Industry needs a 'big brother' attitude

Publish Date: 
Oct 8, 2013
By Eric Anderson

GENERALIZATION: The more skilled a rider you are, the more “moto-snobbery” keeps you from stooping down to help new riders to elevate their game by improving their skills and experience.  

Experienced riders and racers by nature don’t have patience for backmarkers — they want to go longer, faster and harder than newcomers. Seems like those of us spending the most time on two wheels have the least time to spend with those of lesser skills and experience.

Too many newcomers don’t stay long, because it’s challenging to make the leap from newbie to veteran without some outside help from a friend or caring dealer.

The downside is that newbies can become frustrated and quit altogether. I call it The Mentor Gap. Other than close family members, we cluster with riders of a similar skill level. Rather than sharing their secrets, riders with greater skills and experience prefer to wheelie off into the sunset, because who wants to show a newer rider how to countersteer, apex properly or pack for an overnight trip?

My last column, “It’s not about your damned motorcycles,” created a stir by pointing out that our dream machines are actually secondary to the human experiences they create. It’s all about the people, friends, family and the human experience of riding these vehicles together. 

You can be a club rider, racer, family rider or Helge Pedersen riding solo around the globe, but it all comes back to people and places — friends you meet and scenes you see at the beginning, along the way or at the end. 

Wikipedia’s definition of vehicle is a mobile machine that transports passengers or cargo. The key word to me is transports – not machine. Unlike other planes, trains and automobiles, powersports machines truly transport the human experience into another dimension of existence. 

Problem is, dealers and current riders need to learn to share our transportable discoveries with newcomers beyond the simple selling or acquisition of the machine. MIC statistics reiterate this problem: The average annual miles ridden for a street motorcycle is 2,903. There is no need to buy another dream machine if the first one is less than one-twentieth worn out and its battery is dead. CraigsList and eBay are littered with dreams gone stale.

On the other hand, I know other newcomers to the industry who already have three different bikes in their first 18 months of riding. What’s the difference in their experience from those who lost their fire?  

Mentor Gap assumes there are too few Big Brothers in our industry. Riding is a lifelong progression for those hooked on it. But too many newcomers don’t stay long, because it’s challenging to make the leap from newbie to veteran without some outside help from a friend or caring dealer. And the vets are too hung up on riding for themselves. 

I am more selfish and guilty than most. I need to change that and begin giving back.

ISSUING THE CALL
The same feeling gets portrayed at the parts counter and on the sales floor in your dealership. “Assumptions” of customer expertise get thrown out into the conversations with new riders who are reluctant to stop the conversation and ask, “What’s a super-moto?” Big Brother attitude needed here.

Encourage your newer riding customers to take MSF’s 1-day Advanced Rider Course on their own motorcycle, then coordinate a track day for a few customers.

The MSF’s Basic Rider Course trains more than 400,000 new riders a year. But that’s just the primer — it’s not the real world or the real thrill. Track Day schools are terrific, too, but there tends to be an “intimidation leap”  between street skills and track skills. How does one find his way from being an MSF graduate to becoming an accomplished road or dirt rider without some form of real world, intermediate mentorship?  Big Brother attitude needed here.  

A patient friend? A private coach? Dealer clinics? These are few and far between. We hire scuba instructors, music teachers and personal trainers — why not hire a private riding coach to teach us some new higher level riding skills? Encourage your newer riding customers to take MSF’s 1-day Advanced Rider Course on their own motorcycle, then coordinate a track day for a few customers. Make it a social event — not a test of manhood and machismo. Not only will your customers learn some new riding skills, they will also become much more familiar with their new motorcycle’s capabilities and their newly transported self. Big Brother attitude is needed here

Can your dealership staff take a bit more time when handling a newcomer? The dreamers are at the fragile stage and thus need to have the inspiration and mentoring to achieve their dream. Don’t just sell them the machine, sell the how-to sizzle too. Twice recently I took the time to mentor some new riders, and it was incredibly satisfying. I not only have the satisfaction of sharing my knowledge and feelings about riding but I’ve gained two new riding friends. And reciprocally, I am enrolling in a track day to learn a few new tricks myself. Can dealerships do more of the same? Big Brother attitude needed here.    

My life isn’t racing as much as it used to — literally. Slowing down a bit and taking some time with my friends or customers makes the entire riding experience more fun and longer lasting. So let’s all make it an industry goal to keep those dream machines from going stale in garages across America and bump up the national average to 4,000 miles a year. We’d all be selling more bikes, accessories, replacement parts, not to mention enjoying ourselves more. Big Brother attitude is definitely needed here!