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

Feb. 1, 2007
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.

2 p.m.
After answering a few more phone calls and setting parts aside, it’s back to the parts for the custom bike. After going through a couple of catalogs, I find something close to what I need. I run the part number and just so happen to have it in stock. The parts are almost perfect, but still require modifying. A quick trip to the machine shop and I make a few new holes in the sideplates. Next we have to get them put on the fender so we can fit them for a sissy bar. While the tech is installing the plates I go back to the parts department to try to find a bar to fit the custom fender and support plates. More customers are at the counter, but mostly for small and easy jobs like oil changes and accessory dress-ups.

3:45 p.m.
After wrapping things up with the last customer at the counter, I answer the call from a stranded customer whose battery went dead a few miles away — the problem is we just sold him a new battery a week ago. I offer to have the bike picked up and brought to the shop free of charge, but had a feeling that he may have a problem with his charging system. I inform him that I will put a new battery in when it gets back here, but would like the bike to be checked out. But since its late in the day, I can’t get the bike looked at until tomorrow. I send out one of the porters to pick-up the customer and the bike, and then I get back to finding the sissy bar.

I find one that will work if we add spacers to the sideplates. The hard part is done, now I just have to find a backrest that will look good with this custom. As soon as I finish that, the stranded customer arrives with his bike.

I put the new battery in and explain to the customer that I will put the "faulty" battery on the charger overnight so I can bench test it and give him a call tomorrow with the results. He is happy that his bike starts and will get him back on the road tonight.

5:30 p.m.
Time to start getting ready for tomorrow by making more notes and reminders about tasks I could not get to. The Shovelhead parts will have to be located and ordered first thing in the morning. The parts for the Softail should be here tomorrow morning, so hopefully we can finish that up and get the bike back to the owner on time.

6:55 p.m.
It’s closing time and we go through our nightly routine of cleanup, counting the cash registers, totaling up sales and making sure all the paperwork and money is in order. The radio is turned off, doors are locked and the lights are shut off, and we will be back tomorrow to tackle more projects and do it all over again.

Kris Grate, Parts and Customization Specialist, Uke's Harley-Davidson, Kenosha, Wis.

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