If biking alone is fun, then biking with a group (or, say, a club—or a "gang") is even more fun. And biking with a group of people riding monstrously deconstructed, welded, and re-evolved bikes has got to be, well, a lifestyle.
In March of 2005, local riders Chops and Deadbuny went looking for something they couldn't find Zoobombing that demon hill on the Westside, which rocks your gears hard all the way to the MAX.
They needed something else.
They needed to create freak bikes; concocting fantastic ménages of aluminum and rubber out of scrap, joining the pieces together in ways that defied convention, fusing postmodern sensibilities with pre-industrial transportation—to hell with $4 a gallon, OPEC, wars for oil, the internal combustion engine—with imagination as one's only limit.
That hunger birthed the Dropout Bike Club—their mission is to build freak bikes, ride 'em, and have fun; their motto is "Live fast. Ride slow."
Dropout is a young, growing group in Portland's freak/mutant bike scene—a scene started by groups like CHUNK 666. The meme has spread beyond those progenitors to other groups like the Sprockettes mini-bike dance troupe, who have incorporated a few freak bikes into their act.
Mutant and freak bikes are about creating unorthodox designs (choppers, tall bikes, etc.) out of various pieces of scrap that physics may reject and abort like some unwanted child—there are no rules. As Megalon 5 says, "When you get on a mutant bike, you are trading in your ordinary pair of legs for a different pair of wheels—you're seeing the world from a different perspective and it's changing your personality. It's changing the way you interact with other people and the world at large."
Joining a bike club isn't like joining a gym—the initiation varies depending on the group—but in Dropout's case, there's no hazing; getting involved is as simple as showing up to one of their Weekday Warrior rides. The group meets once a month at Colonel Summers Park at SE 20th and Belmont (third Friday of the month, 7:30 pm) for a ride whose route and duration is decided by the designated ride leader.
"We don't attract a lot of people to our rides—they're pretty small," Chops says. "We get like 20 people and maybe 15 of them are on freak bikes. That's all we need. We don't want a big to-do about it. We're just going for a ride. We're going to hang out somewhere. And you don't know where we're hanging out unless you're on the ride—that sort of thing."
There's no need to fret over lacking a freak bike. As long as newcomers bring human-powered vehicles, they can come along; stick with them long enough, and they may take you to the clubhouse, where they mold bikes such as the infamous Juggernaut.
"When Buny and I started the club, it wasn't just to share tools and ride around looking cool—we wanted to inspire each other to build better bikes," Chops says.
In Portland, the thriving freak/mutant bike scene goes hand in hand with its large, active bike community. Megalon 5 says when more people are using bicycles, more freak and mutant bikes pop up as a result.
Chops says people have told him that they moved to Portland just for bike-related reasons; he credits the small, dedicated set of bicycle advocates and the enthusiast groups for the growth of said community. As he puts it: "This isn't just a form of transportation."