Westside lowriders have their day

(Lodisa Galeas' drawing of a lowrider bike won one of two third place prizes at last Saturday's Creative Bike Showcase, presented to her by Westside Arts Council member Mik Heagerty. Photo - Herm Card.)

Bikes come in all sizes and shapes, and Westside riders span the generations. At 4:00 PM on Saturday -- after all the bike and helmet and goodie-bag and book give-aways, the bike parade around the block, and the drawing project at a table in the middle of the gym presided over by painter Juan Cruz -- the four winning entries spanned that range. Third-place winner Lodisa Galeas' entry was a meticulous drawing of a lowrider bicycle and she took home a purple number that looked just like somebody had touched her drawing with a magic wand. Anthony Aquino won the other third prize for his gold lowrider with elegant custom chrome work. Marcelino Pinet took second for his restored 1951 canary-yellow upright Schwinn, which he'd brought with him as a boy from Puerto Rico. Grand prize went to Anthony Mohn for a customized recumbent three-wheeler.

But pull up at the Shonnard Street Boys & Girls Club two hours earlier and you'd have seen from the hive of activity out front -- maybe 35 younger kids buzzed around on pint-sized models -- that here, lowriders hold a special place.

Lowriders get their name from the chopper-style motorcycles they resemble -- with low-slung, elongated frames, smaller wheels that often sport flashy extra spokes and sometimes a front wheel way out ahead of the rest of the bike, banana seats and long, upswept handle-bars some call "ape-hangers." They may sport a "sissy bar" in back, an upright chrome piece that affords some protection if a bike goes down. Their customized frames and chrome-work may look more like elegant sculptures that industrial design. Fringe and glitter are at home. Their classics include Schwinn Stingrays (Redhouse Arts Center's Mik Heagerty, a Westside Arts Council member, has one of those that he's restoring with a friend), British Roles Choppers and three-wheel "beach cruisers."

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