A DIY Motorcycle Community

Millennials are shaping the future of motorcycling.
Friends Bobby Russell and Jared Erickson had a novel idea back in 2013: open a “do-it-yourself” motorcycle shop in downtown Atlanta, that could also serve as a community gathering place for riders and the “moto-curious”. It’s a unique model- part repair shop, part coffee shop, part accessory and clothing shop, and all about building relationships and community. Very few places exist like it across America, and yet I can’t help but ask, is this the wave of the moto-future? Intrigued, I had to learn more.

I had the opportunity to talk with Jared and Bobby a couple of years back, then again on March 2, as they celebrated 4 years open. Their parking lot was packed with motorcycles of every genre and period, yet the age demographic of those present was decidedly 40-under. Offering a free can of beer from a local craft brewery, the atmosphere was relaxed, cheerful, and inviting. Inside, the Bro Moto crew had restored vintage motorbikes placed throughout the main lobby, the coffee shop open in the rear, and nice modern folk music streaming over the sound system. The place was packed with young people. Great to see.

Bobby and Jared met several years ago, and sharing a common love of motorcycles, soon became fast friends. Jared recounts, “We lived in places without garages, so we saw the need for a place you could work on your bikes out of the elements. We had nights where a bunch of friends would get together and wrench on our bikes in someone’s garage. So we had this idea: A place with all the tools ready, and you could come in, work on your bike, or store it, and you could buy motorcycle gear, get a cup of coffee, and hang out with other riders.” Brother Moto was born.

Their goal has been to create an environment that would feel less intimidating than a large dealership or a busy repair shop, where seasoned riders could rub shoulders with newcomers and even those interested in riding (the “moto-curious”) over a cup of coffee in a friendly, inviting atmosphere. Bobby can identify with the “newbie jitters” himself, coming to the motorcycling fold just a few years before the opening of the shop. After a discouraging attempt to rebuild an old Honda CB, Bobby picked up a restored old BMW, and discovered the enthusiasm we all know. Jared came to motorcycles via his brother, who encouraged him to take an MSF course with him. With a penchant for auto mechanics, Jared quips, “When I discovered motorcycles were cheaper, smaller, and you could fit more in a garage, I just fell in love with them.”

Speaking of members, some have mistakenly labeled Brother Moto a “motorcycle co-op”, yet Jared and Bobby say that’s a bit of a misnomer. Members don’t buy ownership in the company, but membership is more like a club, an association, giving members access to all things “BroMoto”. Jared asserts, “Our goal is to make a cheap enough entry point, so anyone can be a part of it. Basic membership starts at $29 per month with a one-time $15 setup fee, which allows access to the shop, workshops and seminars. We have a higher-tiered membership for folks that have deeper projects and/or need storage, so we can provide for that situation too.” A DIY community garage is a pretty apt description.

Describing themselves as “a community motorcycle garage, that offers a curated retail experience and coffee for the general public,” Jared observes, “many in our generation can’t afford new bikes, so they are picking up old bikes, learning how to fix them, and that’s why we developed our concept- to help them learn about, work on and ride motorcycles, in a community.” With many Millennials (they prefer this to the “hipster” moniker) buying older “vintage” motorcycles, and their “do-it-yourself” attitude, the Brother Moto vision has its finger squarely on the pulse of a new generation of riders.

Bobby notes, “There seems to be this perfect storm of people thinking bikes are cool again, and yet very few mechanics work on these older bikes, at least here in the city, and those that do are expensive. So new riders can buy an older, affordable bike, learn how to work on it here, and they just fall in love with motorcycles even more.” With a fully equipped shop, complete with lifts and every tool needed for wrenching, Jared and Bobby are creating a confidence-building atmosphere and lasting friendships among motorcyclists. They now offer workshops and classes monthly, on topics such as carb-tuning, brake bleeding, and tire changing, to name a few, led by industry experts and certified mechanics. “Some of our own members are very adept mechanically, and will sometimes show up to hang out and help folks work on their bikes in the shop, just for the joy of it,” Jared remarks.

What does the future hold for Brother Moto? Bobby declares, “Big picture, we’d love to establish a shop in another city. As we figure out what works, what doesn’t, what else we can add, yeah, more shops would be cool.” Jared adds, “I’d love to see, some day, a whole network of Brother Moto shops coast to coast, so you could literally ride from east to west, and stop at our shops all along the way, for maintenance, to crash and rest up, with membership being a nationwide thing.” They are aiming high, and off to a great start.

I certainly enjoyed spending time with these guys again, and glad to see the success of Brother Moto. They have more work than ever back in the shop, and regular traffic in/out of their coffee and retail lounge, many of whom aren’t even riders (yet). The Brother is booming.

If Millennials will indeed shape the future of motorcycling, I’d say our sport is in good hands.

Check them out on the web – www.brothermoto.com

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