He began building motorized bikes in Grade 8 after his mom bought him his first bike which lasted about a month before it got stolen. He says that’s about par for the course growing up close to Scarborough, ON.
Undaunted, he then convinced his mom to buy him a motorized bike kit – a four-stroke 49cc Honda engine that mounted onto a bicycle and let him cruise at speeds of 45km/h – and created his first after participating in his neighbourhood ‘recycling program’, so to speak.
“You know how there’s always that one bike that’s been sitting on a fence that nobody touches? I’d give it some time, and after like a month if nobody touched it I'd take it and my brother would help me rebuild it from scratch. That summer [of Grade 8] was probably one of my favourite summers because I was just cruisin’ around, and that was when I fell in love with motorized vehicles.”
In the 10th Grade the seed for electric motorcycles was sown. Ikenna read an article on them and realized no one could tell how much power you had under the hood just looking at it. His mom agreed to loan him $2,000 to build a bike that looked more like a real motorcycle and could get up speeds of 80km/h, on the condition that he enter it into a science fair.
He won bronze competing against some of the smartest kids in Canada after sleepless nights in his garage, learning about soldering, electronics, computer engineering, and battery management.
“I learned to solder in my garage at 2 a.m. when the science fair started at 8 a.m. the next day. I had to solder wires with enough energy to electrocute me, and after burning my hands to a crisp I plugged it in at about 6 a.m., and everything worked. When the sun was coming up I took the bike out on the road, and the wind on my face and my pounding heartbeat was like no drug I’ve ever done.”
Ikenna did the thing most of those gifted in math and science are told to do and focused on engineering as a study and career goal. He got accepted to Ryerson computer-engineering, moved by the Danforth, and soon became unhappy in a program that focused on advanced mathematics with little practical application. He dropped out after one semester and a job at a propane tank refurbishing company for four months, which was “crazy, stupid labour”, then moved back home.
Listless and floating between career one idea and the next, Ikenna found himself re-sanding and painting the frame of the science fair bike in his garage with Xavier Chan, his current business partner.