In the summer of 2012, we spoke with our friend John Ryland about his new venture in the motorcycle business, Classified Moto. Almost two years later, John has set up shop in a new space just across the bridge from Ledbury Headquarters. As we have been undergoing office renovation ourselves, the role of the office space has been a recurring topic. We’re huge fans of Classified Moto and the new workspace is a perfect place to get your hands dirty or to have a coffee and take a load off.
The last time we spoke, I asked John where he envisioned Classified Moto would be in the next couple of years. This space is almost an exact depiction of the shop he described back then:
“Our ultimate goal is to open a shop that’s almost like a gallery space with the bikes in there, and a coffee shop where you can see the bikes being built… sort of art directed in this little studio. We want to find a place that’s just right because I want it to be approachable for anyone. Sometimes motorcycles are kind of intimidating for people, but we’re trying to appeal to people who don’t necessarily ride.”
Classified Moto’s new bike garage is filled with natural light and organic texture. The exposed brick walls and natural wooden beams give the space a nice warmth that is incredibly welcoming. We asked John about his process for designing the new space, and about how Classified Moto has grown over the past two years.
What was your process for designing your new space?
Designing the shop has been a really energizing experience, for sure. Demand for bikes has spiked over the past couple of years to the point where it consumes most of our time. Moving into the new space gave us a good excuse to break away and focus on something totally new to us. We didn’t draw up plans or look at a bunch of color swatches or anything. Kind of like with the bikes, we let necessity run the show. Everything has a purpose but the space still has a tons of character and a lot of nice details. Jimmy Kastelberg, owner of Caravati’s Architectural Salvage, owns the building and has been amazing to work with. He lets us snoop around his warehouse for things we can repurpose for our space — old timbers for worktops, quirky cabinets, killer doors, random pieces of wood trim — it’s amazing.
More and more, contemporary workspaces are seen as places to work, socialize, collaborate, and meet new folks – this is essentially the type of workspace you expressed interest in creating. Has your time “in the office” increased since moving into your new space?
We’re still not officially open to the public, but we get a lot of visitors. The space has such a great feel, it’s easy to spend a lot time there, and it’s really fun to show people around. We’re hoping to at least have regular visiting hours by summertime. In the meantime, we are pretty much in factory mode getting current builds wrapped up.
How has Classified Moto evolved since we last chatted?
The last year has been a wild ride for the company. We did a couple more celebrity builds, took on a great business partner (local moto enthusiast Alex Martin), and of course moved out of our tiny garage into this space. The little shop served us well, but we just outgrew it. It’s fun to be working in a place that feels like it can grow into exactly what we want it to be. Our vision for the shop has changed a bit — or at least the timeline. We are loving the idea of keeping a rock-steady focus on building bikes without committing to the restaurant/coffee shop aspect right away. Now, we are looking at doing regular events with food and drinks, but in the form of food trucks, bands and outdoor stuff instead of a dedicated kitchen. We’ve had good luck gauging interest in products and services before biting off more than we can chew. So this kind of trajectory just feels right. We do have a coffee maker! (And I still don’t drink coffee.)
Any new projects you’re particularly excited about?
There are a bunch of bikes that I’m really stoked to see completed for many reasons. Finishing those builds and filling moto lamp orders is the priority right now, but we’ll be coming up for air soon to work on new designs — including some “art bikes” that will be more sculpture than transportation. The market will be bars and restaurants and individuals who want something industrial and artistic to park in their space or hang on the wall. I’m looking forward to playing around with a new set of parameters — the bikes won’t have to work, just look awesome. They don’t even have to make sense, mechanically, which is nice because a lot of mechanical things still make no sense to me.
What do you see for the future of Classified Moto and the shop?
We have goals for the company, of course — financial and otherwise — but a big part of the way we do things is to let things happen naturally. We’re lucky that Alex has a lot of financial sense and experience, but he gets how the company has made things happen so far and doesn’t want to stifle that. We give ourselves permission to pursue or abandon ideas based on gut feelings, not just money. That said, we’re getting better at building bikes more efficiently so we’re able to profit more of the money coming in. We all want to see more of that, no doubt. Beyond that, we want to settle into our new home in Manchester and start spreading the word about the shop locally like we’ve done internationally. We’ve got a busy summer ahead, but it’s going to be a blast.
All photos courtesy of Adam Ewing, a close friend of John Ryland and Ledbury. Adam has photographed a majority, if not all, of Classified Moto’s photography since the early days. As of late, he has worked with the Ledbury team on Short Run Shirting lifestyle photography.