They say good help is hard to find. In the case of finding somebody to help you with your motorcycle, it's darn near impossible. Almost everyone who rides has a horror story of their own about the time they took their bike to a shop or dealership, only to get fleeced on the work, or worse, have it leave more broken than it was when it rolled in.
Motorcyclists are, by nature, a resourceful bunch. We're more likely to fix it ourselves than take it to someone else most of the time, but there are some repairs too complex for the home mechanic, or that require special equipment that's impractical for the individual to purchase. When you run up against one of those problems, what do you do? How do you find a motorcycle repair shop that you can trust to take care of your steed with the same painstaking care you would? You're trusting this machine to function flawlessly as you thrash it through the canyons, blast down the interstate, or even blitz around a race track, so there's a lot on the line. There can't be any mistakes.
So what do we look for when we're looking for a shop? Peruse the list below, and chime in on the comments with what sets your favorite bike shop apart from the rest.
This may seem obvious, but ask around. The next time you're hanging out at your local cruise-in spot or track day, find out who your compadres are seeing for work. It may be a place that you've heard of, but it might just be a tiny shop that's the best kept secret in town. A lot of smaller bike shops won't have the budget for advertising campaigns, so they survive entirely on their reputation with the local riding community. And because they depend on that reputation, often you can count on them to deliver superior work.
Did somebody answer the phone when you called? Did they return your message or email? A shop that won't communicate with you in a clear and timely manner is one that isn't accountable. Nothing makes you feel more queasy than turning over the keys to your beloved, and then not hearing back for a week. And if they do respond, make sure they're being very clear on what work is being done, what it's going to cost, and what the outcome will be.
READ MORE: How To Fix 5 Common Bike Issues
Clean & Neat
Does the back of the shop, where the work is being done, look like an operating room, everything clean and in its place? Or is it more like the underside of your couch, all dusty and strewn with dog toys and debris? Ask anybody who's gotten their bike back from the shop with different parts on it than when it went in how important an organized shop is. If you walk in and feel like you've entered a dystopian sci-fi movie, turn around and walk back out. The same thing applies if they won't let you see the shop area.
Ever feel like you're bothering somebody when trying to give them your business? If you can't get somebody to engage with you when you're trying to tell them what's wrong with your ride, you can't very well expect them to do so for the rest of the process, either. If you're being rushed, pressured or ignored, chances are this is not the shop for you. Even if - perhaps ESPECIALLY if - you're a brand new rider, they should take the time to explain to your satisfaction what the issue is, and what will be done to correct it.
This isn't always a necessity, but when it is, it's crucial. Having a fresh set of tires mounted should be a quick non-event. But some issues, like a finicky set of carburetors or an electrical gremlin, may take a few visits to sort out. The best shops are the ones who will stick with you through those headaches, get you back in ahead of the line for repeat issues, and continue to work with you until the problem is resolved. The bad shops will half-fix it to their liking (not yours) and kick you out, saying there's nothing more they can do.
Finding a good bike shop can end up being a trial-and-error process. But with the ideals above in mind, finding your next shop will be a little less trying and tiresome. Have a shop that you're head over heels in love with? Share it with us below and tell your friends. You may just save somebody a huge headache later.
Lead photo courtesy of Deus Ex Machina LA/Deus Customs.