Aprilia finds new home in Cape Town
Neville 'Nibs' Cragg has been the dealer principal at Suzuki South in Main Road, Wynberg, for more than three decades. A former drag racer, he prides himself on understanding what makes his customers tick, and has weathered both boom and bust years without visible effect.
Some years ago, with his sons Rob and Neville to help - making this a family business in every sense of the word - he became a Kawasaki dealer as well, and branched out with a well-stocked bikewear section, that includes top names such as Arai and Schubert helmets, and Lookwell leathers.
But his decision to take on the Aprilia agency for the Western Cape came as something of a surprise to those of his customers who saw the Cragg operation as one steeped in Japanese motorcycle culture - Cragg has visited that country more than once, to strengthen his network of contacts there - and a little impatient of the 'personality cult' surrounding the top Italian marques.
Not so, said Cragg. Aprilia products are distributed locally by Kawasaki Motors South Africa, so the infrastructure - as well as the personal relationships - was already in place. So, from the beginning of April, a range of Aprilias from the RS125 schoolboy two-stroke to the motard-style 1200cc Dorsoduro began quietly appearing in a section of the show-room at 'South that had been specially set aside for them.
And last week the youngest Cragg, Neville, speaking for the family at the official opening of Aprilia South, explained that it was partly the build quality of the bikes themselves - Aprilias are assembled to standards that would make a Bavarian blink - and partly the marque's racing pedigree that had influenced the decision.
Aprilia, he reminded the guests at the official opening, who included an appropriately large proportion of local racing personalities, had been around since just after the Second World War, starting as a bicycle manufacturer and moving on to motorcycles in 1968.
And since August 2010 it has been the most successful nameplate in racing, having won more Grands Prix than either Honda or MV Agusta, as well as taking the World Superbike championship that year with former four-times World 250cc title-holder Max Biaggi in the saddle.
No matter where they're based, he said, these guys know what they're doing, pointing out RS125 and RSV4 sports bikes on the showroom floor, each directly derived from World championship-winning machines.