SPACES / WORK
One of the first things you'll notice about Pune is its bikes. The city loves its two-wheelers. Hidden in plain sight at ABC farms "in the shadow", he jokes, of his father's restaurant is Meraki Motorcycles, an eight month old workshop run by Ehsan Niroomand who makes bikes better. He restores vintage bikes (1950s or earlier) and builds custom bikes, his style is minimal and unfussy, and his approach to work is refreshing (and slow). He only takes up projects that are fun, and he customises each bike himself, preferring to work alone with only his dog Friday, for a coworker. Check out his workspace below.
You were once a scuba diving instructor and you were also at Shisha Cafe. How did motorbikes enter the picture?
I'm still very much at Shisha. Without Shisha Cafe and my father's support, this would never have happened. I joke that the workshop is in Shisha Cafe's shadow. Diving taught me how the world works in more ways than one. It changed my outlook towards individuals that came from various walks of life. Taught me a ton of patience. I learnt to notice the smaller things, under the sea, I learnt to appreciate them. Motorbikes came from being land locked after returning to India after my diving stint.
What goes into a Meraki motorcycle?
Meraki Motorcycles is, in every way, its definition. Motorcycles built with soul. I guess a part of me, as cliched as that sounds, goes into each bike. At the end of certain builds, I even tend to offer to buy the motorcycle off its owner!
How did you learn to do this?
Pretty much self taught. I've made a billion mistakes and I learn something everyday. I never repeat something twice so that tends to keep it interesting always. Mostly I learn by watching. I was taught at a very young age to watch how people do what they do: don't question, don't do anything, just watch. That teaches you a lot. I try and go to the heart of the city a few times a week, hang with the mechanics, scrap part dealers, the brass smiths, get a chai or two and create a bond. That bond is important. It creates that transition from customer to friend and that in turn, teaches you tricks of the trade you wouldn't otherwise learn. Plus they tend to put more energy into your work, which is always appreciated.
You restore vintage bikes as well as build custom bikes. Tell me more about your approach to the latter.
It was hard in the early stages. There are so many ideas in my mind and that can start to break the bank. Over time I've learnt to tailor bikes to reflect the individuals they belong to. It's nice when your motorcycle is an extension of you. I'm adamant about having creative freedom with the custom builds, if I'm not having fun doing it, I'm not doing it.
How is a workshop different from a garage?
I guess a workshop is more hospitable. It appeals to non-mechanical folks as well. Things tend to be more organised, and more, aesthetic. It's a creative home away from home. The beer fridge is always a plus.
You work mainly by yourself. How do you keep things interesting at the workshop?
For me, it's a Friday everyday at the workshop. Friday keeps me company most days. It's important to have someone around. Non-talkative, tends to help and who better than him? The boys swing by most days and get a coffee, so its not all work, work, work.
What are some projects you would really like to do?
I'm restoring/custom building myself a motorcycle from 1936. The concept I'm going with is 'if a custom builder were to build a bike in the 30s'. I'm going to source the parts used during that era and see what I come up with. An India-themed motorcycle, I'd love that one. I haven't built one for a woman yet so that would be nice too.
The space was a former storage room for Shisha Cafe. What did you do to it?
I gave it a complete facelift. From changing the roof, to reinforcing the walls, to doing the floor, everything was redone. I created an outdoor roofed space where the bikes are rebuilt and an inside space that's divided into three rooms: hand tools, heavy machinery and my office. I tried to create a little corner for people to come and hang out and experience what it's like to be at a bike shop.
I love all your old advertising. Where are these ads from?
Most are from old magazines collected over the years. Friends presented me with a couple when i opened shop, and of course, the mighty world wide web.
You've been making a few bike-inspired accessories and products. Tell me more about them.
I had a spare seat from one of my bikes from during the inception of the workshop. My last roommate had left behind the base of a bar stool. It was only a matter of time before the two came together. It looks great, in fact, I had someone order stools from me because they liked it so much. I've recently created a helmet stand from a double-ended spanner. It sounds strange but it's gorgeous - very raw and simple. I'm doing a giveaway for the helmet stand soon. I'm working on a line of indoor motorcycle based lighting too. Some really cool stuff that will be out soon.
What have you learned since you launched?
Working on motorcycles teaches you patience, and every curse word imaginable!
What is a really cool place to ride to from Pune?
The Pune-Goa stretch is great fun.
Thank you Ehsan for spending the afternoon with us and showing us around! Lover subscribers will go into the draw to win his spanner helmet (or otherwise) hook in mid-April. To subscribe to Lover, click here.