Ride, relax and recharge at Berrima’s funky motorcycle cafe…
If you’ve ever driven down the Old Hume Highway from Sydney you’ll have wound your way through the picturesque Southern Highlands village of Berrima. A one-time contender for Australia’s first inland city (Goulburn claimed that honour), Berrima has become a picture postcard destination that on weekends overflows with Sydneysiders seeking a nearby fix of country life. Recently, Berrima was named Australia’s Top Tourism Town – albeit for towns of fewer than 5000 inhabitants – so it certainly has plenty of appeal.
The Australian Alpaca Centre has for years been a fixture in the last building on the left as you exit Berrima heading south. Complete with a couple of corralled alpacas on weekends, it attracted crowds for years, but closed a while back and the building remained empty. Like all small towns, Berrima languished through the deepest Covid days and is only now emerging from its enforced idleness. Early in 2020 the alpaca shop was reborn as Schmokin’ – a quirkily stylish motorcycle shop and cafe that has weathered Covid’s worst to become a buzzing fixture in the Berrima cafe scene.
Schmokin’ is the midlife crisis of escaped Sydney businessman Martyn Poytress. Swapping the rat-race for Highland’s life when Covid-19 broke out, Martyn originally hails from somewhere around Birmingham in the U.K. Softly spoken and slightly reserved, he’s ably assisted by James, a towering Highlands’ local who rides a custom BMW and a cafe-racer built around an old Yamaha XS650 (the Japanese Triumph Bonneville). Together they preside over the bikes and cafe, while Martyn’s wife Pauline looks after the adjoining shop and its eclectic range of quality riding gear.
Motorcycle lifestyle cafe first and bike shop second, Schmokin’ provides excellent coffee and great food in a chilled and relaxing setting. Its motto of Ride, Relax and Recharge is perfectly matched to its philosophical soul. On weekends there’s laid-back live music, while the cafe is fully licensed, offering a range of excellent local wines plus a new cocktail menu.
As bike shops go, Schmokin’s motorcycle range is pretty limited. Actually, it’s very limited: There’s only one brand – Mutt, which I doubt you’ve ever heard of – and only one bike, a 250 cc ‘scrambler’ in the Steve McQueen mould. Thankfully it comes in a variety of finishes around a common style and it’s really very cool. Made in Birmingham, Mutt design harks back to a simpler time ever though its single cylinder engine is fuel injected and its bikes are thoroughly modern. In a delicious twist of irony, Martyn only discovered Mutt motorcycles in Sydney, even though he lived just down the road from the factory. However, it seems a match made in Heaven. Built for fun the ‘little’ Mutt is intended to double as a daily rider and weekend dirt road/fire trail machine that’s not happy unless muddy and well used.
On the e-bike front Schmokin’ sells two brands: Vallkree from Byron Bay and Greasers from Perth. Both are retro-inspired, hand-made machines a million miles away from the Chinese e-bikes flooding the market and both perfectly fit the bespoke philosophy behind the shop.
Schmokin’ is ever changing as its layout, features and offerings evolve. This helps keep it interesting as you never know what you’ll find on your next visit. Mutt, Vallkree and Greaser bikes are available for test rides and for those looking for something different, Martyn is putting together e-bike cycling packages taking in local wineries and restaurants, or with a picnic hamper. It’s not your usual bike shop or cafe, but then that’s the attraction…
Schmokin’ can be found here on the Old Hume Highway at the very southern end of Berrima, opposite the park. It’s open cafe hours Thursday to Sunday and can be reached on (02) 4877-1790. There is no caravan park in Berrima, the closest is Moss Vale Village Caravan Park or Mittagong Caravan Park; both within 15 minutes drive. However, there are a handful of basic sites at the Berrima River Reserve Camping area, on the banks of the Wingecarribee River and just a few minutes walk from town. Cost is $18 per-vehicle per-night for a maximum of 2 nights and bookings and further information can be found here.