Motorcycle precincts: Ringwood Motorcycle Hub
Bustling, suburban Ringwood, straddling the Maroondah Highway, is about 25 kilometres east of Melbourne’s CBD. It has always been a great base for motorcyclists and motorcycle businesses that meet their needs. Bikes were a logical choice for Ringwood’s young locals even before the post-WWII boom that saw it become an important retail centre serving the ever-growing population of Melbourne’s eastern suburban sprawl.
A big feature of its appeal to motorcyclists is its closeness to the Dandenongs and the easy access to the ranges beyond. The glorious winding ribbons of bitumen through the hills, like the legendary Black Spur, and the countless forestry tracks and trails were a magnet to the bike fraternity then. And they still are.
THE PASSING PARADE
The locations and names of the various bike businesses over the years in Ringwood has been an ongoing moveable feast. Ringwood regulars will obviously remember Peter Stevens and Harley Heaven before they upped stakes in recent years and moved out of the Ringwood shopping strip to a location on the highway to the east of town. And who could forget Clipstone Yamaha with a bike mounted on a tall, steel pole, high in the air above its showroom, announcing to all comers that they were entering the Ringwood Motorcycle Hub?
From earlier times, I wonder how many readers remember the legendary Bert Flood’s dirt bike business over the highway in New Street? Then, how about Freedom Wheels Honda, or more recently Rod Hunter Motorcycles on the highway, and Parts and Pieces, the bike wrecker in Olive Grove? Vince Genova’s Nova Honda took over the Freedom Wheels location before ultimately moving to new premises, a decent stone’s throw further along the highway. That opened the way for Bike Mart to move from another highway address to the place vacated by Nova, where it remains to this day. Then Nova Honda became Metro Honda and Ducati before finally passing from the scene early last year.
For more than 25 years, Eastern Motorcycle Wreckers was located on the highway in a spot that would now be smack bang in the middle of the Eastlink freeway. Proprietor Paul Horner must have seen it coming in his crystal ball. He packed up about 10 years ago and moved the business to its current premises in Olive Grove.
Most recently A1 Motorcycles’ move to its new location enabled Scotty’s Dirt Bike Spares to expand into larger premises.
4/70 Maroondah Highway
(03) 9879 5822
Bike Mart doesn’t sell bikes. Its focus is riding gear, accessories and parts. Around since 1995, the original, tiny, one-man enterprise has blossomed into a well-stocked retail business staffed by enthusiasts who bring their expert knowledge to the task of providing proper service and advice.
It carries a full bike apparel and helmet range as well as accessories covering the needs of road and dirt bike riders alike. Ladies’ styles and sizes are also well catered for.
Proprietor Brian Fullard says they’re selling more motorcycle hard parts and service items now than in the past. They’re supplying a lot of batteries, oil, filters, sparkplugs and the like to DIY owners. As Brian says, “With labour charges around $100 an hour, you’re so much better off financially if you can do it yourself.”
Although Brian is upgrading his website to offer online sales, he believes that the standard of in-shop service that his business provides is the best remedy to competition from the web. As Brian put it: “I rely on the value of the service at Bike Mart to guarantee the future of the business. I certainly rely on the service and the knowledge of people in stores when I go to buy something. It’s important to me. And I like to touch and see an item before I make up my mind. You can’t do that online. You can always do it here.”
A bonus for Bike Mart customers is that Brian’s mate and MT’s senior road tester, TT hero Cam Donald, regularly helps out behind the counter.
IN-TUNE MOTORCYCLE SERVICES
3/2 Olive Grove
(03) 9879 6688
In-Tune, just over the road from Bike Mart, offers the full range of maintenance, servicing and repairs to bikes of all ages and types. It also supplies tyres.
Proprietor Tim Walsh has been running In-Tune for 12 years. He has always worked in the motorcycle trade, with 27 years’ experience as a mechanic. It’s been in his blood since the days when his father ran a bike business in Wagga Wagga.
Tim says that he and his technician, Luke, are both busy. “Even if sales of new bikes are down there is always work on servicing and repairs, perhaps more so as people hang on to old bikes or put old bikes back on the road,” he explains.
“We’ve invested in high-tech equipment that enables us to handle all the issues involved with the multiple electronic systems on the latest bikes. And being brought up in the carby-era means we can work on the old bikes as well.” Tim also points out his lathe and milling machine.
Tim explains the importance of the Dynotune side of the business. “As well as using it for fuel-injection testing and cleaning and Power Commander work, we use the dyno a lot for the difficult diagnostic work that others can’t manage. Testing a bike under to full load to show up those hidden gremlins is impossible on the road,” he says.
Tim sums up saying that customers really like being able to talk directly to the man who’s working on their bike. There’s no service manager. It’s either Tim or Luke.
ALL AMERICAN MOTORCYCLES
2/6 Olive Grove
(03) 9879 3322
Just around the corner from In-Tune is All American Motorcycles run by long-term bike industry identity Rick Thomas.
You step inside to a bright and colourful all-American reception, greeted by a life-size Marilyn Monroe image.
Rick explains that his showpiece ex-police Harley is from a small fleet of dignitary escort bikes. “The retiring police officer managed to take it with him, unusually with all its PD stuff intact,” Rick says. “So it’s a rare and real survivor with all its police gear. In my 36 years in the industry it’s the only fully equipped police bike I’ve seen.”
As well as importing a range of high-quality collectable American bikes, Rick’s place has a well-equipped workshop that contributes heavily to his turnover doing repairs, servicing as well as compliancing of private imports.
They work on all bikes from the earliest up to current models.
Rick has done restoration work for years for Parker Indian and has worked for H-D, Victory and Indian. And he has a passion for Buells.
All their imports are pre-’89 which ties in neatly with Victoria’s club-permit, red plate scheme.
He was attracted to Ringwood because, outside of Elizabeth Street, in Melbourne’s CBD, it’s the biggest bike hub in Victoria.
“I started my career here back in the ’80s at Freedom Wheels Honda. We sold Honda, Laverda and MZ,” Rick says. “I was the manager there and I’ve kept in touch with all the local boys over the years. So when we decided to start this business, Ringwood was the logical choice.”
EASTERN MOTORCYCLE WRECKERS
8 Olive Grove
(03) 9870 9209
After another few steps we’re greeted by Paul Horner of Eastern Motorcycle Wreckers. Paul started at Eastern straight out of school and after a few years he liked the business so much he bought it.
“We were on the highway for 26 years and we’ve been here for over 10 years now. So after 36 years I’m still here,” Paul says.
He explains it’s a smaller business these days as a result of people buying online from overseas, particularly over the last two or three years. “People don’t seem to think about the local effect of buying from overseas,” he says.
“Hopefully the falling Australian dollar will improve things as well as people becoming aware of the value of the service we provide. Here, over our counter, they get the right part that fits and works.”
One of the positive things Paul’s seeing is that as well as his traditional, older clients, younger enthusiasts, who have taken up old-school bikes as projects, are coming in the door.
He’s seeing increasing demand for parts for bikes from the ’70s and ’80s – anything that’s club-registrable. The red-plate scheme has been central to the biggest turnaround in the last five years because it’s putting old bikes back on the road.
Although the Ringwood precinct has changed a lot recently with the departure of Peter Stevens and Harley Heaven, it remains a strong motorcycle hub according to Paul, with new businesses opening.
His parts stock covers a range of bikes from the ’50s up to late models.
8A Olive Grove
0412 911 753
Next door is a straightforward business run by a straightforward bloke, Neil Gates. Neil sells bikes. Simple as that. And he sells them mainly online.
Neil has worked in the motorcycle trade since he started at Mota Bitz in Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, at age 15, in 1975. For most of the years before opening Cash4Motorcycles, Neil was with Spot On Motorcycles, also in Elizabeth Street.
“I decided after all that time to get my own dealer licence and come out here,” Neil says. “Rents and other overheads are too high in the city. Here it’s good. I go for small margins and turn them over. It’s been fantastic. We’ve been here almost 12 months. We’re internet based. I send bikes interstate almost every day of the week. It’s going well. The bikes I’m selling here are priced between $1000 and $1500 under Elizabeth Street prices.
“I’m promoting this business to enable me to buy bikes,” he says.
“I have no problem selling them. So I’m advertising to buy bikes. I’m buying trade-ins from BMW and Harley dealers. I sell everything from an old, non-runner $500 trail bike to $30,000 Harleys.”
When I ask Neil about any shifts in buyer preferences he says sales of sportsbikes have really dropped off. He puts it down to people realising it’s too hard to enjoy riding them on the roads these days because of the risk of losing your licence.
“Anything that’s a bit different seems to be in demand,” he says. “But anything will sell if the price is right.”
56 Maroondah Highway
(03) 9870 2222
Around the corner is the very impressive showroom of A1 Motorcycles. With its larger-than-life proprietor, John Buskes, out of the store on business (he’s the current president of the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce), we’re left in the capable hands of Jeff Bull, another motorcycle trade professional.
Jeff explains that John, one of the founders of the A1 business way back in 1986, presided over its recent move into the expansive new premises on the highway.
The A1 dealership stocks big brands including Honda, Moto Guzzi, Aprilia and Husqvarna. It also stocks lower-priced models from the TGB and CF Moto stables. Jeff pointed out that it also carried around 40-50 used bikes, both dirt and road types.
Jeff was keen for readers to know that A1’s new bike stock isn’t limited to road machines. A1 stocks the full Honda dirt-bike range covering MX and enduro types. He’s also very enthusiastic about the latest dirt-bike offerings from Husqvarna, now under KTM ownership.
A1 is currently seeing really strong demand for learner bikes, including Honda’s CB300 and CB500 models as well as its VT400 cruiser. Used learner bikes are selling well too, particularly Yamaha XVS650s and Kawasaki Ninjas.
An impressive spares and accessories counter completes the showroom facilities.
Behind the showroom in Olive Grove, A1’s large service centre is fully equipped with the latest in high-tech gear.
SCOTTY’S DIRT BIKE SPARES
Unit 3/68 Maroondah Highway
(03) 9870 0099
A few doors along from A1 we arrive at Scotty’s Dirt Bike Spares. Proprietor Scott Mason tells us the move to these new premises was completed only a couple of months back. So we’re shown a very spic ’n’ span and spacious new place showcasing the latest Gas Gas dirt bike range. It also displays a huge range of tyres in high racks in front of an expanded workshop.
Scott has a long background in the industry, mostly around the local area, except for an early stint at Heidelberg Suzuki. Before branching out on his own, he worked for Nova Honda and Clipstone Yamaha in Ringwood.
As well as being a Gas Gas dealer, Scotty’s is well recognised as a dirt-bike specialist supplying parts and accessories and carrying out servicing. The new message Scott is keen to get across is that the move has enabled him to add a wide range of road bike tyres to his traditional stocks of dirt tyres. He has stocks of all the leading brands, both dirt and road. As well as the latest sports and sports-touring road tyres, he is now stocking the Avon Vintage range for old-school road bikes.
To do justice to his increased focus on tyres, Scott has invested in the latest tyre fitting and balancing equipment for his new premises.
Scott reckons that the ability of the Ringwood Motorcycle Hub is greater than the sum of its parts in connecting potential customers with the individual businesses.
5 Heatherdale Road
(03) 9870 3807
BM Motorcycles is up the hill from the Olive Grove precinct. It adds a set of valuable specialist skills to the mix of services available from the Ringwood Motorcycle Hub. We’re talking skills relating to the servicing and repair of the BMW motorcycle range exclusively.
BM’s Chris Roberts has long been a source of expert advice and assistance to the Motorcycle Trader team on all matters BMW. He is one of the original died-in-the-wool Ringwood bike people going right back to the Freedom Wheels Honda days. He and his three experienced mechanics have a 33-year track record of looking after the needs of BMW motorcycle owners, many of whom come from well beyond the eastern suburbs because of the reputation of the business.
The BM team uses genuine BMW tools, equipment and parts to fettle and maintain the Bavarian brand’s many models. While it’s the natural port of call for owners of the original ‘Airhead’ twins, BM Motorcycles is also full bottle on the later models including the F-Series twins, the K and S fours and the latest ‘Wasserboxer’ Rs.
The front of BM’s premises is getting a facelift and, by Christmas, the remodelled showroom will be giving the Touratech range of adventure touring accessories and equipment a significant Melbourne presence.
With around $300,000 of new genuine BM parts in stock, BM is well placed to deal with every maintenance issue. Even dealers call on them when sourcing hard to get parts.
Chris reckons a lot of his customer satisfaction comes from the fact that you can talk directly to the mechanic who works on your bike.
All the businesses in the Ringwood Motorcycle Hub welcome visitors who just want to look around. You could happily spend a day exploring the specialist features of each of the businesses and they know once you’ve had the experience, you’re likely to become regular customers.
Who knows – if you ask nicely, Brian Fullard from Bike Mart might even show you the salt racer he’s modifying out the back…