Pimping out rides is Rizki’s business. He’s been breaking down and building bicycles since he was old enough to reach the pedals and mastered the art of customization while studying in London.
Today, Rizki, whose shop is located in Panglima Polim, South Jakarta, shares his passion for bikes and asks why it costs as much to park one of his custom creations in the city as it does a Mercedes-Benz.
How did you come up with the name of your store, Velodome?
Basically, velo is French for bicycle and dome is shelter, so our store is a bicycle shelter.
How did you get into the bicycle business?
A while back, I broke up with my girlfriend. I felt this kind of freedom, like I’d just been released from jail. So I decided to get back into building bikes.
But I’ve actually been interested in breaking down and rebuilding bikes since I was in elementary school.
When did you start getting back into bikes again?
It was January 2007. I started all this in London, while I was attending college at London Metropolitan University. That’s when I started customizing bikes.
I got back here in December 2009. It was a perfect time because bikes are starting to make a comeback, especially around Jakarta.
Where do you get your bikes?
All of our stuff comes either from a consignment shop here in Jakarta or from people around the city, but the stuff we pick up at secondhand places actually comes from Thailand, Japan and other Southeast Asian countries.
And all of our parts and accessories come from Britain and other European countries, and we like to keep it that way.
What was the sickest custom bike you ever built?
The sickest bike I ever built was an all-black bike that we called the “stealth” bike. It had carbon wheels. I built it when I was in London for a friend in college. He wanted to bring it back to his home country, India.
But two weeks before he was about to go back, somebody stole it. The bike cost around $3,000 to build, but my friend wasn’t bitter about the whole thing. He just looked at me and said, “Hey, the reason it got stolen was because it was a really good bike.”
Do you have friends that you go biking with here in the city?
I go out with a bike community. We hang out every Wednesday and Sunday and ride around Jakarta from the south up to the center of the city. We go around taking pictures and eating around Menteng.
We just ride and have fun. The club is growing. Every week we have more and more members. Today we have around 50 or 60 riders.
Is riding a bike a way of life? What are you guys trying to tell the people of Jakarta?
Well, everyone knows about global warming, so that’s the big thing right now. We want to bring back the bike culture. It was slowly disappearing, but now it’s coming back. We try to raise awareness about the condition of the earth.
How is business then?
So far, business is really good. Most of our customers are from around Jakarta and Bandung.
What segment of the market are you aiming at?
All kinds of people, from people who are really into bikes and looking to purchase their sixth or seventh bike, to someone who works near their office and just wants to avoid traffic.
Or people who just want to lose weight. They all have different reasons to ride and buy a bike. But obviously — if they buy from me — they have style [laughs].
And you guys customize everything?
Everything. Everything from the color to the wheels, to the size and shape of the frame. We deliver a personal touch to your bike, something that fits your character.
Can you explain the process?
It’s kind of like getting a tattoo. You really have to give it some thought. You consult with us and tell us about yourself; what do you like and what you don’t like … kind of like a bonding session.
Then we build mock-up, and if you don’t like it we can redo everything. It’s very detail-oriented, and sometimes it ends up being a long process.
How much does it cost to customize a bike?
It starts at around Rp 8 million [$880] and there’s really no ceiling. There’s bike frames out there that cost $90,000 alone, so it depends on your buying power.
Do you ride a bike to work?
I live near Blok M and I ride a bike every day to the store at Panglima Polim. I try to ride my bike whenever I can.
Do you think there will be more or less people cycling in the next five years?
I’d like to see more people cycling and being comfortable about it. Not refusing to try biking just because it’s hot or because of the pollution. They have to act to make it better.
Where do you park your bike around the city?
Just like a car. I park it and tell the parking attendant to watch over it. I don’t have to lock it up with a chain or anything. Then on my way out, I pay the guy who watched over it Rp 2,000.
Rizki Firdaus was talking to Iwan Putuhena
Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe
My Jakarta: Oni, Rizki Firdaus, Custom Bike Shop Owner
Picture by Iwan Putuhena