by Emily Friedel
Peter and Jenny Fisher were the Murrindindi Shire area’s go-to people for bicycle sales and repairs in the 90s. Back then, they owned Newtech Cycles in Alexandra. Now, after a couple of decades of doing other things, they are once again proprietors of the area’s sole bicycle business: Yarck Bikes.
Regardless of what they have been up to business-wise, bikes have been a constant in Peter’s and Jenny’s lives for a long time. Jenny’s dad convinced Peter to have a crack at road racing in the mid-80s, which led to him competing in state and national events. As he racked up the kilometres, Peter’s interest in bikes and ability to work with them grew.
“I took it seriously for a while and rode at a pretty high level. I took a coach on and kept a diary for a couple of years, and I was averaging something like 35,000 k’s a year racing and training,” he says.
“Once you start getting heavily into competition, it’s all about maintaining your own gear. And I’ve got a bit of a mechanical background, so there was no problem in seeing how things ticked.”
Jenny, on the other hand, opted to ride bikes for pleasure and be part of the support crew, keeping Peter and his teammates well looked after. “It was lots of fun,” she says.
Peter also spent a couple of seasons working as a bicycle mechanic for the Sportscover pro-team and rubbed shoulders with some of the big names in cycling.
“We had the likes of Barcelona Olympian Robert Crowe on the team. I got to meet Olympian and Commonwealth Games champion Kathy Watt too; she signed [a] poster for me. Mechanicing and supporting a team with some pretty decent riders was probably a bit of a wish come true,” he says.
Peter’s love of racing and talent for mechanics, along with the obvious market gap for bike services in the area, led to the Fishers opening Newtech Cycles in 1993.
Almost a quarter of a century later, similar factors led to the opening of Yarck Bikes in January last year. Although Peter doesn’t race anymore, he still rides for fun and thoroughly enjoys tinkering with bikes. After Newtech closed, no one else filled the bicycle market gap. So Peter and Jenny have again taken that niche with Yarck Bikes, offering repairs, sales, and custom bike builds. And despite the extended break, there has been some continuity in their bike work.
“We’ve even serviced some of the bikes we sold 24-odd years ago. People have come back saying, ‘We bought our first bike from you!’” Jenny says.
While some things haven’t changed since their Newtech days, bike technology has – dramatically. In particular, the advent of e-bikes (electric bikes) has revolutionised how bicycle mechanics like Peter approach their trade.
“Technology in the bike industry has changed massively. With the electric motors they put in bikes now, you can treat certain bikes with certain motors the same as you would a car; you can plug them into a computer and do a diagnostic on them,” he says.
For Jenny, hopping on an e-bike has put the pleasure back into bike riding.
“I absolutely love it. I can go for a long time – uphill, downhill – and it doesn’t hurt; it makes it enjoyable. You still get your exercise because you don’t have to use the motor all the time or the high speed all the time. So you can still get your heart pumping, but it doesn’t hurt. I could never ride with Peter on a normal bike because I couldn’t keep up with him, but we can do it together now, which is really good,” she says.
“People will tell you the e-bikes open up a whole new world for them – they will ride for hours instead of minutes. I haven’t been converted yet, but I’m sure at some stage I’ll have some sort of motor under me,” Peter adds.
Another significant change since their Newtech days is the rail trail. Peter and Jenny had hoped for a rail trail to be built, but it failed to launch in the 90s. So they’re now thrilled that the rail trail was finally constructed and that they’ve been able to open Yarck Bikes conveniently close by.
“The rail trail’s more popular now than ever. We get families coming in, couples, people riding from Melbourne to Wangaratta – people like that who use the trail as the go-between,” Peter says.
Anyone who’s up for a ride along the rail trail and needs a bike can drop into Yarck Bikes to hire one. For an easy ride, there are plenty of e-bikes available in addition to regular bicycles. Peter and Jenny can even provide a bike drop-off or pick-up service along the rail trail for those who want to ride one way. There is also the advantage of being able to test drive bikes (or e-bikes) on the rail trail before purchasing.
“If you’re going to spend the money on a bike, you really want to try it before you buy it,” Jenny says.
Yarck Bikes has a range of bicycles, e-bikes, and bicycle accessories available, as well as hire bikes. And if they don’t have what you’re after, they’ll try to get it in.
Having Yarck Bikes so near the rail trail also means that cyclists who run into trouble while riding along it can call on Peter and Jenny for a helping hand.
“We offer a rail trail rescue service, where if you’re broken down, we’ll come and help you out. That’s been popular. We had a young family come in who went from Tallarook to Mansfield, which took them four days. The youngest one was five. They called in because a chain broke,” Peter says.
“We got their little girl’s bike fixed, and off they went again. It was really good to help them on their way,” Jenny adds.
Along with tourists requiring assistance as they pass through, locals have been grateful they no longer have to drive to places like Lilydale or Seymour for their bike needs. Wherever they’re from, though, Yarck Bikes’ customers have demonstrated there is much demand for all things bicycle-related in the Murrindindi Shire area. In fact, demand has been so high that what was supposed to be a part-time, easing into retirement business has turned into a seven-day-a-week operation.
“It’s gone from a ‘change in lifestyle’ to fulltime, as well as running our other business,” Peter says with a laugh.
Peter doesn’t seem to mind, though, and relishes the challenge of having to adapt to new technologies.
“It’s been very enjoyable keeping up with the changes. Keeps things interesting. For example, we’ve gone from using cables to change gears to using all Bluetooth – that lever that used to be a cable changer is now rigid and just a lot of buttons. It’s a totally different world to ride in,” Peter says.
Despite the inevitable changes that have happened over the 21-year break from their bicycle business, it appears that Peter and Jenny haven’t had any trouble keeping up to speed with the industry. And with their comeback, they’ve reclaimed their No. 1 spot as Murrindindi Shire’s go-to business for bike needs.
“It’s a big full circle,” Peter says.
For more information on Yarck Bikes go to yarck-bikes.business.site or call 0409 192 066.