bike culture by Louis Tambue October 21, 2020
What do you know about #BikeLife?
When it comes to the melting pot that is American culture and what makes it the phenomenon that it is today, it would be remiss not to mention the contributions of the subcultures that have decorated our society over time.
Considering the niche fashion trends that were adopted by the masses and the music scenes that have ultimately taken over the industry like Hip-Hop and Punk Rock, subculture sits at the core of American culture’s most fruitful movements.
Despite this knowledge, many subcultures have had to deal with the growing pains of acceptance as they faced scrutiny from the closed-minded perspective of the media and others who refused to see the good.
Movements like graffiti art, breakdance, and hip-Hop have created communities with the intention of bringing people together through art forms and self-expression.
As the negative perception of these art forms gradually subsided, they have cemented themselves at the root of our cultures’ rich essence.
Amongst the many great subcultures that were birthed from America’s culturally exuberant cities, there lies a movement that has transitioned into a global phenomenon coming from one of society’s earliest pastimes: Bikes.
If you are from cities like NY, LA, PHI, BAL, ATL, NRK, or tapped in with their inescapable presence on social media then you have heard of the phrase #BIKELIFE.
From the massive ride outs of 2,000 plus bikers unifying through the city streets to the freestyle tricks performed on BMX and dirt bikes in traffic, #BikeLife has established itself as a movement that is for the people, by the people.
Not to mention the fat tire fad. It seems like all the youngins are hitting bikesmarts.com for the latest info on affordable drops.
Figureheads of the community like Artbmx, Bike Life Maine and the highly revered RRDblocks. to name a few, are ambassadors for the movement.
They have also worked together in representing #BikeLife in a positive light on social media. They’ve not only created opportunities for kids in their communities but they’ve also given back to them as well.
There are countless videos on social media of young children crying tears of joy after receiving a bike during one of Dblocks’ massive giveaways. There’s also the joy on people’s faces during ride outs.
While groundwork continues to be set for the legacy of #BikeLife, the prevalence of bike culture within Hip-Hop has contributed heavily to its popularity.
Artists like Tyler the Creator, Meek Mill, Lil Uzi Vert, A$AP Ferg, and Rocky have incorporated their love for bikes into their artistry are essential in connecting the movement across multiple facets of culture.
Whether it’s Travis Scott and Meek Mill depicting dirt bike ride outs in their music videos or A$AP Ferg’s capsule release for Redline’s limited edition RL 275 bike, hip-hop music is an integral part of #BikeLife’s cultural progression.
In seeking out more knowledge as to what makes the bike life movement so special and authentically catered to bringing the people together, I was able to connect with Founder and COO of ELP Brands Luin Frazier on their acquiring of BMX heritage brand JT Racing.
During our discussion, he gave some insight into the history of JT Racing, what the brand intends to contribute to bike life, where he sees the future of the movement heading and everything in between.
While speaking about the events that led to Luin’s intrigue to represent JT Racing he mentioned the enticing nature of the brand’s long-standing 50-year heritage.
Frazier opened up about how his residence in New York City sparked the inspiration of rebranding JT Racing to align with the current climate of bike life today in relation to the merch as well as the overall brand.
Seeing first hand what the bike life scene in NYC has become, evoked nostalgic emotions that motivated Luin to do all that he could to push the culture forward.
The BMX apparel brand is connected with modern-day consumers within bike life. Still, the brand has vowed to remain true to the foundation on which JT Racing was founded on.
As the movement has transcended its identification as a subculture into a global phenomenon, the values upheld within #BikeLife have remained the same.
In regards to the brand, Luin believes that part of what makes JT Racing what it is today is the fact that the values which define the brand are similar to that of the movement.
“It is truly about being young at heart. It’s truly about being a disrupter and it’s truly about being an originator.”Luin Frazier
“One of our brand mottos is ‘Salute the Originators’ because we believe that there is always something over the next ridge. Someone’s gotta be the first to climb it to see what’s over there and say that we’re gonna do things differently by not sticking to the status quo.”
Look at the origins of JT Racing going back to 1969. It was founded by John and Rita Gregory in Southern California. They were selling socks out of their van.
“Back then they started doing pink socks and if you think about the late ’60s early ’70s, men weren’t really wearing pink like that but they (John and Rita) were so blinded by doing things their own way,” said Frazier.
He continued, “They took that same energy of being young at heart and creatives conquering new challenges to heart.”
“That’s the DNA that founded the company. Guess what, that’s the same DNA you’re seeing now.”Luin frazier
Thinking of the DNA that has made the culture into what it is today, the evolution that has taken place within the movement is apparent. Although the essence of bike life does not completely uphold the traditional nature of race tracks and bike trails.
The spirited passion for the craft is shared amongst generations. This has been a contributing factor in the cohesion between the older generations of #BikeLife culture and the new age riders who have taken the torch to new heights.
The movement continues to grow and new bike riders begin their journey into the culture. Luin explained how the large embracive #BikeLife community on social media is a signification as to why future participants should not feel discouraged to partake in the culture.
With bike life being as global as it is today, simply typing the hashtag into Instagram or Twitter could instantly connect you with the community not only in your immediate vicinity but also all over the world.
Despite the inclusivity that bike life has fostered over time, the movement still has critics inside and outside of the bike culture that are not as open to the evolution of the trend.
In regards to the dirt bike community, few motocross purists and others have critiqued the street dirt bikers for the safety hazards that their actions could potentially cause.
Frazier addressed these claims and mentioned onlookers should take the lack of accessibility to an official motocross track into account.
Simply put, the difference in expression should not take away from the purity of spirit of those who take their dirt bikes to the streets.
“What we don’t see on the surface but do see when pulling back the layers is a community. There’s something there that is bringing people together of all races, nationalities, and socioeconomic backgrounds.”Luin Frazier
“The common thread that they have is the same spirit and a love for riding their bikes. In terms of the street motor guys, a lot of them don’t have a track to race their bikes on so they do it in a way that fits their environment,” said Frazier.
He continued, “They’re riding the same bikes and wearing the same equipment so they’re still supporting the industry but they are expressing their love and passion points in a different way.
“Instead of playing football, basketball, or at home playing video games, they’ve decided to ride their bikes and who am I to say do it this way versus that way.”
“It’s all about celebrating your spirit of individuality and being groundbreaking which you can see on the BMX side as well as the street motor side of things.”Luin Frazier
Regardless of one’s perspective of the movement you simply cannot pass judgment on the culture until you have gone in-depth to capture all that it is truly about.
It is this sentiment that reveals the importance of people like RRDblocks who have dedicated themselves to showcasing the purity of the culture on social media through spreading his love and joy for bike life to the masses. Luin proceeded to shed light on the relationship that JT Racing has fostered with Dblocks and what his presence has meant to the brand.
Frazier reminisced, “Dblocks is truly one of the most unique individuals that I have ever met in my life… We came in contact a little over a year ago and we sat down at Harlem Tavern on 116th & 8th avenue for a conversation.”
He continued, “We wanted to work with him but I needed to figure out who he was as a person. Once you realize who he is and what he’s about it’s absolutely incredible.”
“He is an individual that grew up in Harlem and his passion point and God-given gift is his ability and joy for riding his bicycle… There are millions of bicycles all over the world and all this young man has said is ‘I’m gonna ride my bike’ but as he’s doing that he’s bringing a community with him…”Luin Frazier
Dblocks does a lot of charitable work that we see on IG whether it’s SantaBlocks where he rides around the city in lower-income neighborhoods giving not only bikes but also JT Racing gear.
“What we also don’t see is that whenever he is flown across the country to make an appearance, he’s personally paying for others to come out and join him,” said Frazier.
With the sincere energy that people like Dblocks bring to bike life, newfound doors will continue to open for the movement and those who aspire to move the culture forward.
Through his love for bikes, Dblocks is living proof that following your passion can lead you to unimaginable heights when you continue to feed it.
As the ascension of bike life into mainstream culture continues to unfold before the public eye, brands outside of BMX and motocross have begun to see how they can monetize off of the movement.
With brands like Supreme and Cactus Plant Flea Market collaborating with the likes of Fox Racing and Alpinestars, the question comes to mind as to how other brands will infiltrate the movement as well.
Although there have been several documentaries to surface highlighting aspects of the bike life movement, HBO’s upcoming movie Charm City Kings represents a major benchmark for bike life as the film intimately depicts bike culture in Baltimore, MD.
Thinking about where JT Racing will be in the next 5-10 years regarding the bike life movement at large, Luin Frazier is set on cementing the brand’s stature within action sports apparel on a global scale.
Considering the strong 50 year heritage that JT Racing has created for themselves, their rebrand in the past year is allowing them to grow alongside the consumers of the #BikeLife movement whose sights are set on pushing the culture forward.
Luin went on to explain that the brand’s ultimate goal is upholding as well as progressing the movement forward whether it be through their apparel or social media content.
In all the work that he has done with JT Racing and bike life, Luin has expressed his gratitude for the movement as it has reinforced the value of maintaining a youthful spirit.
As the everyday responsibilities increase in light of growing older, veterans within the bike world inspire Luin is inspired because they continue to tap into their youthfulness by riding their bike.
In regards to all the ground that bike life has covered in spreading its message of unity around the world, Luin hopes to see a day where the stigmas and connotations of large ride outs are debunked.
“I would like for communities, both the residents and the governing bodies, the mayors, police officers, city commissioners, and fire departments to do a better job of embracing this bike life movement… “Luin Frazier
Frazier recalled, “Last year, I believe the governor of either Patterson or Newark, NJ invited Dblocks to do a ride out and I thought that was incredible. In many cities, in California, kids will ride their bikes alongside police officers because they embrace the culture of skateboarding, dirt bikes, and BMX. That’s a part of the DNA in that state.”
In many other states and cities across the country, this is not necessarily the case so when you get a group of 50-100 kids, many of them African American or Hispanic, getting together to ride a bike there becomes a negative connotation,” Frazier continued.
“I think at a time where our country is so divided, I would love to see the municipalities embrace this and go to someone like Dblocks to say ‘how can we help’? How can we tear down the misconceptions and barriers to allow you and your friends to ride your bikes freely through our cities without being harassed because they think you’re in a gang?”Luin Frazier
“I would love to start getting engaged with the municipalities by creating ride-outs that include the police and have our councilmen and women joining these ride-outs with these individuals who are good citizens of their community.”
In the midst of all the divisive imagery that continues to get pushed in the face of the public on a daily basis, it is movements like #BikeLife that serve as the light within the dark that brings humanity further from the hate.
Through the simple affinity of riding a bike, you can become a part of a community that is filled with genuine love and passion. By riding a bike, this movement has inspired millions across the globe of all ages to unify with one another to share that joy for the sport.
I want to thank Luin Frazier for taking the time to speak with me about JT Racing and his contributions to #BikeLife. Most importantly the work being done is helping to inspire the old and future generations of tomorrow by showing the possibilities that can emerge from coming together as people.
Ride on, fam…