more expensive. Stemming from this new popularity a magazine titled 'Lowrider Bicycle Magazine' started publication in 1993.
One of the first trendsettering bicycles was the infamous "Claim Jumper," owned by Danny Galvez, Jr. of Los Angeles, California. As the first cover bike for LRB, it made history as it was on the debut Winter ’93 issue.
A man by the name of Warren Wong has a rightful place as a pioneer in lowrider bicycle history. Warren worked with BMX and freestyle bikes, but his desire to be different revolutionized the industry, and he eventually became known as the "Wheel King." with his "Body Count" clover-laced design. These were the first lowrider bicycle wheels, which would later evolve and be duplicated by many.
Although California was the hub of lowriding with all the cover bicycles from the early editions of Lowrider Bicycle Magazine being from California, eventually the lowrider bike craze spread to other States of America as well as other countries such as Australia and the Philippines
In 1996, Kodak launched a commercial campaign for their Advantage camera systems, which focused on lifestyle. Rene Vargas and his "Gangster Madness" bike from the November/December ’95 issue of Lowrider Bicycle Magazine was one of the first lowrider bikes to be featured in a nation-wide commercial, which debuted during the ’96 Summer Olympics. This was the beginning for more usage of lowrider bikes in commercials, as industry wanted to capitalize on the trend.
Popular source bicycles
Some makes of bicycles are particularly popular among lowrider builders.
-Schwinn Tiger is popular in smaller sizes such as 16"
- Bratz beauty bikes are popular both in Australia, America and other countries.
- 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, for style. Converting a lowrider bicycle into a tricycle often allows the bike to sit closer to the ground while still being rideable, and even hop without falling over if they have airbag suspension or hydraulic suspension. Converting a bicycle into a tricycle often creates extra carry-space at the back of the bike.
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
Lowrider Bicycle Club of the Year
- 2000 Legions Bike Club
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 nationwide 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 1960s 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'," Archived 2014-11-04 at archive.today Lowrider Bicycle (June 24, 2003).
- Collective Brands (November 9, 2011). "AirWalk Lowrider Bicycle Commercial". ZuluKilozOner. Retrieved 2014-07-30.
- 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.