The motorcycle custom industry in the country is on a constant rise, having a great number of people supporting the lifestyle across the nation. The culture of bike building is definitely one of the hottest trends today and its expanding in different directions. Even well-known international motorcycle brands started to establish their companies here in the Philippines because they cannot deny the fact; filipinos have completely embraced the rugged lifestyle of motorcycle riding and the experimentation that comes with it. But has anyone ever thought of asking the question; who initiated this movement in the country? Who can claim in being the first motorcycle builder in the Philippines?
Elmer Reyes of San Pablo, Laguna doesn’t claim anything but his records will tell you otherwise. He may not be the very first builder in the country, but he is definitely one of the pioneers and remained to be one of the top modifiers to this date. In 1995, he started to operate what he calls his ‘shop’, a bike customizing garage which is now largely known as the “Laguna Choppers.” Elmer started riding motorcycles at the age of 10. And with his love for motorcycles grew fonder, his vision became the reality for their garage. Establishing a world-class brand that crafts quality customized motorcycles that are envied by everyone around the globe.
“I think this is destiny,” he said when asked how his garage evolved from a simple hobby into an outstanding brand and business. “I just embraced my love for bikes. There’s a good livelihood in this business. Though, it may not be that lucrative (in monetary), the satisfaction of building motorcycle can be very fulfilling.”
We are humbled with Elmer’s way of managing and leading his company. This down-to-earth family man never forgets to acknowledge every member of the group in all of the company’s successes.
“Laguna Choppers is about its people. I used to be in construction, I design houses and buildings. With that kind of working environment, I learned that I won’t be able to finish a project without my men. I want to make them feel confident about themselves and inspire them to dream.”
“And because of what we’ve accomplished so far, I am really proud of them. I maybe the brains of it, but I won’t make it here without them, and vice versa. That’s why its called a team.”
Elmer and his family’s generosity doesn’t end there. Not only do they share their trophies or successes to their employees, they even plan to share their secret to success.
“We now have this advocacy of sharing our trade. We’re planning to establish the most extensive motorcycle school in the country, probably. Which will train more talent and skills, giving our fellow filipinos more opportunity for work and business. I am licensed to teach, by the way.”
In 2016, Laguna Choppers was featured on History Channel’s ‘History Con,’ a 4-day convention held at World Trade Center in Pasay city. The team proudly showcased a wide variety of customized bikes in which they were joined by Damon Runyan and Ian Matthews of “Gangland Undercover,” and together they unveiled the Laguna Choppers’ customized 1978 Honda CB500 as the “History Con Manila Bike.” (Click here to read more of the History Con event.)
Recently, Elmer and his team was at it again and completed their latest build. Showcasing a classic 1978 Honda CB400T Hawk for Darrell Milnes, a Qatar-based client.
“I found them through a mutual friend here in Qatar. And I was impressed by Laguna Choppers’ work.” Darrell said.
“Inspiration came from many sources,” he added. “The orignal UK ‘Ton Up’ Boys from London, who modified their Triumphs and BSa’s back in the 50’s right the way up to the modern café racer builder like Roland Sands and Inglorious MotorCycles in the UK. UK builders have been using old Honda motorcycles for a while now, again because they are so simple to work on and have huge potential as café or brat racers.”
Darrell is a motorcycle hobbyist, IT designer, a vocalist of a punk rock band and a Sci-Fi nut. He describes himself as ‘a punk-rock, lambretta-riding, sci-fi nut case.’
“I’ve been Facebook friends with Elmer for quite some time, and we both share a love of Lambretta scooters. I mentioned to him my ideas around building a brat racer, and he said ‘that sounds cool, can I build it?’ The rest is history.”
Elmer Reyes’s story is definitely an inspiration to all members of the motorcycle industry. It is a testament that when we live out our passions and thrive in being the best, everything will surely fall into place at the right time.
Elmer ends with an insightful message to all aspiring builders out there. “Building bikes is very broad. You can’t be impatient in this kind of industry. If you give up too easily, you’ll definitely lose.”
“You have to embrace the love for motorcycle building, because it is very rewarding when you love what you do.”
BUILD HARD! RIDE SAFE!
Photos by Michael Eijansantos(IG: @mike_eijansantos)
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