What do an HR manager, a typographer, and motorcycles have in common? Usually nothing, but in this case it has one pretty big common ground: Beirut Café Racers. The first thing that comes to mind when someone hears “Beirut Café Racers” is an actual café – but it’s far from it. We found a small shop in Armenia Street, Mar Mikhael with motorcycles all on the outside and passion beaming from the moment you walk into this shop. Haven’t quite guessed what it is yet? Allow us to explain. Have you ever heard of Build-a-Bear? The children’s workshop where they allow you to build a stuffed animal from start to finish. Yeah well, picture this is as the adult version of Build-a-Bear, where instead of building a toy your building a motorcycle. Once we heard of the exciting idea we instantly wanted to learn more about it. So we grabbed our helmets and made our way to Mar Mikhael.
The shop is everything you would imagine it would be. Amazingly designed motorcycles parked on the outside while parts and tools are scattered on the inside. A cooler and more hip version of your local garage. Once we entered the place, two men stood before us whose smiles explained exactly why they love what they do without speaking a single word. Meet the founders of Beirut Café Racers, Rami Bishara and Ali Wehbe. We took a quick glimpse around and sat for a one on one with the two partners. Rami and Ali have shared a love of motorcycles ever since the age of 9 and 10 when they both started riding their own motorcycles. Although they were so young when their love for bikes started, Ali and Rami met randomly in 2010 where they just started talking about different parts and systems of a bike, which eventually ignited their business that has now been successfully open for a year. Rami explained, “Even before we opened our store here we’ve always found ourselves in this scene, whether it’s doing side projects for other people or researching different parts and manuals and constantly learning new things about a motorcycle, which eventually led us to opening our own place.” To be clear, Beirut Café Racers isn’t a repair shop. It’s a place where you build your dream bike from the ground up. Also, each bike is one of a kind – and that’s exactly what they want. They base each design and parts on customer’s personality and tastes. Ali explained, “You might see a person and not know which bike is his but as soon as you see a small glimpse of his or her personality and interests you’ll instantly connect the bike to the person.”
If you visit their Facebook page you notice that the opening hours of the store are quite different than other places. They open at 6:00 P.M. and of course our immediate question was why? Work hard and play harder right? In this case it’s true! Both Rami and Ali have day jobs alongside with owning their store. Rami is a typographer and Ali is an HR manager as well as a DJ. “We finish with our day jobs and come running to our playground, basically our day jobs pay for our motorcycle business.” Ali explained, “It’s funny because we’re supposed to be focusing on our day jobs, but me and Rami would be texting throughout the entire day about what we’re going to do later and which parts we should use for which bike so it’s like our minds are here all day even if we’re physically not.” With that being said, it seemed quite silly to ask which profession they loved more. However, their main goal is to eventually leave their day jobs and commit to this business only.
When you have two different people that share one common passion there is bound to be a difference in taste somewhere along the line; but it’s why they work so well together. Rami’s favorite part of the whole process is the assembly; the moment after getting it back from the paint job and putting it all together and knowing it’s almost done is his favorite. While, Ali loves when you first put the key in the ignition and see the bike running for the first time. Even their inspirations are different – Rami gets inspired by product design, he believes in function first, design after. While Ali’s main inspiration is vintage looks and the simple mechanical process of old bikes. They both agree that their main goal is to “bring back old glory.” They believe that nowadays companies are removing the essential part of a motorcycle and adding nonsense features such as cup holders and A.C. They ultimately want to bring back the quality of ride from back in the day.
For all of you wondering, there isn’t a café in the shop regardless of the name. However there is actually a meaning behind the term. In the late 60’s people in Britain would get factory bikes and rip them apart in order to get them to ride as fast as a possible and they would race from one café to another. They loved the theme and meaning behind this concept and incorporated it into their own store. And yes, future plans do include expanding space wise in order to fit an actual café inside!
Rami and Ali have worked so well together in running their store and they owe their success to each other. “We complement each other, while I focus on the engine, Ali focuses on the logistics and the frame of the bike…We have a constant feedback loop going on.” With that being said, we are ready to build our own bike… We were thinking a nice bold Al Rifai orange.
Beirut Café Racers is located on Armenia Street in Mar Mikhael. Visit facebook.com/beirutcaferacers for more info