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In the past year my wife and I have ridden our motorbikes more than 47,000km in 14 different countries on 2 continents, and this has enabled us to meet hundreds of interesting people, see incredible sights and rack up memorable experiences by the truck load. It has also given us the opportunity to work on our bikes in some interesting places. It's just a fact; motorcycles breakdown, require maintenance, get flat tires and just need a little TLC from time to time. It is part of the adventure.
I've changed parts at the Colombian border, banged out panniers in Guatemala, repaired accident damage in Ecuador, performed a regular service in a hotel courtyard in Chile, made replacement parts in Peru and changed the oil in a stranger's house in Las Vegas, but sometimes more tools and/or more knowledge are needed and a trip to the motorcycle garage is required. This is not necessarily a bad thing since I love visiting motorcycle shops, and over the course of this trip we've ridden our bikes to, or pushed them through the doors of many fine establishments. Sometimes I'd go there just to check them out or talk about bikes, they are usually a great source for information about road conditions, great rides, or where to find a cheap place to stay.
One of the most interesting garages I've visited over the past year has to be Motomethod in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. Paul Maloway and Simon Travers have created what I think is one of the coolest motorcycle garages on the planet. Aside from being ace mechanics themselves, Paul and Simon have created a place where you can have you bike fixed, or you can fix it yourself. It's a community motorcycle shop, and it is brilliant. It means that you can pay to have one of them or their team members fix your bike, or you can rent a repair bay in their well-equipped shop and work on it yourself.
While Paul and Simon were busy cutting their teeth and getting experience at local motorbike dealers and specialists, Paul came up with what would become the Motomethod concept. He shared this dream of a full service motorcycle repair and restoration shop that would also provid an environment where the customers could work on their own bikes themselves. Most people just didn't get it, they'd say he was crazy and if he taught people how to fix their bikes themselves and gave them the tools and space in which to do it, he's put himself out of business. Most prospective partners agreed, and the idea remained dream until he met Simon, a recent transplant to Canada from the U.K. The two worked on the concept and turned the dream into a reality.
Judging by the number of members the co-op has acquired, the number of customers bikes they work on, and by the amount of coverage they've received on line and in print, they've clearly uncovered a much under serviced niche. A large group of loyal customers can confirm that they're on the right track. The shop has become one of the hubs of the local Vancouver motorcycle community, drop by at lunch time and you'll likely find a number of members and customers hanging out and eating with the Motomethod guys on their makeshift lunch table in the parking lot. You don't see a lot of that at your local corporately owned motorcycle dealer, which is part of the reason why people keep on coming back, it's just a cool place to be.
There is a lot going on at the shop , and if like me, you love looking at motorbikes, this is a good place to look. There was pretty much everything you could hope to see on the forecourt (with the noticeable exception of Harley Davidsons), from classic Ducatis to brand new KTM 990 Adventures and tons of Japanese hardware of all descriptions, not to mention a number of lovely cafe racers. Although the vast majority of bikes I saw were of a metric nature, I suspect the boys have a good set of standard imperial tools that they'd be willing to break out to work on a classic Triumph or BSA.
If you'd prefer to work on your bike yourself, just take out a membership, sign the waiver, review the rules and procedures with either Paul or Simon, and then get to it. If you're working on a bigger job, no problem, you can store your bike at the shop for a very reasonable $1 per day. I could see that a number of clients are taking advantage of the storage option; there were a couple of bikes undergoing what looked to me like pretty comprehensive restorations. In addition to access to the DIY work stations, Motomethod members also receive discounts on labour, parts, 1 free pick up and drop off, free tire changes, and advice if needed.
My visit to be Motomethod was great, I took out a membership and got walked through rules and got down to work. Since I had been been travelling pretty light, I did not have all the tools I needed to complete the job. As it turned out, this was not a problem since Motomethod had everything I needed, including tools, safety equipment and supplies. They even showed me how to use it all. Simon was even kind enough to let me know that I had actually installed one piece backwards… I'm sure it's not the first time (or the last time) he's had to do that for customer. Once I was done, I cleaned up my workstation, put away the tools I had borrowed and paid for my 2 hours of time. Had I taken it to a regular garage I'd be looking at a huge bill, however I was surprised and relieved at how little it cost to do it myself at Motomethod. It was actually a pretty fun way to spend an afternoon.
As you can probably tell, I'm a fan, both of the concept and the shop. Well done boys.