the story of rami bishara


After the Beirut blast on August 4th, 2020, custom motorcycle builder Rami Bishara found his city in shambles. He was just a kilometer away from the epicenter but luckily was relatively unhurt. His atelier, The Assembly Motors, on the other hand, was completely destroyed. However, Bishara’s story did not end there, as his drive and determination pushed him to get back to his passion: building unique and high-quality custom machines.


‘When the Beirut Port blast destroyed my shop, I felt extremely fortunate that my girlfriend, our cats, and friends were relatively unhurt. What was destroyed was material things, and I knew that the damage to my shop could be rebuilt, and rebuilt better.’ the designer shares. 

rebuilding after the beirut blast: motorcycle designer rami bishara shares his story
1974 Honda CB550

all images courtesy of Rami Bishara



How it all started 


Rami Bishara is an interdisciplinary designer with a background in typeface design focusing on Arabic fonts. Bishara was working as a typeface designer for one of the largest branding agencies in Beirut when he bought his first motorcycle and started dabbling and tinkering with its maintenance and cosmetics. A few years later, he purchased a derelict vintage 1974 Honda which he fixed up and rebuilt completely.


After reconstructing that bike, he realized his talent as well as the potential of the scene and then decided to open his own atelier, The Assembly Motors (find more here), in 2014. It was one of the earliest specialized custom motorcycles garages in Beirut. ‘The diversity in the style and mechanics of each project really inspired me to develop my skills and propelled my passion, taking on new challenges and adding technical complexity on top of constant refinement of the design process.’ he mentions.


Since building his first custom bikes, Bishara had a steady stream of clients and a long waiting list, with a wide range of makes and models. He had entered many of his designs into multiple shows, receiving the Best Multimedia Project Award at Tasmeem Doha, the Biennial International Art Conference in Qatar, and Best Posted at Icograda Design Week in Mumbai. In addition to his awards, Bishara’s achievements include invitations to showcase at Beirut Design Week.

rebuilding after the beirut blast: motorcycle designer rami bishara shares his story
1986 BMW R65



The Beirut blast and Bishara’s best work 


In 2020, The Assembly Motors studio was located right in the heart of Beirut, and was completely destroyed in the explosion. Bishara’s first concern was to replace the shattered wooden and glass shopfront, with a new one that he made out of steel and glass. ‘My shop is a hub for my crew and like-minded people, it’s the center of a dynamic and unique local culture, so I knew I had a responsibility to rebuild and continue the show.’ he explains.


Once he completed the new storefront, Rami Bishara went on to rework a 1983 Honda CX650, which he was in the process of rebuilding before the blast. ‘I felt it was my best work yet.’ he comments. The concept for this motorcycle was for it to be a brutalist post-apocalyptic machine. The subframe was designed to accommodate a custom LED taillight and an upswept seat. The custom-made rear suspension linkage was fabricated to also raise the tail section. In addition, the swing arm was modified to fit the widest and knobbiest tire possible, for an extra rugged look. All major components were sandblasted and powder-coated in semi-gloss black, and the engine was painted matte-black. The tank which serves as the accent color for this build, was inspired by a Hitachi excavator color scheme. This project hosts a full suite of high-end electronic components, such as a keyless ignition and data logging unit.

rebuilding after the beirut blast: motorcycle designer rami bishara shares his story
1983 Honda CX650



1974 Honda CB550 and 1986 BMW R65


The motorcycle that started it all was Bishara’s personal bike, a 1974 Honda CB550. The designer reworked this model in his backyard, before opening his studio. The mainframe of the bike was stripped down and de-tabbed from all the unused components, the custom subframe, and the hoop, with a matching handmade seat pan to compliment the flat tank line. The engine has been over-bored to 600cc, and the camshaft is from a CB650 that provides more horsepower. A custom-made electrical box under the seat houses the battery and ancillary components. The bike got upgraded to an electronic ignitions system with compatible coils. The air-box was removed and replaced with direct air filters and then the carburetors were tuned. The frame and main components were sandblasted and powder coated for durability, while the engine was painted part by part. ‘Eight years and 40,000km later this motorcycle has
taken me to all my favorite places.’ Bishara mentions. 


Another work of Bishara is a reworked 1986 BMW R65 which is hailed for its unique boxer engine design and packaging. Drawing inspiration from classic cars, the motorcycle presents a sleek and refined design with a seat-section and subframe that have been handmade and welded to give it its distinctive stance and poise. The electrical control units and battery hide under the tank, and it’s equipped with keyless ignition. The seat utilizes a gel/foam combo offering unprecedented comfort finished in burgundy leather that matches the handlebar grips. All major components were powder-coated in semi-gloss black with a few aluminum accents, and the tank was painted in eggshell white.

rebuilding after the beirut blast: motorcycle designer rami bishara shares his story
2001 Yamaha SR400



Hopes and dreams for the future


Despite the hardships Rami Bishara has experienced, he stays focused on his work, as his tenacity still pushes him through Lebanon’s current financial struggles. His dedication has earned him international recognition through several awards in his field. In addition, there are two short films that have been made to introduce Bishara’s motorcycles and his atelier, which is famous as Lebanon’s hub for specialty repairs for classic/neo-classic bikes and unique bespoke builds. Bearing all these in mind, it seems that Bishara’s journey has just begun. The designer himself remains optimistic and looks forward to the future, hoping to improve his skills and acquire more knowledge on motorcycle building. 


‘I’ve had an extraordinary opportunity in Lebanon to establish a local business that has a unique niche, and at the same time cooperate with a lot of other local fabricators in the process. I have learned so much doing this, especially in a resource-poor environment like Lebanon.’ Bishara shares. ‘I’m excited to build on this and develop my skillset further in metal fabrication such as using the lathe and mill, and work on the breadth of rare and vintage motorcycles available on a more global market. In Lebanon, especially as a small business owner, it can be really challenging to access parts, equipment, and machinery; I am looking forward to the opportunity to access and build my skills in use of CAD and CAM, and CNC machining.’

rebuilding after the beirut blast: motorcycle designer rami bishara shares his story
1982 Honda CX500

rebuilding after the beirut blast: motorcycle designer rami bishara shares his story