Monday, July 18, 2011

Alaska Ride 2011: any port in a storm

The old sailor's saying also rings true for riders. In more ways than one.

Late in the afternoon as I was approaching Edmonton AB, it became apparent the Strom's rear tire was not going to make it home. That ,along with the black clouds and lightning to the east convinced me to find a campground, and locate a dealer. A couple of calls, put me in touch with the a local Suzuki shop who was too busy to tell me if they had a tire. I knew there was a BMW dealer in Edmonton, and from riders I spoke with, I also knew it catered to travellers. I called Argyll Motorsports, where the part's manager assured me he stocked a wide variety of tires that would fit the Strom, and if I would bring it in tomorrow at 9 AM, he would fix me up.

As far as the campground went, I also found a winner in the Stony Plain Lions facility. The sign said full. However, I've learned that there is always room for a tent. The hostess graciously provided a sheltered spot in case the storm did hit, with the previous nights fury.It didn't, but her concern was appreciated. Also, nice and unexpected, was the refund of half my fee, since I shared my spot with another rider. And they say motorcyclists are not welcome!

I am beginning to rethink my long held theory that when traveling by bike, one of the Japanese Big Four, that is Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki or Suzuki, or if an American machine is preferred, Harley are the makes to take.This is due to a larger dealer network. But, the experience I had with the Suzuki dealer I think is typical; most of the bikes they sell simply aren't ridden very far, or very often, Goldwings  are an obvious exception. Consequently, it is not cost effective for them to stock parts that will sit on the shelf for a long time. BMW's on the other hand, are known as a rider's machine.And while the dealers may be spread out further, they will normally stock consumables, such as tires and brake pads. One of the reasons I chose the Strom, aside from the fact it accepts knobby tires, is those tires are of  the same size  worn by the BMW GS series, one of the most travelled bikes on the planet.

I don't blame the Suzuki dealer for not having a tire. But, I do believe that they should have promptly told me they didn't. As I've said before, the economy isn't the only reason a lot of dealers folded over the last several years. It was also a shake out of the weak ones, service wise. No one needs a motorcycle; they are pure discretionary income toys. The fact that some of us enjoy braving the heat, cold, wind and rain, and spend a lot of money for the privilege, should speak to the shops. They will sell more bikes, if it is a bit  more convenient to use them. BMW dealers get it.

Do I wish I would have bought a GS instead? It's kind of a moot point, since the bargain I got on the Strom made it possible for me to take the ride this year in the first place, and it has performed very well. But, this ride has gotten me thinking that a lighter weight machine, such as a BMW GS 800, or the new Triumph Tiger 800 might make the ideal adventure tourer. The big four offer nothing in that category. And even if they did, the dealer issue would be much the same. In times like these, business must be earned.

If I get the chance, I'll update how it goes at the shop. I budgeted some extra time for the unexpected, this is an adventure after all,  but I'm still going to have to put some miles down .

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