I worked in the motorcycle industry for just over two years. Being fluent in French meant that I visited not only dealerships in Ontario, but that I would be part of a road trip across Quebec to visit a dozen dealerships in La Belle Province. I’ve seen small dealerships in towns you’ve never heard of outsell larger dealerships in bigger cities. I’ve seen success in unlikely places. I’ve seen determination and the rewards it can yield. I’ve also seen families struggle, businesses sever ties with one another indefinitely, and businesses going under.
Every motorcycle business, good or bad, has something a little special. In the case of one ill-fated motorcycle shop, Envy Rides Ink in Toronto, their magic was their attitude and their complete disregard for conventional business norms.
If you wanted your name etched in the history of the motorcycle-internet, you only had to email Envy Rides an angry complaint and wait for them to address it. Envy’s version of addressing customer complaints and accusations was by posting these emails on their website, followed by an answer that often involved making fun of the customer.
Textbook customer service? Not exactly, but that was the beauty of it. Envy was out to sell a different kind of motorcycle dealership experience. This wasn’t the motorcycle dealership that would offer to whip you up an espresso while you waited for your service. This was the motorcycle shop where the customer was only right if he or she actually happened to be right. As a local motorcyclist, I rarely visited Envy, but I routinely visited the website to read the latest complaints and Envy’s very public retorts.
Envy Rides Ink gave Toronto motorcyclists something different. Whether you loved them or hated them you knew this. Personally, I found their approach refreshing. Bikini bike washes, motorcycle stunt shows, wheelie machines. In hindsight, Envy contributed to motorcycling in the city.
A more successful example of something special in a motorcycle dealership in Toronto would be Studio Cycle Group. Studio’s mechanic Steve has been working on motorcycles for 30 years. Steve has slowly gathered not only a lifetime worth of knowledge and experience, but a few real treasures in the way of literature as well.
Books might not sound like much, but Steve’s collection of manufacturer specification books date back to the 1970s or 1980s. These rare hardcover OEM books give tremendous insight into the vehicles of yesteryears. They make motorcycles that have been out of production for 25 years as much a part of common knowledge today as they were decades ago. Studio Cycle is at a definite advantage over other shops working on old motorcycles in Toronto.
Today we’re halfway more than halfway through the year 2013. Two-stroke engines have been all been banished from on road motorcycling across the continent. Carburettors are facing obsolescence much like the drum brake. ABS is slowly becoming standard. Stock exhaust pipes with O2 sensors popping out are dampening performance on new motorcycles everywhere you look.
I always wondered what the present day equivalent of Steve’s books would be. The world has gone digital, that’s a given. The closest I’ve come across is Cyclepedia, a website that offers their own service manuals, with full color images and even video available online.
Here’s a sample YouTube video of what you can expect:
There’s a couple things to love about this:
You get specifications as in depth as primary and secondary coil resistance, information such as stock carburettor model and jet sizes, float level adjustments, compression pressure, fork oil weight and capacity, tire specs, and other bits of information you would never know if you didn’t have both an owner’s manual as well as a service manual. This is a big benefit to both the mechanic, the shop, and the customer. A lot of time and cost can be incurred by both the business and the customer when there are uncertainties: time can be wasted researching, on trial and error, on best-guesses based on limited knowledge of the vehicle, etc.
Obviously the fact you’re dealing with video is a huge asset. It allows you to really see how the work is done, hands on. Dialogue, though I’m not sure if it’s included in every video or not, is extra handy for following along.
I’m working on the assumption that Cyclepedia probably includes flash code / trouble code identification charts. As mentioned, everything’s going digital. Your motorcycle is becoming less and less machine and more and more robotic. Being able to quickly decode what the error is will let you get to work on fixing your motorcycle right away. For the motorcycle dealership that receives a bike for service from a manufacturer that they don’t stock, this can save a lot of time surfing internet forums for answers. For the average customer, this means not having to pay your shop $90/hour for their mechanic to surf the internet looking for information about your motorcycle.
Here’s what the service manuals look like inside:
This sounds excessively useful to the average motorcyclist as well and Cyclepedia comes at a few different price points: The home consumer can purchase a service manual by vehicle for either a one year subscription to a single model for $26.95 or a lifetime subscription to a single model for $42.95.
Dealerships can purchase a Pro subscription for $199.95 for the first year and all renewals come at 50% discount for the subsequent years. The Pro subscription includes the Cyclepedia Online Repair Manual Library (full list of vehicles here), the specifications database (with thousands of powersport vehicles), and the tech-line for support with a service technician. For a motorcycle dealership or motorcycle repair shop that can easily lose $200 searching for specs or info on a single motorcycle, having a database of specifications and service information on hand for a broad model selection means Cyclepedia could easily pay for itself.
But there’s a catch!
Selection is rather limited. I must have exotic tastes because Cyclepedia doesn’t have a service manual for either of my motorcycles or my scooter. I love their initiative and would love to support these guys but at present I cannot.
Even with a limited selection of service manuals, there is still a huge collection of data available for a broad range of models. I’ve looked at software such as Autodata’s Motorcycle Technical Data & Labour Guide and they have nothing on Cyclepedia. Don’t waste your money on Autodata, Jay Verrett, or with any business or individual that asks to pay you to write a positive-only review of their product.
What was I talking about? Oh yeah…
Look at how far motorcycling and motorcycle service info has come in 25 or 35 years… I can’t help but wonder if in another 25 more years we’ll still see startups going against the grain, blasting the customers who blast them, hosting stunt shows and bikini bike washes and wheelie machines. How different will all of those be in the future? What will the next generation’s Steve be like? Will he really have a tool case of high tech data? How much of this new computer technology in our motorcycles are really benefiting us? When’s the last time you’ve been grateful for a side stand kill switch? Am I old fashion or is it all getting to be a little much?