The shift in the off-road market toward four-stroke motors has created the opportunity for major service work and parts sales for dealerships wanting to take the plunge. While older two-stroke bikes were serviceable by most home mechanics, today's high-revving fours require the skills of an experienced mechanic and usually a machine shop.
Many service manuals call for quicker intervals between top end service for many 250cc and 450cc bikes and ATVs. This work could just be a good time to recommend upgraded valve train components over OE replacement parts.
However, most dealerships and repair shops don't have the equipment, personnel or knowledge needed to perform much of this technical work. This isn't to say that dealers should ignore this potential profit center. As motorcycles become more technical — i.e., the rise of four-strokes and the growth of fuel-injected motors — stores should consider beefing up the back shop.
Michael Perry of Kibblewhite Precision Machining says that this opportunity can open up labor sales for cylinder and cylinder head R&R, cylinder head disassembly and reassembly, valve adjustments, valves, springs, guides, cam upgrades and piston kits. Shops equipped with a dyno can look at additional sales of tune-up items. Kibblewhite offers valve and spring kits that are meant to last longer than the stock parts they replace.
"The goodwill created after a successful repair/upgrade of one of these [parts] is tremendous," says Perry, a Kibblewhite R&D guru. "When the rider is able to extend the life expectancy of the top end three or four times over the stock parts, the shop that did the work becomes a hero.
"And all of the riding companions will hear which shop did the work. This will become the service route that all of the people in this rider's sphere of influence will choose," Perry adds.
Dealers interested in pursuing these service dollars should know that at minimum they'll need a good technician who has a great understanding of four-stroke engines and the tools needed to complete the job, Perry suggests. Shops should also have the equipment required if considering offering valve jobs and guide replacement, he adds.
Machining equipment is also a massive investment, but this is where a dealership could consider working through a local machine shop or specialty shop to get the work done.
One of the biggest hurdles in hitting this market is educating the dealers on what this shift in engine technology means for them. The four-stroke revolution happened overnight, leaving many dealers wandering around in a bank of two-stroke smoke.
Rob Celendano, CV4 program manager, says many customers are more aware than dealers of the run of aftermarket parts flowing into the four-stroke, off-road segment. Given that many dealerships and repair shops are behind the ball on this one, customers are eager to find a shop that can do the work, Celendano notes.
"If you're the guy in a dealership who brushes up on this and you take the opportunity and run with it, you have the chance of gaining the business of people looking for this type of work," he says. CV4 is a manufacturer of valve train parts and division of CV Products, a company heavily involved in auto racing.
Celendano questions the rationale of only offering OE replacement parts for engine internals when dealerships sell anything but stock for the exterior of the bike. Customers are already buying aftermarket bars, wheels and sprockets — why keep the insides stock?
And if dealerships don't offer these parts and this service to a customer, that customer is going to go elsewhere, he says. Like Kibblewhite, CV4 makes parts that could extend the life of modern four-stroke motors. Given the four-stroke aftermarket is still in its infancy, there's an opportunity for dealers to get in on the ground floor of what will likely be a huge part of the business.
"To secure your customer's business, you have to turn them on to something other than Genuine Honda or Genuine Suzuki parts," Celendano says.