Miller’s Motorcycles is dedicated to antique, vintage, classic motorcycles and parts born before 1970. We specialize in Japanese vintage bikes.
Miller’s Motorcycles is dedicated to antique, vintage, classic motorcycles and parts born before 1970. We specialize in Japanese vintage bikes.
Marcus Miller’s letter Published November’s  MPN
Oh my. Do I now have to have an open mind and reevaluate this? No, I don’t think so. I am not buying this philosophy. I wonder how many dealers test ride each bike after a tire change to see if they didn’t put on a blem tire themselves. Obviously Mr. Smith didn’t test ride the customer’s bike with the factory blem when they originally put on the customer-supplied tire. So now I guess his answer is that all bikes will get a high speed test ride after each dealer-supplied-tire change? That might open up a new can of worms, as well as waste technician time, and then the reward would be having the customer “who we are so afraid of” say that there is now a tick in the engine, or a scratch on the tank that was never there before the test ride. You can’t eliminate every possible risk. It is a risky sport. We could have gone into the golf cart business. Then we could install bald blems, and we’d be able to take the customer’s money, and, as a bank robber once said after he asked for the cash, “nobody gets hurt.” I would love to see some real numbers on how often a dealer is sued in this type of situation. My guess is that it wouldn’t be a meaningful number. I am going to stick with my premise that service is the most important thing. I would think the tire manufacturer would be liable in Mr. Smith’s case anyway if it was a recognizable brand.
Have a price for tires in your shop that includes installation. Have a separate price for installation only. Make it high if you want. Have them sign a release, and take a photo of them signing, with a thumb print, DNA swab, and a retinal scan, if your lawyer says so. Keep your liability insurance high, and make people happy to come to see you. If times get bad, it will be the dealers who went a bit out of their way that the customers will remember and patronize. If you are afraid of the world and your customers, then move back into mom and dad’s basement, and sell junk on ebay.
Do I Now Have To Have An Open Mind?
April 19, 2013
This is a replied received after Marc’s letter published in November 2007 MPN
I read with interest Marcus Miller’s letter in November’s  MPN. I understand his position, and if it works for him, that’s great. We used to mount tires purchase elsewhere until we put one on a large touring bike, and the client incurred a severe speed wobble and had a mild crash as a result. We checked the tire, and all seemed well until we test rode the bike, and no matter what we did, the speed wobble, in some conditions, was very evident even though all was well with the bike. This was the well maintained unit of a very experienced rider who had never had a problem before. Upon further investigation, we discovered that the tire was a “factory blem,” something not told to the client. We replaced the tire with one of ours, and he hasn’t had a problem since. At that point, we decided that we were never going to install another tire from another seller, unless there was an unusual circumstance, and we could verify the tire’s provenance. Yes, you may have a customer angry with you if you refuse to install his tire from elsewhere, but I don’t need these kinds of hassles, and I’m sure other dealers don’t either. We have found that if we explain our position properly most people understand. Unfortunately, in this age of using the courts as a lottery, you have to watch out for yourself, because no one else will.
Marq C Smith, President
by Marcus Miller (MPN Reader Feedback, November 2007)
I have been reading the letters regarding the discount tires. I just wanted to say that I disagree with a dealership refusing to mount walk-in tires, or telling the customer that they must charge “double the normal price” for mounting. No customer ever wants to hear that! If I heard that, I would never go back into that dealership, as I would feel they are gouging me. Better that they only sell their tires at a price that includes installation. Then you can have any mounting fee that you want for walk-in tires, and you won’t have to feel that you are being taken advantage of by the scary price-comparing shopper. I feel that most dealers are missing the point. You want the customer to walk in: He did. If he wants you to mount the tire, just do it. Give him some coffee. Let him watch a bike video on TV in the waiting area. Make him feel at home, and start working on goodwill. Make your store a destination, not just a 7-11 to be visited for the least amount of time. A hard-ass attitude might give you a moment of self righteous pleasure while you punish the guy for doing his homework, but in the end, the dealer and the customer lose. People can’t order parts on Friday off the Web for their weekend ride. They can’t try on riding gear. You will lose if you try to fight the Internet dealer at his own game (they do have a place in the world and won’t go away). The brick and mortar dealer will always win in the end if he just relaxes and gives the customer what he wants. Yeah, the customer might save $20 on a tire from the Web, but if you put it on for him, he will remember that and tell all his friends. He will buy from you. A loyalty will develop; maybe even trust and friendship. Most people who shop around know that there must be some balance, and most will give you more than enough business over the years. I have seen it over and over. Can you imagine what the guy who was told he had to pay double for a tire swap will tell people? He is now mad at the dealer, and he still doesn’t have his new tire on the bike. Will he tell 10 or 15 people? What will that cost you in a close-knit biker community? You are sending him right back to the Web for supplies, and he will find someone else to do the job. Or someone will fill the gap of providing services that the dealer won’t provide, maybe a guy in a storage unit with no overhead and a porta-potty. If you have a customer in the store, do what you have to do to make him leave the store happy, and you will be around for many profitable years. If you are out to make a quick buck, and will be gone tomorrow, then it doesn’t really matter, and hopefully someone who really cares will replace you.
I have always tinkered with motorcycles. I started thinking about engines at about the age of six when we moved to a house in the suburbs (really doesn’t matter where as they are all similar, but I will say we ate a lot of beans and watched hockey regularly). I didn’t know anything about engines, but I was fascinated with my neighbor’s lawnmower. The sound of a small engine would pull me out of the house faster than the music of an ice cream truck playing from the street. Noise and motion was a great combination for me. My first thought was to ask my step dad questions about engines because he had walls full of important looking books. I was amazed to find out that he didn’t know anything about lawnmowers or lawnmower type engines, and that there wasn’t one book about anything mechanical. He was busy mapping the human brain, or studying it. I know that because he showed me brains in some liquid in big glass jars. (Brain surgeon or horror fan. It didn’t interest me what he did if gasoline wasn’t involved.) So, the job of yard maintenance fell on mom and me. The mower that came with the rental house didn’t have a pull rope; it had a wind-up crank that must have been popular for a few weeks in 1967. It made the lawnmower as easy to start for a body builder as a six year old boy. This was the drill that I followed:
1st: open the crank mechanism
2nd: wind it like a clock
3rd: close the crank
And then I guess there was some kind of lock release. Hit that and the engine would spin and if the choke was right and there was gas, it usually ran. I mention this to give you an idea s to where my engine confidence came from.
For the next few years I had mini bikes and go carts with lawn mower engines. I got pretty good at keeping them going. The next big step would lead me to buy an early 60’s Ducati 160 Monza Jr. from a scrap yard in Modesto, California for $20.00. I took it home to my apartment, completely stripped it, painted it, and rebuilt the engine in a couple of weeks. I guess I didn’t really rebuild the engine. Just took it apart and cleaned it and then. re-assembled it. Not sure why I did that as I had no information that there was actually a problem with the engine. It was interesting to see all those gears that drive the cam shaft. I had the bike in 500 plus pieces all over the house. I feel bad for the landlord now, but at the time it seemed like the right thing to do. I have no memory about buying or making gaskets, an I know it didn’t leak oil after I was done as we had carpet in the apartment, and I don’t remember getting yelled at for staining it. There was no manual, so I didn’t have to waste time looking up the technical information for setting valves, plug or point gaps. I don’t know how I knew what to do back then, but with misplaced confidence (and an accommodating mom) I vaguely remember that I wanted to decarbonize the bike. It must have been something that I had read in some national bike magazine, probably in an article about two stroke bikes. This was a four stroke single but that is the only reason I can think of to take the piston and rings out. Please don’t confuse me with the facts.
The year was 1976 and I don’t know why but I thought Ducati was out of business. so I decided that I needed new rings for the single. I didn’t put them in the cylinder and measure with a feeler gauge to see if they were out of spec. And I know they weren’t broken or scored. I don’t remember the next thought process that led me to the service department of the local Honda shop to ask if they could hook me up with some rings. I took the old piston and rings with me so that they could see them. The Honda people were very nice to me. I saw the service manager take a micrometer to the rings or the piston and he came back with a 4th oversize ring set to an old Honda 305. After paying for it I drove home on my 75 Yamaha RD 125 twin two stroke with a windshield, saddle bags and a tank bag, and put the Ducati’s engine back together with the Honda rings. No need to waste time measuring the rings for proper fit or honing the cylinder for this mechanic. I don’t know how I timed the valve gears but maybe I made my own marks. I lost one of the headlight mounting brackets so I made something that looked close in metal shop at school. I was the first time I focused on anything in school all year. My shop teacher was amazed. It was the same teacher who told me that I would be a failure if I didn’t apply myself and come to school every day. He was mistaken. The next day, I put it all together, siphoned some gas out of my mom’s 1970 F100 XLT pick-up with manual steering and bad king pins. This was before it was bad to swallow gas. I think the gas might have been good to remove my tooth plaque as I didn’t get a cavity for many years after the Ducati job. I remember the 160 starting right up. I rode it around the neighborhood all day. It was the only bike that I had ever ridden that I could start off in high (4th) gear without stalling the engine. I didn’t know about torque in those days. What a great bike. I wouldn’t know where to start that project today without a manual and someone to hold my hand, a workshop, motorcycle lift, beer, room heat, etc.
I loved that bike, but I had my eyes on a purple Triumph 750 Trident. It was a tough choice between that and a Kawasaki 1000 like Ponch and John rode on the TV show CHIPS. The Triumph seemed cooler though. Maybe that is why I have a 750 Triumph now. So I put the Ducati up for sale in the local paper (pre-craigslist days); sold it the first day for $200.00 to an old man in his 20s. The man came back an hour later and told me a great story of how he needed the $200 back for a few hours to honor a commitment that he had forgotten about and that he would come back that night to re-buy the bike. It sounded good to me as I respected a guy who honored commitments. I was into Clint Eastwood, Billy Jack and Mr. Rogers, and I knew that they would honor their commitments. I waited for him to come back, and didn’t ride the bike as it wasn’t mine anymore. So, of course, he didn’t show up, and, in the days before caller ID, he never answered his phone again. Not sure how he managed that unless my rings sounded really pissed off. I was pretty good with internal combustion, but hadn’t quite mastered human relations yet. In the end, it didn’t matter, as I sold the bike again a day or two later. Took that money, and some of the money that I made in the stock room at a men’s clothing store, and I bought my Triumph 750 triple. A 120 pound boy, a 750 that leaked oil and left a trail of parts like Hansel and Gretel, and no helmet…but that’s another story.
Everything I Needed To Know About Motorcycles I Learned Before My 8th Birthday
April 8, 2013
(This post was in response to an article published on January 2007 by the Motorcycle Product News magazine.)
I read your November “Holeshot” column with a bit of sadness and disappointment: sadness that you have to waste so much energy defending open dialog and original thought concerning this great industry, and disappointment that there are still so many cowards who consider themselves “professionals” in the power sports industry. However, offering your four-legged companion as a sacrifice to the boneheaded, near-sighted backyard mechanics in this industry might not be the best way to satisfy the word police. It won’t pacify a frightened dealer, and couldn’t be too good for your karma. If a dealer gives good service, and is there for his customers, he will have all the work, sales, and good will that he could ever ask for. I don’t know anything about the Ride Now Group, but they must be doing something right to support all their branches. If they are criminals, I hope the market will eventually expose them, and they will disappear. The real criminals are the ones who try to step on our rights of free speech by trying to intimidate you into not saying or doing anything in your magazine that provokes thought or might be a bit controversial. If there was no evolution in this industry we would all be riding around on air-cooled piston-port 2-strokes with drum brakes (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Don’t get me started on the dealers who panic every time an attractive model is used to bring attention to a product on your pages. Where would we be if it wasn’t for the Norton ads in the ‘70s? You threw out an idea for the industry to think about, but instead of coming up with an intelligent reply, they attacked you — so I guess you were on to something all along? I think the reaction you received was better than silence (a little more uncomfortable for you though I’m sure). Really, this business is easy if you remember what your customer wants.
When I was a punk kid at 16 riding around on my Yamaha 125, I bought all my parts from a small Yamaha shop in Modesto, California. Even when I moved up to a Triumph (sorry, Norton girl) I had them order all my parts from Beck Arnley. The reason? Every time I walked in that store, the parts guy looked happy to see me. He might have even known my name. Not sure about that, but I remember he smiled and seemed like he wanted to help. I don’t know if I could have gotten the parts cheaper somewhere else, but I didn’t care. Here was a place a dirty poor kid felt welcome. I would never think of going anywhere else, and of course I bought my next new bike from them after I save up for a while. You are not just a business — you become an extension of the customer’s family. Everyone knows you can choose your dealer, but you can’t choose your family. There’s a moral there someplace. With service like this, all the cheap Chinese imports and low-ball dealers don’t stand a chance. That’s just the way it is.