by Shawn Downey
In December of 2000, I purchased a Moto Guzzi LeMans from a soon-to-be convict in Houston, Texas. The motorcycle was shipped directly to a local shop where it sat for the last six months dutifully racking up debits on my credit card…lots of debits…enough debits to earn a free airplane ticket to Kuala Lampur.
“So how does she run?” my friends would ask after surveying the sinister black Guzzi propped up on a pile of wood. “Idles nice,” I reply.
“You mean you never rode it?” they ask astonishingly.
“Nope,” I reply casually. “You see, after I got the bike back from the shop, I decided to put new tires on the existing rims versus new tires on new rims. The shop wanted the wheels removed, so I pulled the wheels and they are back in the shop awaiting new tires.”
“What about all this other crap?” they ask referring to my dormant 1967 Triumph Bonneville (you would think Monoblock carbs would last longer than 35 years), my 1967 Norton Atlas (if you have checked this column during the last year, you are probably sick and tired of hearing about it – you and my wife, coworkers, neighbors, and door-to-door Jehovah Witnesses), and my Suzuki Water Buffalo (god only knows when the hell that thing is going to run).
“Why the hell don’t you get rid of all this time wasting crap and buy a new motorcycle so we can go for a ride?” This question has been posed to me more times than Bill Gates has paid bribes, and I always answer the question with the exact same response, “I would if I could, but nobody will take my money.”
Every spring I pour over the new bike tests in those ubiquitous magazines/butt wipe papers and every spring I froth at the mouth while mumbling modern conveniences such as “Electric Start. Directional Lights. Low Fuel Warning Lights. Halogen Lights.” And the one that makes be double over in anxiety, “Manufacturer’s Warranty.” Oooohhhh. That just sounds too good to be true – it could be an oxymoron.
After weeks of indecision, throwing darts at the wall, and driving my wife nearer to insanity, I grab the big black Sharpe pen and begin circling my preferred choice in all the magazines….over and over and over again. Then I get an Exacto knife and remove the glossy photos along with several layers of skin. Carefully placing the 400 photos in my wallet, I pull them out at the speed of light and show them to anyone coming within a 25 foot radius of my being…the guy at the Subway, the ever elusive mailman who is convinced I should be a ward of the state, the janitor, and even that guy who sleeps in Loring Park.
Convinced that I need and deserve a new motorcycle, I perform the obligatory sigh and reach for the Yellow Pages. Long, long, long ago, I realized it is a complete waste of time to contact prospective dealers by telephone for they hate the intrusion. Ring, ring, ring, “Hello?”
“Hello, I am looking for a 2001 Sex-On-Wheels in Risque Red. Do you have one in stock?”
“Hold please.” Click. Soon after I would inevitably hear, “If you would like to make a call, please hang up and try again.” I did this for a year before realizing dealers hate the telephone.
Now cognizant of this fact, I reach for the Yellow Pages, find my manufacturer of choice, and tear out the page listing all of the dealers for a prospective brand. Using this listing as an itinerary, I go from dealer to dealer attempting to purchase a brand new motorcycle.
Dealer Number One:
As soon as I stepped foot into the front door, I had two Sales Reps following me around like monkeys on dope. “Hi, hi, what-cha need?” they both echoed like monkeys on dope. “Well, I am looking for a 2001 Sex-On-Wheels in Risque Red. Do you have one on the floor?”
“Noooooo,” they spoke in unison and at the speed of light. “But we have one in the warehouse. Give me your credit card, we need a deposit.”
“Can I see the bike first?”
“No. Give us the credit card! Give us the damn credit card. Right now!”
I was beginning to fear for my sanity. “You expect me to buy a motorcycle sight unseen? What is this? eBay?”
“Lots of people do it. People do it every day. Don’t you like us?”
“No. Actually I don’t like you. You’re scaring the hell out of me and I am going to punch you in the throat if you ask me for my credit card one more time. Can you point me towards the motor oil?”
“The what? Motor oil? What the hell is that?”
Dealer Number Two:
Opening the door to the newly painted showroom, I was met with a waft of new motorcycles and sub-zero air conditioning. “Now this is more like it,” I am thinking to myself. “Hey, look at this bike. I wonder what the retail price is… hey, I never thought about one of those. I wonder how much horsepower it has… geez look at that one over there.”
Moments later, this guy ambles on over to my direction and says, almost mockingly, “Can I help you?”
“Sure. How much you gotta have for this one?”
He suddenly freezes like his battery died or Medusa turned him into stone. “Are you okay?” I ask while poking him in the arm. Nothing. Not a twitch, not a blink. I put a mirror under his nose and checked for condensation. Nothing. Convinced he was dead, I moved on to the next Sales Representative.
“How much is this bike?”
“If you want it in Red, $10,900. If you want it in Blue, $11,900. And if you want it in Yellow, $12,900.”
“You’re friggin’ kidding me, right?”
“I said, you’re frigging kidding me, right?”
“Excuse me, I have to disappear.”
Dealer Number Three:
Via messenger, I was actually able to communicate with the dealer and had the purchase agreement drawn up before my visit. I was to take the bike for a ten minute test ride, sign the papers, and ride it home. Elated by the thought of actually purchasing a new motorcycle, I floated through the front door of a relatively obscure shop located ten miles south of the Canadian border.
“Hi!” I beamed to the guy behind the Parts counter as he was the only visible human being. “My name is Shawn Downey and I am here to test ride and buy a brand new 2001 Sex-On-Wheels in Risque Red.”
“Oh,” he says. Realizing that this guy is using his one remaining brain cell to twiddle his pencil, I move on.
“Can you tell me where Mr. Sales Guy is?”
“He’s here somewhere.”
“But you’re not going to tell me where, are you?” I canted. He replied by flashing me a toothless grin. Not quite sure what to do, I went to the bathroom and checked for Mr. Sales Guy. Seriously, I really went to the bathroom, opened the door, turned on the light and screamed, “Hey Mr. Sales Guy, are you in here?” No one replied, so I checked the service bay. There I found some pissed off dude with the name Randy sewn on his shirt so I said, “Hey Randy. Have you seen Mr. Sales Guy?” He flashed his one good eye at me and said, “You dumbass. My name’s not Randy. And who the hell let you in here?” This made me laugh because he was standing directly under a sign that read “Friendly Customer Service Is Our Priority.”
Resigned to wait for Mr. Sales Guy, I perched myself atop a VFR and watched the parts guy eat his fingernails for 45 minutes. At 8:00 sharp, a bell sounded, the parts guy cupped his hand to his mouth and shouted, “We’re closed!” The flame on the candles was doused and I was escorted out of the dark showroom by…well, actually, by nobody. I probably could have slept there.
So here I am with a pile of incapacitated bikes and an even bigger pile of high interest loan approvals, looking for a brand new 2001 Sex-On-Wheels in Risque Red. Got any suggestions? Better yet, please send letters detailing your experiences in purchasing a new or used motorcycle to Triple@visi.com and let’s compare. While you are at it, feel free to jot down any experiences, good or bad, relating to your service department and we’ll print the best and worst right here in this column next month. Ciao.