The team at City Coast Motorcycles are deeply saddened by the loss of our Founder, Geoff Sim. This tribute shares his life and legacy.
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 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.
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’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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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’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 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.
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.
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.
Thank you to Geoff’s brother, Chris for sharing his story.