Skip to content

I’m not building anything, I’m making things that are already there better – talking to Matt Hurst

February 10, 2010

Matt Hurst is one of those guys who had an idea and implemented it.

Well, he still is, it’s a pretty fresh from the oven little project he’s got. And when you hear about it, it is so smart and so obviously Melbourne that you can’t believe no one has done it before: since mid-last year he rents out vintage bikes, restored and “with the feel of  your friend’s bike you borrowed for the afternoon” – or you can keep them for a couple of weeks if you need to.

But there’s more: the bikes come with a custom map and riding guide, Melbourne for Visitors and Casual Cyclists, penned by Matt himself and sharing important local knowledge to some of the best waterholes and secret hideaway, so not only can tourists blend in with the locals on the streets, now they can eat and drink and dance like us too!

Since I’ve got a lifetime of experience riding old bikes (I’m from Sweden after all, the country where every man and his dog rides a bike, not because it’s fashionable, but simply as a means of transport – yes, in winter too, through the blizzards); and since I love riding, I love Melbourne and I don’t mind a good idea, I decided to meet up with Matt for chat about his vintage venture. So on Saturday morning while the air was still cool we met over a couple of coffees at Mario’s on Brunswick street.

Me: I understand that sometime last year you left your 9-5 job, went to Buenos Aires for a holiday and spent a month riding  around the city on an old bike – and that was when the seed was sewn for what became The Humble Vintage. May I ask you what your day-job was – did it prepare you for being an entrepreneur and the different kinds of challenges that might bring?

Matt: Yeah, I think it did. I was working in the arts sector doing PR and freelance copy-writing. I always had business ideas but most of them needed money to get started, which I never had – this one I kind of started with no money. I just picked up an old bike every now and then, doing them up in my backyard, and when I had five or six I started renting them out.

Me: What was your very first customer encounter like?

Matt: The first one was a pretty shit transaction. I’d arranged to meet them on the corner of Smith and Gertrude [in Melbourne’s suburb of Collingwood], we met and swapped lock and keys for some dollars, both feeling a bit funny, and I kind of just very awkwardly said: ‘Ok, have fun…call me when you’re finished’, and they rode away shakily.

Every time I did it, I realized how I wanted to do it and how I didn’t want to do it – first I met them on street corners, or sometimes people would come to my place, then I tried meeting in parks, and then I started bringing them to their hotels – which people liked a lot, they like that service. Now they can be picked up at various shops around town – I’ll just ask the customer where they are and tell them where their nearest pick-up spot is, it might be a clothing store who’s got the bikes in the warehouse out the back. Everything has happened by evolution, and I like that.

Me: In addition to the bike rentals, you’re putting out a publication. How does that add value to the experience?

Matt: I hate organized tours where you ride around like a sheep with 11 other people wearing the same helmet and vest. This is my way of sharing local knowledge. You get a map of unique things to do and discover on special riding routes – people love it! No one has done bike rental with any creativity [here] before.

Currently a quarterly, the Summer 2010 issue has four suggested riding routes, new bar, retail and cafe reviews, opinion pieces and a summer what’s on – you can pick it up in selected cafes around town, it is a black and white (and red) A3 publication which makes a very neat back-pocket friendly size when folded.

Me: You have used space in a very clever way – utilizing cafe and retail spaces that already operate as pick-up spots. It must be pretty liberating to run a business without having to pay for and keep a shopfront, but from a marketing perspective, does that – in combination with the whole idea of people blending in with the locals, i.e they are not riding around like ads for your company –  make it harder for the brand to have a ‘presence’?

Matt: Yeah, it does. I’m hoping that the publication/map will help with that. I do a lot of editorial work on it, and put in the bars and shops that I like, that me and my friends would go to, so it has a life in its own right – you don’t have to rent a bike – or, indeed, ride one, to enjoy the publication. I even mail them to people if they send me a stamped envelope with a gold coin donation. People love it! The other day my P.O. box was so chokker full I could barely get them out.

Me: To me vintage bike rental is such an obviously good idea – what do you think is the reason nobody’s done it before you? Is it just that the time is ripe with the current bike boom (in Melbourne) and people’s awareness of a changing climate?

Matt: I don’t ride a bike because it’s eco, I just love the feeling – that it’s climate friendly is a great secondary reason that I appreciate. And with the business, I’m not sure why we haven’t seen it before. I feel I’ve made something that’s quite interesting and worthwhile: I’m not building anything, I’m making things that are already there better. I love that a couple of dutch kids can come here for a week, rent a bike and get around to all the good places, and that in itself is making Melbourne better.

So if you’re on your way to Melbourne, or you just want a copy of that beauty map, or indeed you just want to say hello and good onya mate, check in on Matt, he might just take you down to the local.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: