Carl Crump, president of Contagious Wheels
A few dozen bicyclists gather at Suzie Burger. As they wait for sundown, an assortment of fixies, cruisers, mountain bikes and more crowd the popular burger joint. The pack rides through the grid, bookended by strange vehicles with large handlebars and lights, blasting old-school R&B and soul, their riders sporting vests with logos. Meet the riders of Contagious Wheels, a Sacramento-based bike club, and their leader, Carl Crump. For $25 a month, you too can become a member of this quirky club. SN&R chatted with Crump to talk about the club’s beginnings, the labor that goes into his custom creations and whether his glowing bikes are the natural enemies of the brew bikes.
How did Contagious Wheels get started?
I had an old bike frame in the garage, and I kept looking at it every day. I said, “Man, what I’ma do with this bike?” It was an all-chrome bike. And then one day I said, “Man, let me fix this bike up.” And I started fixing it up, and all of a sudden everybody starting saying, “Oh, that’s a nice bike!” So I start doing other stuff to it, making it unique. And then, after that, my other buddy came and said, “Man, Carl, you got something going.” … I said, “You know what, I’ma start a bike club.” We was putting, like, big ol’ ape hanger handle bars on it, rims, chrome fenders, pumps, lights—the lights was the most exciting thing of the bike.
I’ve seen a glowing trike around downtown before.
Yeah. See, there, you see the lights going. … We started that, actually. Nobody—when we first done it, I didn’t see no one have any lights. It was—we started, our club. Actually, it was me and Rich [Jones]—you know, me and the vice president, started that. You know, we came up there to a bike event that they give—you know they have a Second Saturday at Suzie Burger, and we—that’s the first time we showed off our lights, and they said … “Where you guys get them from?”
Back in 2012?
We got it, like, later on in 2012. I seen them, I said, “Rich, we need to get these and make it happen. We can hook them up to batteries, and then put them in a box, and do this.” Me and him, we do all the bikes—we build them, too. All our bikes our custom. We buy the frame and fix them up from there.
How much does it cost to build?
It depends what you want. The bikes can go up as high as $3,000, like mine’s and [Rich’s]. We got the two more expensive bikes around. Just our music is over $1,000, just our music.
Say someone steals one of these bikes.
Yeah, they wouldn’t be able to. [laughs] Once they get on it, they wouldn’t be able to ride it. Yeah, you got to really be used to the bikes. And plus, once we have them we put them up in the garage and lock it. … You know, it’s like stealing one of them Tour de France bikes. … You try to sell it to one of them shops, they say, “Hey, you guys got this from so-and-so. This bike is—they looking for this.”
Talk to me about these lights.
The lights kill everything. There was a group of Harley Davidson, real motorcycle bikes on the side of the street, parked in Old Sacramento. We came up. We was about—I’d say we was probably about 17 deep that time, and parked our bikes like them, except across from them. We turned on the lights and played a little music; these guys said, “Hey.” They was coming to us and said, “You guys got it going on. You know what, you guys too much for us—we gotta go. You guys taking the whole show.” … They congratulated me and Rich and said, “Man, you guys, that is real nice, man. You guys get more action than us.” I said, “Yeah.” But they left and we had a ball that day—all kinds of people came over.
Any run-ins with the police?
They’ve been nice to us. Other people, they have hard times with the cops. Man, but with us, they just say, “Hey, just keep it down a little.” See, and then it got to do with the music you play. They don’t like that hard rap. The cops’ll really get on you more than anything. See, we usually do old school. They’re real cool. They say, “Hey, I love it, but just a little bit, just give it a little bit.”
Do you guys see the brew bikes as competition?
No competition. Yeah, they came to us for ideas. You know the one where the one guy is in it, and then he has, like, two [riders] in the back? Not the big one—he talked to us, too—but the main guy that talked to us is the one. We talked to him in Old Sac one day, he had the two people in the back, and he be riding it. He came to us and we talked to him for about half an hour. Talking about, “Man, how can I get music and lights like that?” Next thing we know, we see him again, his whole thing is lit up. Man, he done it up—it looks way nicer now, he gets more attention. They used to make fun of us. That was the whole—I said, “Richard, don’t worry about it. They gonna make fun of us right now, but watch how many people wanna join.”