Cycling pair mark 25 years

TRAINER WHEELS: Jim Matthews rides one of the big bikes watched by his staff at Village Cycles.
TRAINER WHEELS: Jim Matthews rides one of the big bikes watched by his staff at Village Cycles.

He was an Olympic road cycling mechanic and she's a former Commonwealth Games and world championship cyclist but together they are the successful duo behind Village Cycles in Richmond.

This month, Jim and Sue Matthews are celebrating the popular cycle shop's 25th anniversary year. The Motueka-Golden Bay News talked to Jim about the past and present and what the future holds for the cycling couple.

Can you remember the first bike you rode?
Do you realise how old we are? It's hard to remember back that far. It was definitely a little three-wheel trike, we have a few in the shop. I remember riding it to school and I remember hitting a guy on the footpath with it. Some old guy with a walking stick, I just about crippled him. But, yeah, that's where it started and then along came a chain bike, still with three wheels though.

Who are some of the great cyclists you've either ridden with or fixed bikes for?
Lots really, we've both been lucky enough to travel with New Zealand cycle teams overseas and when you do that you're usually travelling with the best in New Zealand. I've ridden against the likes of Brian Fowler, Ian Richards, Paul Leach  lots of guys. On and off we've mixed with most of the top guys, track and road.

Over the last 25 years what have been some of the biggest cycling innovations?

Probably in bikes, carbon fibre has been the big thing in frames and componentry. Carbon fibre wheels and stuff like that as well. I guess moving along with that the biggest thing in bike riding is aerodynamics, on bikes and the rider. Other than that they've just refined, lightened and got stuff that they've had for years working better. And they have electronic shifting on bikes now, which is interesting.

If you weren't doing this, what do you think you'd be doing? Or is this your dream job?
Well, Sue's a qualified school teacher and was for 11 years, and I did my time as an electrician, so whether we'd be doing that still if it hadn't been for cycling, I don't know. We're very lucky that we're doing something we're both passionate about, it doesn't happen with many people. I don't think either of us gets up in the morning and thinks 'Oh god work' or 'Monday, yuck', we just get up and go to work. I don't ever, ever think like that and I just love it here. So we're really lucky to be doing something we really enjoy.

How did you guys meet?

Sue came from a triathlon background, well, first running, marathons and stuff and then went to triathlon. She started finding that she was often the fastest cyclist in the triathlon, so then she went to cycling as a sport to try it out and I'd been around the traps for a while and Sue looked me up and asked me to help her out with some coaching and it went from there really.

What's it like going to the Olympics?
I went to the Seoul Olympics in 1988 and the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. It was hard work, harder than what you'd think really. You probably know more about what's going on here in New Zealand, with the television coverage, than when you're actually in the village. You just get so tied up in your own little group of people, looking after them, going out training with them and running around after them that you just get locked into that little group and don't really see or know what's going on. But I mean it's very awesome, it's absolutely fantastic.

Cycling has gained popularity over the last couple of years. Why do you think that is?

Our biggest growth is comfort bikes to retired couples. They're getting out there and riding all these cycle tracks that are being built  it's just fantastic. I heard that people would retire and play golf but now they're riding bikes and going cycling together.

What has been one of your biggest achievements over the last 25 years?
I guess running the shop successfully has been a big achievement for us. It's been a lot of hard work, long hours and lots of dedication out into the shop. It's given us a good lifestyle, we're not filthy rich but we get a nice lifestyle out of it. I guess on my side of things, going to the Olympics, world champs and Commonwealth Games. And helping Sue get to the world champs and Commonwealth Games as a cyclist. I was never good enough to get to the Olympics or Commonwealth Games as an athlete but I got there as a mechanic and Sue got there as an athlete and those are huge achievements for us.

What do you hope for, for the next 25 years?
Wind down a bit! It's a pretty busy lifestyle we've got at the moment. Even though we love it here, there is a time where you just have to step aside. And that will happen one day and we've got a bucket with a list in it and we'll start doing stuff. We have got a plan, we want to go to Europe for a year and go to every major bike race. Like the world champs, Tour de France and Paris Roubaix. Go to all the classic bike races, follow them around and just be there and watch them. We will do that, that's a definite.