Episode 9 - Vaughan McVilly

 

  

 

In this episode we talk to Vaughan McVilly, founder of McVilly Enterprises.

McVilly Enterprises offers cycling experiences in Australia that aims to make Tasmania as one of the world’s best cycling, mountain biking and riding destinations.

 

In this episode we cover:

  • Vaughan’s history and how he got into cycling
  • His father’s cycling influence on him
  • The reason why he opened McVilly Cycles and Cafe in Hobart
  • His inspiration from creating all the adventures they offer and how they are tapping the international market
  • The story of how the business has changed and grown over the years
  • Sample itinerary of their Heli Biking and Road Biking adventure
  • Mistakes and common problems they’ve encountered and how they overcome it
  • What to expect from McVilly Enterprises in the coming months

 

Links:

 

Transcript:

 

FELICITY:

This is episode number nine. Welcome to the ‘All Torque’ podcast, where each episode we interview an inspiring person to share their story with you. I’m your host, Felicity Dales, managing director of Body Torque. Let me welcome today’s guest, Vaughan McVilly

Welcome, Vaughan. Your background has predominantly been in the cycling industry after holding the position of national operations manager for Bob Jane T-Mart, the managing director of a leading franchise company, to then switching into cycling as national sales manager with SOLA Sport, national brand manager with Bianchi Bikes, general manager of Champion System Australia, and now working in your own venture as founder of McVilly Enterprises for three years. Your motto of being true to riding, I am sure, encapsulates your journey along the way. Tell us about your story.

Welcome, and how did it all begin, Vaughan?

VAUGHAN:

Hi, Felicity. Thank you for having me on. This is great, I love the podcast. Basically, I grew up in a cycling family. My dad basically grew up in a bike shop down in Tasmania, in Hobart, Graham McVilly Cycles. My dad was a reasonably famous cyclist of his time in the late '70s, and yes I've always had a love for bikes and riding and any type of bike, really. I've raced BMX, I've raced road bikes and I've raced mountain bikes over the years, and these days just like getting out on the road or on the trails with my mates and riding. I did a lot of things. Worked with Bob Jane T-Marts for 13 years of my life, and then I was actually over at the Tour de France when we were firming ... Filming, sorry, Dan Jones' first ever documentary, Detour to France, with John Trevorrow and the likes of those guys.

FELICITY:

Oh, yeah. I remember that.

VAUGHAN:

Yeah, and I was sitting on the side of the road then. That was 2008, I think that was, and I'd had a concert at the time called You and I Ride, which was basically an online training platform which basically mixed in with iTunes and was heart rate and cadence sensitive training system that I spent all of my money on at the time. But also a part of that was I got involved with Bianchi, because they supported it right from the get go, and I worked for Dave Cramer. Roll that forward 10 odd years and I've moved down to Tassie to, I guess, chase this dream of building the infrastructure and I guess Tasmania as a cycling and mountain biking destination, and just providing great experiences for people all over the world to visit Tassie and come riding.

FELICITY:

Lovely. You come from a cycling heritage with your dad. How has he influenced you with all the three disciplines that you did? That's quite varied and quite comprehensive.

VAUGHAN:

Yeah, look, I mean, he was predominantly a roadie and a trackie, predominantly a road rider, but was known for being extremely hard. He was one of the really hard men of the '70s, one of the first ever cyclists to head overseas as well. After Sir Hubert Opperman, Dad went to Europe, and raced for teams like Gitane and also had a stint with Peugeot, and so back in the day where there wasn't any English spoken at all in the Peloton back in those days. So it was really hard for an English speaking rider, whether that be an Aussie or a Yank or whatever, to head to Europe and race, and so, I guess that sort of life and getting then to meet a lot of, I guess, my idols and the people who I looked up to as cyclists back in the day was really inspiring.

Also just, I guess, the grit and the determination to succeed was also, I guess, probably washed off a little bit on me, I hope, and then, when having a bike shop, you're just always seeing new and exciting things. So every time there was a new bike come out, I'd be the one saying, "Hey, Dad, can I take that for a ride?" So I ended up freestyle BMX, racing BMXs, mountain bikes and those sorts of things, and it was all just from a love of riding bikes.

FELICITY:

So his era would have been before Stephen Hodge then, wouldn't he I guess, because he's older?

VAUGHAN:

Yes.

FELICITY:

Yeah, right. Wow.

VAUGHAN:

Yeah. I think there was probably maybe one or two Aussies that made it in the world scene in Europe before Dad, maybe a few more. Obviously, Sir Hubert Opperman being the biggest one of them, and probably the most famous. It wasn't long after Dad was over there. John Trevorrow, he obviously headed over to Europe as well. And, yeah, so it was back in, I think, '72, '73, around that era.

FELICITY:

The larrikins of cycling?

VAUGHAN:

Absolutely.

FELICITY:

So what prompted you to open up McVilly Cafe and Cycles in Hobart?

VAUGHAN:

Once I got involved with Bianchi, obviously after spending a lot of my life in a franchise system, being Bob Jane T-Marts, and then running a franchise consultancy for six years, there wasn't anyone doing a fantastic experience in the bike shop market. And, so I developed Bianchi Cafe and Cycles for Bianchi globally, and they opened the first one happened in Stockholm. I worked with a guy by the name of Richard Strom at the time, who was basically the international business development manager. And I pretty much well thought I'd sold my ticket for the rest of my life. I very much, I bled Celeste. I was known as Mr Bianchi or Australia, and I absolutely adored the brand. And then the move from bike sports to SOLA Sport when the brand changed distribution in Australia, I was promised the world, and probably that didn't ever eventuate the way that it was supposed to be.

I was hoping to open up Bianchi cafe and cycle stores in and around Australia. Then obviously I did a lot of travel, traveling to Italy, worked for Champion System. Travelled throughout Asia and all over New Zealand and the world, really, and kept on coming home for Christmas and riding my bike and riding my mountain bike and joining up with my friends, and realised that all of these things that I wanted to do around a brand could be done even better. I used all of that background and infrastructure and knowledge and, I guess, an IP, and then changed, I guess, the model around from being around a beautiful brand like Bianchi to being a beautiful place like Tasmania.

FELICITY:

Beautiful. Well, you have a variety of what looks like some great adventures on the bike along with social rides from the ultimate Tasmanian Hell mountain bike experience, the McVilly Ladder Derby to the McVilly Cider Ride adventure. They sound awesome. And I'm thinking, "Well, where do I sign up?" So, I might have to get down to Tassie. What inspired you to create those adventures? It's all part of the experience, I'm gathering, from what you're saying.

VAUGHAN:

Yeah. Look, I think, you know, from riding in Europe, I did L'Eroica a few times, obviously over in Italy, which is where you dress up in old '70s and '80s and even older gear and write a really old bike around the shallow roads of Tuscany and drink wine and eat food. I realised that even though racing's great fun and competing is great fun, riding around with your friends and experiencing great food and wine is probably even more fun. So a lot of those experiences, I guess, I'm trying to emulate what we can offer here in Tasmania and Tasmanian produce, the wilderness, the forests, are just world class. So, to be able to combine a lot of those types of things is great. And then if you look at some of the accommodation offerings down here, again, they're quite unique and world class and amazing, and we're getting a lot of interest from the UK and Singapore and Hong Kong where people were wanting to visit Tassie and come down to Hobart and bring their bikes, or come and hire one of ours.

FELICITY:

Oh, fantastic. So you tap into the international market?

VAUGHAN:

Yeah, absolutely. I think for us that is our market. Our market is broader Australia, but also into that international market. We get about 53 cruise ships a year that dock into Hobart now. And some of those boats are actually young families and younger people that are jumping off those cruise ships, so providing them with an experience, but then, yeah, really going out and chasing that sort of, I guess, mid to high category tourist who wants to have an amazing experience.

FELICITY:

Fantastic. How has the business changed as you have grown?

VAUGHAN:

A lot to be honest. We've opened up obviously the McVilly Cafe and Cycles part of the business now, and it's been in operation, officially opened on October 15th last year. The original plan was obviously, not obviously, but was to actually do McVilly Estate, which is basically another part of the project, which is an accommodation piece, building it out of 40 foot shipping containers on our property on the back side of Mount Wellington, and being cycling and mountain biking specific accommodation with bike washes at the back of each unit and what we nicknamed the belly button bathroom, with our builders and designers, basically you're outside and you can wash all the mud off and then the door swivels and rolls inside to an indoor shower. That was the originally the first step, but we found an opportunity down here at Red Square in Macquarie Point down in Hobart's waterfront to do this step first.

So that's probably the biggest change. I guess the other parts and the other aspects of the business that have changed is constantly looking at new opportunities. So everyone was talking about heli-biking in Australia and how it was never ever going to be possible because of the amount of money that needed to be spent getting the licensing and the engineering done. However, I was able to team up with Rotorlift down here, and between us we've been able to get all of the licensing and the engineering works done. And so we're now the first people in Australia to be able to offer heli-biking, whether that be road biking or mountain biking, direct out of Hobart.

FELICITY:

Oh, that's awesome. I saw the mountain biking. I didn't realise you did road. I know that there's heli skiing or boarding over in New Zealand. That's awesome that you're able to do that. That's exciting.

VAUGHAN:

Yeah. Super exciting. And the road biking, we're just about to launch. We're about to launch it next week. Big scoop for you. Gee, look out.

FELICITY:

That's right.

VAUGHAN:

Basically it's a two day adventure. So you land in Hobart, we pick you up and chauffer you to your accommodation, MACq 01 Hotel on Hobart's waterfront. You get up in the morning, come over and have a bit of a coffee and maybe a cheeky bacon and egg roll from our café, and we head off and do what we call the Cider Rider, which is where we visit three cideries. We do little tastings along the way. There's a follow car and a follow bus in case you want to A, buy some booze, put it in the car and or jump off the bike at any stage. And that finishes at a beautiful lunch at Willie Smith’s Cidery in the Huon Valley at lunchtime. From there you jump on a helicopter and it flies you to a place called Pumphouse Point. It's one of the most amazing pieces of accommodation in all of the world probably, but especially in Tasmania. You stay there overnight and then you ride out from there. It's 180K, mostly descending. A few little clients, but mostly descending ride back to Hobart.

FELICITY:

Wow. What an epic trip. That sounds absolutely fantastic. So what rookie mistakes or common problems do you see over and over again? I guess if there are a lot of international tourists, you might have a few interesting stories to tell.

VAUGHAN:

Yeah, the one that's the most common is brakes.

FELICITY:

Right.

VAUGHAN:

Obviously, if they're Euros, they have their brakes around the opposite way that we have here in Australia. With insurance and those sorts of things in us being quite tight now in Australia, it's actually sort of not very ... I'm uninsured if I change the brakes on a bike and they're not Australian standard, so that's probably one of the biggest ones to try and overcome. Many of the times we just have to risk it because we're sending people either on a trail ride, or they're going down and riding down Mount Wellington, and they're not used to having the brakes the opposite way around.

FELICITY:

Wow. Do you mention that in a pre-briefing, pre-rider briefing?

VAUGHAN:

Yeah, absolutely. We do a full briefing and full safety check with every rider that goes out. And like a lot of the times people are happy to have them around the other way, but usually is the more experienced riders are the ones that insists to flip them over. A, you sort of know that these guys or girls know how to a ride. And that it's probably in your best interest to flip them over for them.

FELICITY:

Yeah, yeah, right. You've got to cover off on a few things, don't you? So, yeah, that's awkward. So where do you see it going from here?

VAUGHAN:

Yeah, so e-bikes is where down in Hobart is really starting to take off. E-mountain biking and e-road biking and e-touring and all those sorts of things. So we'll look to put in a bit of an e-bike fleet in September, October this year, coming into our summer again, and look to offer something in that market as well. But probably that's about it. From here we're just going to be heads down and try to get through our winter, and we're lucky enough to have Dark Mofo about to kick off this Friday and runs for the next two weeks. So its Mona Museum put on this amazing art exhibitions all around Hobart. Everyone puts up red lights and we've got red crosses, then town goes pretty much all crazy, and I think we double or triple our population for the next couple of weeks. So we're doing night rides and going to having the cafes open to midnight from Thursday through to Sunday nights for the next two weekends.

VAUGHAN:

So that should bring on the spars. And then mid-July we've got the Mid-Winter fest with Willie Smith. So that’s Friday, 13th of July through the 15th of July. And we're going to do a huge bunch ride down to Willie Smith's and provide a bus and a bike trailer back to Hobart if you want to have a few ciders. Yeah, and then we'll batten down the hatches for the rest of the July and August apart from a few Tour de France nights.

FELICITY:

That's right. Exactly. What good timing that is. That sounds fantastic. Mona's so progressive aren't they? And how inspiring for people to travel and go and visit Hobart.

VAUGHAN:

Absolutely, yeah, Mona's been amazing for the town and these types of event probably help a lot of small businesses to survive the winter.

FELICITY:

Yeah, absolutely. And also maybe a bit of an inspiration for some for interstaters to come down to Tassie and visit, even if it is cold. It's still good to do something different and there are obviously some great activities to get us inspired.

VAUGHAN:

Yes, exactly. We get the visitation is unbelievable. Last year, obviously we weren't open, but I helped out at a friend's restaurant and I was just, yeah, rinsing my socks out of working behind the bar, rinsing my socks out every night at about 3am, all to do it the very next day and it was just rinse, repeat, literally.

FELICITY:

Well thank you for joining me today, Vaughan. It's been really fascinating listening about your story, and exciting about what you're doing. Our listeners can go to your website www.mcvilly.com for further information on your adventures and hopefully sign up and they can find you on Facebook as McVilly Velo and Insta @mcvilly68 and also you're on Twitter, so you're very social and people can get in touch with you on all those platforms.

VAUGHAN:

Yep. They sure can. Don't hesitate to send us a message or a photo. We love hearing from everyone all around Australia. So, yeah. Thanks for letting me on your show.

FELICITY:

Oh, you're welcome. And lovely to hear about your story today. Thanks, Vaughan.

VAUGHAN:

Cheers.

FELICITY:

Cheers. Bye. Bye.

VAUGHAN:

Bye.

FELICITY:

Thanks for listening to the ‘All Torque’ podcast, we’d love it if you would leave us a rating and review on iTunes. This helps us to deliver content you want to hear about.  Please take a moment to share it with your friends and family on Instagram and Facebook. I'm Felicity Dales. See you next episode for another story of inspiration and motivation on the ‘All Torque’ podcast.

 

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