Bikers find do-it-yourself alternative to servicing
DUBAI // Dressed in suits and ties, some motorcyclists are riding from business meetings to a new do-it-yourself centre to wind down after work by getting their hands greasy. Others roll up during the weekend to spend hours souping up their bikes.
They are living out their dream of working on their own machines in a brightly lit workshop off Sheikh Zayed Road that rents them the space and facilities for Dh40 (US$10) per hour. Their projects range from radical design modifications to basic oil changes. "A bike is a prize possession and bikers always worry when they take it in for servicing," said Nelson Suresh Kumar, the director of Classic Motorcycles, who launched the service in the Al Quoz industrial area three months ago. "Here they have the space to work on their bikes, chat with other bikers [and] use our equipment and tools."
Mr Kumar said the idea to bring the concept to Dubai came to him when he rode his Yamaha almost 29,000km from Argentina to Alaska last year and used similar workshops, which are popular in the US, along the way. His passion for motorcycles led him to quit a financial sector job in Dubai three years ago. He then set up a distributorship in the Middle East and North Africa for Royal Enfield, a British bike now made in India.
Inside his air-conditioned shop, the deep-throated roar of engines resounds as bikers take apart machines ranging from classic Enfields to more common Japanese bikes such as Hondas and Kawasakis. Their machines sit on hydraulic lifts neatly lined up in front of workstations stacked with tools. Manupriam, 42, an Indian architect who uses only one name, studies detailed sketches laid out on the floor that show his Suzuki as it is now and the work he plans to do over the summer, including changing the carburetor and extending the front to give it a more classic look.
"I ran around different workshops for alterations and customisation that I could have handled myself," he said. "It was cumbersome. Now I can work at my own pace and maintain my quality standards. "Working on your own requires a lot of perseverance. It's like sleeping with a dream. Hunting for material, pipes, nuts, bolts - it's like a bird making a nest." Hugo Montamari has easier dreams. His to-do list includes changing the lights, side mirrors and indicators on his Enfield. Nothing difficult. And this is probably for the best. The 27-year-old Italian is making his initial foray into the do-it-yourself arena.
"I have a passion for bikes but this is the first time I'm working on it myself," said the hospitality industry manager, who rides to work every day on either a BMW or the Enfield. "It is like a journey. I could work on it all my life." The bikers have available the services of technicians at the workshop, who check the safety and stability of any design changes they plan. Grinding and welding machines and tyre changers are available, along with manuals for various motorcycle brands.
Riyaz Neem finds the customisation process addictive. The Indian spent hours on the internet researching whitewall paint to coat his Enfield's tyres. "I'm looking for a retro look and it is great to have the freedom to do things myself," said Mr Neem, 38, who runs an advertising agency. "It's more fun to roll up your sleeves and work on your bike than stick it in a regular workshop." Apart from being able to fix their motorcycles in a crunch, the bikers savour hands-on time after a long workday.
"Once you get your hands dirty and understand your bike, you are connected to it," said Joji Kurian, 39, an Indian project manager and a self-confessed bike fanatic, who enjoys restoring his British-made Triumph. "If it breaks down you will know why. "It relieves stress. After a bad day you listen to it, work on it and see it perform." The lure of tinkering with their machines without disturbing the neighbours also draws them to the facility. Balaji Devanathan, 38, who trades in steelmaking raw materials, said he also appreciates the sense of inner calm working on his machine can bring after a hectic afternoon.
"Most of the time everyone struggles with business calls, with work," he said. "It is like meditation to do precision work and put everything back in place at the end of the day." firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated: May 23, 2010 04:00 AM