The way we were

Last weekend I went to a local well-known back street tyre shop to sort out a back tyre for my bike. I have been knowing Paul, the owner of the shop, for about 20 years. This tyre shop is a one man band set-up, his knowledge and passion for motorcycles keeps him in business for that long. Since I moved away from city centre, I haven’t come there for some time. Paul is fanatic about motorcycle racing as ever. While we were waiting for the wheel being taken off, he invited me to have a look at their race workshop. At the side of this humble tyre shop, this is home of two times privateer champion of the British Superbike Championship. Inside the workshop there was a full racing  spec of Yamaha R1 dressed in trickiest alloy and fibre carbon parts. Two spare engines and other expensive parts were around the work bench. On the other side of the workshop, there was a display cabinet full of shinning trophies.

Two young people standing alongside while Paul introduced this race set up to me. These two young people were part of the team, I was curious, so I asked them what they were doing there.

“My dad was involved in this team. My brother and me are studying motor mechanic in college, now I am in a university doing motor racing subjects. During our spare time, we will come here and work on the bikes. This has been my third years with the bike team, next year I would have enough experience to go to race meetings and help working on the race bike. We have just move the engine out from the frame, take some of the parts off so that the team can sell them and generate money to fund a new race bike for next year.”

Throughout our brief conversation, I could tell these youngsters knew their stuff about the bike. It was very refreshing to see young people were not behind their game consoles, I-Phones or watching TV all day long. These two young people were there learning and practicing their skills and knowledge, using their hands to make / fabricate parts and they had a distinct idea what they wanted to do as a hobby or a career. They reminded me the way we were: out and about doing things; spend time making and fixing things instead of buying things. They also showed me that no matter how advance digital technology is, we still need people who know how to use their hands to make things. These kinds of craftsmanship take time and lots of hard work to mature. There is no shortcut or computer programme to develop real work experience. These two young people demonstrate that learning takes place within and beyond classroom walls. It can be fun and enjoyable too.

Today’s education seems to concentrate on developing knowledge and skills via digital means. The proportion of time developing any form of craftmanship is very little. The new government suggests students completing a full-time degree in two years time, it probably works for developing your understanding about the subject. Developing a craftsmanship? No chance.

I hope these two young people get where they want to go. We need good programmer as well as good craftsman. No wonder old paintings, antiques and classic cars still worth more than the modern high tech stuff, it is because of the level of craftsmanship. These stuff are one-off, limited number production and most importantly with an individuality.

Choosing between high tech modern stuff that will be out-of-date the next minute and an old classic hand-made stuff, I know which one I will choose.


About AC2

Born and brought up in HK; has been living in the UK since late 80's. Love motorcycle, Manga and Super Robots.
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