TRIALS RIDING CHAMPTION Gary LaPlante knows his way around a motorcycle — and the motorcycle industry. His experience stretches back to 1979 and includes research and development work for Kawasaki, engineering for American Honda’s product development department, and a role with the Motorcycle Industry Council. Since 1999, LaPlante has been the impresario behind MotoVentures, his private 350-acre rider training center in the desert just outside of Anza, Calif., where he offers tours, training and trials courses.
With MotoVentures, dirtbikes are the name and off-road riding’s the game. Courtesy of a sponsorship from Yamaha, LaPlante uses a fleet of Yamaha bikes ranging from 50cc machines to 450s. Other sponsorships with HJC, Smith and TCX provide the needed protection for non-geared customers who flock to the Southern California high desert to learn the ins and outs of off-road riding.
LaPlante’s new book, How to Ride Off-Road Motorcycles: Key Skills and Advanced Training for all Off-Road, Motocross and Dual-Sport Riders (Motorbooks International, $27.99 retail) contends that dealers should make sure their customers have adequate skills before hitting the trails or track, because good riding isn’t just fun riding, it helps ensure riders stay safe, riding well into the future. Senior Editor Dennis Johnson posed Five Questions to LaPlante.
Dealernews: How can helping customers learn to ride translate into more business for the dealership?
LaPlante: They’ll stay alive and healthy! The better a customer can ride, the more bikes, riding gear, accessories, and service you can sell them. Dealers can use training as a sales incentive or tool to help make a sale. And dealers can even sell our training and make a profit on it.
How can better rider training help improve the long-term health of the off-road industry?
Beginners are the largest group of potential customers and the industry’s most important customer. They know nothing and need everything. Ideally everyone should start riding in the dirt first, then move on to other bikes as they grow, if they want. But even if they start on the street they can still benefit from dirt training and maybe even pick it up as a sport.
The problem is beginners need to learn how to ride if they are going to own a bike. We trainers are the front-line soldiers on the battle for new customers. If we do a bad job, it will be bad for the industry, but if we do a good job, everyone in the industry will benefit.
Let’s face it, nobody needs a motorcycle. We ride because we love it. I think ultimately kids are the key to the industry’s long-term health. If a kid can become exposed to riding at a young age on a dirtbike, they will become passionate about it and will retain that passion all through life. Eventually they will share that passion with their family. Motorcycling is an activity that everyone in the family actually wants to do together all through life.
Is there a connection between well-trained riders/customers and preserving off-road riding areas/land access?
If we don’t use riding areas responsibly, we will lose them. And, if we lose them, we won’t have anyone buying bikes, riding gear or accessories. New riders need to know the off-road riding rules and etiquette that we riders take for granted. They need to know excessive sound and dust hurts us and that we should not trespass and should always “Tread Lightly.”