When Lukas Johnson started building custom bikes, this was one of the first ideas he had. It took about a year to make it a reality, but now it’s here — and the timing couldn’t be more perfect.
Johnson, founder of Bright Bikes, created a custom Charlotte Hornets-themed bike to celebrate the team’s 30th anniversary season and just in time for the NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte this weekend.
“The fact that we actually did it really just blows me away,” Johnson, 43, said. “That was one of my initial build ideas and finally it happened. The colors pop; it all works together so well.”
And it’s a beaut. The single-speed bike sports a teal frame with purple accents on the handlebars, seat post, wheels and crank arm, thanks to Nick Frysinger, owner of Polychromatic Coatings, who painted the bike. The white wheels and seat provide a clean finish.
But the bike really shines when it starts rolling. That’s when you’ll see various Hornets and All-Star Game logos displayed in the spinning wheels, thanks to two light strips attached to the spokes and controlled by an app.
“It helps you stand out at night,” Johnson said. “People dig it. They hoot and holler. Gives me motivation to keep riding.”
That’s the motivation behind Bright Bikes — to keep people riding.
Johnson, who works as a copywriter at Adaptive Health, has been riding basically his whole life. When he got out of the Peace Corps in 1999 he used his stipend to buy a bike — a navy blue Cannondale R300 road bike. He once rode 600 miles in 20 days, starting in Vermont and traveling to Montreal and the coast of Maine.
“I’ve always liked biking. I’ve always had a bike,” he said. “I love riding down here in the city. … It’s a bike-friendly city.”
Bright Bikes was born when a neighbor brought over a recumbent bike built in the ‘40s. Johnson stripped it down and got it running, transforming it into what he calls the “Mardis Gras” bike with purple, green and yellow paint.
The hobby grew as Johnson bought cheap frames and parts from places like Charlotte’s Re-Cyclery and had old bikes donated to him. He refurbished, painted and built colorful and unique bikes for friends, family and neighbors, selling an estimated 15-30 in the past year.
He works out of the garage of his Kannapolis home, where he currently has about a dozen bikes in his inventory. Johnson likes to experiment with each bike, calling them “concept builds.”
“People really get a kick out of the bikes because they’re one of a kind, truly,” he said. “Bikes don’t have to be boring.”
Johnson hasn’t decided what he’s going to do with the Hornets bike. He would be open to donating it to the Hornets. He’d love to see Hugo the Hornet riding it on a darkened Spectrum Center court or around the city.
“Some (bikes) are really hard to part with,” he said. “You hope they go to the right person, someone who would actually use it.”
He just wants the bike to bring someone joy — but not just yet, mostly because he hasn’t had a chance to ride it. When he was riding in Uptown to get lunch Jan. 10, a car turned in front of him without signaling. The wreck left Johnson with a broken kneecap. He’s spent the past several weeks recovering and not able to test ride his “favorite build to date.”
Once his knee heals, though, he’ll be back on the bike.
“Biking is fun. I love it. It does something for me,” Johnson said. “It clears my mind, replenishes my soul.”