If you’ve noticed some strange bicycles around Ogden lately, you probably have Mark Johnson to thank. Johnson, a jiu-jitsu instructor who taught English at Ogden High for 21 years, has been building custom bicycles out of old parts and other salvage for his new company, UpCycle: Bikes and Boards.
“My buddy was making bikes out of old bikes so I bought a couple from him. I’ve always liked bikes. Who doesn’t? So I thought I’d like to make bikes with just junk, old stuff, so I started talking about it with my girlfriend, and we said, you know what? Let’s go ahead and try it just for fun,” Johnson says.
Shortly after getting started, Johnson saw an ad for a free bike mechanic class at the Ogden Bicycle Collective, a non-profit bicycle shop. Of the people he met he says, “They were so friendly and nice. They’re invaluable. They’ve even saved me bikes.”
Johnson also gets parts from people who want to get rid of their bikes, but would rather not throw them away. He explains, “People love their bikes, but they hate when they have to store them. So they get a flat tire, or the chain’s messed up a little bit, and they don’t want to deal with it, or they don’t want to store it, so they say, ‘Hey Mark, do you want this bike?’ I say, ‘Yes I would.’ They like the idea of not junking or trashing their bike, but having it made into something else, and I do, too.”
I saw some of Johnson’s creations at a fundraiser for UpCycle at West Side Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Ogden. I arrived in time for the Murder Bike Challenge; a timed lap around the block on the “Murder Bike,” which is the first bike that Johnson ever worked on at the Bike Collective—a single-speed with child cranks on it that he says is “all messed up.” Johnson says, “It’s called the murder bike because it murders your legs and it only has a front brake, so you might die when you ride it.”
The fundraiser also featured other races, henna by a former Ogden High student, comedians, a silent auction, and the debut performance of a local metal band. The best part was seeing the bikes Johnson has already made. My favorite was the Mastodon, which looks like a tricycle on stilts.
When I asked him where he sees UpCycle going, Johnson explained, “I want to build twenty bikes and do the Ogden Farmers Market. If I can sell them, great. If I can’t sell them, that’s a good clue that people aren’t interested. But I’m not really worried about it. I’ll have twenty bikes, and that will be really fun.”
If you’re interested in purchasing a one-of-a-kind bike, donating a bike or parts, or learning more, contact Johnson on the UpCycle: Bikes and Boards Facebook page.