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Motorcycle Cities, Brooklyn Pt. 1

Motorcycle Cities, Brooklyn Pt. 1

From Hamburg to Brooklyn

Join Jonathan Wieme, the man behind “Motorcycle Cities,” as he makes his way through Brooklyn, NY, USA to experience pure moto culture.
In the Beginning

I am starting this new opus in a local cafe, Le Phare in Molenbeek (pronounced ['mo.lən.be:k]), drinking a Fritz-Pritz. It’s a fizzy organic drink I just discovered. Reading the label, I see it’s made in Hamburg. Well yes, it’s printed right here on the bottle. Hamburg. Where we parted ways last time, with a final ride along the Elbe river. After that, I was heading North, on my way to Copenhagen, gearing up for the next issue of “Motorcycle Cities.”

Ultimately, I changed course, and this next chapter will be about Brooklyn. Copenhagen, Brussels, London, and other more exotic cities will come later. Apparently, I am not done yet with these places, with sharing my love for them and their scent of industrial revolution, factories and burnt oil (you can’t really smell burnt oil in Brooklyn), but you surely get the picture.

Intrigued by the custom garages and the motorcycle scene in this city, I started to investigate. And bang, I quickly stumbled upon 1, 2, 3, 10, 20, 30 garages, addresses, workshops, and other motorcycle-related places, all roosted in Brooklyn. This city, or rather this district, is huge. The opportunities as well. A far cry from the handful of contacts we usually get in some cities or bigger towns. In Brooklyn, I’d have plenty on my plate.

That said, even though I feel quite at home and comfortable with the European scene, I started this journey knowing very little about what’s going on in the United States, in New York, and specifically in Brooklyn. The customs, the culture, the people. My adventure might have been disappointing sometimes, but it was mostly filled with great discoveries. Time to find out more. Enjoy the ride!

Williamsburg & Greenpoint

Williamsburg and Greenpoint are located north of Brooklyn. Historically working class, these neighborhoods are now packed with galleries, artists’ studios, and craftsmen of all kinds. Hipster culture and trendy-savvy crowds are also welcomed here.

No wonder there’s a hefty concentration of garages and bike-related shops such as Jane Motorcycles, Café Moto, Brooklyn Moto and, up north in Greenpoint, just past the border with Williamsburg, the legendary Indian Larry, Works Engineering, MotorGrrl and Genuine Motorworks’ shop. Let’s dig a bit deeper.

Café MotoCafé Moto is where my tour of Brooklyn starts, right next to Hewes Street Station, on the J/M lines. That’s where the subway lines are running outside, in between buildings. Where the noise is unbearable and it's not so pleasant to go for a stroll on a winter’s night. But, that’s really where one can get a sense of the city, of the neighborhood's history, and where one might believe it’s still the turn of the XXth century.

Café Moto is not a trendy bar with bikes hanging on the walls, or a shopping space selling the quintessential biker’s lifestyle products and clothing. It is a small, tasteful, and charming restaurant that sometimes becomes a club at night, with a nice selection of gigs and musical events. With dimmed and intimate vibes which almost muffle the racket of the nearby subway trains. More surprising and equally intriguing is the story of Bill Phelps, its founder. Bill is a professional photographer.

“I have been riding and building motorbikes for nearly 33 years and making pictures almost as long. I have traveled for life as well as for work, as you can see. 

Travel, bikes, art, design, food and people have been the strongest forces for me for my entire adult life. I am now a father and have a whole new world before me with my 4-year-old daughter Hazel, the one, true love of my life. I lived in Spain in the early 1990s, at the beginning of my career, a wonderful time that certainly helped solidify my tastes for all things rich in experience and aspiration. It was pre internet, pre mobile phone, pre computer. The terraces were our communication centers, sharing ideas, work, dreams, flirtations, bikes, recipes."

“The plan for Moto came years later, but the inspiration is decades old, and universally timeless in many ways. I found great solace as well as fuel in my ‘café life’ and wanted it to continue. Moto has been open more than 13 years now. Many wondered if we were building a ‘biker spot’ if they took a second to think about it and where I was coming from they would have been able to answer that question themselves. There are no bikes, bike parts, obvious details that say ‘biker.’ It is, however, built with the same attention to details and materials that we would put in to the build of a bike. We built every square inch of it ourselves. We reimagined the espresso machine, hand turned the beer taps, and made every window case by hand. I never wanted to be in the restaurant business, but it is something I am very proud of. I no longer have anything to do with its daily operation, as I travel, and no longer live in New York, but I visit it often.”

MotorgrrlMotorGrrl, Works Engineering, Genuine Motorworks and the legendary Indian Larry Motorcycles are all a stone’s throw away from the Automotive High School and the famous Brooklyn Brewery. Ladies first, of course. 

My first halt is at Valerie’s MotorGrrl. Having made no appointment and being a complete stranger in Brooklyn, I have no idea what to expect, or how I will be welcomed. Fortunately, I am carrying a copy of the first issue of “Motorcycle Cities,” and like many times before, it has proven to be quite helpful. For in NY or in Brooklyn, motorcycle projects, journalists, and filmmakers abound.

MotorGrrl’s concept is simple and yet unusual. Here you can rent a storage space, with or without service and mechanical assistance, for the maintenance of your motorcycle or a restoration project. On a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. What’s truly special is that everyone is welcome. No matter the brand or the style of your ride, your age, your skills or your origins. Human contact and relationships come first. There’s a lack of space in New York; parking and storage spaces for cars and motorcycles are fairly common. But, here, you can really take your time to work on your bike, or to service it.

You can even learn a few things from more experienced mechanics. There, I met Chris who rented a space for two months and got himself a couple of hours with a mechanic to restart his Ducati Monster.

He estimated this cost him half of what a regular garage would have charged, with the bonus of having received training. As described by Chris, MotorGrrl offers a starting point, a place to find support to learn the basics of mechanics, but also to socialize. Every few months, new faces come in, while other customers go someplace else. Another particularity is seeing a lot of women here, of all ages. A 65-year-old lady is about to finish her BSA there.

Valerie started this project 11 years ago, mostly out of necessity, because of the maintenance costs being too high, and the quality of service being too low for her 1983 Yamaha Virago XV500. She runs and manages the garage, with currently 60 stored bikes, 10 of them requiring the services of a mechanics. Valerie‘s garage is located a few steps away from the shop of the legendary Indian Larry, the renowned chopper builder, who sadly died in a road accident in 2004 at the age of 55. Still, the soul of the master remains alive, through his family and his community. I also had the chance to see his last build, the ‘Chain of Mystery,’ with its particular chains frame designed for the third season of Bikers Build-Off.

Walking around the shop, talking respectfully about him, you realize how much the Brooklyn motorcycle scene is a tight-knit community. Conversations and references have been interweaving through all the people I met, like a web growing in my mind, especially in this city, where motorcycles have such a special place. We end our chat, talking about leatherwork and craftsmanship, my field of preference. There, Valerie talks about the work of Paul Cox and his Custom Panhead called ‘The Berserker,’ completely covered in leather with Vikings-inspired designs.

Works EngineeringOn my way to Works Engineering, I stop by Genuine Motorworks. It’s a small shop on a pretty secluded street corner, but it’s standing in the right spot, sandwiched between a few motorcycle garages, creating an obvious link with the American Chopper Culture, while following the current trends. They say, "There's no way like the American way," and it’s quite logical to discover a fine selection of motorcycle apparel and accessories from local brands, although all world-renowned. From Schott jackets to Indian Larry products, from Biltwell, Pendleton, and Thorogood exclusive ranges, everything is made in the USA, or even in Brooklyn.

As I get closer to Works Engineering, I finally find what I came looking for; what I hoped to discover in Brooklyn anyway. Vintage hand-painted logos on a crumbling facade, a place filled with a thousand and one treasures, vintage bikes, and their true stories. I meet the owner Rik, originally from Bonn, as well as a gifted young guy named Oscar, and Larry from NYC Motorcycles passing by in his Ford Mustang, about to open a Lifestyle corner at Works Engineering, and whose stories alone could fill at least five issues of “Motorcycle Cities.”

Here it smells like metal and oil. Real oil! So, I step inside. It’s a 10,000 square-foot area, with many different spaces side by side, workplaces, and storage rooms. People are coming and going constantly. There is even a small circus school inside, a tattoo artist, a pool parlor, and even a Belgian guy, Benoit, tinkering on a 140cc Monkey, so all is well.

Rik settled in Brooklyn around 1999 to open the Works Engineering garage with his partner Ray, who unfortunately passed away a year ago. He also tells me his lease is about to end, and that he doesn’t know yet where and how he will continue the project. This does not keep him up at night though, and new projects are already on their way. Such as the installation of a Lifestyle corner, led by Larry Morris of New York City Motorcycles, with the support of Deus.

Rik is a lover of motorcycles, dirt bikes and vintage racing. He rides extensively throughout the US, and he is currently preparing his next race in Alabama, which popularity is comparable to the Spa Classic Bikes in Belgium. Participants can register in almost 40 different categories, so they can ride more than once and get their bike displayed in several competitions.

I slip away and sneak between the bikes, to get a closer look. Going up the stairs, I find myself in a room where Oscar hides with his machines. Oscar is a young genius that must have hands made of something better than gold. He is studying aerospace engineering but spends most of his time in the shop, welding, restoring old metal lathes, milling machines, and other old tools. Right now, he is working on two different bikes that will surely get noticed soon.

As I finish my round, I bump into Larry Morris again. A key character in the US motorcycle world, he knows everyone in the motorcycle scene and vice versa. He shares his time between New York and L.A, moving between the two cities to take part in races and vintage shows with his motorcycle collection. To get a better idea, his collection includes the following bikes: a 1972 Laverda 750 SFC, a Laverda Formula  500, a Benelli 250SS, a 1970 Harley XR750, a Honda Dream 50, a Kawasaki H1, a Norton Commando, a Matchless G80CS Scrambler, and many others.

He also tells me about his shop project, a place to exhibit some of his motorcycles, but also a range of clothes and fashionable accessories. The project is supported by Deus, because they’re the only ones able to sponsor and support the 'cool.' On my way home, a few weeks later, I call him to know how the opening went. A success, I guess. Lucy Liu is already a good customer and “Motorcycle Cities” magazines are selling well. This is New York, you see.

Jane Motorcycles

I return to reality and head toward Williamsburg for another exciting ride. Yes, it’s an emotional rollercoaster here, full of aesthetics, passion, and motorcycles. It’s Disney World for grownups, just like in a movie. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not all glory and prosperity, far from it. Space is definitely a luxury. Being able to make a living out of one’s passion is even more of a luxury. Doors are opening, but warily, because time is money, and every minute must be profitable in order to go forward.

I quickly drop by Brooklyn Moto, to meet Marc, a Ducati and Triumph specialist, and then another short stop by the Venier Customs Garage, dealing mainly with Guzzi and Ducati. Marc tells me he often works with Jane Motorcycles to prepare or restore Ducati bikes for his clients. The connection is made then; that’s a good thing because that’s where I want to go next. You see, Jane Motorcycles is kind of the trendy place; it’s a bit cliché for some, a breath of fresh air for others. Especially for the ‘nouveaux riches’ coming from the financial district.

The shop is doing well and it attracts this upmarket clientele, with all the right brands and ranges on display. It’s a unique combination of specialized clothing, custom bikes, coffee, books and magazines, all in one place. Many brands and companies outside of the motorcycle scene work with Jane, because the shop creates an obvious link between lifestyle, fashion, motorcycle culture, trends, with an authentic side to it. And companies are definitely interested in such places. High-profile personalities are booking the place for dinners or private parties. Even celebs and movie stars are popping in for a coffee.

But, there’s more. Above all, Jane Motorcycles is Adam’s & Alex’s project. They created this place three years ago, being both at crossroads in their lives and looking for a new professional challenge, longing for something more concrete, that they could touch and feel, and also a chance to be closer to their customers.

My friends know how strongly I can relate to that. One was working in the tech and e-commerce industry in L.A., the other one was already in the motorcycle business in NYC. Both were motorcycle and coffee enthusiasts, hence the idea of a coffee shop, an obvious choice to share their passion and create a community. A community now extending to their supplier and all the people they work with, such as their roaster, Parlor Coffee, also located in Brooklyn, or the builders who display their motorcycles in the shop.

A gorgeous, spacious and freshly decorated, spot-on location! Here, at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge, the 7,308 ft-long, 100-year-old suspension bridge, that connects the Lower East Side to Williamsburg. An obvious location for the owners, a meaningful choice for the shop. A trendier neighborhood than Manhattan, perhaps more receptive to their concept, and also less jam-packed. Here, Adam and Alex welcome everyone for their first morning coffee, 7 days a week, from 7 am.

Second Stroke MopedsAfter Jane, I head back to Café Moto to complete my Williamsburg/Greenpoint tour. Then, I hop on the J/M subway line to Myrtle Ave. Reminiscent of Works Engineering and this true mechanical atmosphere I love so much, we go one step further here, even more offbeat ...

Welcome to Second Stroke Mopeds. The noise of the subway trains is still deafening, there are still some bad boys roaming the streets, but I’m getting used to it, and I feel I’m starting to fit in the crowd. The fact I’m wearing a counterfeit $ Yankees beanie may help. I don’t find the place right away; there are no easy-to-spot signs anywhere. In the distance, I see a group of people filming a guy trying to pull wheelies on a moped. Great. That must be the place.

As the name suggests, it’s all about two-strokes and all kinds of mopeds. A place just as crazy as the people who haunt it. As soon as I get in, a regular customer asks Peter about oil specificity and viscosity, and it goes on for half an hour, just to be sure he’s making the right choice for his Kawa.

Second stroke Mopeds happened organically. First with Peter, who moved to the city when he was 22 or 23 years old, crazy about his moped and looking for fellow riders and places to share this interest. From this came Mission23, a group of friends, enthusiasts, united by the two-stroke passion.

Today, Second Stroke is kind of a moped temple in New York, especially for everything related to the 70s two-stroke bikes. Since 2011, people have been coming here for advice, repairs, in an atmosphere of community and to meet new friends. Peter is not keeping his expertise and knowledge to himself, he’s willingly sharing it. He would like to see each owner being able to take care of his moped’s maintenance, in order to extend the love and the knowledge within the two-stroke community.

There is a strong demand for these machines, probably one of the best alternatives to public transport for traveling around the city. Accessibility is also very easy, no need for a driving license or insurance.

All you need is to register the moped. In terms of brands, the offer is quite extensive. There are classics, those we all know in Europe, Peugeot and Motobecane.

With a preference for Peugeot, easier to maintain and also more reliable. The Motobecane or Mobis as they’re called here, are too fragile and not so popular. With a similar design, there are Tomos. I had never heard about this Slovenian brand before, it is still in activity, but no longer imported in America.

Then, there’s the current fashionable choice: the Puch. With the tank over and the engine down the frame, it is beautifully designed and highly prized by all the builders and the young guys, looking for the perfect two-strokes machine to match their style. So prices for these are going through the roof, often between $2,000 and $3,000, when you can find a Motobecane for $1,200, including a two-month warranty. Of course, we are talking about 50ccs, but lots of engine kits are available to increase the displacement and boost the power. Unfortunately, at the expense of reliability, even if a good balance can be achieved…

 To be continued
Café Moto

Café Moto is where my tour of Brooklyn starts, right next to Hewes Street Station, on the J/M lines. That’s where the subway lines are running outside, in between buildings. Where the noise is unbearable and it's not so pleasant to go for a stroll on a winter’s night. But, that’s really where one can get a sense of the city, of the neighborhood's history, and where one might believe it’s still the turn of the XXth century.

Café Moto is not a trendy bar with bikes hanging on the walls, or a shopping space selling the quintessential biker’s lifestyle products and clothing. It is a small, tasteful, and charming restaurant that sometimes becomes a club at night, with a nice selection of gigs and musical events. With dimmed and intimate vibes which almost muffle the racket of the nearby subway trains. More surprising and equally intriguing is the story of Bill Phelps, its founder. Bill is a professional photographer.

Motorgrrl

MotorGrrl, Works Engineering, Genuine Motorworks and the legendary Indian Larry Motorcycles are all a stone’s throw away from the Automotive High School and the famous Brooklyn Brewery. Ladies first, of course.

My first halt is at Valerie’s MotorGrrl. Having made no appointment and being a complete stranger in Brooklyn, I have no idea what to expect, or how I will be welcomed. Fortunately, I am carrying a copy of the first issue of “Motorcycle Cities,” and like many times before, it has proven to be quite helpful. For in NY or in Brooklyn, motorcycle projects, journalists, and filmmakers abound.

MotorGrrl’s concept is simple and yet unusual. Here you can rent a storage space, with or without service and mechanical assistance, for the maintenance of your motorcycle or a restoration project. On a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. What’s truly special is that everyone is welcome. No matter the brand or the style of your ride, your age, your skills or your origins. Human contact and relationships come first. There’s a lack of space in New York; parking and storage spaces for cars and motorcycles are fairly common. But, here, you can really take your time to work on your bike, or to service it.

You can even learn a few things from more experienced mechanics. There, I met Chris who rented a space for two months and got himself a couple of hours with a mechanic to restart his Ducati Monster. He estimated this cost him half of what a regular garage would have charged, with the bonus of having received training. As described by Chris, MotorGrrl offers a starting point, a place to find support to learn the basics of mechanics, but also to socialize. Every few months, new faces come in, while other customers go someplace else. Another particularity is seeing a lot of women here, of all ages. A 65-year-old lady is about to finish her BSA there.

Valerie started this project 11 years ago, mostly out of necessity, because of the maintenance costs being too high, and the quality of service being too low for her 1983 Yamaha Virago XV500. She runs and manages the garage, with currently 60 stored bikes, 10 of them requiring the services of a mechanics. Valerie‘s garage is located a few steps away from the shop of the legendary Indian Larry, the renowned chopper builder, who sadly died in a road accident in 2004 at the age of 55. Still, the soul of the master remains alive, through his family and his community. I also had the chance to see his last build, the ‘Chain of Mystery,’ with its particular chains frame designed for the third season of Bikers Build-Off.

Walking around the shop, talking respectfully about him, you realize how much the Brooklyn motorcycle scene is a tight-knit community. Conversations and references have been interweaving through all the people I met, like a web growing in my mind, especially in this city, where motorcycles have such a special place. We end our chat, talking about leatherwork and craftsmanship, my field of preference. There, Valerie talks about the work of Paul Cox and his Custom Panhead called ‘The Berserker,’ completely covered in leather with Vikings-inspired designs.

Works Engineering

On my way to Works Engineering, I stop by Genuine Motorworks. It’s a small shop on a pretty secluded street corner, but it’s standing in the right spot, sandwiched between a few motorcycle garages, creating an obvious link with the American Chopper Culture, while following the current trends. They say, "There's no way like the American way," and it’s quite logical to discover a fine selection of motorcycle apparel and accessories from local brands, although all world-renowned. From Schott jackets to Indian Larry products, from Biltwell, Pendleton, and Thorogood exclusive ranges, everything is made in the USA, or even in Brooklyn.

As I get closer to Works Engineering, I finally find what I came looking for; what I hoped to discover in Brooklyn anyway. Vintage hand-painted logos on a crumbling facade, a place filled with a thousand and one treasures, vintage bikes, and their true stories. I meet the owner Rik, originally from Bonn, as well as a gifted young guy named Oscar, and Larry from NYC Motorcycles passing by in his Ford Mustang, about to open a Lifestyle corner at Works Engineering, and whose stories alone could fill at least five issues of “Motorcycle Cities.”

Here it smells like metal and oil. Real oil! So, I step inside. It’s a 10,000 square-foot area, with many different spaces side by side, workplaces, and storage rooms. People are coming and going constantly. There is even a small circus school inside, a tattoo artist, a pool parlor, and even a Belgian guy, Benoit, tinkering on a 140cc Monkey, so all is well.

Rik settled in Brooklyn around 1999 to open the Works Engineering garage with his partner Ray, who unfortunately passed away a year ago. He also tells me his lease is about to end, and that he doesn’t know yet where and how he will continue the project. This does not keep him up at night though, and new projects are already on their way. Such as the installation of a Lifestyle corner, led by Larry Morris of New York City Motorcycles, with the support of Deus.

Rik is a lover of motorcycles, dirt bikes and vintage racing. He rides extensively throughout the US, and he is currently preparing his next race in Alabama, which popularity is comparable to the Spa Classic Bikes in Belgium. Participants can register in almost 40 different categories, so they can ride more than once and get their bike displayed in several competitions.

I slip away and sneak between the bikes, to get a closer look. Going up the stairs, I find myself in a room where Oscar hides with his machines. Oscar is a young genius that must have hands made of something better than gold. He is studying aerospace engineering but spends most of his time in the shop, welding, restoring old metal lathes, milling machines, and other old tools. Right now, he is working on two different bikes that will surely get noticed soon.

As I finish my round, I bump into Larry Morris again. A key character in the US motorcycle world, he knows everyone in the motorcycle scene and vice versa. He shares his time between New York and L.A, moving between the two cities to take part in races and vintage shows with his motorcycle collection. To get a better idea, his collection includes the following bikes: a 1972 Laverda 750 SFC, a Laverda Formula 500, a Benelli 250SS, a 1970 Harley XR750, a Honda Dream 50, a Kawasaki H1, a Norton Commando, a Matchless G80CS Scrambler, and many others.

He also tells me about his shop project, a place to exhibit some of his motorcycles, but also a range of clothes and fashionable accessories. The project is supported by Deus, because they’re the only ones able to sponsor and support the 'cool.' On my way home, a few weeks later, I call him to know how the opening went. A success, I guess. Lucy Liu is already a good customer and “Motorcycle Cities” magazines are selling well. This is New York, you see.

Jane Motorcycles

I return to reality and head toward Williamsburg for another exciting ride. Yes, it’s an emotional rollercoaster here, full of aesthetics, passion, and motorcycles. It’s Disney World for grownups, just like in a movie. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not all glory and prosperity, far from it. Space is definitely a luxury. Being able to make a living out of one’s passion is even more of a luxury. Doors are opening, but warily, because time is money, and every minute must be profitable in order to go forward.

I quickly drop by Brooklyn Moto, to meet Marc, a Ducati and Triumph specialist, and then another short stop by the Venier Customs Garage, dealing mainly with Guzzi and Ducati. Marc tells me he often works with Jane Motorcycles to prepare or restore Ducati bikes for his clients. The connection is made then; that’s a good thing because that’s where I want to go next. You see, Jane Motorcycles is kind of the trendy place; it’s a bit cliché for some, a breath of fresh air for others. Especially for the ‘nouveaux riches’ coming from the financial district.

The shop is doing well and it attracts this upmarket clientele, with all the right brands and ranges on display. It’s a unique combination of specialized clothing, custom bikes, coffee, books and magazines, all in one place. Many brands and companies outside of the motorcycle scene work with Jane, because the shop creates an obvious link between lifestyle, fashion, motorcycle culture, trends, with an authentic side to it. And companies are definitely interested in such places. High-profile personalities are booking the place for dinners or private parties. Even celebs and movie stars are popping in for a coffee.

But, there’s more. Above all, Jane Motorcycles is Adam’s & Alex’s project. They created this place three years ago, being both at crossroads in their lives and looking for a new professional challenge, longing for something more concrete, that they could touch and feel, and also a chance to be closer to their customers.

My friends know how strongly I can relate to that. One was working in the tech and e-commerce industry in L.A., the other one was already in the motorcycle business in NYC. Both were motorcycle and coffee enthusiasts, hence the idea of a coffee shop, an obvious choice to share their passion and create a community. A community now extending to their supplier and all the people they work with, such as their roaster, Parlor Coffee, also located in Brooklyn, or the builders who display their motorcycles in the shop.

A gorgeous, spacious and freshly decorated, spot-on location! Here, at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge, the 7,308 ft-long, 100-year-old suspension bridge, that connects the Lower East Side to Williamsburg. An obvious location for the owners, a meaningful choice for the shop. A trendier neighborhood than Manhattan, perhaps more receptive to their concept, and also less jam-packed. Here, Adam and Alex welcome everyone for their first morning coffee, 7 days a week, from 7 am.

Second Stroke Mopeds

After Jane, I head back to Café Moto to complete my Williamsburg/Greenpoint tour. Then, I hop on the J/M subway line to Myrtle Ave. Reminiscent of Works Engineering and this true mechanical atmosphere I love so much, we go one step further here, even more offbeat ...

Welcome to Second Stroke Mopeds. The noise of the subway trains is still deafening, there are still some bad boys roaming the streets, but I’m getting used to it, and I feel I’m starting to fit in the crowd. The fact I’m wearing a counterfeit $ Yankees beanie may help. I don’t find the place right away; there are no easy-to-spot signs anywhere. In the distance, I see a group of people filming a guy trying to pull wheelies on a moped. Great. That must be the place.

As the name suggests, it’s all about two-strokes and all kinds of mopeds. A place just as crazy as the people who haunt it. As soon as I get in, a regular customer asks Peter about oil specificity and viscosity, and it goes on for half an hour, just to be sure he’s making the right choice for his Kawa.

Second stroke Mopeds happened organically. First with Peter, who moved to the city when he was 22 or 23 years old, crazy about his moped and looking for fellow riders and places to share this interest. From this came Mission23, a group of friends, enthusiasts, united by the two-stroke passion.

Today, Second Stroke is kind of a moped temple in New York, especially for everything related to the 70s two-stroke bikes. Since 2011, people have been coming here for advice, repairs, in an atmosphere of community and to meet new friends. Peter is not keeping his expertise and knowledge to himself, he’s willingly sharing it. He would like to see each owner being able to take care of his moped’s maintenance, in order to extend the love and the knowledge within the two-stroke community.

There is a strong demand for these machines, probably one of the best alternatives to public transport for traveling around the city. Accessibility is also very easy, no need for a driving license or insurance. All you need is to register the moped. In terms of brands, the offer is quite extensive. There are classics, those we all know in Europe, Peugeot and Motobecane. With a preference for Peugeot, easier to maintain and also more reliable. The Motobecane or Mobis as they’re called here, are too fragile and not so popular. With a similar design, there are Tomos. I had never heard about this Slovenian brand before, it is still in activity, but no longer imported in America.

Then, there’s the current fashionable choice: the Puch. With the tank over and the engine down the frame, it is beautifully designed and highly prized by all the builders and the young guys, looking for the perfect two-strokes machine to match their style. So prices for these are going through the roof, often between $2,000 and $3,000, when you can find a Motobecane for $1,200, including a two-month warranty. Of course, we are talking about 50ccs, but lots of engine kits are available to increase the displacement and boost the power. Unfortunately, at the expense of reliability, even if a good balance can be achieved… To be continued in Part 2.

Words & Photos by

Jonathan Wieme

The man behind Motorcycle Cities. An independently published magazine that we just happened to stumble upon during a leisurely Saturday afternoon stroll through Antwerp.

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