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It's a carnival made from a bicycle junkyard

Dave Ford
  Friday, May 18, 2001

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Jarico Reesce stands about 5-foot-8 and is slightly thinner than a pin (that would be the coffee and Camel cigarettes). He's got piercing blue eyes, a pointy goatee and a pointier mustache that appears to twirl off his face. His head is nearly shaved on the sides, but a sticking-up mop up top makes it look like his brain has exploded.

Which, in a way, it has. With little more than a deep desire to drink beer and ride funny bikes they construct from junk, Reesce and a bunch of buddies founded Heavy Pedal Cyclecide three years ago, after having a spiritual awakening at the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert.

Since then, the group has mounted oddball "Bike Rodeos" that feature such carnivalesque attractions as a bicycle Ferris wheel (zooming 17 feet into the air!), bike carousels (for kiddies and adults!), a spanking bike (you ride it, it spanks you!) and a barbecue bike (it's like a rolling flamethrower. I like that!). There are bicycle bowling, bike jumps and other bike games.

(Side note: I have always considered myself to be firmly placed in the apres-garde. That is far behind the avant-garde, and even some distance from the garde. So a tip of the hat to my esteemed colleague Scott Ostler, who wrote about these guys last year.)

Reesce works at a local auto and scavenge shop, which is where he picks up parts for the odd bikes he and his pals build: chopped stingrays, "tall bikes" (literally: tall bikes), long bikes, even bikes with sidecars.

"We take bikes people dispose of every day and build ultra-cycles," he said when I visited him at his Bayview home-cum-shop on Monday. "It's kind of like they're fabricated to be different kinds of bikes. They're precycled rather than recycled."

The large yard behind the compact building where Reesce and three others live is crammed with -- go figure -- junk. High, rusted metal shelves are strewn with bikes, bike parts and parts of bike parts. Black hoses lie in coils on the ground, old doors lean against the walls and huge sheets of corrugated tin shine in the sun. It's a scavenged world of urban burnout, the detritus of disposable culture.

"Other peoples' garbage is our treasure," Reesce said.

It is from this heavy metal trash heap that Reesce and about 15 cronies fashion their weird bikes, contraptions that look like Salvador Dali dream- cycles riding through a psilocybin hallucination.

The tall bikes are composed of two frames welded together and a lot of parts screwed, glued and smashed on. The long bikes are, well, long, with front forks reaching beyond the horizon. A bike built by Jay Broemmel looks just like the Golden Gate Bridge.

There's a Tall Midget: an orange, peewee Huffy frame mounted on an old Schwinn mountain bike frame. Another bike has been sprayed with paint, then drizzled with "safety spheres," the reflective stuff used to fashion crosswalks.

"You should see that bike when a car's headlights hit it," Reesce said with a chuckle.

All those bikes can be ridden down the street. Then there are those that, well, can't.

The Whirl and Hurl, a small bike mounted on a round base that twirls when you pedal, guarantees a ralphin' good time. The Rocking Bike is composed of a bike frame mounted on a half-section of thick PVC pipe that serves the same purpose as a rocking horse's skids.

The Mad Cow Bike is an old bike frame painted white with black spots. It's mounted on a clothing store hanger ring, which in turn sits atop gnarly car springs. The point: bounce!

Bike purists balk at the hacked-up designs, Reesce said, but he doesn't pay them much mind.

"We don't think they're fun," he said. "They take their bikes too seriously.

We build bikes to be destroyed. We're kind of retarded."

Reesce and company mounted nine shows last year in California and Nevada out of a total of about 16 since they began. They're planning a national tour in the spring that will include countries such as Mexico, where bikes are revered. The goal is to break out of local circles in order to bring bike madness to the masses here and abroad.

"If you stay in the same town, you become the big fish in the small pond," he said. "But if you take it on the road, you become the small fish in the cesspool."

You can take that to the bank -- and set fire to it.

The next Bike Rodeo is at 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Three bands, Los Banos, The Junkyard Sluts and Front Porch Ministry will entertain. $5-$8. Call (415) 695- 1891, or visit www.cyclecide.com

Wheel Life is a weekly column covering bikes, other vehicles, the people who operate them and, yes, life itself. Comments are welcome. E-mail Dave Ford at dford@sfchronicle.


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