We first discovered Scraper Bikes when we were scrolling through Instagram and came across their feed. Scraper Bikes, as they’re called, were spawned from East Oakland’s car culture around 2007 with the name “Scraper” coming from the slang for custom painted, low-rider cars that had over-sized rims that rubbed the wheel arch. Bearing resemblance to the souped up sedans of the same name the bikes have been involved in several documentaries and a viral YouTube hit.
The movement involves local young people who build, repair, customise and ride their bikes. Like the Buicks and Oldsmobiles riding on huge rims, Scraper Bikes are often equipped with car stereos and are themed for everything from candy to fallen friends. We caught up with movement’s founder, Tyrone Stevenson Jr., or Baybe Champ as he’s known, to ask him a few questions…
H: So first up, can you tell us about yourself. How did you get started making Scraper Bikes?
I started making Scraper Bikes when I was a troubled teenager growing up in Oakland, California. I was getting in lots of trouble in school and was getting sent home. As a way to try and straighten out my behaviour my mom took things away from such as my TV, radio and toys. So to keep myself occupied I played around with my bike out of pure boredom and created the very first Scraper Bike.
H: You’re incredibly resourceful with the materials that you use [coloured tape, aluminium cans, cardboard, and candy wrappers are all recycled and applied to the bikes]. Can you talk us through a typical scraper bike build?
Any bike can be made into a Scraper Bike, all you need is duct tape, spray paint and a lot of creativity. You find a pattern on the spokes and place the duct tape on it top to bottom. Then repeat the process around the bike on both sides until it looks like a work of art. Spray the frame to match the rims then you’re ready to showcase your work around town.
H: So how has the customisation evolved since you first started?
Since I’ve created Scraper Bikes back in 2007 there’s been tonnes of different types of customisations that goes on. I’ve seen folks modify frames to install mini engines on their bikes, I’ve seen people weld bikes on each other to make it stand at least 10 feet tall and bikes with speakers that can be heard at least 3 blocks away!
H: Can you tell us what makes a bike stand out?
Big wheels, bright paint, loud music.
H: And where do you get the inspiration (for your designs) from?
I get inspiration for my bikes from different candy wrappers, cartoon characters, colours and most importantly my mood. Sometimes the best bikes I’ve made was from the soul, you have to let your creativity shine, and use your bike as a canvas to express yourself. I love creating a custom bike that shows my personality from the colours to the design of the bikes, then ride around to show off the bike that I made.
H: What bike are you currently riding?
Currently I’m riding on my custom Scraper Bike Trike, the colours are blue and chrome for now, with 6 6x9 speakers, two 6–½ tweeter speakers, with a 2500 watt amplifier powered off a 12 volt car battery.
H: Sounds decent. What makes Oakland such a good place to ride a bike?
The nice sunny weather and minimum hills to climb [most Scraper Bikes are single speed]. Oakland has a huge bike community and is slowly making improvement for safe biking throughout the Bay Area.
H: We could do with a bit of that in London… What music are you listening too right now?
I’m currently listening to a lot of hip hop and R&B such as Drake, Tea Stunna, Fetty Wap, Mistah F.A.B, Too Short, E-40, 2Pac and other music from the Bay Area, Louisiana, Detroit and New York style hip hop.
H: Can you tell us about your rig? What fashions are you into off the bike- what are you wearing?
Right now I’m wearing my 501 Levi’s Commuter jeans, with the reflecting strips on the cuffs of my pants, with my Nike Air Command Forces (black, turquoise, pink and white), a black v-neck t-shirt and a 49ers Mitchell and Ness Snapback hat.
H: When you’re riding you’re — ‘mobbin’ — right? What other slang do you use?
Our slang words terms when riding are really simple, we call riding — “mobbin”, when it’s time to mobb we yell — “squid up” — when it’s time for one line I raise a finger and riders fall into place…
We call our custom bikes with the big wheels — “donks” — and we call music that’s playing on the trike — “slap”.
H: Anything else?
Nice bikes we call them — “buttery” — when we get close to cars we call it — “kissing” — ’cause we get so close you can literally kiss the car as you ride past it…
H: Why single file? And what other rules are there for Scraper Bikes?
When we ride as a group we ride in single file lines mainly for safety. Being at the front of the line I can see all traffic coming as we approach a corner or stop light. Other rules consist of going to school getting good grades, keeping your bike maintained, and teaching new members how to successfully make a Scraper Bike.
H: OK, and finally what does the future hold for Scraper Bikes?
The future of the Scraper Bikes is universal! Anything’s possible, and the impossible will become possible! Scraper Bikes will one day become a household name and everybody from the young to the elderly will know of, or have a Scraper Bike.
All images courtesy of Matthew Reamer.