A Story by Calin Baldea
It’s about 5 PM as I’m putting pen to paper, literally. You’re not going to read this in that format, but that’s not essential. I’m just back from a ride, Lilith is cooling down in the Flaming Lounge and I felt inspired to tell you a story. It’s mine and maybe you find some value in it. Or maybe it just joins that dusty pile you’ve chucked in a back corner of your mind. But that’s the thing about stories - they need to be told. From there on out, the world can make up its own mind what to do with them.
This is going to be a story about motorcycles, about lessons learned, friendships formed and communities found. I say ‘found’, not by mistake. See - community is a word that gets thrown around a lot in motorcycle circles. The other one is the F word - freedom, of course, whatever that means. What nobody tells you is that you need to find your own community. You need to find your own tribe. Sadly, getting your bike license doesn’t work like the admission to Hogwarts. Nobody places the magic Arai on your head which then yells out “STREET SQUID!”.
A lot of stories you hear about on the internet involve people who started riding because their family did. Or their friends did. But what if you’re a 25 year old immigrant whose family hated the idea of motorcycles? What if all the people around you are the straight-laced type who see bikes as a one way ticket to go meet the Wizard of Oz? That’s MY story. And it started out for me back in 2015 with a Yamaha YZF R6, a bike wholly inappropriate for a beginner, which got dropped within the first weekend of ownership and sold after about 7 months, to fund the purchase of my Thruxton. I will unashamedly admit, I’ve always been a bit of an attention whore. And vintage or vintage-looking bikes garner attention. So it ended up being a fitting choice. Stylish, uncommon (at the time), dare I say - elegant, it harkened back to the golden age of motorcycling, the 60s bike culture in England, the mods and the rockers, the ton-up boys, Lewis leather jackets, the Brighton and Clackton riots, the Wild one, Marlon Brando and Steve McQueen.
Oddly enough, people didn’t just coalesce around me after I got that bike. My motorcycle gang failed to materialize out of thin air. I had been sold a bit of a lemon, at least as far as the glitzy, photogenic Internet posts went. So I just went on alone for about three years, making some fun memories along the way, like riding 3000 miles around the SE of the US by myself. Little did I know back then that the times were about to change with the opening of the ACE Cafe. It’s gone now and if you missed it, at least in its first years, I’m sorry. It was that lightning in a bottle, a little corner of motorcycle history with a distinct flair of Americana. It was hundred of motorcycles gathered in one spot on Thursdays. It was the smell of beer and burnt rubber, of 2 wheeled chaos. It was American unruliness pasted over traditional British restraint. But sadly, it wasn’t meant to last. ACE served its last burger in 2023. By the time it closed and we lost that flash of 2-wheeled magic, tainted as it may have been by the street hooligans, burnouts and loud sound systems, I had found something else. Something better. Something more my own. I had found Cafe Moto. This wasn’t some theatrical encounter, It was just me sitting down at a bar with some old bikes parked in front, on a random Thursday afternoon. But that’s all it took. From that one Thursday afternoon in 2019, I was hooked. Weekends were great but Thursdays were bike night. Sweltering heat, pouring rain, frigid cold, it didn’t matter - bikes would always be parked in front of the Lure. Somehow, though, I showed up as things were getting quieter. While I was out doing my lone wolf thing, Cafe Moto had been busy organizing rallies and shows, building bikes and raffling them off for charity, hosting the Distinguished Gentlemen’s Ride. They had started a grass roots movement, but sometimes life gets in the way. Or it needs your focus somewhere else. By the time I showed up, these were things that had happened and it seemed like they were relegated to the past for good. Don’t get me wrong, we still meet, we still ride, we still work on bikes. In fact, Cafe Moto was how I got introduced to EvilMotoz. Back then, EvilMotoz wasn’t really a thing. It was Kenny and Nancy who helped me bring my bike back to life after one gnarly crash in North Carolina. But that’s what happens when you extend helping hands to people - they come and gather around you. And that’s what that garage ended up being for me - a place of learning, fun, camaraderie forged over PBRs, rock music, sweat and spilled oil.
it was also through one of the folks in Cafe Moto - Silver Fox Dan that I found out about 73Moto, Sean’s idea that was starting to take shape in Sanfor last year. He needed some bikes for a photo shoot one weekend and naturally, the attention whore in me sprang to life. One photo from that day is still on my IG profile. But there was something more brewing - the community was about to get bigger and I had finally found something getting built from the ground up, almost literally. As of writing this, 73Moto is still under construction. But I’ve gotten a taste of what’s to come. In the old, red brick building, under dim lights and on top of oiled wood floors, Sean is building something. I’ve caught glimpses of it, at the opening party, last summer, on ride with the group or just the man himself sharing his vision and I think I’ll be around. I think I’ll be coming back on Thursdays. Or the 2nd Sunday of each month. And maybe you should too, if you’re still trying to find your tribe.