Bushwick Motorcycle Shop Helps Owners Keep Vintage Bikes On the Road
BUSHWICK — Chris Rinken spent much of last winter wondering what a vintage motorcycle was doing tied up to a pole across the street from his apartment.
The 31-year-old has been riding and fixing bikes since he was 11. Seeing beautiful bikes off the road doesn't sit well with him.
"It's sad," he said. "These bikes deserve to be on the road."
This spring, Rinken decided to start up a vintage bike education shop — Wrench N’ Ride — in a small garage next to his home on the corner of Seigel and Bogart streets. In just a few months, he has taught more than a dozen people how to fix up their old bikes and get them back motoring.
One of his students is Andy Alton, the owner of the formerly-chained-up bike across the street.
“He’s taught me so much, it’s incredible,” said Alton, an actor who had purchased the inoperable 1973 Honda CB350 for $600 earlier this year in hopes of fixing it up and taking it on a cross-country road trip to California.
“I can tell he really wants to see the bikes on the road.”
Alton, 26, said he didn't get very far in the process before he met Rinken.
Now, the engine is working and he's fine-tuning it before taking the bike on the road, he said.
Rinken offers classes with flexible schedules, with prices ranging from $60 for a group intro class to $150 for a personal tutorial.
To try keeping classes affordable, he's trying to raise $7,000 through Kickstarter. He had raised $1,127 by Thursday.
As a child in Wisconsin, Rinken learned about motorcycles from his father, who worked much of his life as a mechanic. The two rode and fixed bikes together, and Rinken's dad found him his first motorcycle — a 1980 Kawasaki — when he was 18.
Despite an accident in which he credits his full face helmet with saving his life, Rinken couldn't keep away from motorcycles.
When he moved to New York in 2009 to attend Cardozo School of Law, he noticed there were a lot of discarded bikes around the city.
After graduating he turned to fixing, maintaining and selling them to help pay his bills. But Wrench N' Ride is intended to be more focused on providing education and building a community than on making a buck.
Most of the work is done out in the open. While Rinken and one of his 15 students are fixing their bikes, people stop to look at the vintage motorcycles and ask about lessons or buying their own bike.
It allows people to meet neighbors and form friendships, he said.
Rinken only fixes motorcycles made before 1981, when they began to shift to computerized motors.
After just a few weeks with Rinken, Alton knows every part of the engine and is confident his skills will get him through that road trip — saying he now feels a special bond with the machine.
“People have cars that just get them from point A to point B,” he said. “This is more than that.”