Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Motorcycle Repairman

There used to a Harley Davidson dealer on Truman Avenue called Hornes, but the old man got tired and decided it was time to retire. MamaJoe's, an old fashioned H-D repair shop in Marathon closed last year as well. Aside from the myriad scooter shops around Key West there are two motorcycle dealers, the Honda shop on Southard Street run by a Conch known for his extremely eccentric business style, and the more professional Yamaha shop on North Roosevelt which is strictly a Yamaha only shop. Boots Scoots, an independent repair shop gave it a try on Fourth Street but the owner got ill apparently and had to close. Bones cycles is now a scooter rental shop on North Roosevelt. Jiri at Stock Island Cycles on Laurel Avenue keeps on keeping on:He's a busy man, now that he runs the shop by himself after his former partner dropped by the wayside and Jiri the entrepreneur takes care of everything. He hired his own assistant, a shadowy figure working on a scooter on one of the lifts:Jiri chats with customers, takes appointments...and wrenches on bikes as well:Like any self respecting old fashioned motorcycle shop Jiri's place is partly a social gathering spot, partly a repair place and partly also a showroom to look at different motorcycles on this variety starved island, even if they aren't for sale:Jiri (pronounced: hee-ree) grew up in communist run Czechoslovakia before emigrating to the US in 1996 and ending up on Stock island doing what he knows best: fixing motorcycles. His hobby is racing and he has his own bike that he trailers up to Homestead for track days. He also gets to test ride customer bikes of course and he has a variety:Jiri remembers going to watch motorcycle races at the Grand Prix circuit at Brno, before the Berlin wall came down, and he, along with his buddies, would check out the huge touring motorcycles ridden east from West Germany, and they would gawp, all envious as only small boys can be, and never imagined that he could ever ride, never mind own a machine like those sophisticated BMW's. "Now I fix them!" he grinned, surrounded by Western motorcycling decadence and enjoying every minute of it.Jiri likes Japanese motorcycles for their reliability, but he works on anything he can order parts for and he has dealers in South Florida happy to ship him parts, including Pure Triumph in Fort Lauderdale. Pick up service is possible though I coordinate with my wife when I drop off the Trumpet, as she works half a mile away and she lets me borrow her Vespa if the bonneville is getting a tune up... Wandering the rows of tired and needy old motorbikes is always an experience at Island Cycles. I saw another of those typically Cuban rolling memorials: And typically southernmost-proud bumper stickers:Locating Island Cycles (305 292 5444) is a bit of a trick, but the best way is to take the Highway out of Key West and at the flashing yellow lights turn south, past the Coral Hammock development, then take the first left towards Murray Marine. Jiri is next to the defunct propeller shop on Laurel Avenue . In the distance one can see Highway One running alongside the trees that line the Key West Golf Course:Having Jiri's shop makes Key West feel somehow less remote when it comes to riding a motorcycle every day. Technical back up is no bad thing at all for a daily rider.