Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Motorcycle Culture

I recently purchased a new motorcycle and have been doing a bit of work to it, which is one reason I haven't been blogging much in the last couple weeks.  Spring is almost here and I intend to have the new scoot ready to go when we finally get into the 50's.  But the experience has reminded me of several things I've learned over the years.

I bought my first motorcycle at 18, and have owned one steadily since 1999.  In 99 and 2000 I rode to work more days than I drove a car although I've slacked off a bit since I had a wreck a few years back.  I'm brand agnostic, I've owned Harley, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Yamaha and even a Ducati.  For my most recent purchase I was waffling between a Harley, a BMW and a Triumph.  I'm certainly not a brand loyalist, I appreciate good motorcycles. 

So does the manager (maybe owner?) of the local BMW motorcycle dealership.  He likes motorcycles and understands the passion for them.  He recognizes there are lots of good motorcycles, some made by BMW and some not.  He's a rational guy and I put a lot of faith into his opinion.  I almost bought a bike from his shop for just that reason, but the bike I was after just ended up costing too much.  Maybe one day.

Not so at the Harley dealer.  Harley guys may know a lot about Harleys (or not, even), but in general they don't know shit about motorcycles.  They are selling a lifestyle, not a motorcycle.  It's a shame, because Harley Davidson makes some quality motorcycles at fair prices compared to the competition.  Modern Harleys are well engineered and well made with quality components.  But when it comes to discussing motorcycles it's like discussing science with a religious zealot.  I was amazed at how many employees had very little actual knowledge about the sport, mechanics and physics of motorcycling.

This isn't new.  In 2000 I was regularly told that synthetic oil is "too slippery" to use in American made motorcycles by "experts", which shows a real lack of understanding of mechanics and physics.  Today of course even the Harley dealerships sell synthetic oil.  The ignorance regarding anything not directly written by the motor company is a constant in the Harley culture it seems.

In my most recent visit to the Harley dealer I was told things by employees like:

"I'd just buy the kit and upgrade the parts you need after"
Rather than buying the individual parts I wanted, which I knew was what I needed but the parts guy was quite unsure.  I needed 6 particular parts that cost $130, he advised me to buy a $160 kit and then another $120 in parts because he didn't understand the parts I needed.

"We called our distributor and they don't recommend those tires (Pirelli Night Dragons) because they are bias radials and not designed for use on a Harley."
There's no such thing as bias radials.  Tires are bias ply or radials, and either work fine for most applications.  What he was told I'm guessing is the size I was asking for isn't an OEM HD offering.  Also, those tires are specifically made for the application I was inquiring about.

"If you don't have exactly the same front and rear tire, your bike will wobble and weave.  We won't install a tire that doesn't match because it's dangerous."
Complete BS.  You don't want to mix bias ply and radial tires, or run a front tire on the back of a bike, but mixing models and even brands works just fine.  In fact, some models are only available as rear tires and some as front tires, so it would be impossible to match.

The other thing that bugs me about dealers is they only support new bikes.  It used to be you'd go to the dealer when you couldn't find a part in the aftermarket, now you better hope your bike (or car) is new enough.  The same Harley dealer said they can't get parts for anything made before 2007.  That means they aren't supporting products that are 7 years old.  If I want replacement parts for a 10 year old bike I'm out of luck.  That's crap and it's a symptom of our modern throw-away society.  These bikes are engineered to last decades and run a hundred thousand miles, but the infrastructure to support that doesn't exist.  It's seriously annoying. 

But, I'm picking up the last parts I'm getting from the dealer tonight, so it won't be my problem after that.  Well, until I need new tires.  I'm half tempted to buy the equipment needed to do it myself rather than deal with a dealer again.  More likely I'll find a local independent shop that can do the work.  I do most of my own car and bike work, but mounting and balancing tires takes some special (and sizable) tools I don't have in my tiny garage. 

I'm rather looking forward to riding weather again! 

1 comment:

  1. Cycle Gear across from Northwest Plaza did a great job on my tires; no complaints here!