What defines the best motorcycle for you?
The design? The size? The brand name?
I’m a photographer and we have a saying – the best camera is the one you have with you. The size, brand name don’t matter. What you can use at the moment when you need it matters.
During the pandemic motorcycles became more popular than ever. This is about one shop that opened right before the Covid hit New York the hardest, survived the world pandemic and is actually doing very good. Selling or repairing the small machines that can be the right tool for when you need to get around in the hood.
I met John-Paul Trang aka JP, when I participated in a moped group ride organize by his shop. The ride was so enjoyable, fun and crazy that I wanted to find out more about these guys. This is the story how I invited myself into NYC MOPEDS to learn more about JP and his shop.
The store is under J train rail that runs above Broadway, squeezed between townhouses. You find it without any hesitation, just by the parked mopeds along the sidewalk in front of the shop. Store window also filled with the machines, luring the possible buyer.
JP was sitting at the front desk, greeting me with a smile, “It's a good day for a tour, we are not that busy today”. I immediately felt his nice approach, I’m sure they are busy. I see his guys in the back working hard, wrenching on bikes.
While JP was finishing up few things at the computer, I snapped my first photos and tried to take in what was in front of me. This screams legit to me. This is not just fixing some bikes in a garage or on a sidewalk – and NOTHING is wrong with that. But I’m in a legit shop, with employees (or helpers), front desk area, wrenching part with lyfts, backyard full of parts. JP – hat down to you.
I ensured my welcome by bringing few iced coffees on such a hot day. Team did appreciate that. While sipping on our cold brews, JP started sharing the local scooter history with me.
He described the scene as pretty much dead, before around 2000. After 2000, the little wheels gained popularity in the hood. Not that the scooters didn’t exist before but around that time the popularity was revived.
A website forum was created to connect the growing moped fans and community, and is still alive today, called “Moped Army”. Around 2009 a group of 3 guys from a moped gang called ‘The Orphans’ opened a first shop called – you could have guessed it - “The Orphanage''.
Lot of people showed up, JP grinning, taking photos of his event attendance, saying that he 'expected even more'. Good for you, man. This is pretty impressive already. I took part on this ride and it was intense :) The tiny machines zippin' around cars like a swarm, many cars just gave up and pulled aside till the gang passes them. This was fun and unexpected, my first time riding with people on such tiny machines, having so much fun, with that unmistakable sound those engine were producing.
I enjoyed it very much and planned a visit to the shop later the week, so I get some more information about JP and his scooter empire. That will be the story here.