Those thin-pocketed young riders are your future customers

Publish Date: 
Aug 22, 2013
By Dave Koshollek

I ATTENDED MY first Born Free motorcycle event in June, and was overwhelmed and overjoyed to see thousands of 20-something guys and gals enjoying the sport of motorcycling — much like I did 40 years ago when it all began for me.

Honestly, I haven’t seen so many skinny-tired choppers in one place since Daytona `76. Add to that a good mix of trendy cafe bikes and the fact that there was a healthy spread of all brands, and I have to say it has given me renewed hope for the growth of our motorcycling culture, which desperately needs a youthful injection of riders.

Admittedly, a pretty good percentage of the bikes I saw were cobbled together. I did see more than a few with critical components like front brakes removed and compilations of parts that were never made for each other. I know there were some dangerous two-wheeled contraptions there, but I bet the owners love their bikes and are as proud of them as I was of the `56 Panhead I chopped way back when (which, upon reflection, was a sorry piece of work). I lived through my experience and so will most of the young guys I saw at Born Free that day.

Are we nurturing new riders, or are we nagging them to death because we don't personally like what they ride now?

Another cool aspect of the Born Free event was the friendliness of everybody I encountered. Unlike days not long ago when bike shows seemed to be made up of mostly self-centered profiteers seeking to make a financial killing with $40,000-plus customs, Born Free cultivates the sport with a lot of homegrown creations that are not too expensive to build and are just plain fun to ride. I mean, who would have thought so many old metric twins would be resurrected to live again? Cool, baby!

That leads me to our role in parts and service to attract younger riders and nurture their interests until the day comes that they too will buy a modern motorcycle. Are we nurturing new riders, or nagging them to death because we don’t personally like what they ride now?

And that, my friends, reminds me of my very first trip to a Harley dealer.  

It was 1967 and I was 15 — the proud owner of a `47 Servi-Car, Harley-Davidson’s first official trike. I was doing a little motor work and needed some top end gaskets, so I rode the bus to the downtown dealership. I was excited to buy parts for my newly acquired pride and joy, just like the grown-ups do.

When I entered the showroom, the parts guy was at the opposite end of a long counter talking socially with someone he obviously knew. No problem; it gave me time to check out the new Sportsters and grab a brochure. Someday I hoped to have enough dough to buy that XLCH in HiFi Blue.

But after 15 minutes my youthful exuberance wore off and my painfully short patience got the best of me. So I crab-walked over to the parts guy, interrupted his conversation and said, “All I need is some gaskets. Can you get those for me so I don’t miss my bus?” Well, the parts guy fired back, in an especially aggravated tone, “Look, punk, if you want to do business with us you better learn some manners. I’ll get to you when I’m done. Got it?”

What could I do? I needed gaskets and this was the only place in town. I waited, got my parts, and missed my bus.

A few weeks later, I’m complaining about my dealership experience to another rider and he tells me, “Yeah, that dealership sucks. That’s why I go to West Side Choppers. They carry Harley parts and will trade parts and labor for your old parts.”

Sounded good to me. So I went there the next week and met the owner, Ralphy, who took a liking to me. He recommended good used parts instead of new to save me a little scratch. He took my old stock parts in trade for the custom parts I wanted. He had his mechanic give me advice when I wanted to perform some of the work myself and even told the one person who was trying to intimidate me to back off, that his shop was neutral ground with no B.S. club business allowed. (Continued)