We never thought we’d mention Israel and the new wave custom scene in the same breath. Until now.
Just a twenty-minute ride out of Tel Aviv—in the small city of Ness Ziona—Lior Baruch has opened Back on Two. The retail space-cum-workshop is the first of its kind in Israel; a heady mix of nostalgia, gasoline and good taste.
Lior designed and outfitted the shop himself, filling it with memorabilia, apparel, riding gear and motorcycles.
Naturally, breaking new ground in a country known for its conservatism isn’t without its challenges. We caught up with Lior to find out exactly what those were, and what possessed him to open Back on Two in the first place.
Tell us about Israel’s motorcycling scene. The history of motorcycles in Israel goes way back to the British Mandate, which is why most vintage motorcycles in Israel are from that era (mostly BSAs). Throughout the years, just a small selection of motorcycles that were sold worldwide was sold in Israel. It was only in the mid-eighties that Japanese motorcycles started kicking in.
In recent years, hundreds of vintage motorcycles were imported from all over the world and suddenly, after many years of drought, we started seeing some really interesting models.
In the last few years, bike builders and customizers took the bikes to the next level—building café racers, trackers, choppers and more, with many clubs and weekly gatherings all over Israel.
What inspired you to open the shop? For over twenty years I’ve been restoring and building motorcycles and cars. For most of those years I was working for hi-tech companies all over the globe, and in my free time I used to visit motorcycles museums, workshops and custom bike shops. I kept thinking: when will someone do that in Israel?
In the last few years I saw beautiful shops like Deus and a few others and saw the combination of a workshop, retail and lifestyle, and that was a true inspiration.
You’re the first shop of your kind in the region—what’s that like?“There’s a fine line between bravery and stupidity,” friends kept telling me when I started dreaming about Back on Two.
The local market is not that big and customizing is still new, but I truly believed that due to the bloom of the scene in the last few years and the constant drooling over custom projects across the ocean, it was time to do it locally. “If you’ll build it, they will come,” I kept telling myself.
What are some of the challenges you’ve had to face? Israel is rather conservative when it comes to changing and customizing a perfectly good motorcycle. A few years ago I set up a few groups on Facebook with friends (such as Café Racer Israel and Bike Builders Israel) and started gathering the non-conservative motorcyclists.
Sometimes we had to re-educate people, telling them that it’s OK to take your beautiful valuable motorcycle and change it—to dream, inspire and make it happen. It wasn’t easy, and it took few years, but it feels like the direction is there now.
Why open shop in Ness Ziona rather than a major center, like Tel Aviv? When I asked people and friends where they think such a shop should be, most said that they don’t want just to start the engine, get to the place and turn it off before they’ve even switched off the choke.
They want a short ride, 15-30 minutes, and that’s how far the shop is from most of the central cities in Israel.
Walk us around the shop; what can visitors expect when they step inside? BOT is an experience, a place to be, not just a shop. Besides being able to buy various brands of clothing, footwear and riding equipment—both vintage and modern styles—there are collectible items all around.
There are posters, books and vintage magazines that you can read on the leather sofa with a beer in hand, tin motorcycle toys, and vintage helmets—like a 1950s AGV race lid. There are even old Playboy magazines from the 1950s and 1960s displayed on the walls.
What sort of products do you sell? We stock BOT T-shirts and Nudie Jeans, popular gear brands like Alpinestars, Stylmartin, Shoei, Nitro, Bell, Paladium, Spidi and REV’IT, and much more.
Ready-built vintage and custom motorcycles are on display too, along with some 2015 models that are relevant to the scene: Bikes like the Ducati Scrambler, Moto Guzzi V7 Racer and Royal Enfield Continental GT.
Tell us about your workshop. The workshop is a one-stop shop for motorcycles—offering design, restoration, build and rebuild as well as servicing for motorcycles of any kind and year.
This is a new concept around here, as vintage motorcycle riders are used to hearing “We don’t work on that sort of motorcycle,” from most mechanics.
The retail space has a large window looking into the workshop, so people can look in all the time and see the magic while it happens.
What else goes on at BOT? We’ve got evening events planned twice a week, gathering bikers of all kinds with good music, vibe, coffee and—of course—beer. Once a month on a Friday, there is an all-day event with music, beers and a BBQ.
How has the response been since you opened? I was really surprised by the huge support and excitement of riders. A few days prior the opening event, almost every news and magazine website published the event, inviting people to arrive and attend the opening of the first custom motorcycle shop in Israel.
The opening event was astonishing, with hundreds of motorcycles arriving from all over the country, and over a thousand visitors within the two days of the event. I had tears in my eyes the whole time and the feeling that I did it right. (No, I’m not crying, it’s the dust, OK?)
To this day we still get emails and messages wishing us luck and waiting for the next beer and BBQ gathering!