Wednesday 24 February 2021

You're Doing It Wrong: the pain of dealing with dealers who don't like what they do

My local dealer is one of the biggest 'power sports' dealers in the province and they're only ten minutes down the road from me, but they aren't who I think of when I think about motorcycles.  When I was all Kawasaki I found dealing with them challenging at best.  Now that I'm Triumph and Honda (two brands they don't represent) I'm glad I've had an excuse to experience more positive customer service elsewhere (Inglis Cycle and KW Honda have both been positive, engaging and enjoyable to work with).

Pack 'em in tight and no one can sit on 'em...
This local dealer is the only one I've ever used for servicing, but again and again I've found them dismissive and quite arrogant, as though my paying for service was a favour they were doing me.  I've been in the showroom of all three dealers.  The best I can hope for at my local is benign neglect.  The bikes are parked close together on purpose so you can't sit on them and the sales people in there are so focused on the sale that they don't even particularly seem to like bikes, let alone want to talk about them.  Even when I see other people sitting down to sign deals everyone looks like they're sitting in a bank getting a second mortgage rather than purchasing joy.

When I first went to Inglis Cycle the year I got the Tiger the owner of the place stopped and had a chat and then encouraged me to sit on the latest model of my bike.  Even though I wasn't there to purchase one that day (the only thing that seems to matter at the local dealer), he had time to provide a positive impression on his customers.  Inglis isn't some big, fancy, new bike-mall, but the people there seem to genuinely enjoy motorbikes and take the time to treat you like a fellow enthusiast rather than a wallet with legs.  I hadn't intended on buying anything but that positivity prompted me to buy a t-shirt with the Inglis logo on it; something I couldn't imagine doing from my local.  Since then I've bought thousands of dollars of parts and gear from them.

It ain't fancy but they love their Hondas
and encourage you to sit on 'em.
When I went over to KW Honda the first time I didn't own a Honda and just popped in to see what they were about.  The senior salesman on the floor was amiable and chatty and encouraged me to throw a leg over a beautiful new VFR800.  We then had a good chat about the CBX 1970s six-cylinder they had on display.  I made a point of going back there for parts when I finally became a Honda owner and there too the parts guy was chatty, curious about what I was doing and came out to see the old Fireblade.

Last time I was at my local looking for Kawasaki parts, I put my Roof Helmet on the counter and the woman who was new there displayed curiosity about it, so I showed her how it works.  She was enthusiastic about both the style and functionality of my strange, French lid and it left her wondering out loud why they didn't carry such a thing.  The old guy next to her said they were no good and wouldn't sell - in front of the guy who owned it.  That kind of caustic culture must be what takes the shine off everyone there so quickly.

Being a bygones kinda guy I contacted them by email the other day as they have a nice looking C14 Concours and I'm casting about for just such a thing.  We're in the middle of the winter of COVID and it's -20s with six foot of snow outside, so I don't imagine they're very busy, but getting the salesman to have a conversation over email was like pulling teeth... again to the point of rudeness.  I understand that dealers have to mark things up to pay for the premises and I wasn't expecting to pay what private sellers are, so I (foolishly) assumed that starting with offers at over 90% of the value of the bike would prompt a haggle, but emailing this guy was like playing a joyless game of 'no' tennis against a brick wall.

When I asked if there was a possibility of a trade he said he'd consider it, so I made an offer and got a no.  Then a I made a better offer and got a no.  Perhaps I've been watching too much Henry Cole doing Shed And Buried, or perhaps this is a cultural thing (Canadians don't barter), but I'd think a customer offering close to the value of the bike as advertised would be worthy of a conversation and a counter bid rather than series of terse 'noes'.

I was going to reply to the last email and ask why this business would want to turn such an enjoyable thing as the possibility of getting a new motorcycle into such a dreary experience, but I think I'll just cut my losses and finally learn my lesson, bygones be damned.  This latest experience, in line with all my previous ones, will have me looking elsewhere for parts, service and bikes... which is a shame.  I'd love to support a local business and talk them up positively (I do this whenever I can), but these guys can sit in their mega-edifice in misery.  I'll take my enthusiasm for my hobby/sport and my purchasing power elsewhere.

Some awesome local motorcycling businesses in Southern Ontario (from first hand experience):

Mostly Ironheads (my real local motorcycle service provider): in Elora, Ontario - if you want passion and customer service (along with quick turnaround times on work done), this is where you go

Inglis Cycle in London, Ontario

Kitchener Waterloo Honda in Waterloo, Ontario

NCK Cycle Salvage in Woodstock, Ontario

Perth County Moto in Stratford, Ontario

Revco - located in Ontario but found online

Saturday 13 February 2021

Mississippi South Appalachians North: Riding Through The Heart of America

I'm reading Peter Egan's Leanings (highly recommended).  He just did a ride down the Mississippi in the late 70s and it has me thinking about how to make that happen from Ontario (post pandemic, of course).

The first step would be to get over to the river.  But we'd happen to trip over Duluth on the way there from where we live, and Duluth has something I've always wanted to see:  Aerostich!  The moto-gear company has been in Duluth since the early 80s and makes bullet proof riding suits, including one piece coverall type suits that long distance riders swear by.  They are weather proof, tough, protective and built to size, which is good when you have a weirdly long body on relatively short legs.  I'd kick off our ride down the Mississippi by dressing like matching Ghostbusters!

Map 1:  Home to the head of the Mississippi is about 1850kms.  I've been that way before and have always wanted to show my wife the strange world of the Michigan Peninsula.  Our first day would only be about 420kms over the border to the Bay Valley Resort then a bizarre evening in fading 1970's decadence.  Day 2 would be 540kms along the tunnel of trees and over the incredible Mackinac Bridge and into Northern Michigan.  Day 3 would be 470kms over to Duluth along the south shore of Lake Superior.  Day 4 would be a loop from Duluth to Palisade where we'd finally pick up the Mississippi and follow it down to Minneapolis.

From here on south we'd be sticking to the Great River Road as much as possible.  The site suggests 4-10 days to make that ride, so I'd aim for 10, or more.

This is the kind of trip you could rush through if you were young and impatient, but I'm neither thing these days.  In a post-retirement world this would be a good thing to kick off in the fall (October) and take extended breaks on the trip, getting into New Orleans just before Christmas and then staying around there until Mardi Gras in February.  Doing it that way could allow for a winter in the south before working our way back up the Appalachians in the spring and home again.

The whole route is about six and half thousand kilometres.  A three hundred kilometre a day average (some days off, other days over) means a 22 day trip.  Cut that to a 200km/day average with more days off factored in and it's a 33 day trip, which isn't too heavy.

20 days down, an extended stay in the south in various places and then 20 days back in the spring would make for a thoughtful perambulation of the Mississippi watershed and the Appalachians back north.  It would also let me avoid the part of Canadian winter that is most painful (the part we're in right now), where from the end of January to March it's so bone achingly cold, grey and miserable that it feels more like Ragnarok than one of the four seasons.  Canadian winter has a depth to it that tears the soul.  A thoughtful ride down through the complicated American history around the Mississippi would be a good way to escape it.

I'm still looking at a two-up option and the C-14 Concours is still on my short list.  It has one of the highest load carrying capacities of any motorcycle (Goldwings and the like included), has a a low maintenance shaft drive and can still show surprising athleticism and agility when the roads get interesting.

This one is 9 years old, only has 36k kilometres on it, which for a Kawasaki means it's just broken in.  This lovely thing wouldn't just handle the long distance, but would make the twisty bits down the river and back up the Appalachians not feel like we're trying to fit an elephant in a tutu.

Tiger 955i Front End Maintenance

This one's out of order, I should have posted it in November but it got swallowed by the cruelty of my work place.

Work's heavy and I'm finding it a bit overwhelming to get into the winter maintenance I'd planned, so today I started by cleaning up the garage and moving the batteries and paint out of the ever-colder unheated space.  After the cleanup I went after the front end.  I've done the forks on the Tiger before (3 years ago!), so that was a pretty straightforward first step.

I pulled the forks and cleaned them up but haven't done the fork oil yet (I like 15 weight rather than 10 because I'm bigger than the average bear).  

Triumph FORK SEAL Part # T2040283

Triumph DUST SEAL Part # T2040284

Triumph SEALING WASHER Part # T2045045

Triumph GAITOR,FORK Part # T2040288

This all got done months ago... you can pick up the story here: