In the late 2000s, Braaap Motorcycles seemed unstoppable as it managed to carve out a niche in the competitive recreational motorcycle market. So much so that, for a moment, it had a number of Japanese giants on their toes. But when allegations of fraud made headlines in 2016, the reputation of ‘Australia’s Own Motorcycle Company’ quickly turned sour.
Braaap Motorcycles founder Brad Smith got his start at the age of 17, by sourcing factories in China to assemble small-capacity motorcycles to his design.
In 2008, Smith was named Australian Young Entrepreneur of the Year, and later, Tasmania’s Young Australian of the Year.
Braaap was ramping up production, primarily specialising in low-end ‘pit-bikes’ targeted towards a younger customer base, taking stylistic inspiration from BMX and FMX trends of the time.
Its store in Frankston, Victoria, was a social hub for young people, with a high rotation of scooter riders and BMXers frequenting the store’s in-house foam pit. In short, Braaap was nurturing brand loyalty.
The bikes were inexpensive, which many reviewers say was reflected in the build quality, but attractive payment plan options and a lifetime warranty was enough to garner a considerable customer base.
It soon expanded into international markets, with a range of road-going nameplates as well as electric and quad-bike models.
In 2015, Braaap saw sales growth of approximately 400 per cent.
Things took a turn the following year, when The Examiner reported that Brad Smith and his partner Toby Wilkin had been charged with four counts of fraud and one count of deal in proceeds of crime knowingly conceal.
New South Wales detectives alleged that the pair were part of a syndicate to scratch off and replace the serial numbers belonging to Braaap’s Cafe Racer model.
It was alleged that 85 ST-250 motorcycles were “rebirthed” and resold.
Following a raid on Braaap Wholesale Pty Ltd’s stores, police reportedly seized a punch stamp set, compliance labels, computers and documentation.
The company was initially hit with a number of suspensions for “non-safety related conformance issues”.
Last year, The Examiner reported that the company pleaded guilty to six counts of approval for the placement of identification plates and three counts of importation of vehicles requiring modification.
Importantly, magistrate Ken Stanton said that Braaap’s failure to fit motorcycles with specified parts was not deliberate.
Braaap Wholesale was fined $25,000 after it was convicted on all nine counts.
The brand recently launched its 2020 ST250 Cafe Racer, which is priced from $1990 plus on-road costs.
Braaap appears to have survived its legal troubles, but it may take considerable efforts to regain trust from the motorcycling community.
Spencer has a keen eye for hard news, and does some of his best living on deadline day. He loves more than anything to travel on his motorcycle, and is adamant that Melbourne Bitter is a world-class lager. He also knows how to operate the big computery thing in the office. By night, Spencer plays guitar with Melbourne punk outfit LOUTS.