Photo by Riche Effinger

Photo by Riche Effinger

Building motorcycles and community

Moto Collective draws bikers to Northeast's Columbia Park

For many, motorcycles conjure images of black leather-clad bikers or stuntmen with a death wish. But for one group of riders in Columbia Park, motorcycling is all about embracing the outdoors, style and even Instagram.

That group, the Moto Collective, is a do-it-yourself maker collective founded in Northeast Minneapolis. Founders Aleks Nedich, Joseph Downing, Andrew Blaschko and David Chang have made the space into a home for a small group of cyclists to create custom motorcycles and forge their own style of biking. Along the way, they’ve attracted a lot of attention online from thousands of enthusiasts and fans across the globe.

“Essentially the idea is to build bikes [and] build community,” Nedich said.

The Moto Collective, located on St. Anthony Parkway just west of University Avenue, is essentially a garage and member-driven workshop for motorcycle riders who want to build custom bikes, but don’t have the space, tools or support to do so. For a monthly fee, the group’s 14 or so members have access to a work station, space for a few bikes and the comradery of people similarly enthralled with motorcycling.

While the maker space model isn’t new to Northeast Minneapolis, the Moto Collective’s focus on motorcycles makes it unique in the Twin Cities.

“The whole idea of Uber or Airbnb is that you’re empowering people to be able to take control and create a business for themselves. This is the same concept for the motorcycle world. Maybe if we pool our resources together, we can actually create something out of it,” Nedich said.

Inside, the roughly 3,000-square-foot studio is decked out like an enthusiast’s dream den, with dozens of tricked out bikes and unique riding gear. During an open house, a monthly event the space opens to the public, members discuss projects they’re working on and crack jokes, as well as crack open a few cold ones.

“We’re friends and brothers and family,” Nedich said.

Photo by Riche Effinger
Photo by Riche Effinger

The Moto Collective is also home to CROIG, a creative content brand from Blaschko and Chang that works with gear and custom part producers to build custom bikes and showcase their products. The project spun off from the duo’s Café Racers of Instagram page, which has garnered a massive following of nearly 900,000 followers over the past few years.

On their pages, the two show a decidedly different kind of motorcycle culture than a gritty stereotype. Images show the latest motorcycling technology and parts, fine leather gear from independent retailers and a hip and sporty sense of style. The aesthetic taps into the culture of café racers themselves, lighter, vintage-style bikes that were popularized abroad. It’s more Askov Finlayson than Hell’s Angels.

“The café racer spirit is not so rough and tumble. It’s very European,” Blaschko said.

Like the CROIG founders, members of the Moto Collective have a similar freedom in their approach to motorcycling.

“Here, you go and you create and make your look. You can be whatever you want to be and have whatever aesthetic you want to have,” Nedich said.

While the Moto Collective operates in all seasons for members, it’s most active in the warmer months when most people are riding their bikes. The active season opens in the spring and Moto Collective closes it in October with Motosota, a trade show and party at Norseman Distillery that showcases motorcycle brands and local businesses.

Given Minnesota’s weather, members try to make the most of summer.

“We’re very active because we have to acclimate to the fact that we only have so much time. So, when spring and summer come, we take full advantage of it,” Nedich said.

To learn more about Moto Collective, the shop at 211 St. Anthony Parkway hosts an open house on the fourth Friday of each month at 6 p.m.

Photo by Riche Effinger
Photo by Riche Effinger