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Rodrigo Rey del Castillo repairs and customizes mostly motorcycles that predate 1980. The machines lack on-board computers, fuel-injection engines, and anti-lock brakes. And they're the stand-out bikes of the growing South Florida vintage motorcycle scene.
Rey Del Castillo, owner of 76hundred Custom Vintage Motorcycles, says there have always been vintage-bike enthusiasts in the city but the trend gathered strength two years ago as more vintage motorcycle builders emerged in Miami.
Guillermo Silvagni of Rockerbox Vintage Motorbikes is one of those builders. For him vintage motorcycles are about nostalgia and simplicity.
“You never know if it’s going to start because they always have... their own soul," Silvagni says. "[With] a modern bike, there is something wrong, you can’t fix it yourself. If you’re a mechanic, maybe, but you’re going to need a computer or something. That’s the beauty of vintage bikes.”
Rodrigo credits a larger, widespread resurgence of all things vintage -- from 1950s apparel to Steve McQueen -- for the increased interest in vintage motorcycles in South Florida.
Luis “Lou” Domenech owns Planet Powersports in Doral. He sells ATVs, scooters, sports bikes, cruisers, jet skis and -- increasingly -- vintage motorcycles.
Only a few years ago, Domenech would passively purchase older motorcycles in hopes of eventually selling them. Now he aggressively searches for them online and elsewhere, knowing he will gain a return on his purchase.
Hear one of Lou's vintage motorcycles.
Domenech thinks the appeal for vintage riders is in the scarcity of the machines they ride.
“Parts are no longer easy to find so you want to be very careful taking your bike out. It’s not like a brand-new bike, where you can run down to the corner and buy all the parts brand new," Domenech says. "I have some bikes back there that if you knocked it over I don’t know that I could replace some of the parts. ... The older they are, the parts just become more and more unavailable.”
Domenech has been riding motorcycles in Miami since the 1980s. He attributes the growth of the vintage motorcycle market to an overall growth in motorcycling in South Florida.
“Before, once in a blue moon you might see a bike on the street, and even more rare would be a classic," he says. "Now you drive around and it’s not hard to spot them here and there. They’re more visible."
Another one of Lou's vintage bikes.
The vintage riders go as far as their machines can take them. Domenech, Rey del Castillo and Silvagni cited spots from Key West to Fort Lauderdale as vintage-biker hangouts, but one location kept coming up -- Wood Tavern in Wynwood.
Every Thursday night the streets surrounding the tavern are filled with all things on two wheels: sleek Japanese sport bikes, loud Harley-Davidsons, dual on-off road bikes, scooters, bicycles and vintage motorcycles.
Rick Rosal is the CEO of Old Soul Young Blood, a vintage motorcycle lifestyle community in Miami. A founding principle of his company is uniting vintage motorcycle enthusiasts in Miami and globally.
He and his company have been an integral part in coordinating the weekly vintage motorcycle gathering at Wood Tavern.
“We started promoting this bike night and from there it just started blowing up," he says. "People started hearing about it, and that’s the whole idea: People that like this subculture just started uniting and getting there, and then the friendships started happening.”
The friendships are evident by the number of motorcyclists that turn out at Wood Tavern on bike nights. Even under adverse weather conditions, riders show up and stay for hours. One of those riders is Coastal Engineer Aaron Boenhing, owner of eight (and soon, nine) motorcycles.
Boenhing has ridden and owned an assortment of bikes since age 12. He runs in various motorcycle scenes throughout the city, but has an affinity for the vintage scene.
“I like the vintage scene just because it’s a bunch of cool people. It’s not pretentious Harley guys on $150,000 motorcycles, it’s just a cool group of people to be around and it’s real local," he says.
The shop owners, mechanics and riders have seen a wave of change in the past few years, but despite new business opportunities and a growing community, they haven’t lost sight of why they ride in the first place.
“Freedom. It’s absolute freedom," says Rey del Castillo. "You can have a bad day, you can be stressed, you can have heart problems but the moment you sit on a bike and start riding everything goes away.”