No Tour de France: The Brooklyn Bike Brawl

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Contestant with Chopper Bike

A contestant at the Brooklyn Bike Brawl with her chopper bike. Andy Hardman hide caption

toggle caption Andy Hardman

The Brooklyn Bike Brawl has bicycles — but that's where similarities to the Tour de France end. The recent bicycle festival in Brooklyn, N.Y., featured highlights such as jousting, chicken fighting and fireworks — all on bikes.


Lance Armstrong is still leading the Tour de France, but there are some bike enthusiasts who insist that the cycling event of the year rapped up earlier this summer. In Brooklyn, reporter Jesse Hardman takes us on a spin through the Brooklyn Bike Brawl.

(Soundbite of music)

JESSE HARDMAN reporting:

Rolling through Brooklyn on a scorching 95-degree day, music blares from speakers. The music is coming from an adult tricycle with huge training wheels. Mounted to the bike are two large speakers hooked up to an iPod and run off a car battery. The rider, Burt Lyons(ph), is wearing a furry rabbit suit and getting plenty of attention on the streets. This group is called Chunk 666, and they're chunking or riding in a posse down the middle of the street. Twenty-eight-year-old Jake Horowitz(ph) says he's been chunking for a decade.

Mr. JAKE HOROWITZ (Bicyclist): When you're young, you ride bikes. You do it for fun. Then as you get older, you forget. You're just going from point A to point B, but if you build a screwed-up bike, you're clearly not riding it for that. You're riding it for fun.

HARDMAN: Chunk 666 is one of a growing number of clubs dedicated to the construction of mutant or freak bikes. The creations are born from used bike parts welded together. Enthusiasts say the craze began in smaller cities like Portland, Oregon, and Minneapolis. At the center of it all is an effort to forego cars and gasoline in an attention-getting fun way. Today's destination is some shipyards at the bottom of the borough. Chunk is co-hosting an event on a secluded street next to an old warehouse, a mutant bike olympics featuring riders from around the country. Organizer Kansas Waugh emcees the event wearing a Spider-Man costume.

Mr. KANSAS WAUGH (Organizer): OK. This is the official announcement. Welcome to the 2005 Brooklyn Bike Brawl.

HARDMAN: The Brooklyn Bike Brawl is the premier event of the biking season. It's a chance for riders to showcase their creative genius, and then there's the competitive event. Ever heard of Baby Rescue?

Mr. WAUGH: All right. The way that this works is that you have two competitors. One is evil and one is good. The good tries to save the bunny and the evil tries to play the bunny before the good gets there.

HARDMAN: The day ends with a round of jousting, where riders mount six-foot-tall bikes and go full speed at each other, brandishing long lances that are fitted on the end with boxing gloves. Kansas Waugh, still in Spider-Man gear, calls the Brooklyn Bike Brawl training for the anti-Carmageddon, a term cyclists use to describe the day when bikes and those who can create them will rule the Earth.

Mr. WAUGH: We're speeding up to this apocalyptic day where it is going to be massive turmoil, and, you know, only the people who are scavengers who, you know, are ready to live in a world that isn't constructed in what is relatively kind of a safe environment are going to be the ones that survive and can help others survive and dominate the wasteland.

(Soundbite of cheering)

HARDMAN: As if on cue, a Chunk member and Forest Service employee who goes by Ranger Rick takes off on his 15-foot-long bike. Loaded down in the back are hundreds of fireworks. He lights the arsenal on fire and begins to calmly ride up and down the streets.

(Soundbite of fireworks)

HARDMAN: The anti-Carmageddon may have already begun.

For NPR News, I'm Jesse Hardman in Brooklyn.

(Soundbite of fireworks)

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