UBCO Case Study 1: Magnetic Island Roaming
On Australia’s Magnetic Island, UBCO has enabled Pam and Tim Capp to launch a new kind of bike-rental business — one that allows visitors to see more of the protected landscape while leaving less of an environmental footprint.
Magnetic Island, a mountainous 52km2 island off the coast of Queensland, Australia, is one of the country’s most stunning tourism destinations. Part of the Great Barrier World Heritage Area, it has a distinctive environment of large granite boulders, open eucalyptus woodlands, and sandy bays surrounded by coral reefs — and an average of 325 days of sunshine a year.
Until recently, one of the main ways for visitors to see the island was aboard 50cc petrol-powered scooters. The scooters allowed visitors to navigate the winding roads and steep hillsides between bays where the human population is clustered, while 78 percent of its interior remains protected inside national and conservation parks.
However, in mid-2023, a new bike-hire business, Magnetic Island Roaming, was launched by local residents Pam and Tim Capp, offering a 14-strong fleet of UBCO electric motorcycles as a low-impact sightseeing alternative to the conventional scooters, many of which are old, and comparatively slow and noisy — as well as emitting more than their share of exhaust fumes.
"We wanted to show people they can reduce emissions while giving them a better product that’s more fun to ride, and which makes those far-flung areas far more accessible."
“We started this business because it’s what the science is telling us to do to help the planet,” says Tim. “But we also wanted to show people they can reduce emissions while giving them a better product that’s more fun to ride, and which makes those far-flung areas far more accessible.”
Tim now leads a guided tour on the UBCO bikes to the remote West Point to watch the sun set. As the dirt road to it isn’t well-maintained and is littered with potholes and dry creek crossings, it wasn’t until the UBCOs arrived that most visitors could reach it.
So far, the new tourism venture has an unbroken record of five-star reviews from excited customers, says Tim. “Everyone comes back saying people were asking them where they got the bikes, or saying they look really cool. Even if people aren’t environmentally conscious, they like that the UBCO bike aren’t noisy and go up hills much easier, so there’s been a very positive response generally to having them here.”
As it turns out, they are the perfect way of navigating the island’s steep terrain, which lacks long, straight roads and has a speed limit of 60km/hr. Another key advantage is that, as Queensland only requires a standard driver’s licence for 50cc bikes, it’s easy for novice riders.
“We give visitors a bit of coaching and then they head straight out. The UBCO is very responsive to the throttle, and nippy on the corners — unlike a car — so they’re not going to hold up traffic,” says Pam. “Sometimes you’ll see visitors take off a bit cautiously, but half an hour later they’re whizzing around.”
Since many people come for the tropical reefs, the panniers on each bike can easily swallow their snorkelling masks, fins, and anything else they need for the day. In fact, as the rental station is adjacent to the ferry terminal, visitors from the mainland can now do an entire day trip to the island using low-impact transportation.
“We get people from Europe who already use electric vehicles — but we also get a lot of people who ride serious motorbikes, like 700cc and upwards, and they also come back and rave about the UBCO, because it’s so unique and quiet,” says Tim. “It has all the benefits of a motorcycle, but literally anyone can just jump on and use it immediately like a scooter.”
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