Remembering Geoff Sim

The team at City Coast Motorcycles are deeply saddened by the loss of our Founder, Geoff Sim. This tribute shares his life and legacy. 

Remembering Geoff Sim
Geoff Sim, Amaroo Circa 1973. Image by David McGonigal.

Geoff was born in 1948 and spent his formative years in the Sutherland Shire, at West Como, where the Woronora River merges with the Georges. Geoff and his childhood friends pursued a Huck Finn lifestyle in home-made canoes and old rowboats, fishing and hunting mudcrabs in the mangroves. They would push their way through vines and thick bush to a creek and catch yabbies. Along the cliffline they would rockhop like wallabies. These escapades must have played a part in the adventurous lifestyle that was to unfold for Geoff for the rest of his days.

After Como West Primary School, Geoff attended Jannali Boys High, where classmates like Peter Allen and Rob Black led him towards an interest in motorcycles. Geoff duly bought a 250 Honda CB72 in 1966 and that was the start of a life-long passion for all things motorcycling, from touring to adventure riding to racing and a thriving dealership in Wollongong.

Geoff with his first motorcycle
Geoff Sim’s first motorcycle was a 250cc Honda CB72.

Geoff was a naturally fast rider from the get-go, and a succession of speeding fines suggested the road racing circuits might be a cheaper way to obtain his speed jollies. He began racing at the start of 1968 on the 250 Honda and then progressed to a 350 Honda.

Geoff Sim with his 350cc Honda
Geoff Sim with his 350cc Honda.

Shortly thereafter, Geoff bought the ex-Ron Toombs TD1C Yamaha. Upon its retirement, he had it superbly restored by Wollongong’s Richard Johnston, resplendent in the livery and racing number of `Toombsie’ and mounted in a glass case at City Coast Motorcycles as a tribute to one of Australia’s greatest riders.

Geoff Sim racing Bathurst in 1969
Geoff Sim racing the ex-Ron Toombs TD1C Yamaha at Bathurst, 1969.

Geoff’s next race bike was a kitted R5 350 Yamaha twin, sponsored by his partner Robyn. Geoff had a lot of success on that bike, including three memorable scraps at Oran and Amaroo Parks with the young Gregg Hansford, who went on to international stardom.

Geoff Sim and Gregg Hansford
Geoff Sim (22) famously scraps with Gregg Hansford (02).

Geoff also had success on larger production-based machines such as Mach 3 Kawasaki 500, Mach 4 Kawasaki 750, Honda 750, Ducati 750 and Kawasaki 900. One year at Mount Panorama in the Unlimited Production Race, Geoff had a memorable race-long dice for 4th place with `Mountain Maestro’ Ron Toombs, both on Kawasaki 900s. With co-riders such as Peter Stronach and Roy Denison, Geoff achieved some high placings in several Castrol Six Hour races.

Geoff Sim Castrol 6 hour
Geoff Sim (36) rounds up his opponents in the Castrol Six Hour.

Through befriending Kevin Cass in the racing scene, Geoff was availed a business opportunity: In 1973, Geoff opened a Kawasaki dealership named Centrestand Motorcycles near the railway in Crown Street Wollongong, before relocating to Corrimal Street. Geoff expanded his portfolio when he purchased the Corrimal Suzuki business off Wollongong legend Bill Morris. Veteran Bill – whose motorcycling achievements on dirt and tar race tracks, in business, in the race-tuning workshop, and in racing sponsorship would take a book to relate – grew bored with retirement and went back to work for Geoff in highly specialised areas like crankshaft balancing. Upon buying Kevin Cass Motorcycles, Geoff finally settled on the present arrangement, City Coast Motorcycles in Keira Street, which is an authorised dealer for BMW, Triumph and Yamaha.

Geoff Sim spare parts
From humble beginnings, Geoff Sim went on to own three motorcycle dealerships at the one time. Pictured: Geoff at the spare parts counter at Centrestand Motorcycles.

Geoff and Robyn went on to have a son, Timothy who inherited the racing genes. Tim was born to love two-wheels; racing motocross, supercross and mountain bikes – all at a national level. Tim began working after school at the family business by cleaning and changing tyres.

Tim and Geoff
Geoff Sim’s son Timothy was literally riding before he could walk.

Geoff taught Tim every facet of running a successful motorcycle dealership. Upon finishing school, Tim continued to work his way through the ranks with Geoff as his mentor; several years ago he took over as the Managing Director and Dealer Principal.

Tim, Wayne Gardner and Geoff
Timothy Sim, Wayne Gardner and Geoff Sim celebrate 30 years of City Coast Motorcycles in 2003. Geoff was one of Wayne’s first supporters.

The high point of Geoff’s racing career was winning the Australian 125cc championship series in 1975 and 1976, conducted over rounds in each state. He was mounted on a TA125 Yamaha provided by Kevin Cass. His second 125 GP crown was a dead heat with Dave Burgess; the only one for first place ever seen at Mount Panorama.

Geoff Sim and Dave Burgess
Geoff Sim (32) and Dave Burgess (19) famous scrap for first place at the 1976 125cc Australian Road Race Championship.

During this period he also took the TA to New Zealand, where he contested 125cc support races in the Marlboro Series, winning at Pukekoe, Gracefield, Wanganui and Timaru, dicing with and defeating future international Grand Prix star, the American Randy Mamola. Randy was the reigning US 125 champion but to be fair he was aged just 16 at the time, not a grizzled veteran of 27 like Geoff. While not a university student, Geoff also participated in 24 hour rallies at the University of NSW MCC alongside his friend, Trevor Fitzpatrick during the mid-to late 70’s.

Geoff Sim was twice crowned Australian 125cc Road Race Champion on his Yamaha TA125.

Geoff’s other great passion was aviation. Initially, this took the form of control-line powered models he and a Como friend Peter Stevenson, both in their early teens, constructed in the laundry. Thankfully by the time Geoff progressed to flying full-sized aircraft, he had become more adept at keeping them airborne than had been the case with the models.

Towards the end of his high school years, Geoff and his lifelong friend Peter Allen joined the Air Training Corps at Mascot and learnt to fly light aircraft. Approaching the age of 30, this pursuit began to assume greater prominence in Geoff”s leisure activities and he retired from motorcycle racing.

Geoff purchased a Lancair kit plane, which he built with the help of several others. While running his motorcycle dealership, they put together the Lancair behind the counter. With light weight and high performance provided by a Lycoming engine, the two-seater Lancair was far sportier than the average Cessna or Piper –  just what an ex-motorcycle racer needed.

Geoff Sim Lancair
Geoff Sim’s adventurous spirit led him to flying. His first pair of wings was a Lancair kit plane.

Geoff also owned shares in a couple of gliders, which he flew in competitions. He became adept at this exacting sport and secured several noteworthy placings in State and Australian titles:

“Years ago we both had Australian altitude records on separate days at Jindabyne. One was absolute height and other was altitude gain in motorgliders. We agreed to claim a record each. Geoff had to have the beard shaved off for that camp as we only had constant flow system with masks,” says friend Ian McPhee.

Geoff gliding at Lake Keepit in 1986.
Geoff Sim gliding at Lake Keepit, 1986.

However, spending all this time up in the clouds never diminished Geoff’s love of adventure motorcycling, a pursuit that took him to India, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, South America, Africa, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, across Russia from China, and all over Australia including crossing the Simpson Desert.

“I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on our friendship and adventures over the decades and realised that there have been very few people who have directed the course of my life more than Geoff,” says freelance writer David McGonigal.

“In 1975 a group of us were camped by the river below Hill End and Geoff asked me ‘Hey Dave, what bike are you going to buy when the RD350 dies?’ and I replied ‘that bike would go around the world’. The idea was born and I rode the RD around the world between 1976 and 1979 (with a pocketful of sparkplugs).

“I’ve written that riding around the world with a mate is like a marriage without any of the benefits. Yet in 1998 Geoff and I completed a large part of my 7-continent all-time-zones world ride when we rode from Vladivostok to Moscow and beyond. I was on a BMW R1100RT and he was on a Yamaha SRV250 which made us just about even on power vs riding skill.

“Geoff had a prang between Moscow and St Petersburg and it was a battle to get him the treatment to keep him alive and evacuated to Helsinki and home. Buddhists believe that a life challenging experience like that means you own a part of each other’s soul and so it has felt ever since,” said David.

Geoff Sim Himalayas
Geoff Sim traversing the Himilayas.

From mid-2020, Geoff began to experience the symptoms of a complex medical condition which he faced bravely and stoically. On February 12, he passed away aged 72, too young, but he packed a lot into those years and had lived life to the full.  He will long be remembered for his intelligence, his steadfastness, his generosity, his decency. Along with a legion of cherished friends, he leaves behind his son Timothy and grandchildren, Jasmine and Taj.

Geoff Sim under glider wing

Thank you to Geoff’s brother, Chris for sharing his story.

5 comments

  1. Warwick Kenny says:

    My friend GEOFF,

    I have known Geoff for almost forty years, and as a partner of our motor-glider syn-dicate, with Geoff, I could see how helpful he was with all things mechanical and I could see, as our friendship grew, that his personality was driven by his can-do attitude toward his interests. Always the gentleman, quiet, patient and enduring, with a creative focus on the tasks that required intelligent resolution.

    At times it seemed to me, Geoff was like a Flying Swagman, sleeping wherever he lay his hat, was his camp, either flying, hiking or biking. Wearing his legionaires hat and a big set of sunnies around his neck, he reminded me, of the character, called ‘toad’ from the story of Wind in the Willows, as he raced off on some mission, safari, or journey, strid-ing out, fully committed to his next big quest.

    I gained so much from our sharing of special times. Flying comps, with him or against him, in teaching of students, or, just choosing a good wine, Geoff was always ad-mirable. On other occasions, with our impromptu picnics, he would often surprise us by pulling out a variety of herbs, meats, cheeses and wine, like magic, from his bike saddle-bag.

    Over time, my respect for his experience increased, as I admired his career as a champion bike rider and the journeys he undertook. His mechanical skills in engine maintenance, kept our glider Syndicate together, we may well have been destitute without his input. I was also equally impressed with his building skills of his Lancair, and his input into the design of his home, complete with the pet rat-catcher inside the bathroom.

    Hiking and rock walking was always on the agenda with Geoff and sometimes he challenged himself to scramble up rock faces and levered his body up the shear cracks between them, much to our amazement.
    In the year 2000, it was arranged to have a quieter, and a “so called easier” hike, down a big gorge for a night of celebrations, but walking out the next morning was tough, and hot, for most of us, but not so for Geoff, who was just as fine as the weather appeared to be as we emerged, but within minutes, the sky changed, and a roar arising out of the same gorge we had just come from, foretold of an approaching big hailstorm. There was no time to save his Lancair and it copped a beating. Afterwards, Geoff was forlorn, but cir-cumspect about it, taking it in his stride, seeing it as another challenge.

    During gatherings it was great to share his excitement while singing around the clubhouse or other places, especially if a Dylan song was on the playlist, and, I always thought it a privilege to be with Geoff going to music concerts. However a special treat was a Bob Dylan dig, (of course), at the State theatre, in Sydney.

    As our birthdays were only a few days apart, we enjoyed some of our bigger ones together. I shall miss those and other good times, but I will enjoy recalling them, and the other memories of a special friend in Geoff, to whom I will be forever grateful,

    Warwick Kenny

  2. Geoff was one of the first pilots to fly the Morning Glory, in 1990.
    “At the pub, Geoff & Ian [McPhee] were almost speechless about their flight. For Ian, who normally talks 15 to the dozen, this was remarkable. Geoff just shook his head slowly as he stared, seemingly dazed, into his drink, then looked up and remarked that their first flight on the rollcloud had been the highlight in a lifetime of gliding.”

  3. Larry Simons says:

    I never met Geoff even though we raced in periods that initially overlapped in both our racing years, I didn’t know that he’d had the m/cycle shops & had taken to flying. RIP Geoff.

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