For a guy who sits around drawing pictures all day, Ruan Vermeulen is pretty handy with a spanner. After building up an internationally celebrated company that started life in a humble digs in Stellenbosch, Vermeulen was looking for a release. There’s only so much time you can spend sitting in front of a screen or pitching at clients, you know.
So Vermeulen called up his friend Robert Nicholls, a commercials director who, like Vermeulen, also heard the call of the unknown. The pair bought themselves retro Royal Enfields and went on a two-week adventure in the Karoo. When they came back, the bikes had rattled to pieces, and they’d learnt a thing or two about toying with a motorcycle. But most importantly, the bike bug had bitten. Hard.
Having noticed how a lot of guys were buying these same sub-standard, yet aesthetically pleasing bikes, they decided that to really stand out from the crowd they’d build up their own rides to their exact specs.
“If you think meditation works, you should try getting into this,” says Nicholls. “Your mind stops and all stress becomes irrelevant. Only the bike is important.”
But first they’d need a space. Together with two other like-minded individuals, Robyn Goode and Jannes Hendrikz, they settled on a garage that was being used by a metalworker as storage space. The building had been there since Woodstock was a seaside town. And at just 10 minutes from Cape Town, this squarish box was cheap, quiet and perfect for the creatives to pack their MacBooks away and roll up their sleeves.
They kept their renovations on the cheap. First they gutted the place, removed some dry wall, got rid of all the makeshift wooden shelving, chipped away at the dried cement mounds on the floor, put in electrics and plumbing, splashed on a lick of paint…
“I’m a frustrated architect/designer so I really went to town,” says Nicholls, who sourced the lights from Milnerton Market, sprayed the insides canary yellow and the exterior satin black.
“We used stoepverf for the floor,” adds Vermeulen, who admits that while it looks great aesthetically, it’s not the best option for a workshop floor. “Just try looking for a little screw or whatever you’ve dropped.”
The barn-style door had 100 years of paint on it, so they sanded it down and stenciled on their logo – Fury Custom Bike Shop. “It was dark when we got around to sanding down the inside of the door. That’s when the lights cut out, so we had to line up our bikes and finish up using headlights.”
The bar was made from wood salvaged from a nearby building site. They bought a grinder, sanded it all down, bought some cheap pine units and then laid them over that structure. Along the walls they used industrial shelving – like what you’d see at
a grocery store. And after they got some quotes back on industrial bike benches they decided to build their own – which work just as well, they’re quick to add.
With their bikes acting as excellent advertisements parked outside the hip venues these guys frequent, they’re now so busy with commissions that they don’t really have time for their own bikes anymore.
“It’s a hobby that’s turned into a business of sorts,” says Nicholls. “We’ve employed a fulltime guy, Tony, who helps us with the overrun while we’re running our other businesses. And his dog takes care of security. Look, the place isn’t making money, and we still have to pay out of our own pocket, but it’s a passion thing and if it ends up paying for itself, great.”
Fury has become the new after-work local, with quarts being bought from the shebeen around the corner and kept in a fridge under the counter. It’s also the perfect place for braais, watching sport and hosting events that have ranged from a bachelor party to an art exhibition.
Any additions? Future plans? Pipe dreams?
“A boxing gym next door… A nice Italian coffee machine… No, we’ll probably just keep stripping away the comforts to make space for more bikes. There was a couch in here for a while but now there are just these barstools.”
* Words: Dylan Muhlenberg
Pics by Adriaan Louw