Friday, May 29, 2015

29 May - Winter approaching - Reflections on motorcycle maintenance

I don't know about other riders out there but I often find myself thinking about my motor mechanic as I round a steep bend or overtake other traffic at high speed. Under those conditions the bike (and of course the rider) are tested severely and it is then I sometimes have the fleeting hope that my motorcycle mechanic is one of those fussy types obsessive about the smallest details.

I don't give my car mechanics the same degree of attention. Sure, they can make mistakes which can be costly and inconvenient, but the care and attention given to my motorcycle could have a much more direct affect on my well being.

I'm thinking about these issues today because I took a ride of some 130km to the Honda dealer in Bairnsdale to have the 24,000 km service carried out on my Honda Shadow VT750. The remarkable thing about that is that I rode on a cold wintry morning right past the local Honda dealer (5 minutes from my house) to travel the extra 130km to a dealer and service department in which I have confidence - a commodity I lack in the local outlet.

When we hand over our car or motorcycle to the tender mercies of the respective service departments we really have no idea what happens in the workshop. We lack the opportunity and probably the expertise to critically evaluate the skill and dedication lavished on our prized possessions and so we develop our trust and confidence on the basis of the attention paid to the smaller details.

Some weeks ago I had the Honda booked in for tyres and an 18,000 km service at the local Honda dealer. My first surprise was that this store carried no tyres for my bike and seemed unwilling to recommend any brand based on what other customers were using. After leafing through numerous catalogs we finally found some tyres at an acceptable price and placed an order. In order to give them plenty of time to procure the tyres I booked the bike in some two weeks later. On the day I arrived I knew immediately that all was not well, and sure enough after a panicky search for the tyres I was informed they had not arrived. On that basis I cancelled the service and the tyre change and considered my options. I'm unlikely to make any further purchases from this dealer, not because I doubt their expertise and experience, but because the way they conduct their business demonstrates a lack of attention to detail and care which if endemic could have dire consequences for my motorcycle and for me. Why would an attentive, service oriented dealer not be aware the tyres had not arrived and to avoid customer inconvenience, rescheduled the service?

On that occasion I contacted the more distant Honda dealer in Bairnsdale and the difference in treatment I received was so startling that it suddenly crystallised in my mind the contrast between the two companies. The people at Doyle and Shield in Bairnsdale acted with enthusiasm and attention to customer needs, the local dealer didn't appear to care about me and my convenience at all.

I quickly established that Doyle and Shields could supply any of three different brands of tyres, from stock and immediately. They were also able to recommend a brand on the basis of the experience of other customers and at a price which was about $25 cheaper per tyre.  I booked the bike in at the next earliest opportunity and despite the distance was happy travel the extra distance to have the bike attended to. All went to plan and my good opinion of the service department improved even further when the service guy came out to make comment on the work carried out and to remind me to take it easy for a while as new tyres can be a bit slippery. Once again, I had no idea of the quality of the actual work performed but the communication and attention to detail gave me confidence in this service department.

Since then, with the trip to Queensland, another 6,000 km has passed and today it was time to ride back to Bairnsdale for the 24,000 km service. Once again I was very happy with my experience and as I spent an hour or so waiting in the showroom I was able to observe the interaction between the staff and customers at this dealership. Many mediocre businesses could learn a lesson or two here.

You may wonder why I don't carry out my own maintenance as many other bike owners do. The Honda is a low tech bike and not difficult to understand and no specialist equipment is needed other than a lifter for the bike. Without the ability to lift the bike everything is extremely inconvenient to get to and at the end of the day I derive my pleasure from riding the dam thing and not from tinkering with it.

I would be interested to hear other thoughts on the issue of motorcycle maintenance.

You can check out the Doyle and Shields web site here:


  1. Hi Theo
    I found your blog interesting as I do a lot of my own maintenance, but sometimes get a dealer to do it if i'm to busy.
    I used to live in a small town(pop 7500) that had a honda dealer but I used to ride the 240km round trip to get my bike service. Why?
    Because the local dealer only ever did 4 wheelers and ag/dirt bikes. They wouldn't know the first thing about a modern CBR600 so it was worth my time to take it to someone who had the knowledge and care and attention these bikes require.

    You are spot on mate.

  2. I generally prefer to do my own maintenance partly for the exact reasons you mention. Back in the '70s, I was a mechanic at a car dealer and with few exceptions, I wouldn't trust any sort of repair to most. The goal seemed to be to beat the flat rate book at any cost. I like simple bikes.

    With the motorcycles I currently own, it's simple to do my own maintenance and repairs as in one case the nearest dealer is 370 miles away and in the other the dealer doesn't want to work on the old bikes.

  3. "I derive my pleasure from riding the dam thing and not from tinkering with it." I couldn't have said it better myself, Theo.

    Just yesterday I investigated an independent mechanic for my dual-sport... I am encouraged by what I heard, read, and saw. I'll now be able to move away from using the dealership.


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