Nothing will take the place of a good motorcycle mechanic. No matter how much you know about your motorcycle, sometimes it takes the diagnostic skills of someone who spends 40 hours a week fixing bikes to figure out what’s wrong. But the rest of the time—most of the time—motorcycle service is maintenance—performing regularly scheduled adjustments and fluid changes, changing worn items like tires and brake pads, and bolting on accessories or upgraded components.
Those tasks, relatively simple as they are, can sometimes overwhelm the tools, workspace or mechanical abilities of home mechanics, many of whom, especially in dense urban areas, don’t have access to clean, well-lighted workspaces. You can unroll your tools in the gutter next to your bike and do a few things, but that’s not ideal, so you wind up paying $90 an hour or more for a professional to do simple jobs you could easily manage yourself.
Many military servicemembers have access to automotive hobby shops, do-it-yourself service bays stocked with tools and helpful personnel to answer questions. Users of the shops pay by the hour for the use of tools, stalls and lifts, and parts and supplies are usually offered for sale as well. Car drivers in several states also have access to DIY shops, which usually offer about the same program as the military hobby shops.
And now, at least two shops are offering this concept to motorcyclists. In Vancouver, British Columbia, Motomethod is offering local riders lifts, tools and classes on various aspects of motorcycle repair. After purchasing a $100 yearly membership, members can rent a lift for $25 an hour, and get discounts on tires and other parts.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, Wilder and Aleksandra Grippo have started Motoshop, the region’s first do-it-yourself facility. Located near San Francisco International Airport, the brand-new shop has 4000 square feet of rental bays, lifts, tools and specialized equipment for its customers, who can pay by the hour, day or month.
Motoshop also offers classes in basic subjects like oil changes, tire changing, brakes, chain and sprockets and installing electrical accessories. Are other shops edgy about Motoshop training potential customers and reducing the demand for repair shops? Not at all, according to Motoshop’s website: “The few [shops] we have spoken to are okay with the idea. We are not stealing away the big business and we have no intention of becoming a parts or bike dealer … The shops who are interested in working with us will benefit in many ways.”
It seems like a solid business model, if not a wildly profitable one. On one hand, there’s limited profit to be had in renting tools and service bays. On the other hand, if shop space is cheap enough—and every metropolis probably has a surplus of cheap commercial or light-industrial space these days—the overhead for this kind of thing must be low. And if it just provides a safe, clean space for do-it-yourselfers, people who would be unlikely to use a regular shop for simple tasks anyway, this could be a complimentary addition to the motorcycle industry.