In a city where constant gridlock has given way to a dynamic motorcycle culture and every square foot of space is valuable, Lucky Wheels Garage has carved out a haven for motorcycle riders. The Downtown Los Angeles shop offers an ego-free space to wrench on your bike. Veterans and newbies alike share lifts, tools, and advice in this community-oriented DIY garage. Veterans jump in to help where needed, while those new to wrenching watch and learn. The garage also offers regular classes on how to work on your bike, oriented towards all skill levels.
Founders Ty Neff and Jackson McGovern – former film industry grips from Texas whose love of wrenching led them westward to open up Lucky Wheels Garage – keep the membership system just as relaxed. You learn at your own pace and pay as you go, no commitment or initiation fee.
Fair warning: this is not the kind of garage where you work on your bike, head low, and head home. It’s a spot built for camaraderie. Lucky Wheels hosts a second-floor lounge area equipped with couches, a pool table, enough instruments for a rock band, and a kick-ass handlebar wrestling table. You’re free to hang out as you please.
Plus, for space-strapped Downtowners, you can pay an extra $50 a month for bike and engine storage.
On a recent afternoon we sat down at the shop with co-founder Jackson McGovern to talk about the beginnings of Lucky Wheels, his best tips for new and old motorcycle enthusiasts, and how the garage is evolving over time.
You guys originally worked as grips in the film industry in Austin, Texas. How did you go from that to opening Lucky Wheels Garage?
The story really goes as far as you want it to go, but the short story is that I was into motorcycles, and then I got Ty into motorcycles and Ty was working in movies and I wasn’t. So we kind of traded off. I traded him motorcycles and he traded me gripping. We both worked in movies 2 – 2 ½ years together on and off different shows. He moved out to LA; I was still in Texas. We just kind of met in the middle one time in New Mexico. He had this great idea for a motorcycle co-op and I decided to be a part of it, so I moved to L.A. And that’s how we started Lucky Wheels, a year ago.
How did you choose Downtown as the location for your shop?
We were looking at the overall picture. We decided that Downtown made the most sense because of the high density of people and the lack of garages and space for people to work on their own stuff. Our shop makes it easy for people who have bikes to come in, maintain their bikes, customize them, or whatever they want to do.
Be close to them, and they’ll come.
What makes Lucky Wheels Garage unique?
Lucky Wheels Garage is a DIY garage that provides a warm and welcoming environment for people to come in and not feel judged, not feel on the spot, or criticized for not knowing stuff like a style of bike. Whatever they’ve got going on, we want to encourage them to constantly push themselves and learn more about the machine they ride.
You even have classes, right?
We do classes occasionally. Some months we do them, some months we don’t. It just depends on what we see the demand for. We try our best to educate in a larger classroom environment for people on even the most basic things, like oil changes, all the way up to valve adjustments. Frequently we have taught the classes, but we’re trying now to push for guest speakers who know more about a specific thing. Rather than us trying to learn about it and then teaching it.
What is one class you’d recommend to someone new to wrenching, and what’s one you’d recommend to a veteran?
I would say for the beginner, come in and learn how to change your oil. Because that is one thing that will save you money at the dealership or standard motorcycle shop. It’s absolutely a fundamental of riding a motorcycle and wrenching on it.
For someone who’s already been working on motorcycles for years, decades, I would say take a class or buy a motorcycle that you’ve never seen and start taking stuff apart. Try to get it to run. See what happens. Expand your horizons. Maybe you find an old two-stroke moped. Something off the beaten bath.
What does membership to Lucky Wheels Garage entail?
It’s like a gym membership. You get unlimited access to the shop during hours that we’re open. If you’ve got an awesome project or if you’re doing a full restoration, bring it in! A lot of times people are coming in here, knocking on the door when we’re about to open up, and they don’t leave until we tell them.
That, for us, makes it worth it, because we see all these people really excited about this place and what we’re doing.
You guys have such an awesome vintage feel to your shop and the gear you sell. Tell us more about how you decided to go with a retro look for the shop.
We’ll start with the downstairs. It kind of evolved. What you do is you throw ideas up, you see if they stick and work. You let them sit for a while and see what good comes to the top. Then you throw out the bad.
The downstairs was in a totally different form until 4 – 5 months ago when we looked at it and realized it wasn’t going to work. We shuffled things around and changed the setup. It’s always a work in progress. It’s not like we open the doors and boom, everything’s already here. As much as we’d like to say we did that, it’s not exactly how it happened.
So it’s evolving based on customer needs.
Yes, absolutely. Customer needs, our needs, what we feel works. The yard has slowly evolved over time. We think, oh, we need parking spaces over here, we need this tool over there, etc. So everything slowly shuffles.
The upstairs we didn’t have a lot to do with.
When we first opened we gave the women in our lives – friends and moms - a couple of grand, and told them to go and buy us a bunch of stuff for the upstairs. We can’t take full credit for the upstairs. Moms have good eyes.
So that’s how you got all these vintage pieces?
Yeah. We had the pool table before. But I’d say about 60-80% of the stuff has been accumulated.
Few motorcycle shops have a hangout area with a pool table, record player, and drums. Why build these spaces into a motorcycle garage?
There’s not a lot you can do at a motorcycle shop upstairs. We couldn’t afford an elevator to have more lifts up here so people could work on their bikes. So that ruled it out as a workspace. We tossed around the idea of making it a living space, too, but it makes it less legitimate if there are people living upstairs. It would seem more of a bro hangout shop, as opposed to a respectable business.
It boiled down to wanting a space where our members and other people in our community could come and hang out. That ties into the larger idea that it’s not just a DIY garage. It’s not just a spot where you come in, head down, turn your wrenches, and when you’re done, you drive away, never say a word to anybody. We wanted a space that encompassed the grander idea of the place, which was to have a spot for people who love motorcycles to hang out (that’s not part of the workspace). To have a place for them to clear their heads – a community area.
What’s your most memorable experience on a bike or working on a bike?
The experience that I have when I troubleshoot something and I figure out the solution is the moment where I’m like, this is awesome. This is why I keep doing this. Because if you’re helping somebody else and you see that they’re stumped and you two put your heads together and figure it out, for me that’s one of the most awesome moments.
How does one go about becoming a Lucky Wheels member?
Come into the shop and talk to me or Ty. We’ll give you the rundown and we’ll chat with you for however long and hang out – 15 minutes, half an hour, three hours. We’ll see if Lucky Wheels is a fit for you. Maybe come in and do a day pass, work on your bike once. Do that oil change that you’ve been wanting to learn how to do. Come in, see if it’s the right fit for you.
If you feel like it is, awesome, we’ll sign you up on the spot. If it’s not, and I don’t blame you. Wrenching on motorcycles isn’t for everybody. You can’t expect a master mechanic from everybody. Come in, say hi, poke around the shop.
Follow Lucky Wheels Garage on Instagram @LuckyWheelsGarage. Learn more about Lucky Wheels Garage at LuckyWheelsGarage.com.