A Day in the Life of a Motorcycle Service and Customization Shop: Helping Customers Keep the Rubber Side Down

Talking bikes all day.

9 a.m.
My day starts out with the morning coffee usually made by the time I get there. I turn the lights and computers on, unlock the cash drawers and do the morning register count. Everything checks out OK — now it’s time to get some real work done.

9:20 a.m.
Today, like every other day, I have a stack of notes and tasks from the day before that I did not get a chance to finish. I take care of the easy stuff first and place a couple of special orders for some customers who called at just about closing time yesterday. In the middle of going through yesterday's list, a customer who recently purchased a 2006 Street Glide walks in and wants a custom exhaust. We stock all the parts he needs and get the quote on the parts together, find out how much service will be, and when he could have it done. He's happy with the whole package. The parts are set aside, the appointment is made and business for the day has officially begun.

10 a.m.
One of the mechanics is working on an ’84 Softail that has been here for a couple days because a lot of the parts for the bike are not in stock. While he is working on rebuilding the transmission, he realizes he needs to replace one of the main spacers. Now we have a problem, as not only do we not have the part, but Harley-Davidson doesn't make the part anymore. After about five phone calls, I track one down in New York and will have it at the shop tomorrow. This works out fine because the rest of the parts will be in around the same time.

10:40 a.m.
The special orders for today have come in, so it’s time to start getting them out to the bikes in service and contacting the people who are picking up. After leaving a message for a regular customer whose accelerator cable is in, a man comes in and is interested in doing some performance work to his 2004 Fat Boy. After getting an idea of what he wanted and what his budget was, I knew we were going to be consulting for awhile. I tell the customer about the stages of engine setups and different combinations of parts that we had used on previous work orders for his bike. Some of these setups can run up to $5,000 or more, and that's just for the engine.

He’s a bit stunned when I give him the initial estimate, but after some convincing and a bit of movement on price, we set an appointment for the beginning of next week. It will take my best mechanic almost four full days to do the job.

Today's lunch break consists of eating a sandwich and working up a quote for new body parts and a custom paint job. I've been working on this quote for a couple of days trying to get every detail worked out. Jobs like this are time-consuming with research, which is why I've been doing it on my lunch break.

Lunch comes and goes and it’s back to it. I make my way back up the stairs and am stopped by one of the techs who’s working on a custom-built bike whose owner wants to add some necessities (like a backrest for his passenger). This is usually an easy job, but because the bike isn’t a Harley and many of the parts aren't specifically made for a custom, finding the right stuff isn't as easy as going to a book and getting numbers. I look over the bike and take some measurements and start looking for the hardware to get this job done. Customers are at the counter and the phones are ringing, so the custom is put on hold temporarily as I help with a challenging customer. The man is rebuilding his 1975 Shovelhead and needs all-new gaskets and seals. As with most old machines, anytime it is disassembled for rebuild, bolts are broken, nuts are stripped and certain items just can’t be reused. And once again, most of the original parts are obsolete, so finding the right stuff requires some research. After spending nearly an hour with the customer at the counter, I’ve found almost everything he needs but still have a few parts to find. I give the customer enough to get him started with his project and inform him I will find the other parts and call him when they come in.

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