Cycling is one of my passions (don’t worry, I’m no flourescent lycra bike nutter) and I’m a big fan of any business that encourages people to enjoy this wonderfully flat city by bike – ideally travelling with style over speed.
Today’s HOT Chat is with Matt Hurst, the owner of bike rental service The Humble Vintage and writer and designer of a new quarterly guide called Melbourne for Visitors and Casual Cyclists, issue #1. Thanks Matt!
Matt, tell me a bit more about your background and the story behind your bike hire business The Humble Vintage?
Well, after a couple of years of full time work as a publicist for some major arts venues, I headed off for a month overseas. As with my many other trips abroad, I went hunting for bikes to rent in each major city. Getting home, it was a bit of a ‘what now’ scenario, and my idle mind wondered what bike rental options were available to the traveler who visited Melbourne.
I looked around and couldn’t see what myself or my friends would have wanted from a bike rental on offer – then realised that even when I was overseas I wasn’t finding that bike rental was being done in an interesting way.
So I thought I’d start my own. The idea felt good, and for once, I had the time.
You’ve just launched a very cool map called Melbourne for Visitors and Casual Cyclists. What was your inspiration for designing and printing this map?
It was surprising how many people would ask “so what should we do today?” when renting… and while I spent a lot of time drawing on people’s maps I quickly saw how doing my own would be a great extension of The Humble Vintage offer. Melbourne for Visitors and Casual Cyclists is a hand-drawn map with three suggested riding routes for summer and on the other side it contains little snippets of places to go, things to do and some quirky reading.
People have suggested I take guided tours, but I think of the bikes as an enjoyable way to get from A to B more so than a tourist attraction. As I’m a writer more than a talker, the map and guide is my way of doing the guided tour. So the idea behind the map and guide is that you get a nice old bike, get the map, stuff it in your pocket and off you go.
Have you faced any challenges getting the map project off the ground? In general, what advice would you give to someone starting their own business?
I’m sure as anyone who has attempted would agree, drawing a map of Melbourne from scratch was a bit of a black hole time-wise! Even though it doesn’t have side streets it still took a lot of work. But once I got started, I got a bit addicted too, and likewise with writing the guide.
Funding the printing was a challenge, as the first run of 300 disappeared in a few days, and I had no money from it to print more. Melbourne for Visitors and Casual Cyclists will always be free with rentals, but I’ve done another run which are available at a few bookshops for a gold coin donation, and I’ve almost run out again.
Advice to people starting a small business is tough; if anyone saw how I was running mine they would say that I needed advice!
What are your next plans for the map and The Humble Vintage?
The main aim is to see the guide become a well followed quarterly publication, to make it an interesting read to anyone in Melbourne with a bike, or even without a bike in fact. It’s definitely not just for people who rent bikes from me.
I’m currently looking at getting a well known chef to pen a food-related ride; it might be the ‘ultimate progressive lunch’ for example. There are a lot of ideas, I could go on and on!
For the bikes, I’m currently in the process of lining up a few more pick up points, and trying to accumulate enough bikes to be able to sell a couple here and there as well. I’m always getting asked if I can sell the rentals.
Why do you like cycling, and particularly in Melbourne?
You see more, you take in more, you become more aware of your surroundings and neighbourhood. I still notice new things when riding through these streets I ride around daily. In Melbourne its more often than not the fastest way to get around too, especially if you’re going across town, not into town.
Finally, what are your tips for other HOT places in Melbourne that aren’t in the guide?
A little Japanese run café and store called Cibi in Collingwood. I am in love with the ‘sandwich style’ Japanese potato salad.
More often than not it’s a few drinks and snacks in the park which is on the agenda, and Lawson Grove is great as it’s right by the Botanic Gardens and it has supplies to take away as well (1 Lawson Grove, South Yarra +61 3 9866 3640).
It’s in the guide but I really do like what Captains of Industry are doing, their atelier / shoe maker / barber / café collaboration is quite unique (Level 1, 2 Somerset Place, Melbourne).
And I will never say no to a bolognaise at Tiamo in Lygon Street (303 Lygon Street, Carlton +61 3 9347 5759).
Melbourne for Visitors and Casual Cyclists, issue #1 is available for $2 at Metropolis, The Paperback, Eco Innovators Showcase, Readings Acland Street and 1000 £ Bend or you can get a copy in the mail by sending a few stamps to Matt at The Humble Vintage, PO Box 361, East Melbourne VIC 8002.