Pride in the Ride | Miscellany | Chicago Reader

Pride in the Ride 

Custom Cruisers of Humboldt Park

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Humboldt Park's famous Just Cruisin' Bicycle Club is a friendly, tight-knit family of bike enthusiasts. Club president Victor Perez jokes, "If you see a flash of chrome from across the park, it's probably one of our guys."

In Just Cruisin' the vintage bicycle is king: flashy, shiny, customized one-man parades weighing in at about a hundred pounds due to the chrome swans, dice, aerials, Puerto Rican paraphernalia, and big foxtail handlebars that riders consider de rigueur.

Each bike's design reflects the personality of its rider. Angel has a basic yellow and brown Monark. Gilbert's is renowned for its black leather-and-stud motif. Ernesto's classic bike has a rack of flags in front. Tony's is a stylish black and silver with his name painted on it. The younger guys have created their own take on the Just Cruisin' style: the low-rider bike, with handlebars and pedals chopped so low they barely clear the ground. "If we can get some of the guys involved in the club," Perez says, "it might keep them out of trouble and drugs." Black and white members, as well as women and children, travel together to everything from parades to funerals, all dressed up, bells ringing and horns honking.

One member's showing off the stunning new ride he made for his wife: it's fire-engine red, with three buzzers on the body and red dice on the tires. When someone suggests that he add some ribbons on the handlebars, he politely says, no, it's enough. In bike decoration as in life, the secret is knowing when to stop.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Dorothy Perry.

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