‘Super’ Cooper’s goodbye
Saturday, 27th February, 2021
By Myles Burt
After servicing and selling bicycles locally for 25 years, Rickie Cooper has sold Town ‘N’ Country Bicycles.
Mr Cooper bought the shop on June 12, 1996 from John Windham who had previously owned the local bicycle store since 1945.
Mr Cooper decided to take up Mr Windham’s offer to buy the bike shop as a hobby after being diagnosed with bowel cancer, a diagnosis which forced him to finish up on the mines after 30 years.
He said Mr Windham rented out the building and all his tools to him for $80 a week.
“So I’ve just built it up, built it up, built it up and now I’ve been here 25 years,” Mr Cooper said.
“Thirty years in the mines and 25 years here, I think I’ve done my apprenticeship.”
Mr Cooper said he’s decided to sell the shop as his body is not able to keep up with the workload like it used to and would like to spend more time travelling with his wife Kaye.
Not revealing who he’s sold the shop to yet, Mr Cooper said the new owners are a very enthusiastic, young couple and personally knows their family very well.
“They’ll do very good because he’s a goer, he’s a worker,” Mr Cooper said.
“I’ll be here to help him and show him, and I’ll always be by the phone.
“Plus I had a couple of guys who were working for me who’ve said if that person needs a hand and you’re not here just give us a call and we’ll step up and help out.”
A road cyclist for many years, Mr Cooper said he not only learnt the tricks of the trade from Mr Windham but also from Karl Giessauf, an Austrian/South Australian bike mechanic and General Motors Holden engineer who was known for the popular Giessauf bike frames.
Mr Cooper said around 17 bikes with Giesauff frames were made for local cyclists such as Trevor Barry, Barry Gentle, Clem Florence, Joe Sulicich, Stephen Howorth, Stuart Bradley, Adam Edwards and others.
“There was a lot, a lot of Geisoff frames in Broken Hill,” Mr Cooper said.
After purchasing a triathlon bike, Mr Cooper began tinkering with bikes after Mr Giessauf noticed he was good around bikes and suggested he should become a bike mechanic.
Mr Cooper said it was very special to not only be taught by Mr Giessauf, but to even be allowed to step foot in his workshop.
“Even his wife Thelma said ‘You are gifted, you are one of the only few that are allowed out there when Karl’s working’,” Mr Cooper said.
“She said ‘You must have something because he likes you’.”
Over his time running the shop, Mr Cooper said every bike that’s come into the shop has been locally put together as every bike is shipped to the store unassembled.
Mr Cooper said last Christmas was the first year where he and his wife became incredibly stressed over shipping orders.
As their order of bikes was left waiting in a Melbourne warehouse after the paperwork had fallen off the pallet.
Mr Cooper said the logistical issue left bikes being delivered after Christmas.
“You try to be to perfection, you try to make everybody happy, Christmas time is a big time were you really want everything to run smooth,” Mr Cooper said.
“I sat here every day when I could’ve closed the shop because I had nothing, waiting for bikes to come in.”
However, Mr Cooper said the Broken Hill community were super supportive during the delay with only a couple or people understandably upset about the delays.
“At the end of the day most of them were very good, there was only a couple of sales I missed out on and I understand that,” Mr Cooper said.
Broken Hill wasn’t the only one hit with bicycle shipping issues as Mr Cooper said other bike shops such as one in Albury-Wodonga had 90 bikes delivered two days before Christmas, instead of the bikes being delivered earlier and frequently in small shipments.
Mr Cooper said the late and heavy shipment had the store running off their feet to assemble 90 bikes before Christmas.
“They got their bikes and that was great, but they had to work 24 hours to get it,” Mr Cooper said.
Another shop in Western Australia didn’t get their Christmas bike orders at all, as logistics left them on a truck until they could fill a full semi-truck up before taking them on the road.
“They left on the December 23, they got nothing until after Christmas,” Mr Cooper said.
“He was just so mad, it’s not fair because he nearly went broke.”
Shipping a multitude of bikes over his 25 years, Mr Cooper said he’s witnessed the rising popularity of mountain bikes amongst local riders. Mr Cooper said whilst mountain bikes weren’t a thing when he was riding, they better suited the local environment as the bigger wheels could fit liners in them to make the bikes more puncture proof.
Mr Cooper said it was very common for road bikes to suffer multiple punctures, even on small rides like one he did years ago down Wentworth Road.
“One day I got seven punctures, just after September when the wind had blown all the prickles across the road,” Mr Cooper said.
“So you’re walking home with your bike shoes on and your bike over your shoulder waiting for a car to come along to give you a ride.
“Mountain biking you never heard so much of that.”
Making way for the new owners, Mr Cooper said he and his wife Kaye are excited to see their grandchildren, maybe some charity work and celebrate 50 years of marriage on the November 19 this year.
“She’s just got her certificate to say she’s perfect,” Mr Cooper said.