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Retrospective: CAPE TOWN’s Woodstock Moto CO.

2020, am I right? It’s impossible to write anything right now without prefacing it with what a colossally challenging year it’s been. Most of us have managed to muscle our way through this season, and some of us have even thrived—but no one’s truly emerged unscathed.

Since most of us are over hearing bad news by now, I’ve put off talking about the fact that one of my favourite places is no longer operating. The Woodstock Moto Co. officially closed the doors of its physical location in Barron Street in March, ending a six-year run as Cape Town’s only communal DIY workshop.

The WMC wasn’t technically a casualty of the pandemic. Owner and founder Devin Paisley (above) had already decided to shutter the shop before South Africa’s lockdown hit, primarily for financial reasons. But COVID did rob the WMC, and its faithful patrons, of one thing: a proper farewell.

So this isn’t a eulogy or an autopsy—it’s just a brief note to say goodbye, and thank you.

The WMC was conceived as a simple communal motorcycle storage and wrenching space, but grew to something bigger over time. It eventually housed not only the workshop and storage, but also a retail space, and a coffee shop, bar and kitchen. It was also home to other small businesses, and hosted the occasional event, too.

It soon became legendary not only for its coffee, toasties and hot dawgs, but also for its inclusive vibe, and the broad cross section of people it attracted. Motorcycling can be a fickle and exclusive world, but the WMC cut through all that.

“When I see someone who looks uncomfortable in a social situation, the little 11-year-old me jumps into rescue mode and tries to engage, make the person feel welcome, accepted and that I am genuinely interested in them.”

Devin Paisley, WMC founder

On any given Saturday, you’d easily find young hipsters and crusty old bikers rubbing shoulders, with a deep mutual respect for each rider’s chosen style of motorcycling. It was a space filled with greasy hands, as friends helped friends repair, customise and restore all manner of motorcycle.

Any business carries the hallmarks of its owner to some degree. At the WMC, two of Devin’s passions shone through: getting fresh blood into motorcycling, and getting people to wrench on their own bikes. Slogans like ‘motorcycles for everyone’ and ‘moto family’ were (and still are) more than just catchy hashtags.

But there’s something I didn’t realise about Devin’s mission at the WMC until we talked a few weeks before it closed. “When I was a kid I went through a bit of a tough time,” he told me, “and there was a stage when I had no friends, and really felt alienated.”

“This had a long lasting effect on the rest of my life. When I see someone who looks uncomfortable in a social situation, the little 11-year-old me jumps into rescue mode and tries to engage, make the person feel welcome, accepted and that I am genuinely interested in them. This formed a key part of the WMC.”

“It doesn’t matter what type of bike you ride, what you wear, where you come from or how much money you have. It’s a common space that we can all come together united by our love of motorcycles, and our willingness to be part of a community.”

So thank you, Woodstock Moto Co.

Thank you for the coffee and the breakfast rolls, and for the bike washes. Thank you for the Garage Built Show and for hosting Jay’s motorcycle mechanics courses. Thanks for giving a space for artists and photographers to showcase their work. Thanks for being a home-away-from-home for travellers, for giving a damn about delivery riders, and for your passion for small motorcycles.

Thanks for the friends I made, and the confidence I gained to actually do some work on my own bike. But most importantly, thanks for doing your damndest to foster a sense of community.

Motorcycles for everyone, forever.

While the WMC’s physical location might have closed, they’re still alive. You’ll find them on Instagram.