Above: (From left) Handlebar in Sembawang. Mr Gabriel Cher and Mr Jap Loh, owners of Wheels & Wieners, near Little India.
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh
Think biker joints and you are likely to picture dingy bars and hulking men with tattoos and glares. But at this new hangout for the biking fraternity, while many of the men do have tattoos, they also sport smiles.
At Wheels & Wieners, families rub shoulders with macho bikers in black leather vests.
The 60s-inspired diner near the bustling streets of Little India is owned by two hardcore bikers who serve food with a smile when they are not straddling massive Harley-Davidson bikes.
"We get all kinds of customers here, and we love meeting everyone. We don't just cater to bikers. We're open for everyone," said owner Gabriel Cher, 33.
At Handlebar, another favourite biker hangout in Sembawang, the roar of an engine breaks the silence. You can hear it from metres away, and the smell of petrol is thick in the air.
|Ms Pek blending a drink using a motorised blender powered by a four-stroke engine.
Inside this little bar by the sea, owner Jan Pek is mixing a fruity pink drink - in a motorised blender powered by a four-stroke engine.
When The New Paper visited the two bars on Friday night, they were filled with friendly, high-spirited bikers who had parked their gleaming machines out front.
"We're just a nice place for people to sit around and talk about their bikes or organise biking trips," said Ms Pek, 42.
Ms Pek and her husband, Mr Chris Chong, 43, are both avid bikers. They started Handlebar in 1999 to spread their love of biking.
"We wanted to introduce biking to people. At that time, people used to think of it as just a low-income mode of transport," she said.
"We wanted to tell them it's a lifestyle. You meet people when you get on your bike."
The laid-back bar is decorated with bike paraphernalia, from side mirrors hung on the walls to exhaust pipes refurbished as lights.
The two beer taps at the bar are made of original motorcycle engines, one from a Ducati, the other from a 1956 Harley.
While Handlebar, with all its leather and metal, seems like a slick bad boy of a bar, Wheels & Wieners is more approachable right off the bat.
At the heart of it, it's a family-friendly diner that looks like it has been plucked out of the American Midwest. It serves hearty food like hot dogs and jumbo chicken wings.
"I guess for most bikers, bigger is better," said Mr Cher, who is also the diner's chef, with a laugh.
The burly man used to be a chef at high-end restaurants in hotels like the Grand Hyatt Singapore and the Mandarin Oriental Singapore, and he takes his food seriously.
|Wheels & Wieners, near Little India, is first and foremost a diner, says its owner, Mr Gabriel Cher, who is also the chef.
"Before it's a biker bar, Wheels & Wieners is most importantly a diner. The food has to be good," he said.
Mr Cher and co-owner Jap Loh are both members of the Warpigs Motorcycle Club, Wheels & Wiener's resident biker club. The club was formed in 1996 and its members remain a close band of brothers.
On Friday night, the group of bikers sat outside the diner deep in conversation.
In their leather vests, they looked an intimidating lot. But they were playful and good-natured.
"We wear leather vests because we don't need to wash them, and they don't get heavier when it rains. And black leather always, always looks cool," said one of them jokingly.
"It's very nice here. We have good food, good friends, good fun."
Whenever they go on long rides, the Warpigs start and end at Wheels & Wieners.
Said Mr Cher: "From what I see, bikers are generally a friendly lot. Car people can be a bit more stuck-up.
"Here, Ducati owners will mix with Harley riders."
He added: "There's a generalisation that people like us are all bad boys. But most of us are professionals, some of us are fathers. We're nice people."
This article was first published in The New Paper.