2008 Motorcycle/Power Equipment Technician Graduate
Wrench-Spinner/Proprietor of Black Grease Cycles in Pawtucket, RI
(re-branded from a girl and a guy Cycles)
Billy Barry always wanted to be a mechanic. Bored, and not very inspired to earn good grades when in High School, Billy was still considered “college material”. His High School Principal discouraged Billy’s interest in a mechanical career, saying it was “not for smart people.” The Principal told him he needed to go to college.
After graduating High School, Billy worked for many years as a talented Chef, first in North Carolina and then in New York State. An avid motorcycle rider for fifteen years, Billy finally decided to follow his personal passion--he made the decision to train for a career as a Motorcycle Technician.
His companion Rachel (the “girl” of their future a girl and a guy Cycles) favored Rhode Island as a place to study art. Billy googled “motorcycle training in the northeast”–and MTTI’s Motorcycle/Power Equipment training program in Rhode Island was a match.
Billy liked Jay Coffey, the program’s instructor, when he visited the School and interviewed with him. He enrolled to start in the fall 2007 class. Rachel changed plans, choosing to attend school for motorcycle mechanics because it “…had more allure and made more sense fiscally” than an advanced art degree.
In comparison with his years in High School, Billy was really interested in what he was learning.
He was ready to work hard. “The only way to learn is by doing—get in there and practice every day in the shop.”
Billy agrees with Matthew B. Crawford, author of Shop Class as Soulcraft, that mechanics is an underrated profession. “Similar to the skills required for “white collar” office work, the mechanical trades require critical thinking, logic and problem solving—that’s what mechanics do every day.”
During the program, Billy interned at a North Providence Ducati motorcycle shop; he continued to work there after graduating. The experience he gained eventually served him well when he started his own shop. Rachel worked at Java Speed Scooters in Providence. When Java Speed closed in 2009, the owner moved his equipment into the Lorraine Mill Complex on Mineral Spring Avenue in Pawtucket. The owner told Rachel and Billy, “There’s a shop waiting for you and a customer list.”
Operating a successful motorcycle repair business also demands smart business decisions.
Billy is passionate about working on older Japanese vintage bikes. This specialty encouraged him to target an under-exploited niche—scooters and older motorcycles. “Most dealerships won’t touch older bikes—they don’t have to.” Billy’s core clientele is made up of about 50% modern and vintage scooters, and 50% older Japanese models. Able to fix almost any bike, old or new, Billy is building a sustainable business.
Rhode Island can be a tough market.
The cold, snowy season is long enough to keep riders off the road—but snow typically doesn’t last long enough to support significant snowmobile activity. To help cover the bills during the off season, Billy offers winter storage for bikes, with a discount for winter work. He, like a friend in Medway, MA and another friend who lives further north, do well by keeping overhead low and servicing a variety of bikes and small engine equipment.
The ethos of the business is helping people get on the bike and get it on the road.
We’ll also help people when they are buying a bike, for example, from craigslist.org. We’re the one shop that encourages people to work on their own bike—I’ll give them advice about changing oil and spark plugs. When they can’t—or don’t want to do it themselves—we’ll do it for them. There are enough people who don’t want to do it—they just want to hand it over to you.”
Billy appreciates the hands-on training he received at MTTI.
“Students get credit for working on their own bikes in the shop. I tore down my Yamaha XT500 and built it back up. MTTI was the only program in the northeast offering motorcycle and small engine repair, but I never wished for another option.” A six-year graduate of MTTI, Billy has provided internships for several students. He also gives back to the School by serving on the Motorcycle Program Advisory Committee. Billy regularly meets with other industry professionals to review the program’s curriculum, facilities and equipment. The process helps MTTI’s program keep current with changing industry needs.
Billy recommends the program and offers advice to anyone thinking about enrolling.
“It’s all about the work you are willing to do. You will get out of MTTI’s program what you put into it.”