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City Weekend

Yuen Long architect happy to be king of the road with collection of motorcycles

Two wheels have opened up the New Territories for a long-time resident who climbs on one of his many machines for work in Shenzhen each day

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 April, 2017, 11:30am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 May, 2017, 11:38am

Ian Foster sits on a small chair outside a village house in Yuen Long, gently pets his overexcited Labrador in a front yard packed with his collection of 10 motorbikes and classic cars.

“When I first came to Hong Kong, many Westerners tended to live and focus everything they did on Hong Kong Island. But getting my first motorcycle here kind of opened up a whole new part of Hong Kong for me, taking me to the New Territories,” Foster said.

The 53-year-old Irishman, who has been living in Hong Kong for 26 years, owns 130 motorbikes and 40 classic cars around the world.

As well as the ones here, he has others in California and Ireland.

Foster once lived on a junk in Aberdeen, but his hobby prompted him to move to a larger and cheaper area in the New Territories, as parking spaces on Hong Kong Island were “incredibly expensive”.

“A lot of my motorcycles were found in the scrapyard. They were basically being thrown away, but with the idea of having or creating a museum, I had a purpose to buy those very cheap machines and restore them,” he said.

Not only have motorbikes opened doors to the backyard of Hong Kong for the architect, but they also take him into the mainland nearly every day.

“My office is in Shenzhen. So every day I commute to the border and park my motorcycle there, and then I take it on the way back in the evening. I very rarely take the car,” Foster said.

“Motorcycles are much quicker and more convenient.”

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Hailing from a farming community in Northern Ireland, where he began driving trucks and cars on the farm when he was 10, Foster said his passion for two wheels grew when a neighbour gave him a ride on his machine.

“I liked the speed and the excitement that only motorbikes could give me,” he said.

“Motorcycles also allow you to make lots of friends. In Britain, I can drive to any cafe or wherever I can meet with the motorcycle guys and start talking to them. Our shared interest opens doors to friendships.”

Hong Kong may not be the best place when it comes to collecting such machines, given its high rents and tight spaces, but Foster has called the city home for many years and is reluctant to leave.

When he graduated from university and qualified as an architect, he was introduced to Hong Kong by a friend who was living here and encouraged him to remain.

He had thought about staying for a couple of years but 26 years later he is still here and now married.

Although his friends and co-workers have suggested that he relocate to the mainland so he can be closer to his business, Foster said he was staying here because of his “toys”.

He said moving his collection across the border would be too difficult.

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“I really am staying in Hong Kong because of all these toys. That’s what makes me happy.”

As an architect, Foster admitted that he looks at motorbikes in a different way to other people.

“I am absolutely hopeless in terms of handling mechanical things when it comes to motorbikes.” he said.

“If something has gone wrong, there’s no way I will be the one to fix it. I am looking at motorcycles from a statical and design point of view.”

Asked if he could imagine his life without motorbikes, Foster replied: “Yikes! Can I imagine a life without breathing?”