Creativity abounds in local ‘Chopification’
At the “Chopification Station” on Pasadena Avenue, a group of bike aficionados, using blow torches, construct the most deranged breed of bicycles on the road.
Heads turn, jaws drop and cameras come out when abstractly designed chopper bikes with names like”Smooth Criminal,” “Ghost Rider,” “Chop Dog,” and “The Admiral” cruise by.
Next to the Chopification Station is the “Boneyard” where about 40 bikes left for dead await rebirth. The result are bikes Frankenstein might own.
“We give bikes a second chance and show the kids that you can recycle,” says Chip Weigal, a.k.a. “T.P. White,” who is wearing a black, curly wig and protective eyewear strapped around his forehead.
Each bike has its own character and personality, he said. In turn each bike has its own name: “The Space Shuttle Challenger,” which at 14 1/2 feet is the longest in the fleet, was named after the ill-fated 1986 NASA space shuttle that exploded before escaping the earth’s atmosphere.
“It’s the Space Shuttle Challenger, because you’ll crash every time,” Weigal said.
The wacky crew of nearly 10 core chop-heads are constantly elaborating on the bikes, and no design is sacred. The bikes are evolving prototypes for a grand scheme. So far the group has a design patent for the “Chop Dog”, which was drawn with Computer Aided Design programs found free of charge on the Internet. An estimate for the first professionally welded bike is $2,000. The plan is to get a venture capitalist to jump start the deal. Right now the bikes, minus donations from local bike shops and time, cost about $20 to make.
The choppers produced at the Chopification Station are not the most stable bikes on the road. “Wobbly” and “Jenky” are how Weigal describes them. “It’s form not function for sure,” he says. “It’s the de-evolution of bikes. Down with tech-bikes.”
But the choppers the group hopes to produce on a commercial level will be stable and slick.
“These things are just so fun to ride; that’s what its all about,” says Paul Naugle, a.k.a “Paul Mall,” as he rides by on the “Smooth Criminal” – the bike’s frame made from a 10-speed bicycle welded upside down to a BMX bike.
Naugle espouses his mantra based on the New Hampshire state motto: “Live free or drive,” he says.
The idea to create chopper bikes began two months ago when the crew was trying to figure out how to make their mark at this year’s Burning Man festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, a festival in which massive pieces of art are constructed simply to be burned down and exhibitionist displays of freakdom are the norm. When asked how the group will dress for the occasion Weigal says: “Wigs and Speedos, you know dress normal.”
But according to Weigal the idea has gone much further.
“It’s kind of beyond that,” Weigal says grinning. “Its kind of a world domination thing.”
Looking to fellow bike brethren “Chunk 666,” based out of Oregon for inspiration, the group hopes to encounter their unknowing mentors during the festival from Aug. 27 to Sept. 3.
There is a whole underground community of chopper bike enthusiast across the country and more information can be found by typing in chopper bikes to any search engine. That is how this crew got most of their information.
The folks at the “Chopification Station” said they get crazy reactions as they ride down the street.
“Thanks to all the people who drive by in their Cameros and call us geeks and dorks,” Naugle said. “It does wonders for our self-esteem.”
The group bought the domain name Chopperbikes.com and hope to have a Web site up in the near future. But until then, for more information call the Chopification Station at 542-1375.
And remember, if you see fully garbed clowns riding unorthodox pedal-powered contraptions on the night of Halloween, don’t be afraid. It’s just the folks from South Lake Tahoe riding their latest piece of creative mastery.
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