UPDATED AT 3:34 p.m.
Have you ever been sitting at home on a Saturday night when all of a sudden you hear funk music blasting in the streets? If you peeked out of the window upon hearing the up-beat jams, you might have spotted a most-unusual bike gang.
Well, that gang was most likely the SCUL's, a self-described nerd gang, with its own lingo, ranking system, sense of adventure and style. The group's motto: "A SCUL pilot strives to be a superhero version of themselves."
"We pretend that we are in space, flying around the galaxy looking for adventure," said Fleet Admiral and founder, Skunk. "We don't have a political agenda or anything like that. We have fun, we do whatever we want to do on a Saturday night, and generally we attempt to increase our intergalactical funkipositude."
The crew rides on ships--their name for usually self-modified bicycles that may or may not have a variety of unusual flare: including but not limited to, banana seats, lasers, lights and wheels of all sizes. Some have seats mounted as high as 8 feet off the ground.
Skunk's main ride is the Cloudbuster, 200-pound tall-bike, complete with a rotating disco ball called the Death Star, and a large stereo system. It's the fleet's flagship and classifies as a battleship based on its size. He says the crew trash-picks tossed bikes and uses the old frames and parts to construct new wheeled creations. So naturally, there are plenty of "catastrophic failures" like fork snaps and bikes separating in two during the rides.
"They say my ship crashes more often than Windows 95," he said.
Just who makes up SCUL? I've always wondered who they might be when I've seen them passing by. Founded in 1995, the gang is made up of a few hundred members (once you're initiated, you're a member for life), and about 30 active members participating on each ride. Skunk says the group has a mix of all types including "school teachers to punk rock kids and MIT people."
"We've got just about anybody who is up for learning our culture and being part of a strict, para-military monarchy," he said.
No less than a 150-page operations manual details the structure of the group. One part explains rank and title. Members go through a series of trainings to move from a babymaggot (a person on their first SCUL mission), to a maggot (pilot-in-training) and eventually to the rank of pilot. The process includes learning the nav-tail (navigations tailrunner) system that keeps them together when out on "missions," or pack-like rides through the city.
"It is really silly to be riding a strange bike on your own; and it's amplified when you are riding a silly bike with all of your friends," said L-Train a SCUL pilot whom I found in Davis Square one night. She said she loves to ride YerMom, a fleet ship made from a 1970's vintage Schwinn Hollywood single-speed that's not technically a tall bike, but is higher off the ground than you're average "civilian ship".
The SCULs were originally "stationed" out of a Summer Street basement, but have since moved into Artisan's Asylum where they are "totally psyched" to use the 10,000-foot industrial space to build and to preflight ships, said Skunk.
This Saturday is the crew's final ride of the season before "hibernation" begins (until next April). Operation Hallo-Wheels, will start around 10 p.m from a top-secret location. Riders or ships must be in costume. If you catch them on their final mission of 2010, feel free to high-five them if conditions allow, or to dance along to their "chopper groove."