GOOD STUFF – MADE IN AUSTRALIA!
I like Maton guitars. I currently own two of them. They are great quality hand-made instruments. That’s one reason why I like them, but the other is that they are made right here in Australia, with all profits going to this Australian owned and operated manufacturer. Yes, they are a bit more expensive than a mass-produced guitar from China, but they are worth the extra. And those who buy the product are helping to support a local business with local workers. It’s the same with Motorcycle gear. There are lots of Australian businesses producing a great product that is equal to, or even superior to, imported alternatives. If we can buy Australian-made we are supporting local businesses that employ local workers. We might pay a little more, but we get quality and at the same time help to support this great nation of ours! There are other advantages too though. If you have to return an item for warranty the process is usually a lot easier because it doesn’t have to get sent overseas. And particularly with the smaller businesses, you can often talk to the people who make the product; that’s got to be worth something! True, local businesses sometimes shoot themselves in the foot with, for example, poor delivery service. Why does it take longer to send an item across Australia than it does to send an item here from the other side of the world? Price is a big consideration, of course. Naturally enough, a big industry located in China, where labour costs are cheap and the factory churns out enough product to supply the rest of the world, is going to be able to sell that item at a much lower price than an equivalent item made in Australia, where the labour costs are much higher and the total profit has to split over a far smaller number of items. There’s not a lot we can do about that, of course, and people can’t be blamed for buying on price – I often buy on price; I have to! – but if we can pay that little bit extra (provided it isn’t too extravagant), then it’s worth it to support our country and our fellow Australians. Writing in Motorcycle Trader, Guy Allen compiled a list of reputable businesses in Australia who make motorcycle goods. It’s worth repeating (or quoting very heavily from) for the reasons I mentioned above. So the following information mostly comes from Guy Allen, with some comments and description from me as well. I’ve divided it into categories, much as Guy Allen did in the original article. I’m sure there will be ones that I (and Guy Allen) missed out, but these are at least most of the major ones.
Andy Strapz is perhaps best-known as a manufacturer of accessories; and I’ve listed the business again below under that category. As the name implies, they started out designing and making luggage straps for bikes, then other kinds of luggage, but they have since expanded into clothing and a host of other gear. Guy says that what helps the level of quality is that the owner, Andy, does big miles on bikes and applies what he learns to his product. Some of those miles I know have been in cold temperatures, so he has first-hand knowledge about the stuff pictured on the left. This is part of the range of thermal underwear (which Andy calls “Thermalz”). Guy says that, “When it comes to serious riding gear, you’ll be hard put to find a longer-term player than Mars Leathers. Located in the historic motorcycle precinct in Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, the business has been going since 1946. Like many makers, it’s felt a need to expand its range with imported offerings, but the core of the business is still tailor-made outfits.” Tiger Angel began by making race suits but has, as Guy reports, been making, “Rainproof road leathers and a host of other interesting ideas.” Draggin Jeans needs no introduction. They have been making top-quality protective jeans for years! And their gear doesn’t stop at jeans; they make other things like jackets as well. As Guy wrote, they continue to be, “At the cutting edge in the local and international markets.” Part of that “being at the cutting-edge” has been to make products that achieve firsts in rider safety. Pictured on the left are their top-shelf C-Evo jeans, which were the first CE-approved riding jeans in the world. I like Draggin Jeans and have been wearing them for many years. The jeans in the photo are actually my own, which I wear summer and winter. (I do have an old pair that, not having the full kevlar lining, are thinner and lighter, and which I pull out and wear on particularly hot days. I should also mention that the C-Evo has been superceded now, by a new and improved equivalent). I also like the fact that they are still a family-owned and run business located in Australia. (Even though the C-Evo were actually made overseas: the rest of their range were made in Australia though). Also well known are Rossi boots. The company was established in 1910 by Arthur Rossiter, starting out in a tin-shed in the back yard of his home. They now make a huge range of boots, for work and pleasure, motorcycle boots being just one small part of the business. And they export all over the world. On their web-site, Rossi state, “There must be something special about the Rossiter family, because along with the heritage and quality of workmanship passed down through family generations, many of the descendants of the original Rossiter employees are still part of the bigger family today.” They say they are proud of their “uncompromising quality and value for money.” They say, “Only time-honoured, boot making craftsmanship combined with the finest materials will ensure each boot is built to work hard and play hard. And beyond expectations.” Guy says he is a fan of these boots and adds that, “In its current range is arguably the best women’s motorcycle boot available which features specific sizing for female riders.”
I mentioned Andy Strapz in the Clothing section above, but as I described there, they are perhaps best known as a manufacturer of bike accessories. From very useful straps to tie your luggage on, they branched out into the actual luggage items themselves. The photo on the left shows some fabric throw-over panniers. (Andy calls them “pannierz”). It’s worth mentioning that if you go to their web-site and have a look at all the products they deal in, many (or some at least) are not actually made by Andy Strapz themselves; and not necessarily Australian-made. An example is AirHawk seats, which are now available through them. Burleigh Bars Guy says is, “One of the most successful on the international market.” They are located in Queensland and they make after-market handlebars for American, British and metric cruisers, which they claim are considerably stronger and better-engineered than original equipment. They now sell internationally as well as locally. There are some rather obscure businesses too. Guy wrote, “If you happen to own a Springfield-built Indian (which means it’s built up to 1953), there’s a bloke named James Lambert of Breed Flathead Motors who will sell you performance parts for it. Based in the tiny country Victorian town of Talangatta, he offers alloy cylinders and heads with a variety of internal upgrades along with flywheel and conrod sets, pistons and numerous other components of his own design.” Another famous face is Rod Tingate. (Tel: (03) 9722 1884). Guy says that, “He has done everything from reworking entire motorcycles (he’s famous for his Yamaha SR500s) through to individual components. These days he’s best known for his clip-on handlebars and custom exhausts.” Of course, when it comes to exhausts, Staintune has a well-deserved reputation for producing excellent after-market exhaust systems. They are located in NSW, but their products are sold all over Australia. There are cheaper exhausts out there, but they tend to still be “the name” when it comes to ultimate quality and ease of fitting. In Victoria Megacycle specialises in exhaust systems too, but concentrates on large-capacity road bikes. Tranzac is in Queensland and Guy describes them as having, “Made a point of straddling both modern and retro worlds.” In fact Motorcycle Trader had them build a special system for a project bike they did.
BIKES AND BIKE MODIFICATIONS
While we don’t have an Australian produced bike, we do have specials made locally. Guy wrote, “If historic racing is your gig, T-Rex Racing (Tel: (03) 9457 5411), is probably the best known shop in the country and it will actually sell or build you a bike. Owner Rex Wolfenden established his reputation by turning unsuspecting Honda air-cooled CB750 fours into 1200cc methanol-burning monsters and has since branched out into other period race machines.” Carberry Enfield, which is run by Paul Carberry, produces specials based on the Royal Enfield. The Carberry Guy describes as having, “A 55-degree 1000cc V-twin engine, still in a relatively mild state of tune but capable of punting the bike to a claimed top whack of 170km/h – substantially more than the single that spawned it.” Deus Ex Machina, based in Sydney, is known for its custom bikes. They did a big trade making café-racer versions of the Kawasaki W650, but have dabbled in all kinds of likely and unlikely machinery. The photo on the left shows a Kawasaki W800. I’m told they also make excellent coffee! So there you are; some good old Australian products for you to buy and support our country. As I said at the beginning, while often there are good and valid reasons why you would buy an imported product over a locally-made one, it’s good to support the local businesses where possible. In most cases, the product they make is as good as, if not better than, similar products made over-seas.
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