Where do you go to get your station bike fixed? Terry Bryant is the mobile motorcycle mechanic of outback Australia.
Story By Evan McHugh
The sun is shining, it’s a warm morning and Terry Bryant is at his workbench − a sheet of metal out in the open beside the Birdsville service station. In front of him are various bits of a disembowelled motorcycle engine. From beneath them a pool of oil slowly spreads towards him but his attention is focused on a tiny spring for the bike’s gear-change mechanism. “I once had to improvise one of these using the spring from a doorknob,” he says. “I was in the middle of nowhere and it would have taken forever to get the part sent out. I wasn’t going to let that beat me.”
He’s since added spare springs to his parts inventory but Terry has always been much more than a bush mechanic. Back in the 1980s, the former motocross enthusiast was running a prosperous motorcycle-repair business in Frankston, Victoria, but the daily routine was wearing thin. He was in his mid-forties when he decided to try something different. He and partner Jan started running outback motorcycle tours. “We took groups all over the north of South Australia, through the Flinders Ranges, out to the Burke and Wills Dig Tree, along the Dog Fence and across the Simpson Desert,” Terry says. “I still reckon there’s nothing like heading outback with a big 600 under you.”
Unfortunately, by 1997 they realised they were ahead of their time. These days people come from all over the world to ride in the outback. Back then, Terry and Jan were scratching to make a living. “We didn’t make a lot of money but we had a lot of fun,” Terry says.
He eventually got talking to people on one of the stations in South Australia. “I asked how they went getting their motorcycles fixed,” he says. “They told me they were sending them away to the city. It could take months to get them back and it was costing them a fortune.”
When Terry asked if he could have a go, a deal was quickly done. After asking for contacts on surrounding stations, he had the nucleus of a potential business. In 1997, he set off for the outback with the Toyota and trailer he’d been using on his outback tours, but this time both were filled with tools and motorcycle parts. “We went in green,” Terry says of that first two-month trip. “Everywhere we went we asked who we should call next. Word soon spread. We didn’t try to rip people off and we did good work. The business grew like topsy.”
This story excerpt is from Issue #61
Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2008