When Paul Malowany and Simon Travers opened a motorcycle repair shop in Vancouver in 2010, their vision was to create something that’s almost completely foreign to anyone under the age of fifty. They wanted to build a shop where you could not only have your bike worked on by expert mechanics, but where you could also come to crank a wrench and learn how to repair your bike yourself.
Less than two years into the venture and Motomethod Community Motorcycle Repair Shop looks to be a total success. How is it that a repair shop that gives away all its secrets can even stay in business, much less thrive?
The answer is that Motomethod provides much more than a basic service. Bring your car or motorcycle into any ordinary repair shop, wait one week, and magically your vehicle will be returned to you in (hopefully) working order. How and why the repairs are made are hardly ever addressed. It might as well be through sorcery or divination as far as you’re concerned.
Paul and Simon see things differently. They want their customers to relate to their bikes the way a mechanic does - from the inside out. Motomethod provides the tools and the know-how, and their customers walk out with a greater understanding of how their bike actually works.
Surprisingly enough, this “open garage” model only serves to drive repeat business rather than kill it. It may start with learning how to change the oil or fix a flat, but soon enough the guy who knew nothing about engine mechanics is back every week to take apart his bike and tinker with something new.
And therein lies the greatest value that Motomethod provides to customers. Rather than just repair broken motorcycles, the shop provides a community for experts and novices alike to trade knowledge and bond over a shared appreciation for motorcycles.
To the modern consumer, Motomethod’s philosophy seems completely alien. The bizarre relationship we’ve been forced into with the objects we own resembles nothing like what existed before. A generation ago, garages and speed shops like Motomethod were a dime-a-dozen. The notion that you would want to know how your car or motorcycle worked, and how to fix it when possible, was assumed.
Today, however, consumers are “protected” from the ugly inner-workings of their machines and devices. Have you ever tried to change a tire on a BMW or open up an iMac? Without special factory-made tools it’s nearly impossible. The result is that our possessions have mastery over us, but we don’t mastery over them.
As soon as something starts to break or slow down, we have no other strategy at our disposal than to throw it out and buy a newer model.
By teaching customers how their motorcycles work, one gear at a time, Paul and Simon are giving them mastery once again over their possessions. When they ride out of the shop with a freshly-tuned bike, they also leave with a sense of catharsis from knowing the “how” and the “why”. That may not be good news for motorcycle dealerships, but for Motomethod and its customers there’s no greater feeling.