At the 106th Precinct’s last community council meeting, there were “numerous people complaining about those bikes traveling up and down the street creating unnecessary noise,” Officer Kenneth Zorn of the Precinct’s Community Affairs division, said.
Zorn may or may not have been referring to “Future Shock,” a self-styled “crew” of four 16- to 19-year-old Trinidadians who moved to Richmond Hill with their families in the past five years, bringing with them their love of loud music. Music, after all, courses through Trinidadians’ veins, one of them proudly claimed.
But it’s not just about music for “Future Shock.” Think of the crew as a fresh-faced, grassroots, Caribbean-accented version of MTV’s show “Pimp My Ride” - in which rapper Xzibit and his team of car buffs customize jalopies by installing powerful stereos and other awe-inducing gadgets - but substitute bicycles for automobiles.
The crew - comprised of Nicholas Ragbir, 18, and his sister Jessica, 16; and the Bhimraj brothers, Anil, 19, and Travis, 18 - claims to be the original importer of the concept of the “stereo bike” from Trinidad, where “systems” on bicycles gained in popularity in the years before the crew emigrated. “Future Shock” was born last summer when Nicholas, the unofficial founder, met Anil at a laundromat and the two put a few pairs of wheels in motion.
New crews have since sprung up in southern Queens so Officer Zorn could not attribute the noise complaints with any specificity. Regardless of whether or not “Future Shock” is a culprit, however, the group’s reputation extends far beyond the small Caribbean enclave where the members spend free time away from work and school shrouded in welding sparks and sipping sodas under a jumble of grape vines. MTV network, which filmed the crew for a forthcoming production, helped “Future Shock” secure various sponsorships, but the crew’s celebrity also led to a break-in, which set it back $8,000 in equipment.
“In the beginning they took a chance,” said Rattan Bhimraj, Anil and Travis’ father, standing in the doorway of his 103rd Avenue garage, which has become “Future Shock’s” self-storage facility and workshop. “Small bikes and small speakers.”
The crew now churns out custom-made bikes for themselves and friends with 6,000-watt stereo systems, flashing lights and DVD screens housed around the bikes’ steel frames or towed by homemade trailers. The bikes can weigh up to 500 pounds, with around 10 speakers and subwoofers and two amplifiers all powered by car batteries that the crew receives gratis courtesy of a sponsor. The music, which plays off of CDs, mp3 players and cell phones, includes everything “from the 70s and up,” Anil said, the thump-thump of one of the $8,000 bicycles reverberating from the street in front of him. That includes hip hop - lots of hip hop - disco, and Chutney and Soca music, indigenous to the Caribbean.
Even the police are impressed.
“The bikes are pretty cool and the workmanship that’s gone into them - lotta talent right there,” Zorn said.
The admiration of New York’s Finest is not lost on “Future Shock.” In fact, Nicholas said his crew has never had a run-in with the cops because of a mutual respect.
“The cops, they like us. They like what we do. They’ll stop us - literally stop us - and ask us to play our songs.”
Many neighbors like Natalie Jagroob are on the same wavelength.
“It’s great that they take the time to do something else other than being unconstructive,” Jagroob said. “I know them - they don’t drink. They just take care of their bikes and their music. That’s all they concentrate on.”
Unfortunately, some neighbors cannot concentrate with noise blasting from the bikes on weekend afternoons and evenings. An elderly woman held a hand to her ear, struggling to hear above the din of the bass. “I think the noise is bothering the whole community,” she said very slowly, enunciating every word before walking back inside.
Zorn said the dynamics of Richmond Hill are different from Trinidad, where houses are spread out and loud music does not have such an impact. Here, he explained, one set of speakers can affect 200 houses.
The members of “Future Shock” own no vehicles other than their bicycles or the occasional mini-bike lying in disrepair in Rattan’s garage. But they say even if they owned a car, bikes would still be the method to their madness - or, perhaps the madness of some of their annoyed neighbors.
“When I get a car, I’ll still be working on my bike - when I get time though,” Anil said.
“You gotta make time to ride the bikes.”