Rising gas prices, the lure of easier parking, the call of the open road and that hard-to-measure cool factor have all contributed to the growing number of motorcycle and scooter owners in Vancouver. However, finding a place for easy riders to repair their two-wheeled chariots on their own has also become increasingly difficult in this city. Owning or renting a house with a garage is out of reach for most, and condo stratas tend to nix the idea of tenants using the parking garage to tinker with their sweet rides.
As the owner of Rising Sun Motorcycles, Samson Lang has seen and heard it all from his grease-covered customers – especially those wanting to become more self-sufficient on the repair side of things. Earlier this month, he kick-started the Vancouver Motorcycle Collective, dedicating a wing of his Franklin Street shop to the communal cause. While the space has all the markings of a typical East Side garage (a wood burning stove, walls of wrenches, a collection of dog-eared repair manuals, a beer machine stocked with no-nonsense cans of Coors, Pabst Blue Ribbon and Molson Canadian), the motorcycle collective is all about sharing – shared garage space, shared tools, shared knowledge.
Membership, which ranges from yearly all the way down to half-day for one-off repairs, gets members use of the garage, tools, equipment and, most importantly, a built-in and knowledgeable community of fellow riders. There’s also an online education component to teach the fundamentals.
“The demographics are interesting,” Lang says. “Guys just kind of want to get in there and do their own stuff… Whereas most of the interest from women is primarily focused around the education.”
Learning the ins and outs of motorcycle repair is what drew Tori Tucker to the DIY garage.
A mini-bike rider as a kid on the Sunshine Coast, Tucker returned to motorcycles after an 18-year hiatus and desire to rebuild her dad’s old track bike, a BSA 441 Victor Special. She started at Rising Sun as a customer, took the online courses, and now oversees the collective side of the shop, where she can also work on her souped-up Yamaha XS650.
“Motorcycles are addictive. It’s a lot like tattoos,” says a heavily inked Tucker, adding that she enjoys the community aspect of motorcycles. “You become friends and it becomes like a family. It’s an interesting, tight-knit group in this city.”
Living in a two-suite building, Tucker appreciates the need for garage space in Vancouver, and so do her neighbours.
“It’s not ideal. Your neighbours don’t love you starting up your engine while you’re checking stuff. So it’ll be nice that people have this option because it is a fairly big deal for a lot of people.”
Having the space to work and glean knowledge from others also encourages riders to become more comfortable with their bikes, says Tucker. “You’re going to enjoy the process that much more when you can do it yourself. When you have the confidence to go, ‘Oh, I need to tweak my chain, or the oil needs to change.’ And I think that changes how far people will venture as well.”
While the collective is billed as Vancouver’s only shared garage space for motorcycles and scooters, owner Lang says he’s merely following an already well-tread path.
“This is not something that’s going to be unique,” Lang says. “You’re going to see it for all sorts of hobby interests. Whether it’s a motorcycle collective or a woodworking collective, shared garage space, whatever you want to call it, really is a function of the housing crisis that people just don’t have the room. Those days of when you could work with your dad or grandpa in the garage are gone for people in this city.”
For more information, go to vanmotocoop.ca.