Oct 31, 2023

Lowrider bikes, pedal cars introduce kids to Hispanic culture

Az Chapter Rollerz Only Club

Alezae Chavez, 7 going on 8, is the Heartbreaker.

At least, that's what it says on her lowrider bicycle.

She and her uncle, Richard "Chavo" Chavez, were showing off her bike at the Little Lowrider Show in Phoenix. It was her introduction to the lowrider culture.

"It's a kids’ scene," said Enrique "Fat Boy" Maldonado, Sergeant at Arms for the Rollerz Only Car Club's Chandler chapter. "We have some adults that build the bikes and stuff like that, but the kids are key."

"We’re trying to get kids involved," Chavez said. "It's like a hobby, but passionate."

Chavez is a member of Rollerz Only. The club was founded in 1988 in Los Angeles has 42 chapters worldwide.

Lowrider bikes were abundant at the downtown Phoenix event as were tricked-out pedal cars and even retro baby strollers. The kids help build the pieces.

The Phoenix event gathered hobbyists from around the Valley. Lowrider bikes were themed to cartoons and animated features, along with other kid favorites. Looney Tunes and Monster High bikes were shown, glimmering in the bright sun.

The way the bikes are displayed is important to judges such as Joey Calderone.

"We give points for the display," Calderone said.

Some bikes were sitting on mirror tiles, and some had displays next to them with sports teams – the Dallas Cowboys seemed to be popular – or cartoon characters.

Not far removed from Mardi Gras, one pedal car up on a turntable was decorated in traditional gold, green and purple; beads were strewn about.

Another holiday just passed was St. Patrick's Day, and one green pedal car was accompanied by a pot and "gold" coins. Another green pedal car had candy covering a rug underneath it.

"I also look for overall craftsmanship and cleanliness," Calderone said. "Also, bright candy colors," for the kids.

He also looks for functionality. He wants the bikes to be ridable, and if they feature stereo systems – yes, on a bike – he wants the stereo to work.

One pedal car looked to be pulling a retro trailer, but that was its stereo speakers.

Stock lowrider bikes can begin at $250, and their value increases as work is done to them.

Candy colors are added, themes worked into the bikes, and twisted chrome pieces are added.

When finished, kids’ street bikes can run $2,000 to $30,000, Calderone said.

Upholstery is also a big addition to the bikes. Chavez did the upholstery for Alezae's bike through his own company, Los Chavez Custom Upholstery. Having a skill like being an upholsterer or painter is key in the lowrider community, because hobbyists can trade their specialties.

"I did the upholstery for that bike over there," Chavez said, pointing at another bike down the line. In return, he got Alezae's bike painted.

Chavez works two jobs to have enough money to pay for the hobby. He also works full-time at a Fry's Food and Drug store.

The hobby keeps his focus on good choices. He acknowledges that he had to decide what path he went down. Some family members made bad choices. That's the reason he and his father are raising Alezae.

In the meantime, he's working on Alezae's bike themed to the cartoon character Betty Boop.

It started off as a family heirloom, belonging to a cousin in New Mexico.

"It's sentimental to us," Chavez said.

And Alezae likes it too, calling it "nice."

The shy Alezae was enjoying the scene, loud with a DJ and kids running around oohing and aahing at the bikes. Adults were walking around impressed, too.

A couple from the Czech Republic was in Phoenix visiting family. Remko Bos walked up and asked about the lowrider bikes and pedal cars.

"We don't have anything like this in Europe," he said.

Slavomira Reiter agreed, saying of the scene, "It is wonderful."

– Contact Ralph Zubiate at 480-898-6825 or [email protected].

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