Meet 25-year-old Jevon Hynds. You get drunk, he turns up on a Monkey Bike, sticks it in the boot of your car and drives you home. Genius.
What is Scooterman and how does it work?
The motto is 'You drink, we drive'. You can go out straight from work and drink without worrying about your car - we drive you home in it. You phone the booking office to register as a customer - it's free to join - and pay the fare in advance. The booking office gives the client a call 10 minutes before the rendez-vous with Scooterman in case they're too drunk to remember. Then Scooterman meets the client who leads him to the car. The scooter's seat, tank and forks come off, we wrap the four main parts in synthetic bags and load them in the boot. You throw your bike clothing in the back too or you'll start to overheat while driving.
Are customers ever too drunk to remember where their car is?
Yes, it does happen, but they just need to tell us more or less where it is and we can find it by the number plate and make and model, which the office gives us.
So how did you first get involved with Scooterman?
Two years ago I was finishing my degree in automotive engineering and looking for a part-time job, but I didn't fancy bar work. So I went onto the student recruitment website and saw a firm looking for someone with a car and bike licence to drive people home in their own vehicles. I got in touch, passed the Scooterman driving test and worked on the road until recently, when I took a full-time job in the workshop.
Are you into bikes outside of work?
Yes, I have a 400 Bandit. And while I was at university I helped out a British Superbike team when a regular mechanic of theirs couldn't make a meeting.
What bikes do Scootermen use?
Four-stroke, 50cc Monkey Bikes straight out of the 60s. They're still manufactured so we import them and convert them in-house; the company has its own patent on the design. They're not scooters at all really - they're half-size motorbikes with three gears and a top speed of 30mph.
But don't you have to travel long distances?
Most of our work is within the M25 and within six months you start to know London like the back of your hand. You get away with a lot on a Monkey Bike and you can take advantage of shortcuts only pushbikes can use. However, our furthest regular client is just 15 miles shy of Oxford so we do have bikes tuned for long distances. They let the Scooterman ride along at 40mph rather than 30, which makes a massive difference to the overall journey time. The tuned bikes are a bit racy though, everybody wants to take those out!
What do you do to them?
There's loads of tuning parts available. We start off with a freer-flowing air filter and exhaust and a bigger carb, then we bore them out to 72cc. We have other bikes that are over 100cc because our sister company retails them. You can turn Monkey Bikes into 124cc monsters with ridiculous power-to-weight ratios and they start getting fast - 50-60mph and beyond.
Do you ever get customers back-seat driving in their own car?
Occasionally, but you get a variety of people. You get to drive so many different cars but often it's just the usual Golf or BMW. When you get in the car the owner points out where the lights and things are, so it's like, 'Oh yeah, that's strange, they're here on every Golf!' But you also get the customer who thinks that because of your job you must be some sort of hardcore stunt driver, so they're like, 'Go on, rag my car! What's it like? What's it feel like round this corner?'
You must have some hilarious stories
The funniest are the people who forget they're in their own car. You get to their house and they're like, 'Yeah, just drop me here', because they think you're a cab. One Scooterman was dropping off this lady in Ealing, and as he reached a busy A-road she leapt out of the car and over a fence into her house. She was so hammered she thought it was a taxi and couldn't afford the fare! But it's pre-paid so the Scooterman had to go knocking on her door to give the keys back. Sometimes you go to pick up from a house party, and the person who's using Scooterman has been going on all evening about this guy on a scooter who's picking him up, so you end up with 30 party-goers on the street all cheering. Once they started singing the Batman theme song, 'Na na na na na na na na - Scooterman!'
Is Scooterman becoming popular?
On a busy Saturday night there's at least four guys on the roads doing four jobs each. A lot of it is word-of-mouth and repeat customers who use us several times a week. We've started to expand and we're running a franchise in Manchester that's been going great. Other firms have tried to imitate our service but they flopped - I don't think there's the market to support two Scooterman services in one city.
What's your next move?
I may kick-off a new franchise soon and I'm going Monkey Bike racing up north with the Low Capacity Road Racing Club who run a class for four-strokes under 125cc. I'm going to beat everyone! Monkey Bike racing is becoming big news. The bikes are easy to work on - you can lift the engine with one hand - and people underestimate the power-to-weight ratio. If the rider doesn't weigh much they absolutely fly!
Do Scootermen race among themselves on the city streets?
The bikes are the work horses so we can't muck around on them. But when there's a double pick-up at the same location and you watch them set off together, you know they're going to try to beat each other there!