Indonesia in Focus
Indonesians in Focus: M. Wachid
If you are looking for a cheap means of transportation that is both fuel efficient and a work of art, drop by Faiz Motor in Wijirejo, Bantul regency, some 25 kilometers south of Yogyakarta.
“Aside from being a good way to get around, the bikes can also serve as exercise machines because you still have to push the pedals,” said Muchamad Wachid, the owner of Faiz Motor.
Wachid, who also works as a civil servant at Yogyakarta State University, communicates with his customers via the telephone to enable him to modify bikes according to their needs. There is no standard design - the final product depends on his imagination.
“I don’t need to be guided by pictures,” he said.
“I can get an idea about what customers want just from a phone call. Then I use my imagination to create his or her ideal ontel,” Wachid said.
“All of my clients have been satisfied with my designs,” he said.
Depending on what type of modification they require, customers pay between Rp 2.5 million (US$275) and Rp 2.75 million per bike. Wachid usually asks for a down payment of Rp 500,000 for parts before commencing work.
“Other expenses are for welding, painting and mechanical work,” he said.
“My profit is very small, but the work makes me happy.”
Wachid makes modifications to bikes before connecting the engine. Ontel do not have gears, unlike standard motorcycles.
Assembling the machine is straightforward and only requires three bolts.
If the machine does not work properly, customers can dismantle the bike and take the faulty part to Faiz Motor to be repaired, free of charge. Customers who live far away can send the malfunctioning part via the post, paying only packing and postage fees.
The idea to develop motorized ontel came about as part of Wachid’s wish to preserve old bikes for transportation. Before the 1990s, Yogyakarta was famous as a city of bicycles, with cyclists cluttering the streets every day.
“My father was well known as a bike manufacturer and I’ve loved ontels since I was young,” he said.
Wachid’s artistic designs have made his motorized bikes popular, even in places as far away as Japan and Australia. They can also be found in many cities throughout the archipelago.
Wachid studied engineering and taught himself how to weld and paint, consulting many reference books. He was also a regular visitor to machine workshops, watching welders and other workers so he could learn their skills.
“In 1995 I set up a motorcycle workshop and called it Faiz Motor after my first child,” he said.
“I wanted to have a supplementary income. After a lot of trial and error, I adapted ontels so as I could fit engines to them. My first motorized bike was completed in 2000.
“I experimented a lot with a number of engines, including those from brush cutters, pumps and blowers. I found that blower engines were the most suitable.
“My brother-in-law Dazim was the first to try my first motorized bike on the road. He made a 60-kilometer non-stop trip from Yogyakarta to Purworejo (Central Java) and back. There were no problems and he was able to reach a speed of 40 kilometers per hour.
“The second trial of my motorized bike was an attempt to cycle uphill to Borobudur temple with two riders. Again, there were no problems.”
Wachid’s first modified bike was used as a means of getting to and from work. One day when he was returning home, a tourist from Australia followed him and persuaded him to sell his bike.
Two years after he created his first motorized bike, Wachid had already received many orders, despite the fact he had never advertised.
Because his manufacturing capacity is limited, orders are filled slowly. Every month he builds on average two motorized bikes.
“Every motorized ontel I make is a unique creation,” he said.
“As a government employee, I can only make the machines after I return home from work.”
The creativity required to come up with an original design makes it more and more difficult for Wachid to fill orders. This August he received requests for eight motorized bikes, on top of existing orders from Australia and Japan.
To meet the increasing demand for his product, Wachid hired two staff members at the end of July. However, designs and modifications remain his responsibility.
Wachid said he wants to move toward the large-scale production of his motorized bikes because the prospects seem quite bright.
Although motorized transportation is widespread, people continue to search for more fuel-efficient ways to get around.
“But to develop my business I would need to have a substantial amount of capital and create new vacancies,” he said.
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