Tyrone Stevenson Jr., aka "Champ," zigzags down the double yellow line on his Oreo-package-sporting three-wheeler of homemade urban elegance, with the Scraperbike Crew in tow.
Stevenson wears a royal blue T-shirt and jeans to match his blue-framed bike its wheels decorated with blue Oreo-package clippings. The self-proclaimed "Scraperbike King" wears a blue sequined cap as a crown.
What began as Stevenson's attempt to create the next best thing to having his own scraper-car known in Oakland's hyphy-style rap culture for the matching body and wheel colors has turned into a mobile mini-arts festival of 26-inch-tall Ferris wheels rolling through the streets of East Oakland.
The Scraperbike Crew, a group of teens, got some buzz for their self-titled music video, which was nominated as one of YouTube's Top 20 Best Music Videos of 2007and has drawn 5,123 views. The youths have used old bicycles, ingenuity and urban style to create an Oakland-grown phenomenon that is earning recognition from community leaders, local children and cyclists around the globe.
Stevenson describes the Skittles bike with a rapper's flow: "Them (are) 26-inch rims with candy-paint, four-toned, turquoise, purple, red and blue." The spokes were wrapped in tin foil in a shape resembling
While rolling in formation, Stevenson leans to one side, balanced on two wheels, and looks back at his meandering, candy-covered ducks-in-a-row.
Sixteen-year-old Lavel Brown, on the Skittles bike actually a tricycle is on two wheels as well. He leans left, steers with his left hand and reaches back with his right hand to put a reverse spin on the raised right rear wheel. The split axle allows the rear wheels to spin independently.
The Scraperbike Crew low-tails it down the street with poised posture, backs straight, arms slightly bent, wearing a scraperbiker's gracious gaze. Motorists often smile and wave as they pass by.
The crew brings a colorful positive vibe to a city known for its tally of more than 750 murders since 2000, according to the community action agency Oakland Community Organizations.
At appearances throughout their neighborhood, the crew shows kids how to decorate and fix old bikes. According to Robert Calhoun of the Rainbow Community Center, "The kids ate it up."
"They don't just ride, they coordinate," Calhoun says.
Calhoun adds that the Scraperbike Crew's organization skills are "just like a marching band on a football field." He predicts that the phenomenon will stretch "coast to coast."
Calhoun's statement can be confirmed through a "scraperbikes" Google search, which shows Internet postings from people in Portland, Ore., and Okinawa, Japan, flaunting their own homemade scraperbikes.
Regionally, the crew has cameos in music videos of the Bay Area hyphy group The Federation and Oakland rap group The Trunk Boiz.
Whether or not the scraperbikes trend explodes, Stevenson plans to start his own bike shop where neighborhood children can receive tutoring and attend bike-building lessons. And, he says, a "How to build your own scraperbike" video is in the making.
Until then, he says, "Jump on a bike and go."
Louis Bohan is a journalism student at San Francisco State University.