Editor’s note: This story by Kenny Prather first appeared in Dirt Rag Issue #134, published in April 2008. Photos courtesy of the author.
Like countless singletracks before it, our trail was doomed to “progress.” When we finally lost our trail of eight years to yet another strip mall, the local riders went in different directions—some put on slicks and hit the road and some put on weight and hit the couch. We lost touch with one another without our Sunday morning ritual.
While wanting to keep our two-wheeled passion alive, we held impromptu Derby Nights, Urban Assaults, and would travel several miles to find trails, only to have five guys show up and reminisce about how good we had it. We tried, but it just wasn’t the same as dozens of riders meeting at the local trailhead, bench racing and whoopin’ it up on those Sunday mornings.
It was an article in Dirt Rag on “Building a Chopper” (Issue #99) that brought the gang back together.
My friend Dennis built a crazy-lookin’ chopperstyle bike, and after seeing that, I had to build one too! It was like being 12 years old again, except now we have the skills to make these unsafe machines “kinda” safe, with real welding, not just screwing some cut-off fork legs onto another pair like we used to.
In October of 2003, a few more guys built radically long-forked behemoths, and then we sent out a few dozen flyers to the local bike shops for the first ever “Choppernite” to be held a week before Halloween. That night 47 riders showed up, some in costume and some on the coolest choppers you’ve ever seen, all old mountain biker buddies that hadn’t seen each other in years. We all talked about how fast we used to be and how fun the trails were. Everybody was just reliving the good ol’ times we shared in the woods.
The ride was so much fun that we decided to meet in three months and do it again. Choppernite #2 had over 80 riders show up! Since then, the Freakbike Militia was born.
Choppernite is held every three months. The average turnout now is around 150 riders. The route is always the same: a short, 7-mile out-and-back through downtown West Palm Beach. We break at the midway mark at a city park with a beautiful fountain with lots of room to park the bikes. Riders can then stroll around, grab a slice of pizza and a drink and look at all the artistic talent these guys and gals have when it comes to building custom two- and three-wheelers. Words cannot describe some of the machinery that you see. Simply amazing.
To keep the ride fun and freaky, we’ll throw in a theme for each ride. Not only do innocent pedestrians and bystanders witness dozens of wild looking choppers and tallbikes (and everything in between) rolling through the middle of town, depending on the night, there could be bicycles piloted by hillbillies, pirates, road warriors, nerds or even Catholic schoolgirls! It’s a sight that cannot be ignored, all the horns honking, bells ringing and laughter filling the streets.
The Freakbike madness is not only happening here in South Florida, there are (as of now) 10 chapters of the Freakbike Militia, from Phoenix to Vancouver and Michigan to New Zealand.
We’ve published a lot of stuff in 26 years of Dirt Rag. Find all our Blast From the Past stories here.