Today I had a chat with Matt Hurst, the owner of bike rental service The Humble Vintage, the writer and designer of a new quarterly guide called Melbourne for Visitors and Casual Cyclists and all round nice guy. We’ve been using Humble Vintage bikes for our photoshoots and launch, and we think Matt provides a great rental service. 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 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.
(Full interview originally published in MEL: HOT OR NOT The decisive guide to Melbourne)