A passion for motorbikes has evolved into a business mixed with a lot of pleasure.

WORDS ANDY TAYLOR / PHOTOS JAHL MARSHALL

Ross Smith is a petrolhead. And we’re not talking your average, knowledgeablebloke-down-the-pub type petrolhead. No siree! Nothing as mundane as that. Let’s put it this way: there’s a dozen or so bikes on display at Museo Ducati in Bologna, Italy, and Ross has six of them back home. He’s that kind of petrolhead.

It all began just up the road in Katikati, where a young Ross grew up delivering The New Zealand Herald before school. The delivery bike was pedal-powered, but the money made on the paper round bought him a second-hand Honda CB125 – the first in what became a long line of bikes, which grew in complexity, engine size and rarity. There was a Kawasaki H1 (notoriously known as the widow-maker because of its lethal performance), a Yamaha XT500, a BSA 650 Lightning, and the super rare and basically firebreathing Ducati Mille 1000. That’s to name just a few. All up, Ross has owned more than 50 bikes, and asking him to name his number one is like asking a parent to pick their favourite child.

Ross doesn’t limit himself to just two wheels, however. There are currently three Bentleys jostling for space in his garage, but that is a whole other story. Right now, it’s about bikes, and a brand new bike shop he’s bringing to the Bay.

“I had an epiphany around my 56th birthday,” he says. “I’ve always loved power and speed so I bought myself a Ducati superbike for my birthday. I found, after a ride, I was the most relaxed I had been in a very long time. I think the honest answer as to why is because, on a bike like that, you’re required to focus 100% in order to stay alive, so it gives your mind a rest from the day-to-day clutter that usually jumbles it and causes stress. Bikes have that ability to help you cut through the banality of life, to give you something to look forward to and to spark some passion. And I guess I just want to share a bit of that passion.”

“BIKES HAVE THAT ABILITY TO HELP YOU CUT THROUGH THE BANALITY OF LIFE, TO GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO AND TO SPARK SOME PASSION. AND I GUESS I JUST WANT TO SHARE A BIT OF THAT PASSION.”

The result is The Classic Motorcycle Shop in Mt Maunganui, and it’s fair to say the shop is going to change the motorcycle landscape in the Bay and beyond – and probably change a few lives along the way. The space is a beautifully designed paean to classic motorsport, and a million miles from the usual bike shop with rows of assorted brands and models parked fairing to fairing with barely room to breathe. Instead, it’s a veritable art gallery of iron, vintage leather, riding suits and helmets, with a carefully chosen selection of the best bikes out there.

“I’ve been riding since the ‘70s and I’ve seen how Japanese bikes came to be accepted and then lead the pack, how British bikes have made a comeback, and how Italian superbikes have always been, well, Italian superbikes! The Classic Motorcycle Shop is going to have those classic Japanese, British and Italian bikes, but focusing on original or really well-restored bikes which have been maintained and used. Because those bikes don’t just ride the best, they’re the best investment.”

And that’s something that sets The Classic Motorcycle Shop apart; Ross Smith sees no reason why this passion cannot also be seen as an investment.

“When you look at where we’re at with the banking system, you can see why the smart money is on – what shall we call it – ‘more tangible’ assets. Ferraris are fetching eye-watering money, but even things like Ford Falcon GTHO Phase 3s are going for a million Aussie dollars, and it’s clear that classic bikes are going to see that kind of growth in the short-term, let alone what the long-term will do. So, in addition to owning a classic bike to blow the cobwebs out and clear your head, you can also have something that is a solid investment.”

Except that investment is in your garage and not a savings account. There’s a
saying about cars and bikes: that if you don’t look back at it as you walk away from it, it’s not worth having. Whoever looked back at a savings account as they left the bank?

Ross also has a few more tricks up the sleeve of The Classic Motorcycle Shop, namely some demon tweaks for getting a little more out an engine. These are already wickedly fast bikes, but any decent petrolhead wants to push the envelope.

“Our Triumph Thruxton 900 Ace Café Racer is like no other in New Zealand,” Ross says. “Fresh cams, power induction kits, two-into-one exhausts, and blackedout engine covers. These not only look fantastic, but the new horse power figures are amazing. And it’s all about horsepower.”

Spoken like a true petrolhead.