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Brothers' custom bikes turn heads

CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tim Gonzalez (left) and his brother Eric run AZ Chop Shop, which has been building functional custom bicycles in their garage since last year. The two have always enjoyed creating things, and have customized everything from cars to bikes to toilet seats.
By Alexandria Blute
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, September 23, 2004
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Perhaps you've seen them. On Saturday nights, they cruise by campus and down Fourth Avenue, creating a haze of bright blue as they pass. Or maybe you've noticed them in a driveway outside a small apartment just north of campus, waiting for someone to take them for a spin.

Friends and neighbors say chances are if you've seen the custom bicycle creations of Eric and Tim Gonzalez, you won't soon forget them.

AZ Chop Shop, a business run by the brothers, has been generating fully-functional custom cycles in their garage since last year. Each completed bike is created using fiberglass to make each frame one- of-a-kind.

The Gonzalez brothers will not reveal the secret technique they use to mold the fiberglass, but they said a great deal of time and effort is put into each project. They said that while some of their designs are worth several hundred dollars, others could fetch more than $1,000.

The pieces are painted using car paint in colors like metallic green and hot pink with glitter and decorated with homemade custom wheels.

The brothers said they sometimes install glowing blue LED lights inside the wheel rims to add pizzazz for night riding.

Eric, a self-described "computer nerd" who has applied to be a design graduate student at UA, and Tim, an engineering mathematics junior who has experience working with custom cars, said their ability to combine skills and work together has yielded good work.

"Our paths diverged," Eric Gonzalez said, "and we ended up with two different skill sets."

Eric and Tim said while they always enjoyed building and improving cars and other household items, it was a television show that got them thinking about working with bicycles.

"It all happened on accident," Tim Gonzalez said. "I remember ... I saw something on MTV about lowrider bikes in California, and I was like, 'I can do that.' And so I was out in the backyard that day taking my bike apart."

While their bikes and cars are some of the more noticeable of the brother's creations, Griffith noted that Eric and Tim also experiment with fiberglass and paint on household items like telephones, vacuum cleaners and irons for practice.

The two even customized their toilet seat.

The Gonzalez brothers say each new project allows them to test their limits as designers and try new techniques.

When discussing plans for potential new designs, Eric said simply, "We want to take it to the next level."

Friends and neighbors said the brothers, originally from North Carolina, are full of surprises and are constantly working to improve their techniques.

"These guys just have talent," said Derek Griffith, a videographer for the UA math department. "It's very creative," he said. "It's something that not just anybody can go out and do."

Griffith said while other custom cycles are sometimes spotted on campus, "it's definitely not as interesting as what Tim and Eric are doing."

Tim said he started learning how to customize vehicles when his passion for working on cars prompted him to get a job at a body shop where he learned how to weld. He then took more jobs and internships in the car industry, each helping him improve his skills.

During this same period, Griffith said Gonzalez would forgo eating in order to have more funds for car projects.

"I saved my lunch money so I could buy parts for my car," Gonzalez said adding that the majority of the money he and his brother make from the bikes and their outside jobs goes to buy parts for the bikes.

Griffith said his girlfriend was the first and only person to have a bicycle built for her by the Chop Shop.

Griffith said that when his girlfriend moved away, she returned the bike to the Chop Shop so the brothers could make improvements and find it a new home. The Gonzalezes said they want each design they sell to go to someone who will appreciate the time and effort that went into it.

Eric said they would consider selling their designs but the two most enjoy building their bikes simply to be creative.

"I think it's art," Eric said. "We don't make 'em to sell 'em We make 'em 'cause it's fun."

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