Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How's business, Cycle Gear?

Normally, I ride my 125cc Vino enough through the winter to keep the battery charged, but this winter we had a couple of long cold snaps that killed it. For a while, it wasn't a problem because it's a great kick-start bike. It started in 3-4 kicks even below 0 degrees a few times this winter. But now, in the heat of summer, it's become recalcitrant. So, I need a new battery.

This morning, I rode down to Cycle Gear to pick up a new battery for it. That's about 12 miles from my house. There are many closer auto parts shops that probably have that (tiny) size, but I figured what the hell, support the motorcycle industry. Before leaving, I checked the store's hours online, and read that it opened at 10.

At 10:07, when I arrived, I saw that the security grille was still locked. I hoped that only meant, the staff entered through some rear door, and that as I was the first customer of the day, they'd as yet been too busy stocking shelves and sweeping the floor to get around to opening up. But no, peering through the glass and knocking on the window confirmed that there was simply no one there. I phoned the store, and it rang and rang. There's not even a voicemail system.

Haplessly, I went to a nearby O'Reilly's but their computer system didn't come up with a definite fitment. So I rode back past Cycle Gear at 10:20 on the off chance that the store'd be open by then.

No joy. Now, I realize that I'm some kind of crazy retail guru with insanely high standards, but is it too much to hope that the store will be staffed, not three hours before opening, like a Trader Joe's store, but almost half an hour after the scheduled opening time?

The current state of the motorcycle industry's recovery from the heady 10-15 years that ended in 2008 depends on your perspective. If you're in the top 1% of the population, income-wise, or sell motorcycles into the market, things aren't what they used to be, but they seem to be improving. I was at Kansas City's BMW dealer a couple of months back, with a friend lucky enough to "need" a new 1200 GS. The salesman blandly told my friend he could take a test ride, and get on the waiting list. My friend later found one at a St. Louis dealership, at which point the KC guys magically got their hands on one, too.

But for the 99%... Well, things are still pretty slow. Kawasaki showed the way when it finally updated the Ninja 250 (then in Kawi fashion, they upgraded it to an oddball displacement, 300cc.) Honda followed suit with interesting and relatively affordable 250 and 500cc bikes. The industry's responding to our situation, albeit half-heartedly.

The retail store, though, is where the rubber meets the road. I'm picking on Cycle Gear with this post, but my experiences with dealerships have rarely been much better. I've seen new riders get terrible advice, grossly misleading posted prices, and desultory customer service.

I didn't just want a battery; I needed a battery, or my scooter'd be useless. If I'd merely wanted one, I might have given up altogether. As it was, I sat in a nearby cafe, and bought a battery online at It took five minutes; my battery'll be here in two days, and the cost of shipping was barely more than the cost of the fuel I'd burn making a return trip to the store.

How's business, Cycle Gear? Probably not so great.


  1. Let's be honest, customer service as a whole is terrible. It's not just motorcycles. There is an attitued that the costumer is only annoying and preventing people from doing whatever it is they would rather do. All dealers are that way anymore, cars, bikes, lawn equipment. There only exception is if you find an honest to goodness family owned and run business that is trained and learned generation upon generation how to do it the right way. I can't even order a coffee without feeling like I am interrupting their day.

  2. Mark,

    This post was just brought to my attention.

    I am sorry to hear of your experience at a Cycle Gear store. May I please contact you for further information?

    We care deeply about customer service and if there is an issue, we wish to remedy it. Please contact me if you wouldn't mind answering a few questions regarding your store experience.

    Christine Parsley
    Ecommerce Marketing Manager
    Cycle Gear