Low riding began as a cultural element of Chicano Americans, part of the street culture of the American barrio where Mexican immigrants maintained a lively urban culture.Low rider bikes, one of the most splendid and unique products of this culture, are a cross between the Harley and the cruiser bike, decorated with paint and chrome and streamers, found in any all-American hometown parade.
As you might surmise, low riding bikes hug the ground.The highest points on a low rider bike are almost always its two hand grips, just like you might find on its motorized cousin, the Harley motorcycle.The seat of a low rider bike is down at wheel level and its pedals are sometimes higher than the seat!These bikes are typically a highly individualized creation.Most of them are ridden with enormous pride by their creators, although you can buy some standard models and a few elaborate models in a good bike store, especially in cities of the American West.
Despite the fact that these bikes originated within the poverty of the barrio, low rider bikes are anything but cheap.Makers of these one-of-a-kind creations regard their bicycles as much as an artwork and a mechanical marvel as a means of transportation, though part of the joy of creation has always been parading them down the street when completed—these are not pieces of art meant for life in dusty museums, for the most part.Each part is usually carefully selected for its utility as well as its beauty, with the resulting bike a breathtaking example of technical and artistic ingenuity.
Low rider bikes are becoming a presence in more and more cities, perhaps made more “respectable” among the affluent bicyclists who drive the market by the increasing popularity of their cousin, the recumbent bicycle.As the baby boomer generation ages and feels increasing twinges of back pain riding on the dropped handlebars of road bikes, expect to see more and more lowrider and recumbent bikes alike.
And once you get your first basic low rider bike, don’t be too surprised if you find yourself flipping through the real or online pages of a low rider parts catalog musing, “Hmm.I wonder how that golden sprocket would look on my bike?”Low rider bikes have a tradition of creative embellishment and technical improvisation that calls out the artist and the inventor in many of us.
What, really, could be better to evoke, especially if you’re already a bike rider?