PHOTOS | JENNIFER MCKAY
Most Petrolettes I meet often hold up a mirror, when I finally got to sit and speak with Aleksandra Grippo from Moto Shop I felt like I was talking to myself in another dimension. She in San Francisco, me in Sydney Australia and there we were talking about setting up D-I-Y motorcycle workshops, the trials and tribulations, being married to our business partners, how we made use of our professional skills as designers and educators outside the moto world… and just how exciting it all is.
Aleks and her husband started Moto Shop, a Do-It-Yourself motorcycle workshop in the Bay area of San Fransisco in November 2011 and have seen steady and strong success since. Both avid riders who tinkered for years to save money on servicing their sports bikes. Aleks is the branding and business brain while her husband is the hands on wrencher with a background in mechanical engineering. She admits when they had the idea for Moto Shop she didn’t expect to be involved however as things started gaining momentum her “helping out” soon turned to number crunching and eventually being instrumental to running the business. She explained there came a point where she thought “why wait to do something you love?". The numbers made sense so they accepted the risks and went for it.
What is wonderful about Aleks is her welcoming, unassuming nature. I got the sense that, despite her ample experience, she is still excited about learning. Whether it be about riding, wrenching, design or running a business and is quick to provide unbridled support to anyone else having a go.
Unlike myself, Aleks has been riding for over 12 years and has owned a Ninja, Triumph speed triples, of which she owns currently, and a Daytona 675 for track. On long windy road adventures it’s like a holiday away from the daily grind. Then there are the track days, which are a nice break where her creative mind is forced to focus on the moment, thinking only about acceleration, breaking, body position…repeat. The repetitive nature of track is something she looks forward to for its focused energy. So the mundane commuting to and from work is reserved for her four-wheeled companion, and judging by the beautiful windy roads of the Bay Area (see below), I can’t blame her.
Aleks recounted a story of her coming off her motorcycle on a day out on an adventure with friends. She admitted she had something to prove that day (this dangerous attitude pre-cursing her story) and took a corner too fast and wide into a bus coming the other way. She had to wait for an hour before she was helicopter lifted out and into hospital where she stayed for ten days recovering, crediting her full leather gear for not being in a more severe condition. Six months later, she was back in the saddle. Incredibly, she admitted there was no reason for her to feel insecure about going back out there, Aleks believed she was solely to blame for her misjudgement and knew when the control lies in her hands, she could be trusted.
It’s that self belief and self trust I love most about this lady, carried out with a humility that perpetuates everything she does. It is a character trait that is rarely noticed but, I believe, is absolutely essential to the community she’s help foster at Moto Shop.
Moto Shop were, and still are, a great inspiration for our efforts at Rising Sun Workshop. We’ve faced a lot of hardship in finding security for our workshop, and I personally have had wobbly knees trying to find my own place in it all. What is really exciting about Moto Shop, since opening, there is now a growing knowledge base of riders who can maintain and build their motorcycles who also have an applied appreciation for their mechanics. Knowing someone as grounded, creative and strong willed as Aleks is behind it all also puts their success into perspective.
Aleks is a quiet and steady lynch-pin to the motorcycling community of San Fransisco, she has a passion for riding that is undeniable and her willingness to jump in, learn and follow her gut has led her to lead a life surrounded by great people that is varied, balanced and uniquely her own.
Heleana is a force of nature. The founder of In Venus Veritas and The Petrolette, and a co-founder of Rising Sun Workshop. Heleana shares her love of vintage cars, riding motorcycles, and (not-so-secretly) dreams of flying planes and piloting a riva aquariva (a la Sophia Loren) very fast through the canals of Venice. Supportive and connected, community is her lifeblood, and she is as real as they come.