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Man Week · Champion Abbotsford

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Thursday 4th September 2014

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Jim Clark of Champion Abbotsford in his Abbotsford workshop. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

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Custom postie bike by Jim Clark. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

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Workshop details. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

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Workshop details. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

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Jim Clark outside his Abbotsford workshop.  Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

Full disclosure –  Jim Clark is very a special guy, and a dear friend.  He is one of the most truly talented and versatile creatives I know – an amazing painter, graphic designer and art director, knock-about set builder and a hands-on maker.  I’ve known Jim for around 8 years (although I must admit it feels like a lot longer).  He’s the guy, in fact, who introduced me to my husband (!), Gordy.  Thanks Jim!

I first met Jim back when I was a fresh-faced 26 year old!  At the time he was working as an art director in film and TV, and I was a fledgling set dresser.  After the briefest of interviews, he gave me my first decent gig on a TV show.  It was 2006 and that show was the super popular comedy improvisation show Thank God You’re Here!  We went on to work together on and off for four years.

I’ve always really looked up to Jim.  He always seemed wise beyond his years – the kind of guy who really commands respect from his team and collaborators.  He has brilliantly high standards and demands a certain level of independence and excellence in his staff.  I must admit we didn’t always see eye to eye under the pressure of tight deadlines (!!), but I learnt so much under Jim’s guidance. Now that I’m a ‘boss’ type person myself, I find myself often remembering Jim’s very ‘hands off’ management style… and hoping I’m doing an OK job!

But  Jim is a man of many talents.  In addition to his previous role as a TV art director and production designer, he also worked for many years as a designer and prop builder for The Big Day Out, where he would design massive stage props and commission giant novelty inflatables for ‘Lilyworld‘!  He’s also one of the passionate team who founded Melbourne’s best loved indie music festival, Boogie, which is going strong and in its 9th year!

But first and foremost, Jim’s passion is motorbikes.  His most satisfying work these days is the painstaking customisation of what he calls ‘Postie Bikes’ – the iconic ‘Australia Post’ standard issue Honda CT 110 motorbike.  From a workshop in Abbotsford, Jim has found his niche restoring these hardworking little bikes into super cool customised machines for a growing clientele of discerning customers, complete with meticulous hand painted detailing and accessories sourced as far as London and Tokyo.  His business is called Champion Abbotsford.

We asked Jim a few questions about his background, his business and his passion for the iconic Aussie postie bike! –

Tell us a bit about yourself – what path led you to what you’re doing today?

I have ridden bikes since I was a teenager, however I studied Art and Design at College, so most of my working life has been in Creative fields. I also studied Visual Merchandising, Signwriting, Sculpture and Painting, which led me to the world of TV and Film. After a few years as a Props guy, Art Director and Production Designer, I decided to devote more time to my side gig – custom motorcycles!. The bikes became popular as I refined the look, and the workshop slowly took over as my main gig.

I’m really enjoying the change, being in complete creative control of my environment , making design and mechanical decisions to make the motorcycles the best they can be. I sometimes miss the good $ that can be earned in TV and Film , however the trade off in following this dream is more than enough compensation. Small engine motorcycles are also gaining popularity, which is satisfying.

I am also a partner in the music festivals Boogie, Evie and Port Royal. Boogie and Evie are both boutique camping experiences over 3 days in Tallarook, Victoria. Boogie is at Easter and Evie is our new Years Eve gig.

We are in our 9th year and it has a huge following amongst our Boogie family, and gains a little bit of ground each year. We are happy to keep it small ( only 2500 people ) and promote many young local bands as well as International acts you wouldn’t normally see in such an intimate setting. Check out www.boogie.net.au to get an idea of what it’s all about….

When did you start the motorcycle shop, and what services do you offer at Champion Abbotsford?

Champion Abbotsford started life 2 years ago when a couple of buddies bought the Yarra Hotel in Johnston Street in Abbotsford, and invited me to set up shop in the Beer garden! The workshop space is a mix of retail and mechanics, with an emphasis on Custom Honda CT 110 Postie bikes.

I sell custom Parts – seats, exhausts, tail lights, all made right here, and I also import hard to get Japanese parts to suit the bikes.  I have also recently added some very Manly items to my collection (Japanese Gloves, Goggles, Selvedge Denim riding gear, Overalls and Japanese ceramics!)

I have 6 models of bike to choose from on my website, and when an order is placed I will find a great donor bike for the customer and get started building their dream bike – customer input is welcome !

The bike is completely dismantled and cleaned, and all parts are prepped for painting, sandblasting and powder coating. The engine is dismantled and inspected, with Piston, Rings, seals and gaskets replaced when rebuilding.

I also rebuild the shocks, forks and wheels , with every single part on the bike getting attention. The finished product rides and runs like a new bike.

Most of my customers are based in Australia and I ship to all capital cities. There’s also a lot of interest internationally, and I have recently shipped bikes to Auckland , NZ and have a bike ready to ship to Portland, Oregon.

Feel free to swing by for a cold beer, a test ride or a tyre kick!

What are you looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to seeing more girls out there on bikes. I have a few female customers and its vey inspiring to see them ripping around town on their custom bikes. Look out for Edie on her black Postie, Bridie hooking around Fitzroy on her Blue machine and
Hannah with her vintage wooden crate on the back!

Champion Abbotsford
Located behind The Yarra Hotel,
295 Johnston Street
Abbotsford, 3067
Victoria

(Enter via the laneway at Rear or just stroll through the beer garden).

Champion Abbotsford is open weekdays from 9.00am until 6.00 pm, however, it’s always wise to phone ahead!

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Custom postie bike in progress by Jim Clark.  Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

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Details from the Champion Abbotsford workshop.  Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

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Workshop details. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.
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Jim Clark. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Thursday 4th September 2014

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