Bringing together his love for coffee and the open road, Murtaza Moulvi found a way to make his passion a way of everyday life. Sharon Carvalho speaks to the owner of Café Rider about his journey
How did the love for motorcycles come about?
Well, my bike adventures began when I was 18. Dad has always been a rider so I guess it was in my blood. I’ve been riding for about 25 years now.
I am an Investment Banker by profession and still am. Back in 2002, after 10 years with the career, I decided to leave Dubai and travel. I spent time in Amsterdam, London, New York and many other cities. The one aspect that was constant through my travels was that I rode everywhere. As soon as I landed in a city, I found a place to rent a bike. Another thing I ended up doing was finding a coffee shop because it was so cold. That had me acquiring a taste for a good brew. It was through my travels that I realised how difficult it was to do both together because motorcycle culture was too heavy and hard-core for my tastes. I loved riding but I was a banker, I had to keep my passion civil. I think that’s when the seed for the idea was planted. I wanted to find a place where riders could meet and enjoy a good cup of coffee.
What happened next?
It was while I was in London that I saw how people didn’t have to have an expensive bike to enjoy the culture. I saw how they were taking machines from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s and transforming them. And I really wanted to explore that aspect of biking along with a number of other things I wanted to do. So, in 2012, I quit my job and took a year off. I spent six months learning everything there is to know about coffee at the London School of Coffee, I spent three days a week at a coffee shop, making coffee for free, to understand the business side of it, I spent time building bikes, took survival classes, butchery classes and did everything my heart wanted to. I guess, after 20 years of working in the same career, I wanted to figure out what I wanted to do with the next chapter of my life. But I did miss the city aspect of banking life. So, when a job offer in Dubai came knocking, I decided to take it up.
Is that how Café Rider came about?
About six months into being back in the country, I realised that I could give my idea some legs. I spoke to my wife about it and she thought I was mad. She realised how difficult it is to launch a concept store in this country and she was worried. The Middle East has a lot of great talent but nothing generates in the way of innovative concepts over here. People tend to ‘copy-paste’ and that kills homegrown ideas. A concept is a collage of what influenced you as grew up and to not have them here is almost saying that this country did not impact you or your decisions. We have mixed influences in the country, and that aspect needs to come through.
Was it a challenge to set it up?
Everything from where we would set it up to actually establishing it with the municipality was a challenge because the concept of a coffee shop and a garage under one roof didn’t exist. They couldn’t understand how people would want to build bikes and sip of coffee at the same time. So, we started with the permission to rent bikes. After we got a few customers, we got permission to open a coffee shop. Then we dropped the rental permit and got the garage license. A year after opening up, someone from the municipality came by to see exactly what we were doing. The reaction was one of shock and awe. They loved the idea and what we were doing with the place. This led them to grant us permission to be a fully-fledged coffee shop. This meant that we could open our own roastery and be a bonafide bike workshop too, which was definitely a first in the country.
What has the response been?
It has been surprising to see how the community has taken to the place. And not just the biker community, but all those that love a good cup of coffee too. I feel like the café has become a watering hole for anyone that has a story to tell and loves listening to a good story too. And this comes through with everything we do. From knowing the history of every bean to appreciating the story of the bike, we want people to stop and value the good things in life. Especially with how fast paced this world has become with the need for instant gratification. In the end, I didn’t want to own just another biker bar. I am a guy who works a corporate job, I’m a father, a husband, a son and a man that loves bikes. And I think that 90% of bike lovers are like me, we don’t want to have to choose. This place has turned out to be the perfect balance for me and after 10 years of having this idea in my head, I’m proud of what we’ve made it.
You run the business with your wife. How does that work?
My wife has been instrumental to putting this together. She is the art in the place. I am the brawn and the brain, but she brought it together. She has made it look the way it is. I can build a motorcycle but I can’t figure out how to put furniture together. She’s a great people person and runs the café on a daily basis. Only because of her being here day in and day out can I take the steps needed to make the big decisions for this place, to push it in the direction I want.
Is there still a reservation about riding?
I’ve ridden across the world and I’ve found that Dubai has the best riding roads. They are wide, it barely rains and there are 360 days of good weather. When I was in the UK, I had to constantly check the weather forecast to find out if it was safe to ride. But over here, there’s not a soul on the road on a Friday morning. I’m a weekend rider, I don’t commute to work. I think it’s a matter of educating people about how to react to motorcyclists on the road. I think if people are made aware of riders and know how to be courteous to them when they are on the road, it could help. If the government works with motorcyclists, it could help the traffic situation too. It could even reduce road congestion, carbon emission and make it easier to commute.
Photography by: Sarfaraz Ali Photography