Amongst the patrons at Earl Warren Showgrounds on Sunday afternoon, a good number sported shaved heads, neck tattoos, and long white socks - and a lot of creativity. The second annual lowrider car show, hosted by the Night Life car club, contained scores of lavishly decorated cars, but interspersed within the ornate muscle cars and trucks were a number of equally elaborate bicycles. Two local clubs-Riding Low, which is based out of La Cumbre Junior High School, and Don Riders, hailing from Santa Barbara High School-have become a fixture at area car shows as of late. With suspensions lowered and parts twisted into interesting shapes and dipped in chrome, these flashy bicycles are definitely influenced by the cars that dominate the shows.
The amount of time and money involved in these projects can be impressive, and requires a high degree of dedication. Dos Pueblos High School student Francisco Gonzalez, 17, has been building lowrider bikes since he was a kid, but this was his first show. Starting with the frame from a 1964 Huffy beach cruiser, he spent a year and over $1,500 turning the bike from beast to beauty. Although he didn’t win any awards, he beamed proudly as people admired the sparkly black paint and gold-plated hardware dressing up his sleek cruiser. “I’ve done a lot of them, but this is the best one,” he said.
Oxnard lowrider bicycle club Viejitos was represented as well. Felix Ortega and his wife entered a small number with a chromed banana seat and the bicycle version of a continental kit (rear-mounted spare tire), a project he said took two or three years and cost nearly $6,500. “We don’t put everything in all at once - we do it little by little,” he said, adding that he is also working on tricking out a 1984 Buick.
Although adults occasionally build lowrider bicycles, most of the participants in this year’s show were kids. “They’re really talented kids, it’s just a matter of having funds,” said Alma Montero, who runs Riding Low with her husband Juan, adding that a lowrider bike project can cost upwards of $1,500. Through an elective program, the group has access to a workshop at La Cumbre Junior High School, where Juan Montero helps kids with welding and painting operations that can be quite costly.
The Monteros also hold social events at their house, inviting parents who are concerned that anything with the word “lowrider” in the title is associated with gangs. “We want them to see that their kids are in good hands,” said Alma. Additionally, she said that they try to get their 12 or so club members-almost all of whom are residents of the Westside-to interact with the largely Eastside-based Don Riders club by participating in shows together. “We want them to see that we can get along-none of this nonsense of this side and that side.”