Think about how many car dealerships are in your area. Most major cities have what’s known as an “Auto Mile” or “Dealership Row,” where multiple automotive dealerships compete for business within a short stretch of one another. You can test drive a Chevrolet within minutes of leaving the Kia dealership across the street, then spend your afternoon browsing the Honda lineup before capping off the day with a quick walkthrough at the neighboring Ford dealer. It’s incredibly convenient because all of your options are readily available, and you know a team of expert technicians can handle your maintenance, repair, and service needs. You have a built-in support system when you need it.
As car owners, we often take this convenience for granted, but motorcycle riders don’t have this luxury. What do I mean? There aren’t half a dozen motorcycle dealerships in every major city across the country. Some states are devoid of certain brands, making it impossible to find the latest from revered manufacturers like Ducati, BMW, Moto Guzzi, and numerous others, depending on where you live. Why is this such a big deal?
My husband is an avid motorcycle rider who introduced me to the joys of riding a few years ago. He’s a long-time BMW fan and has ridden a GS for nearly two decades. My used Honda sitting in the garage is the perfect beginner’s bike, but it’s advantageous for another unique reason: dealership accessibility. While I have a Honda dealer just minutes away, the nearest BMW dealer is hours away in another state.
Dealership accessibility is one of the most overlooked aspects of buying a motorcycle because, let’s face it, it’s easy to get tunnel vision. You find the bike of your dreams, and all you can think about is getting in the saddle and making it your own. Little else matters until you need a reputable dealership that can handle recalls and more complex repairs. Then what do you do?
A Matter of Convenience
Like automotive dealerships, motorcycle dealers operate as showrooms where customers can look at various models, explore their options, and navigate the purchase process. Most dealerships also offer riding gear, parts, accessories, and services that answer every riding need imaginable, and offer convenience to riders looking for a one-stop shop. Having a reputable motorcycle dealership close to home and an expansive network of dealerships available to you nationwide is invaluable.
For example, the BMW GS sitting in my garage runs like a dream, but it has a recall that needs to be addressed. Years ago that wouldn’t be a problem, because the local BMW dealer could get the bike in and out of the service center within a few hours. Today, that dealership has since closed its doors, leaving BMW riders in a pinch. The next closest dealership with certified technicians is a three-hour ride away, but that dealership’s reputation is sub-par. The next closest option is a six-hour trek beyond state lines, and forces a risky game of chance by hoping the dealer can remedy the issue on a Saturday without any hiccups.
If your Ford F-150 needs servicing, you know you can rely on the local Ford dealer to handle the repairs. If you’re traveling, you can stop at one of the nearly 3,000 Ford dealerships across the country and know you’re guaranteed the same high-quality components and services that you expect from the Ford brand. On a motorcycle, this network is just as important, which is why dealer accessibility and the nationwide dealer network deserve more consideration before you invest in a bike.
The numbers paint a better picture, with Honda Powersports and Harley-Davidson boasting two of the largest dealership networks in the industry. There are just under 1,000 Honda motorcycle dealerships in America and over 670 Harley-Davidson dealerships. In comparison, BMW has around 150 dealerships, with Aprilia and Moto Guzzi at approximately 80 dealerships each. Those Aprilia and Moto Guzzi dealerships are concentrated near major metropolitan areas, leaving vast expanses without coverage throughout most of the United States. What happens if you need unexpected assistance on your cross-country trip?
A Network of Support
Motorcycle dealerships also serve as a central network for riders, acting as the proverbial kitchen island that everyone gathers around, swapping stories and making plans over coffee and drinks, as food simmers on the stove and aromas waft from the oven. The Harley-Davidson Owner’s Group (H.O.G.) immediately comes to mind, with H.O.G. members banding together for rallies and special events that celebrate their passion for the open road. Harley-Davidson dealerships facilitate those events and camaraderie, often serving as venues and meeting places for riders in the area.
Why is this camaraderie and network of support integral to your experience in the saddle? Riding is incredibly appealing because it is what you make it. It can be a solo or social endeavor, whether navigating a cross-country trip on your own, riding two-up with your partner, or following fellow riders. Every ride is what you make it, with many riders expanding their communities through their local dealerships, where they can meet people with similar interests. For years, taking the GS to the local BMW dealer always meant enjoying a few cups of coffee, meeting new riders, and swapping adventurous tales, tips, and tricks.
These meet-ups often start with swapping stories, but can flourish into something far more meaningful and beneficial. For example, you may meet a rider who’s made the modifications you’ve been considering and is willing to share their insight. Perhaps they have gear they’re hoping to swap, or have tips from their last trip along Route 66, a journey you’ve been excitedly planning for months. Whatever the situation, the dealership is a breeding ground for these relationships, and the foundation of a support network that’s invaluable to riders of all skill levels.
Looking Beyond the Motorcycle
Our last family vacation took us to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where we intentionally visited a BMW dealership to look at inventory we don’t have locally. My husband is still a loyal BMW fan, but he’s faced with a dilemma. Dealership accessibility no longer exists locally. If it’s challenging to handle recalls on his current bike, he shouldn’t expect anything more convenient with a newer mode BMWl. Even so, he’s enticed by the latest GS, but recognizes the massive black hole of support where we live.
Is the risk of buying a motorcycle without a reputable dealership nearby worth it? Answering that question is subjective. As riders, it’s critical to look beyond the motorcycle and consider the long-term, relative to the dealership network that’s accessible to you. Practically speaking, think about the initial break-in period and the significance of that first tune-up. My husband would reach the 600-mile break-in on his first ride home from the dealership, only to have to turn around and make the same 600-mile trip back for the tune-up.
Beyond that first tune-up, consider your reliance on a dealership at home and on the road. It’s incredibly easy to get tunnel vision and focus solely on how you feel in the saddle and how a bike handles. However, is the support system there to help you get the most out of your bike, whether riding around town throughout the week or venturing beyond the city limits? Is that network comprised of reputable dealerships that you trust with your bike? If so, don’t discount how invaluable that peace of mind is, knowing a dealership is available to lend a hand and give you a front-row seat to its expertise wherever your next adventure takes you.