By Brian MacIver
When Armando Lucenda was a 12-year-old boy growing up in Pilsen 17 years ago, he said he had a choice to make.
“Back in the day, it wasn’t a safe neighborhood,” Lucenda said. “So I had two options. It was either hanging out with old motorcycles and fixing them, or hanging out with gangs and stuff like that. So I really went to motorcycles. It took a lot of my time but I’m happy about it because now I’m alive.”
That choice has led Lucenda and Anwar Shabazz to open Joyride on May 5, their new Wicker Park business that rents vintage scooters, mopeds and motorcycles.
Shabazz, who has a background in retail, having owned two clothing shops prior to starting this new venture, believes his shop is the first of its kind in the city.
“I’ve known a few companies that have done this before, but I don’t think they’re going to make the impact that we are,” Shabazz said. “Other places do rent scooters, but they kind of do it on the side.
“But this is the only thing we do here. We focus on the customer that has never ridden a bike before.”
The idea for Joyride came after Shabazz, 34, and Lucenda, 29, met through common friends. Although they have very different backgrounds, each co-owner compliments the other, they said.
“He knows everything there is when it comes to bikes,” Shabazz said. “Whether it’s fixing them, riding them or everything in between. Me, I know how to take a product and show it to the world.”
As with any new business, the owners’ challenge will be to get the word out about their shop, which they predict will be booming this summer.
But what makes their task that much greater is the shop’s location. Joyride is in an alley and no signs on the surrounding streets point to the store.
“We’ve been here for so long,” said Shabazz. “It just made sense. We didn’t want to start anything fresh and new with signing a lease. … It’s kind of a destination place – you either come here for our scooters or you’re going to keep walking by.”
Lucenda uses the space as his workshop to maintain the fleet.
“This used to be an art gallery,” he explained, pointing towards the painted walls. “That was one of the reasons when I walked in that I wanted to be in here because it was cool. I think vintage vehicles are fun, they’re cool. A vintage motorcycle isn’t a necessity, it’s a luxury, it’s a toy.”
Joyride also rents out street-legal dirt bikes, and Lucenda said he has plans to one day bring a group of people out for a real dirt bike ride.
“There is a very awesome place not too far from here, about an hour and a half away in Indiana, that we could have fun with dirt bikes,” he said.
During the winter months, when bike rentals slow down, Lucenda said he is looking to keep the business going by offering classes and seminars on caring for vintage motorbikes.
“I would like to teach people how to maintain their vintage motorcycles,” Lucenda said. “Giving them group classes on how to replace their inner tube, how to replace their oil, how to do a complete inspection if you break down in the middle of the road. … Simple stuff, but stuff that’s going to make your trip more fun.”
While Cinco de Mayo was the shop’s first official day, the owners said they are going to host a “Grand Opening” event in the coming weeks. Residents of the neighborhood will be able to see the shop and its owners and have their kids try out some of the smaller vintage bikes.