Do It Yourself Motorcycle Shop. Interested?

If you are a shop owner, maybe you have already lent a lift & some tools to a good client wishing to do some work on his bike. If you did, I am certain that it was an exceptional gesture. But do you know that a new shop concept seems to emerge from our recession. The “Do It Yourself Shop” especially conceived, equipped and staffed to offer bikers a workshop where anyone can come to do their own maintenance. A place where they can find all the tools and manuals they may need, and if requested, assistance provided by on-site technicians. Is there a need?

It seems so, because some lack the required space in their garage, or don’t even have  a true garage because living in a condo. Tools is another issue because too expensive or not worth buying for very occasional uses. Just changing oil or tires or wheels? Lowering a bike? Changing a front end? Replacing a bad regulator or starter? Even tuning a bike, etc. “Do It Yourself Shop” income comes from an hourly fee, from selling the basic parts found on-site and even from paid maintenance clinics organized to help those apprehensive to work on their bike. What about overnight, short and long term storage? Not only it can be a profitable business but those using a “Do It Yourself Shop” could become better riders by getting to better understand their motorcycle. Let’s see if this business concept has traction. As a biker or professional of the industry, I would like you to state your opinion.

27 Responses to “Do It Yourself Motorcycle Shop. Interested?”

  1. 1 sammyd Apr 2nd, 2010 at 6:49 am

    We had this same basic thing on Military posts back when I was in the Army, (I’m sure they still have them). Worked on my car and bike in them, you handed over your drivers license to sign out tools, payed a bit extra to leave the vehicle overnight. And they were always packed. The best part was standing around and bullshitting with everyone. I think this is a great Idea.

  2. 2 Shifter Apr 2nd, 2010 at 7:06 am

    Cyril, I think it’s a superb idea.

  3. 3 John E Adams Apr 2nd, 2010 at 7:41 am

    Similar story to sammyd, I am retired Navy and on every base they have an Auto/Bike repair/maintenance shop. They ranged in size and equipment support (some even had paint booths) and were also always packed, rebuild bays were always at a premuim but invaluable for someone like myself who always had a job to do but did not have the tools or place to complete it. I would think that an exisitng shop with a little space to support such an offer would be booked in advance for at least a year – some nice cash flow one the side!!


    John E Adams

  4. 4 Dave Blevins Apr 2nd, 2010 at 7:49 am

    Nope. What we do requires attention to detail in every aspect, engineering, fixturing, designing, painting, etc… having a room full of novices standing around bullshitting would be a huge distraction, not to mention the added liability of a herd of buddies coming along with the client to HELP them along.
    That type of thing goes well in a home garage, a backyard BBQ, or a bowling alley… but not in a true custom shop. At least not in mine.

  5. 5 WT Apr 2nd, 2010 at 8:07 am

    This has been going on in NYC for some time now….as well as other large cities all over the world. Pay an hourly fee to use the stall that contains tools and a lift.

  6. 6 hpierce Apr 2nd, 2010 at 8:45 am

    i have approached a couple of places in my area asking for them to teach me to build a bike. I’d pay for the parts and their time but I want to say, I did that.

    no luck so far.

  7. 7 E'Ville Twin Motorsickle Co. Apr 2nd, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Interesting idea ……..Brings to mind the question of liability though . And what about insurance should a paying customer sustain an injury on your property while useing your equipment and tools ? Also who’s keeping track of the shop supplies being used and what’s gonna happen should one of these clients damage or completely destroy a specialty tool or piece of equipment ? Seems to me that a pissing match might erupt over a scenario like this blameing previous use as the cause of failure . ALSO …..How do you regulate time for novices ? Can’t really base it on a ‘ Flat Rate ” scedule being as your customers for the most part are inexperienced . So now you’d have a lineup waiting to use your facility , getting more and more agrivated by the minute , while Joe biker buddy and his pals try to figure out what wrench to use …….
    Meanwhile the coffee pot’s workin overtime in your lobby area , your shops turned into a hangout ……
    Seems like the price of the popcorns not worth the prize ……
    No thanks ……… Just my opinion …..

  8. 8 Vince Lamarche Apr 2nd, 2010 at 10:49 am

    There is a place like this in the San Diego area of Carlsbad. “Privateers Garage”. It is an excellent way to get some hands on experience for working on your bike.

  9. 9 TRACEY STRAIN Apr 2nd, 2010 at 11:03 am

    thay have these kind of shops in calf for years, rent space , rent tools and even paint booths.sell parts . i have been thinking about it my self in these hard times . the biggest herdal is the ins. what if some one gets hurt , you could lose everything in the sue happy world we live in now days.but still not out of the question.

  10. 10 Bobfather Apr 2nd, 2010 at 11:06 am

    First a reply to hpierce, if you’re in our area give us a call or send an e-mail to and we’d be willing to lend a hand with you building your own bike. We do that every day.
    Second, if liability is an issue come up with a signed release of liability. Keep track of the supplies and then charge by the hour for the lift being used. Overnight costs a little more. Use of shop tools requires a driver’s license or deposit on their credit card. Have them also sign that tool breakage and/or replacement is on them and will be charged as such. Limit the number of people allowed in the service area so you don’t get the herding issue. Overall I can see how most hurdles could be dealt with if thought out properly.

  11. 11 Jeff Nicklus Apr 2nd, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    We looked at doing this very thing several years ago. The liability issues were simply too much to over come ….. it could be a nightmare, can not simply “sign away” any liability issues. Looking at the tool loss and/or breakage not to mention the theft in general and then attempting to collect from the “Lessee” any damages would me next to impossible and a real pain in the ass. As E’Ville Twin said: The price of the popcorn isn’t worth the prize!

    Great concept though!

    Over & Out,


  12. 12 Big Will Apr 2nd, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    An interesting idea, but lets get back to basics, specialization is what our society is now founded upon. Could you imagine going to the doctor’s office or lawyer’s office and paying for space and browsing through his or her books on the wall to find out what’s wrong? Then using their tools to fix the problems, most anyone faced with the above fact pattern would readily agree it would not be wise.

    As shop owners we are presumed to know the products we sell and service inside and out, and be able to work on these bikes to bring fault riddled vehicles to fine working order, this is why we exist in this society of specialized labor.

    As to those who are interested in building bikes and repairing them themselves, some shops are open to facilitating this sort of business in a reasonable manner. We are. But, it has to be reasonable in the shop owner’s eyes.

    The caveat: sometimes, it is better not to work on one’s own stuff. We often hire others to work on our personal belongings, because its not specifically right up our professional alley, sometimes it may cost more to work on things yourself.

    Most any seasoned shop owner is going to know this and more, I don’t care to turn my shop into a do it yourself Jiffy Lube, but some out there might. And for all those that think its a good business idea, then go give it a try and report back to us, hell, we could be wrong after all, it could be the wave of the future.

    Til then, remember we all have challenges in this economic climate and each one is a little different than the next, but the basics of the MC industry, in terms of quality and service and sound business ethics will help all those good shops make it through this difficult time.

    Big Will
    RED LINE Motorcycles of Santa Barbara

  13. 13 A 1 cycles inc. Apr 2nd, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    it laughable…insurance is crazy, sue happy idiots, my 200k of tools arent for use by anybody but me and my knowlege of building and tuning and repairing bikes is 85 dollars an hour…if your a carpenter build a table, a dentist clean teeth, i laugh when people come in with their home built bikes and have to spend more to have the wiring and plumbing and alignment done…and the welding of fenders and tanks mounts..e bay rangers then tell their friends they built it..they may have ordered their parts and had a concept but it will always be a bike builder,racer,tuner professional who finsishes the job safely and the right way…end of story

  14. 14 gina woods Apr 2nd, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Several of my hosts – who happen to be top notch mechanics had the same idea years ago… offer a “place” to work on your shit. Bays, tools advise etc. Great idea but I couldn’t touch the insurance and if you did it wouldn’t justify the means…I’d like to check out some of the existing ones tho!

  15. 15 Donnie Apr 3rd, 2010 at 8:39 am

    As with the rest , We tried this concept several years ago as well as different variations…had both positive and negative results ..and yup the insurance and liability costs dictated the bottom line …As a long time “brick and mortor ” shop there is not to much we have not entertained ..Bottom line for us is , Be a point of service as well as information to your customer ..its been our philosophy to not “just make a sale ,but create a customer ” That relationship will determine your level of “opening your doors and tools etc to their needs .

  16. 16 Bigalyts Apr 3rd, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Cyril, you have a Very, very special talent for all aspects of the Motorcycle Business. You are a great Reporter keeping every body informed of the Motorcycle Market Place. You keep everybody informed of the latest Products that have been introduced Privately or Comercially. You keep everybody Informed of who is Building what and who Is Not Building Anything, due to the closing of their Doors. You tell everbody who is Trustworthy and who sre Questionable and why ! You Inform everybody who is coming into the World and who has left the World. I want to say that when I say “Everybody” I mean not only People in the Industry that read your Blog, how about the People that we tell about what we learned, by reading your Blog. This counts for at least in my Life several People daily that are in the Business and those who are not, but have an intrest in Motorcycles. This is just another Great Idea and has great possibilities as a way that some People in this Industry can apply this Method and Earn Extra Income. This is a very, very doable Business. I have read some of the comments that the Genuises that have wrote above and they are so Fricken Negative and Narrow Minded. One of the above Experts says, I am not lending my $200,000 worth of Tools. Well nobody told you that you have to. By the way If you have $200 G’s worth of tools and no CNC Machines in that Inventory, then I would sell of about $150 G’s of those Tool, and I would keep the Snap On Man from visiting your Shop, cause you are a Mooch and those Tool Truck Business are sending their Kid’s to Private Schools on your Do Re Mi. The Guy that says its agreat way to meet People and shoot the Shit, yeah it is. Maybe one of those Shit Shooters will help give him a hand and share his ideas. Another Shop Owner said that Just what I want, have guys walking around and keeping my Mechanics from performing. I don’t think that this Idea (business) is or should be near any of your $85 Mechanics! Well if you charge by the Hour for using the lift, which i PRESUME THAT THIS is what it’s all about, then who cares, let the Customer tall about solving the Economic Problems of Our Country, to all the other Clients, afterall they are paying $15 0r $20 per hour as well. If you think the other Customers that are renting space are going to listen to the Dood talk Economics, great, but at the Hourly Fee that everybody is paying, I guarantee his speeches will not be listened to long! Also Mr. Shop Owner, nobody woild set the Rentall Bays next to their revenue producing Mechanics. That’s common sense. The other concerns is Insurance and Liability. That is always a concern anyway. You have that with your Neighbors hurting themselves on your Property, you have a Double concern with your Employees and Workmans Comp,! Well there is a way that this can Work as long as ALL THE MOTORCYCLES that rent the Bays are Insured. They must produce their Policy
    before they Rent a Bay. Their Policy for their Motorcycle will cover their Mistakes. Now a couple of extra Pointers for all the “Talented and $85 a Hour Shops and that’s it, type of Dood’s. You can laugh at the Guys that try to save money and Build their Bikes themselves and they look like shit, guess what those Guys are Buying their Parts from somebody and somewhere. Maybe they got them from Ebay. I bet that they bought them from one of the Bloggers on Cyrill’s site, anyway. You know if they screwed up their Bike and they want to Fit It now at least you can make some revenue on them and Maybe even make them a “Client”. I don’t know about all the EXPERT CUSTOM BIKE BUILDERS AND SHOP OWNERS ON THIS BLOG, BUT IN MY WORLD I WANT TO MAKE ALL THE BUYERS OUT THERE MY CLIENT<what about you? Cyril thanks for the great Idea and the resposible accuracy of your reporting about the many aspects of the Motorcycle Industry!!!!

  17. 17 G. Sharp Apr 3rd, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    I agree with Bigalyts. For all business ideas, there is the right and the wrong way to apply them to be successful. I am concinced that there is a way to handle a “do-it-yourself” motorcycle shop to avoid the pitfalls described above. What I see in the comments above is the incapacity of some to think out of the box, to resolve problems and to be creative. Yes Cyril is a very good observer of our industry due to his experience,, background and professional relations. He suggested a valuable business idea to build from scratch or as a side business for struggling shops. To be negative without taking the time to think about it, to see if issues can be resolved is like saying that something new can’t be done with a custom motorcycle .because it has not be done before! The same way, I am certain that the traditional motorcycle medias told Cyril that he would fail with his blog and now he is a daily must read with everybody trying to copy his formula. Cyril gave a good idea to some. Most will not try, some will try and fail, and a few will succeed. Business selection process.

  18. 18 Brock Apr 4th, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    I have been exposed to the military. If they can overcome the insurance issue, why can’t someone else? It might be worth visiting one of their sites and acquiring the paperwork behind their operation.

    Outside of the do-it-yourself space, I would really like to have the time to learn without having to go to a motorcycle certification course, you know.

  19. 19 burnout Apr 4th, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    I am one of very few who gives out ‘free’ advice to riders wanting to do their own maintenance. Usually they call me AFTER or DURING their service because they are in trouble. I help em and then encourage them to educate themselves on the proper service procedures. Like Dave Chase says “As a matter of fact, it IS rocket science”. Some guys can do it, some guys can’t. Both types have told me ” Next time I am letting YOU do my work.” I kind of win either way. The local air base has a sweet facility for the riders to do their own work. I have done a motorcycle service seminar there and will likely do another. Do I think DIY is a good idea? Yes. Do I want to set up such a facility? No. That would take up to much of MY riding time. peace

  20. 20 A 1 cycles inc. Apr 5th, 2010 at 9:24 am

    bigalysts? whatever your real name is…i dont have a cnc machine, but 5 lifts, lathe, mill, 250i dyno jet, harley scanalyzer,countless jims service tools, never minbd hand tools, yes it adds up quick..if you were a genious like your bashing you could add it up. thanks for at least reading my post “dood”..and in florida motorcycles dont need insurance if your over 21…for real, if you walk in and get a plate for 35 dollars, no proof of insurance. (i dont like it) but its the reality down here. most bikes are not insured

  21. 21 Evobuilder Apr 5th, 2010 at 11:09 am

    the best thing to do is become communal…. get serveral buddies (that you trust obviously… no flakes or posers) and rent some shop space. Everyone brings their tools, everyone works with everyone else, no liability because you are not a business. As soon as you try to become one…. move out, business, beer, and buddies don’t mix well.

    Just my 2 cents…. Evobuilder

  22. 22 jsdiamond Apr 5th, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    I second what sammyd and John posted up top. We had a car shop on the base when I was in the Navy from 1986 to 1991 and it was a great place to work on our vehicles. Just having a place to change oil or rebuild brakes was extremely convenient.

    Shops like the one you’re describing already exist, of course as others have pointed out. They are informal gathering places for gearheads.

    But as a franchised thing? On the plus side it’s a great way to get young people involved in actually understanding their own machines. On the downside, it would require a large investment to stock with modern equipment as well; hand tools are great for old trumps, other metrics, shovels and ironheads. But you’re going to need a dyno and computer test gear for people with more modern motorcycles.

  23. 23 Kustom Kolors Apr 6th, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    Forget about it! Sounds good at first, but just think about the BS! The guy cant finish his bike in a day and doesn’t have the GETIS to pay~” can you do me a favor?” Do you have any idea how many times i have heard that!?

  24. 24 JC Apr 8th, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    We are doing it as I post. We have two guys in the shop building their bike with us behind them.
    I’m not going to get into the details here but so far we have been successful. I will let you know how thing turn out, or you will see the bikes come out when we are done.

    We look at it as a way to pay it forward. My brother and I both had the great gift of two great guys in our life, Joe Cox (Custom Iron in Arlington then in Azle TX years back) and Steve Hersh out of the valley in LA, that took us under their wing and taught us what they new. We have since taken it to a whole new level(up or down, we haven’t decided…ha ha). Anyways, we are always learning and now passing the gift to those who want to learn and enjoying it…

  25. 25 BC Apr 9th, 2010 at 9:19 am


    I am one of the two that JC is referring to. I spent two years going from shop to shop looking for help to build a bike. My plan was to do it out of my garage, buy parts from a local shop, and have that same shop do the work I don’t have the skills to do.

    To make a long story short, JC was the first person in the motorcycle industry willing to listen to my ideas and work with me. Most shops responded with “we charge full retail” or “give me the money and I will build it for you”. That’s not what I was looking for. I want the experience of being part of the build process; of knowing how the bike went together. I’m tired of riding someone else’s bike and not knowing how to fix my own bike.

    To those that would suggest it’s too risky or too time consuming or too whatever to help a fellow bike enthusiast; I would question your reasons for being in the motorcycle business at all. If the almighty dollar is your sole motivation for what you do, you’ve lost sight of what we are all about.


  26. 26 Rick Oct 27th, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    Well said, Bill.

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