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  1. #1

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    Default Indy shops dissapearing I wonder why...............

    This will be a somewhat controversial topic for some, but here it goes:

    Independant shops. Myself, I beleive most are running away thier own business: Why? Overall attitudes.

    Now understand, I have been riding HDs since my first, bought at auction from my city back in 1978. Pans, shovels, evos, a flatty, and most work I did myself, but parts I always got from my local indy guy, and sometimes labor as well

    But its seems most of the local indy shops I have been to over the last two - three years fall into one or all of the below:

    1. "I am doing you a favor by just being here". Many seem to look down on walk ins, and frankly, treat folks like they are clueless, ESPECIALLY if you bring in a shovel or pan. Like they are the gods of MC repair, and they are the only people that can save your older ride

    2. I am old school, and you are not. Kneel to me

    3. Cant take time to get you parts.

    Three examples below: And frankly if you are local to me, you will know who I am taking about

    Woodland Park Co: My 60 FL was giving me serious sump type fits and would not fire: Left it at the local shop. I would call once a week, half of the time he wasnt even there. So I would drop by after work, yep, hes not there 90% of the time I drop by. SEVEN months later, still not done. He also left my scoot out in the weather: rust now on most chrome parts, mud daubbers in the cylinder fins, and still not done. Great talker, like a car saleman, not much on getting it done. So I said FI, I paid for his time, bike still would not start. I got super screwed on that one

    Divide Co: Needed tires: The one guy there took his time to greet me, but I waited. Finally took my order. When I didnt get a call after 3 weeks, I went by. He never even ordered them. And yes, I paid when I ordered. Yes, I asked for and got my $$$ back. But the shop is great for parking HDs outside like he is getting it done

    Colorado Springs: This guy was so up front "Tough Guy" and "why are you here attitude", I just walked out

    Understand, I go into shops freindly and as a customer. I am HUGE on wanting to support locak SB's: But thats what not what you get in return at least here in this area......

    I find three indy shops in basically a 60 mile radius having s---t sandwiches for customer service a fairly large % in a narrow space

    Yeah, I get it, its personality driven: But when SBs are supposedly hurting, dont blame the public when you run out of funds and have to shut down because you treat the public like we aint worth the time.

    There are allot of folks out there that have thier first scoots, or are building them: And these seem to be the folks that might suffer the most from "I am superior" attitudes: And some of you wont like this either: Look at some of the responses some folks post here on this very forum.

    Flame throwers, the firing range is now live......................

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    I have been an independent shop for 33 years. Those shops are disappearing mainly because the baby boomers who started most of them have aged out and/or passed away. There are some of the younger generations that are picking up the torch, but it is an uphill battle. The internet and the national parts retailers are killing the walk-in parts trade, and that causes your overall operating margin to narrow. And in many parts of the country, commercial real estate is expensive beyond belief. Those two things alone have killed many an independent shop.

    I'm pushing 70, hard, and it is inevitable that my shop will be gone one day, sooner rather than later.

    I do applaud your intent to support your local businesses, because without that support, they will be gone too.

    I got no answers. It's just a different world now, and leaves a lot to be desired, in my opinion.

    Jim

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    The old stovepiped pre-internet parts model protected all indy shops very much including those that sucked by owner choice. I hated it because getting information was difficult, magazines could never be trusted because they relied on advertising, and minimum order requirements (along with lazy owners) inexcusably delayed orders.
    The automobile world didn't put up with that shit but motorcycles were niche enough to have very little competition until the era of reliable motorcycles in the 1970s. Motorcycle shops got away with shit that would destroy machine shops, welders and fabricators.

    How many Culters became mechanics (any variety) because we got tired of indys who were dicks? My mentor became a wrench in the 1950s and later opened his shop because there was no one else nearly as good in his area. He survived the internet because he could work on anything (I learnt the horrors of elderly Gold Wings rewired by moron owners there as no one else would touch them).

    Old motorbikes are now really part of the antique vehicle world. I've seen the guys big into brass era T Model Fords in the 1970s fade into history, then the A Model owners (lots of overlap but ya get the idea). As men who dreamt of a particular family of vehicles in our youths die off we're replaced by others who rode different machines. The Golden Age of motorcycling was great fun and we're lucky to have been there.

    Since my mentor died there are no local indys worth my support. It's so advantageous becoming your own wrench I'd do it if I were wealthy for fun. I'm self-sufficient except for highly specialized work (like the Pan at Dragstews) but shops that high end were never common. Fortunately shipping is reasonable so the work can easily centralize and support high quality shops.

    Running a business is a giant pain in the balls so it's not for everyone. Running a bike shop guarantees ya won't have much spare time and fun as bikes are to wrench other projects (like Binder rehab) are a great way to soothe the mind.

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    There’s always been beacons of excellence within the independent community and others that are about as useful as a colostomy bag with a tear in it.

    Bikes are a niche hobby and vintage ones even more so, which is why it’s not often you run into a long term participant of the hobby without a strong mechanical inclination or very deep pockets. With that being said you’d think the specialty shops that focus on vintage bikes would be eager to take any work that happens to roll in.

    Unfortunately I have to agree with you Docmel, more shit than good these days. I know about half a dozen small independent motorcycle shops in my area, and only 3 of them will deal with vintage bikes. One is owned by a very talented and long standing restoration specialist who has that god of bikes complex, but fuck he can be that way, his old man paid off the building decades ago(before being killed by an Outlaw MC member back in 93’ during a burglary https://chicago.suntimes.com/2022/4/...mond?_amp=true) and he’s close to retirement or the grave himself now, whichever comes first I guess. The other is also past retirement as well but his focus goes to bills and new road kings pay better. The only other shop in my area that’ll deal with old bikes is owned by one of my best friends who’s also in his late 30’s like myself. He just doesn’t get anywhere near as many of them rolling in as he does 2020 Road Kings and powder coating jobs which likely accounts for more than 75% of his business.

    Like Jim pointed out, it’s just fuckin expensive to run a business. I worked in classic car restoration which I’m gonna be honest has a much stronger pulse and presence and even then if you don’t think we were spending half our time fixing 2010 Camry timing chains or 2015 VW Jetta front ends than you’d be crazy, we’d never pay the bills doing nothing but classics. Does it suck, yeah it does, but that’s the rub sometimes and as much as I hate it, no sense in pissing against the wind.
    Last edited by ExplodingCoffinEmporium; 08-19-2022 at 7:52 PM.

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    Flame throwers, the firing range is now live......................
    You really thought you'd have the most controversial opinion... Didn't you? lol..

    Challenge accepted.

    *clears throat*

    I'll just say it: Harley riders are a bunch of fucking assholes. All my life I liked the machines. I avoided them because I didn't want to associate myself with the people that rode them. And they killed my local indy shop. They're cheap. They're ignorant. They're the single worst customer you could try to build any business model around, unless maybe you're considering a foray into the drug trade?

    I watched my indy explain that the primary gasket they wanted him to install was junk and going to leak. They insisted. He did as they asked. It leaked. They berated him over it like he kicked their dog.

    Same guy.. Same shop. He had a showroom and he would sell bikes on consignment there for a dollar a day. I repeat, for one dollar, he would park your bike in his really nice, commercial quality, showroom.. and dust it.. and keep it on a battery tender.. and care for it while it was covered by his insurance... and spend time trying to sell it to people who were interested.. while it got to sit there in climate controlled comfort.. And they would sell a bike and berate him over the price because, apparently math and Harley riders isn't something that work well together? About a year or so ago, he sold a trike for a guy like this. Really nice, black, tri-glide. 18K.. And they left it sit there for two years and bitched at him over about $600 bucks, LIKE HE WAS RIPPING THEM OFF, till he told them to just take it and he ate the loss. It's like that, and it is like that a lot. Idiot bikers would tear things up and scream at him like it is HIS FAULT. Either because they don't understand the machines they bought, or just to try and beat him out of a buck. Doesn't matter which, the end result is the same.

    When I wanted an older bike (A shovel was the oldest Harley I could afford at the time.) I never even rode a Harley in my life. Never even sat on one. Knew nothing at all about them. I called a Harley dealer, because I didn't know any better. lol! I wanted a Harley, right? They're the experts! Seemed logical. So, what do you have on the "back lot" so to speak.

    They don't sell them. This shocked me, but I was like okay. Fine.. I called this indy guy second, because we've had other dealings outside of Harleys and he has always been favorably disposed towards me and he didn't have anything in his showroom, because he didn't sell them EITHER.

    I'm like: "Well.. Why not? I don't get why nobody wants to sell these bikes? I don't understand?" And I'll never forget the answer he gave me. He said, verbatim or as close as I can remember: "You have to be careful who you sell them to. I would sell one to you in a second, because you understand how things work and you can fix things. But, if I sell one to anyone else they will just tear it up and then think I sold them a junk bike. The older bikes aren't like the newer ones. You have to work on them."

    He finally got sick of it and just started fixing lawnmowers. He has a beautiful building on what has become a prime piece of real estate. He's older. So, he's selling it and cashing out. It's not worth it anymore.

    A really cool Harley consignment shop I miss so much went out of business over Covid. (So many people got screwed over that, Businesses you wouldn't even think about were suddenly ordered to shut down indefinitely by the government. And they didn't know what to do?) The deal was very straightforward. So much so that a child could understand it. (Kinda like the consignment deal the first shop sold bikes under.) Customers were supposed to drop their parts off and the shop got a percentage if something sold. If it didn't sell, they needed to come get them and it was the customer's responsibility to do that and to keep their contact information current. SIMPLE, right? I mean, how basic is that? Anyone could do it, right? Well, anyone but a Harley rider.

    So, Covid hits and BAM! You're out of business because "15 days to bend the curve" right? Well "15 days" kept getting longer and longer and they weren't a high margin, cash flush, business anyway. They were a seriously niche market during good times. Now, everything is going sideways, so they call people to come and get their stuff. Some people do. They have a FB page, and they announced there that people need to come get their stuff and they can't contact some people because their info isn't current. They need to come get this within two weeks or whatever it was, because they're going to have to close. If you don't come get it? We're not going to be responsible for it. Very simple. Very clear.

    And, true to form, the scumbag Harley riders who are too stupid to either give them a working telephone number or actually show up to get their stuff were mad and issued threats like a bunch of angry children banging on their high chairs.

    So there's that facet of the Indy experience which I think is significant.. And, I think technology put a bunch of them underwater.

    The main one left here, and the one we bought parts from over in Harrison once aren't "Indy Shops" like the others. They do light service and bolt ons. Tire changes. Things like that. But no machine work. Nothing you really need an Indy shop for.

    The one guy is out in the country and he was a Harley tech for years. Older. Shop is in his yard. No showroom with bikes for sale or anything like that. But, he understands the tech on modern bikes and has scan equipment so he is proficient at replacing the sensors and various controls that keep new machines on the road, while they just frustrate and confused some of the older guys.


    So, (Addressed to no one in particular, and certainly not OP. Speaking generally.) if your local Indy shop is gone? Stop and ask yourself if you are an unreasonable, ignorant, cheap, clown who doesn't belong anywhere near a complicated machine in the first place. Because you might have half the answer, right there.


    /rant
    Last edited by confab; 08-20-2022 at 6:10 AM.

  6. #6
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    There are a few good shops here in the IE. One of them has the "I'm god" attitude. They're close so I only use them for parts...

    The OP relates more to indy gun shops here in California. Even some of the counter guys at chain stores have that lousy attitude...

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    Very interesting subject and very entertaining reading.
    I think todays biker culture (or lack of it) has alot to do with it as well. Go to most any motorcycle rally these days and you will see a crowd of people who have no idea how to work on their own late model bikes. They have no desire to own anything too old either for fear that they may be out of their extended warranties. I noticed at the last run, there were no Evo's to be seen, forget about anything older. When I kicked my rigid frame Shovel to life, I literally had a crowd of people at a nearby picnic table applaud me. I don't even know what to think about that... freakin weird.

  8. #8
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    it goes with any type of indy business.
    to the owner/operators.
    stay humble
    be available
    do good work.
    get paid.

    most business are maybe 1 or 2 of those.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by JONAS78028 View Post
    When I kicked my rigid frame Shovel to life, I literally had a crowd of people at a nearby picnic table applaud me. I don't even know what to think about that... freakin weird.
    That's exactly the time mine would decide to embarrass me.

  10. #10

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    Stop and ask yourself if you are an unreasonable, ignorant, cheap, clown who doesn't belong anywhere near a complicated machine in the first place. Because you might have half the answer, right there.
    [/B]
    I agree: The rider world is full of a holes. So is any other group. Nope, I never bitch or raise hell at a shop: Why bother? You will lose. And if I was the real issue, I guess my sole business kept them in business, and with me not going anymore, I guess thats why they dissapeared......................... I get your points though, sounds like you got mine. Yep, customers, and more so, the general population can be a real PIA

    Seriously though, running a biz is a huge PIA. And I always keep that in mind in any shop I go into, not just bike shops. An in addition, local boards of commerce kill the indy guy. Here in my little town, leases and rents are absolutely outrageous, and parking is extremely limited.

    I spent 22 years in JSOC, 5 years as a cop after that AND was a street and fllight paramedic for the same period plus 5 more years. Patience wasnt a virtue in all of these gigs: It was mandatory. If you didnt have it, you would most likely drink yourself to death, abuse your spouse or eat a gun and do the wrong things while on the job.

    But more so than patience, you learn to deal with assholes and shit attitudes. And if you are lucky and really good at patience, you can use it to your advantage to get the job done.

    I build bikes, guns, cars and run my farm in a self suffcient manner. I can make my own booze, smoke and black powder and some medicines. I can and hunt/fish, and prepare and store such: I can rig a horse with a saddle/harness, and a wagon with a team. Grid goes out, I am, can and will be self sufficient. But I am not a cave dweller: I assist and give advice to others on how to be the same if they express an interest.

    Thats the reason I build only bikes that I can do the 90% of the work on. Early shovels, pans, the like. I do have a 2014 Ultra Classic, and frankly, the electronics alone is out of my league. But as someone said, bikes are just toys. I dont depend on it for my life or transportation. Points, condensors and kick start only Ill always have a way to get around till I run outta gas or oil. Then I have my horses..... Then I have my feet and legs

    Yes, its hard for some to really do a honest self assesment, but youll just have to take my personal examples and word I dont give indies problems. If one cant be halfway socialble when you want my money, I just walk away

    But I will always stand my ground when it comes to not taking undue or undeserved shit: When it comes to poor service or attitudes, I just walk away and never come back

    And what makes this worse is the stress that indies must feel. As we move to a socialist govt, consider what the definition of what that really is: No small businesses....... Dont agree? Look at the bill that was just passed, 90K IRS agent makes the IRS the LARGEST LE agency in the US. And if you think only the billionaires will get audited?

    Billionaires have thier tax affairs in order. They have the best CFOs and tax prepairers in the world.. And where will the IRS get thier new 90K auditors?: From tax places where most of us probably get our taxes done: So now SB owners will have to get new and fairly unexperienced folks to get the books done. Small biz owners are gonna get killed by auditors

    The quality of the labor pool out there, or lack of want to labor, that is now out there doesnt help either

    Why am I saying this?: Not veering off discussion here: Just showing I have some sort of knowledge how hard SB owners have it. And thats why I dont run one.

    golfish: You aint kidding about the gun shops.

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    I get where you're coming from, and I'm the same way. I don't haggle. (I might ask if that's the best price, once. Or make an offer. As in ONCE.) I otherwise don't complain, or bitch people out over their prices or try to beat someone out of a dollar afterward. I don't argue with a man's price.

    I appreciate that. I think it is a sign of maturity. And if I can't afford something or don't want to pay for something I think is overpriced? I just admit it and I move on.. I'm not that guy, and it sounds like you aren't either.

    But, I think we're a minority.

    My total Harley experience is limited to a few years, but I've just seen so much terrible behavior in that time, maybe it biased me?

    Again.. Nothing personal. I didn't want to personalize my comment to you or anyone else, docmel. I just see this stuff and I feel terrible for these people that I had to say something.. And, frankly? I'm kind of angry about it because now I DON'T HAVE AN INDY EITHER..

    So, I kinda feel like the rude, unreasonable people ripped me off, too.

    Last edited by confab; 08-24-2022 at 7:26 PM.

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    PS: One of the last things this guy sold, in terms of big dollar new parts, was my S&S heads. He ordered them for me, no money down (But he knows me, so. Maybe that's why?) and then, he started scaling back and now he's gone..

    And to be honest, him leaving is a big part of the reason I bought all those tools and stuff.. Because, he's the last one who actually does any real engine work. So, I did it all myself.

    It's okay. I like these things and I enjoy learning. And I learned a lot and had a lot of fun doing it. If it blew up tomorrow? I'd still be happy I tried it. It was worth it.

    But, for a lot of people, there's nobody left. They're hosed.

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    I've been fortunate, and blessed, to have a great bunch of customers over the decades. Many repeat customers and many that have become friends. I've only had to run a couple of guys off, in three decades plus. One of the sad aspects of the business is that my customer base is aging, like I am, and many have passed away. Not a healthy demographic for any business.

    For those with no independent shop nearby, yes, in a lot of ways it is the lack of support from the customer base that kills any business. I've often said, maybe they can box their bike up and send it to J&P Cycles and maybe they can work on it. But the reality is a bit more complex. We as a society do business in different ways now, and local businesses of all kinds are dwindling rapidly now.

    I rarely take in a complete bike for repair. I switched to just motor and transmission rebuilds (bench work) a few years ago, and now I wish I had done that many years ago. I do some machine work for other shops, things like flywheel assembly rebuilds, head work, cylinder boring, etc. Many shops just don't do that type of work anymore.

    Jim

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    Switching makes great sense so your shop doesn't fill up with uncollected bikes. In the old days having space yielded many abandoned machines but they were cheap then. The machining is the fun part not having to R&I drivetrains.

    In the even older days my father-in-law used to scrap accumulated Indians when he got low on Harley space.

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    I guess I'm lucky (I know I am), I live right next door to a great indy shop. The back wall of the shop is literally about 6 feet from my bedroom wall.

    They work on all bikes, and the owner is a great guy. I had a piston stuck in a brake caliper once, couldn't get it out for the life of me. Not only did he get it out, but he wasn't even going to charge me for it (only took him maybe 15 minutes). I gave him $20, with my gratitude, and he accepted both with a smile.

    Whenever I consider moving I think about that shop, and it weighs heavily in my decision not to move. I'm willing to pay higher rent just to live next door to it. I love how I can just walk stuff over (like a wheel for a tire change), then walk home, go back 30 minutes later, and my wheel is there waiting for me with the new tire on it (for $25, including balancing).

    And I like knowing that if I ever have any real trouble, like a bike that won't start, I can just push it there. The next nearest shop that I trust (dealership) is about 6 miles away, but they have a policy about not working on bikes over 10 years old. My "youngest" bike is over 17 years old.

    I don't order parts through the guy, I use the internet, but I always pay him extra when I have something done (tire changes, fork seal replacement).

    The place is called "All Motorbikes at the Shop", and it's on El Cajon Blvd in La Mesa (San Diego). I highly recommend it. Definitely one of the good ones.
    Last edited by EVILBLACKSABRE; 08-29-2022 at 12:49 AM.

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