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Night Crawler 

Wednesday, Mar 17 1999
Wheels of Fortune
Two scabrous-looking riders roll through the night, down Third Street, ignoring traffic laws and dull backward glances from motorists. Their bicycles, driven forth by enormous leather boots and well-inked calves, satisfy traditional expectations -- a metal frame with two spoked wheels, two pedals, a chain, a seat, and handlebars -- but the form is warped, slightly distended, as if the schematics had been created within a fun-house mirror. The first is too long and skinny, the other too tall and broad; they look like a kinetic rendering of Laurel and Hardy wheeling along the city's perimeter, past Cesar Chavez, toward the inky water of the bay.

On a dead-end road, in front of Cyclone Warehouse, they join other abnormal cycles -- uni, bi, tri, and quad -- that send loose gravel flying over the heads of two women bobbing up and down on a Bike-O-Totter. Near the warehouse loading dock, four hobbyists with flickering twinkle-light helmets enjoy a game of midnight outdoor bowling while, in the distance, a sinking oil tanker wavers on the bay and an abandoned grain silo looms in rusting silence. A couple of youngsters come crashing through the surrounding weeds, smelling like a childhood memory of overexcitement and skinned knees.

The kids chase each other into the warehouse, weaving through the legs of adults until they catch sight of a state-of-the-art dirt bike popping wheelies within a knot of mike stands, monitors, guitar chords, and drums. The older boy stops and stares, his game of chase forgotten.

"Coooool," he says, catching the back of his companion's vanishing shirt neck.

"So, what's unique about your bike?" asks Jerico Reese, founder of Heavy Pedal Cyclecide, as a common-looking conveyance emerges from the crowd below. The rider pedals forward and easily hops his bike onstage.

"Aaahhh ... the old Kangaroo Action," says an admiring audience member.
Overhead, an array of unusual machines dangles from the rafters by unseen wires -- choppers, cruisers, double bikes, tall bikes, tandem bikes, everything in between. On the ground, bikes in the form of sleek emerald-green aliens and rusty Geiger-esque dinosaurs line the walls. A young woman in a cowboy hat pedals furiously on a Seemen creation that resembles a carnival game. T-shirts, cycle-inspired self-portraits, and necklaces made of bike chains are scattered among the warehouse tangle of spokes, beer, and grease. John Bivowack, creator of the Keep Away bike equipped with multiple blades (to threaten new auto finishes and spandex-encased legs), stands stage right in a welding mask and gloves, putting final touches on a needy joint.

Another audience member wheels forward on a once-innocent machine corrupted by gold mannequin legs, a leopard-print banana seat, and a nasty flamethrower that erupts with four feet of fire. Reese and the crowd are thrilled. Someone tosses hot dogs.

A passion for Road Warrior misconduct and salvaged parts is essential for members of Cyclecide, which was inspired by the roguish Hard Times Bicycle Club from Minneapolis, where an ordinance now limits customizing to certified welders only.

"No brakes, no problem," is a favorite motto of both clubs.
"If you can't ride through a plate glass window, don't bother," says Reese, whose Suburban Intruder is a tricycle rigged with rotating lawn mower blades.

Bloodlust aside, Cyclecide is not without its impish mien: Erin Perusse, who created Double Trouble (a tandem bike outfitted with matching beer holders for those lazy Sunday mornings), and Danny Girl, who made self-flagellation simple with the Spanking Bike, are joined in front of the stage by Tamra and Lorianne, all wearing sexy cat ears, tails, and thigh-high stockings. Accompanied by a burlesque grind tape (sadly not from Cats), the bike-mounted kittens ride in a furious circle that disintegrates into a "cat" fight seen through a jumble of spinning wheels and vermicular handle bars.

The Suburban Intruder makes bird feed of several loaves of bread. Stuntman David Apocalypse jumps over five flaming Matchbox cars. Bike manipulator Jesse Whack presents the Hard Times Bicycle Club tuneup: Open toolbox, pull out beer, drink beer, clip brakes, cut off seat, slice through finger -- which he does, leaving a trail of bright scarlet blood (he's later seen bandaging his wound with duct tape). Chupacabra -- the sleek alien beauty with stabbing claws created by Jay Brommel -- challenges a pinata, fails, and must be rescued by a unicyclist who lops off the insurgent pinata's head.

During the much-anticipated bicycle auction, Reese is joined onstage by his boss at Ace Autoworks, Bill the Junkman-cum-Auctioneer. While the crowd misleads the auctioneers by checking watches and waving at friends across the room, the auctioneers confuse the crowd by lowering bids ("I have $450. Do I hear $400, $300, $200. Sold to the little lady for $50"). Reese gives away "a-bike-of-your-choice" to 8-year-old raffle winner Bobby.

Almost despite themselves, Cyclecide sells seven tall bikes, starting with Brad Silvernail's double-decker tandem, but the real buying begins after the auction, during a cathartic punk rock set by the Junkyard Sluts. As Einstein -- the Sluts' frontman who grew up at the legendary punk venue The Farm -- rolls around in piles of mutilated bread covered in Vicks Formula 44, neighborhood guys and their children make deals with Cyclecide.

A grinning man who wishes to "live, die, and be forgotten" buys Ivan the Black and Free Spirit for $80, less than it cost to build his own recently stolen One Eye -- one brake, one gear, one day of use.

"I didn't know I had named it so well," says the man, still grinning as a flaming unicyclist rolls through the crowd and little Bobby teeters precariously on his first art bike.

"Remember, Critical Mass is for pussies," says a cycle enthusiast as he helps Bobby pull another bike from the pile. "Art's tough."

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By Silke Tudor

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Silke Tudor


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