Lowrider Lifestyle – Raising the Bar on Chrome and Banana Seats
As the story goes in the early 1960s kids all over California started taking part in the lowrider lifestyle by customizing their bicycles and mimicking what they saw their older brothers or fathers were doing to cars and motorcycles. Just because you were a kid, it did not mean you could not have some cool customized wheels too.
As far as the origins of the first customized bicycle are concerned, there is no real way to say “X marks the spot; here is the place the first custom bicycle was built.” However it originated, the designers at Schwinn heard about these crazy California kids and they had to come and see for themselves. Some of the kids altered their bicycles by installing ape hanger handlebars and long low banana seats with tall sissy bars. Some of the crazier kids even raked their forks for a serious lowriding stance. The Schwinn designers came, they saw and they took notes.
In 1963 Schwinn introduced their soon-to-be-legendary Stingray model, and it wasn’t long before every bicycle manufacturer jumped on the bandwagon and started copying the style. Huffy, Murray, Evans, Raleigh and even J.C. Penney started making off-the-shelf custom styled bikes, but Schwinn always remained the king. If somebody should be given credit for the first radically customized bicycle, George Barris may have started it all with Eddie Munster’s bike built for the wildly popular Munsters television show, which somehow never made it onto TV. Decades later this bicycle would be credited as one of the inspirational sources for Lowrider bicycles.
From stock to mild to wild, vintage Schwinn bicycles are always the first choice of any discriminating Lowrider bike builder. It doesn’t matter if it is a cruiser frame or a classic Stingray; the traditional curves of any Schwinn are second to none.
When these kids with their home garage-built customized bicycles grew up and graduated from pedal to horsepower, the same trend of customizing their bicycles was applied to their automobiles. And why not? It had been embedded in their DNA; it was a part of who they were.
By the late 1970’s the children of the1960’s had grown up and were now driving their own Lowrider cars, and having their own families. Perhaps it was the fathers who had held onto their childhood bicycles, for their own children, that helped kick start the Lowrider bicycle scene.
Club Spotlight – Mexcali Bike Club
Cruising the promenades and boulevards in traditional Lowrider style, members of the Mexcali bike club range in ages from nine and ten-year-olds up to the late forties and early 50’s. A typical club such as this is comprised of Mothers, Fathers, siblings, cousins and best friends. It is all about the camaraderie, fellow club members pitch in to help each other out with their various skills and talents. When it comes to building bikes, it is no different than building cars; it’s about family, friends and good times. If you’re not having fun doing it, why do it at all?
However it happened, by the late 1980’s the customized Lowrider bicycle scene exploded like an atom bomb and the fallout was everywhere. What was popularized in California quickly spread nationwide, and then went worldwide just like their cars. From the cradle to the grave, custom designs, paint, and chrome are always in a Lowrider’s home.
The Devil is in the details, or so it has been said. The same attention that the youngsters and their parents paid to their bicycles, has translated directly to attention to detail on their cars. Take a look at the artwork and engravings on display on the owners’ vehicles, the same care and attention that went into their bicycles when they were young have now manifested in their cars. No matter what they customize, Lowriding is part of their DNA. We seriously dig their art.
Enjoy The Lowrider Lifestyle Gallery!
More Lowrider Lifestyle Stories
Lowrider Lifestyle Part 2 – Hanging out on Whittier Blvd