Walk into Dubai’s Cafe Rider, and it’s almost impossible not to start humming Born To Be Wild. Steppenwolf’s ode to counter-culture is shot through everything in this unique converted warehouse near Mall of the Emirates, from the vintage motorbikes lovingly restored to their former glory, to speciality coffee the antithesis of the boring chain cafes.
With custom Yamahas for sale, classic T-Shirts and pictures of Marlon Brando on the walls, Cafe Rider is a celebration of an entire, free-spirited motorcycle lifestyle rather than a theme-bar – which makes the fact it’s the brainchild of an investment banker all the more incredible.
“I love coffee – when I was working in the City Of London I actually spent some time at the London School of Coffee,” explains Murtaza Moulvi. “And motorcycling has been a big part of my life for 20 years now. So when I got back to Dubai in 2012 I wanted to bring these passions together. It was about celebrating what I consider to be art forms in the same place.”
Cafe Rider is intriguingly both a coffee shop and a bike workshop but actually feels like an art gallery – the bikes which the mechanics fuss over as they customise them for the public take centre stage as works of great beauty. But you don’t have to be a bike enthusiast to love Cafe Rider, just someone who appreciates classic design – or good coffee in a fascinating setting.
“We’ve only been open nine months, but I’ve been staggered by the response,” says Moulvi. “First of all, I was opening a place I thought I would like to hang out in, and we soon found that there were more people than we thought who gravitated here. We now have music and movie nights, we sell clothing too… it’s taken on a cultural life of its own.”
All of which is a great lesson for any budding entrepreneur. Moulvi says although he just had to trust there were people like him in the UAE to start with, he let the business grow organically, through word-of-mouth. “We just love what we do – and I’m personally very fussy about what I drink or wear. I wouldn’t sell anything that I didn’t love and we adore the bikes we work on. So when people came to us, they understood pretty quickly that we’re not pretentious. They didn’t need the hard-sell, and they liked that.”
Demand is likely to get even higher given his barista Dmitri Grekhov won the UAE National Barista Championship late last year and will now go on to represent the UAE in the World Championships in Seattle this April.
“That’s just more proof of what we’re about – great coffee and great motorcycles,” says Moulvi. “And just like Steve McQueen or James Dean back in the day, it’s a way of life for me now, too.”