Sun, 13 Jul 2003

One man makes a career out of lifelong love for scooters

Ask around among Vespa enthusiasts in Jakarta, and the name that keeps coming up is Pak Ronny.

Ronny Rasyidi is a wealth of knowledge about Vespas, and his enthusiasm is infectious.

Attached to his family's house, Ronny Motors on Jl. Wijaya Timur in South Jakarta is a busy but welcoming place. People constantly drop by to say hello, pick up parts or just get some advice on that latest noise they have been hearing.

"The most important reason I like vespas is there is no other motorcycle that has the brotherhood that there is among all vespa riders, it's like a big family," said Ronny. No matter what year or what condition their "ride" is in, Ronny said, Vespa owners look out for each other.

Ronny points at his 1961 125 cc Vespa classic, his pride and joy. He said all the models look good, are reliable, safe and with the extra tires and parts, it's possible to go anywhere with a Vespa. And they do not get stolen, like other motorcycles, he added.

The father of four's affection developed at an early age. When he was barely a teenager he would hang out and work at his uncle's scooter shop whenever he had free time.

"I liked the shape of the Vespas, they were a lot better looking than the Japanese bikes," said Ronny.

Ronny was already riding his uncle's Vespa in high school and continued to Vespa Dan Motors, where he trained for two years to become a licensed Vespa mechanic.

It was during this period and in the next few years, that Ronny's affection for Vespas became an obsession, becoming a "scooterist", the respected title given to true Vespa enthusiasts.

Ronny was reading trade magazines about styling, accessorizing and modifying scooters, and was tinkering heavily with his own Vespa. The Italian-designed scooters were no longer a hobby or a way to get around, they had become a part of his lifestyle.

He had read about Vespa clubs abroad and knew of Harley Davidson and automotive clubs in Jakarta, so he spearheaded the launching of the Jakarta Vespa club in 1979. Ronny has since toured throughout Java and twice gone on trips to Bali with the club.

The club opened with 15 people, but it has since grown to 170 members, including two foreigners and four women.

Since its opening in 1983, his shop has specialized in classic bikes and restoring vespas, but he does all and any kind of work on vespas. Since the shop caters to many enthusiasts, Ronny has earned a reputation for getting that hard to find part, and customizing vespas.

Ronny smiles when asked if it's tough to get original parts. "I know where to get parts from all over Indonesia, I often get friends to buy me parts in markets in Sulawesi, wherever."

Along with the two painters, three other mechanics, and three assistant mechanics working at the shop, there are also three apprentices training at Ronny Motors.

Even after more than 30 years of working on Vespas, Ronny continues to innovate and advance Vespa service and maintenance. He recently opened a hot line that Vespa owners can call him on anytime and he, or someone at the shop, will talk them through the problem that they are having with their scooter.

If the problem cannot be solved over the phone, a mechanic will be sent to the site or the owner and the vehicle will be picked up and brought to the shop, Ronny explained.

"The hot line was a great idea, and worked out well," said body repair specialist Udin Jaenudin, who has worked for Ronny since the shop opened, and known him since they knew were students more than 20 years ago.

Udin, who is also a Jakarta Vespa Club member, said that the passion Ronny has for Vespas makes him a good guy to work for.

Ronny's next project is to put together a book that offers tips and troubleshooting techniques. The book would be aimed at Vespa owners to help them identify and potentially fix common problems on their own.

"For me, it's not work, it's fun," said Ronny of his shop and his projects. "That is the key, it must remain a hobby."