When Jimmy Goode gets an idea in his head, there’s no stopping him. “I get very enthusiastic about things,” he laughs, speaking to Rolling Stone Australia over the phone from Berlin, where he and his partner Nina Goode have relocated for a year-long sabbatical.
Jimmy is the founder of the Melbourne-based Kustom Kommune, Australia’s first and largest do-it-yourself communal motorcycle workshop. Located in Abbotsford in the city’s inner east, Jimmy and Nina run the Kommune along with a network of passionate volunteers.
The workshop is home to five dedicated DIY bays with all the tools and equipment necessary for motorcycle repairs, maintenance and customisation. There’s welding and fabrication gear, Tufflift electric hydraulic motorcycle lifts and a supply of professional-quality hand tools.
Kustom Kommune is open to anyone, from absolute beginners to dyed-in-the-wool petrolheads. There are no bookings and no hourly rates for Kustom Kommune members, and there’s always someone around to offer expert advice or provide a sounding board for zany customisation ideas.
Jimmy Goode launched Kustom Kommune via a crowdfunding campaign in 2013. The idea sprang from a direct need that Jimmy had after moving to Melbourne from Adelaide.
“I was trying to get my mechanic to show me how to service my bike and he basically told me, ‘Fuck off,’ because he didn’t want to teach me how to do his job,” Jimmy says.
After speaking with his motorcycle-owning friends, Jimmy realised everyone was in a similar position, lacking either the know-how or the space and equipment necessary to fiddle around with their machines.
“I was just like, ‘This is such a huge gap,’” Jimmy says.
Jimmy and his friends started thinking about how they might plug this hole. Jimmy, who was working in corporate publishing at the time, ran some numbers and figured he needed to raise enough money to cover rent for a workshop in Collingwood.
He secured approximately $20,000 worth of tools from sponsors and connected with a community of eager volunteers, who were integral in getting the workshop set up and off the ground.
“They just began donating time and resources to fitting it out, any extra tools that they had, just to get us started. It kind of just took off from there,” Jimmy says.
Not long after its launch, the Kommune outgrew its 75 sqm space on Easey St in Collingwood. 250 members signed up in the original crowdfunding campaign, but the membership base had grown to 600 by 2014.
Jimmy launched another crowdfunding campaign in 2016, this time raising $120,000, which paid for the Kommune’s relocation to its current home down near the Yarra River in Abbotsford.
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The Kommune has kept growing ever since. Along with providing the facilities for bike maintenance and restoration and a safe space to connect with like-minded enthusiasts, Kustom Kommune runs regular motorcycle mechanic courses and private 1-on-1 training sessions.
Nina Goode didn’t enter the picture until 2017, at which point she was a motorcycle non-believer. “I’d never sat on one, I’d never looked at them, because I had this stereotype in my head of these big guys with Harleys. It just wasn’t really my thing,” Nina says.
Nina liked Jimmy, however, and so decided to try some of the classes at Kustom Kommune. “I actually signed up to all of them,” she says. Soon, her preconceptions about bikes and bike culture began to dematerialise.
“It’s much more than just the guys on the big Harleys looking angry,” Nina says, reflecting on her early perceptions of Kustom Kommune. “It was a lot more about community and it was such a creative environment because everyone was working on their bikes, reshaping them, building them from the ground and putting so much effort and love into them.”
The barriers to entry faced by Nina are not uncommon. The act of getting dirty in the garage has historically been a male-dominated pursuit, and biker stereotypes don’t often project an image of inclusivity.
As Nina grew more invested in Kustom Kommune, she became a female ambassador for the space. Nina launched Women’s Wrench Nights, free courses for women once a month, rooted in principles of inclusivity.
“We could really see the difference of female and non-binary riders coming in and at first feeling a bit shy, because it’s a bit intimidating, and then once they’re there they’re like, ‘Oh, this is so cool,’” Nina says.
Throughout the Kommune’s growth and evolution over the last nine years, Jimmy Goode’s guiding ethos has remained much the same. “My goal was always to make it as low-cost entry for people [as possible],” he says. “Basically, the idea was, if everyone makes a contribution, we all benefit.”
Jimmy and Nina both know a lot more about motorcycles than when they began. But the real rewards have come from fostering a community of passionate, sympathetic people.
“What I’ve realised is that’s my satisfaction in life,” says Jimmy. “When I can see others having a great time and learning and networking and getting together and just having a laugh, I really value that.”