MILES OF AISLES
FANCY POPPING TO A SUPERMARKET FOR A NEW MOTORCYCLE? THAT'S WHAT JOHN NEWMAN DID AND HERE'S HOW IT WENT...
Buy securely online. Click and collect. We deliver. Just Eat. Deliveroo. Money back guarantee...just some of the different ways that the Covid pandemic has enhanced previous consumer purchasing behaviour over the past eighteen months.
With motorcycle dealers not being able to open and trade directly until April 12th this year, the ever present ebay was one of the few sources for purchasing bikes: private sales, appointments and deliveries could dodge the restrictions.
Back in April, I wrote about the first rides on my newly acquired Honda Integra which combined an NC750 motorcycle chassis with scooter type bodywork, giving lots of weather protection and a selection of automatic and manual gear modes to keep me from getting bored. Unfortunately, the beginning of June it was nicked. Probably lifted into a van and then onward to a shipping container for 'export'.
Riders on the storm
Previously I'd ridden a BMW F800R which suited me in terms of weight, handling and enough engine performance for my years. It was only equipped with a small screen which didn't provide enough wind and rain protection for me. Checking eBay for alternatives, I alighted on the Integra. Read some reviews, checked out the riders forum and decided that this might suit my current and immediate future riding requirements. I found a very low mileage one at a dealer in Manchester who offered a good trade-in price for the BeeEm, which was in very good condition. A deal was done over the phone and email and a delivery date agreed. I was just getting used to the feet forward riding position and different handling of the Integra, when it was lifted. Importantly, I enjoyed a few outings in warmer weather.
I could sense the summer might slip away through unwanted weeks of waiting for either the police to investigate, and the insurance claim bureaucracy to work through, so I decided to risk some savings on buying another bike before I had news from either of these sources as to whether I would be compensated or get the bike returned.
The source of the F800 was a used bike dealers called the Superbike Factory, based at Macclesfield in Cheshire which was an enticing ride from my house in W Yorkshire, on B roads across the northern boundary of the Peak District national park. I figured why not explore what they had to offer. They based their business on the supermarket concept. 1300 (approx) bikes under one roof, organised into 'product' aisles that shoppers are familiar with.
Bikes are tightly parked, and because of Covid rules it was necessary to be accompanied by one of the staff team if you want to try a bike for size. We were masked up, and it proved quite awkward prising bikes out of line, keeping distanced and then manoeuvring them back before another choice was identified.
I tried a couple of Honda NC750X models, but wasn't sure. Wandering the aisles I alighted on the big scooter section where a couple of Integras caught my attention. They were a little scruffy and a few years old, but then my partner drew my attention to three BMW C650's next in line. They were decked in a muted (mat) orange and grey, and looked quite sophisticated to our eyes. A 2016 model looked the best of the group, with a matching BeeEm top box too. Two owners and all the service stamps from BMW dealers. Worth a punt, so once home I confirmed my decision by looking at some reviews and videos. Perhaps I should have done this before placing a deposit! Superbike Factory connected me to a 'virtual garage', and I received regular updates on the progress of pre-delivery inspection and MOT stages. Then the bike was ready to collect.
This company presents an interesting new concept in bike sales. It was started in 2010 and outgrew its original premises. Now occupying a huge space and car park on an industrial estate on the outskirts of Macclesfield. Their website boasts: "famously low prices" and "Unlike other dealers who carry out unnecessary work that pushes prices up, Superbike Factory has the expertise to do only the work that is actually required".
Other dealers may have a rejoinder to this in terms of bike preparation and presentation. Some online reviews reflect dissatisfaction with faults customers found after taking delivery of their machines; but overall reviews were complimentary. When I got my bike home I checked the oil; only just above the minimum. Not enough to make a complaint, but is this the way costs are shaved?
In 2017 the company was 'taken over' by a private equity outfit called Livingbridge. Providing capital investment of £220 million that has placed the company in a good position to expand and perhaps dominate the used bike market. They have recently signed a lease with Motor Sport Vision on new premises at Donington Park circuit that previously held the Grand Prix Collection, but was closed in 2018.
The shape of things to come?
It is intended that another 1000 bikes be stocked here and fifty jobs generated. The other point of interest is that there will be a cafe incorporated into the building and the whole project will be marketed as a ride out venue for clubs, groups etc. Smart move I'd say, as riders are invariably seeking destinations. What better than a cafe at a race circuit with the added attraction of being able to mooch around and kick a few tyres?
I mention this not as a promo prompt for the company, but to ask the question as to how bikes will be purchased in future? The majority of Superbike Factory business is completed on line, and having borrowed a slightly ridiculous piece of jargon from IT start ups, they like to call themselves 'disruptors'. Similar to the recent appearance and much advertised car sites like Cazoo and Cinch, they offer a thirty day guarantee on all their bikes as standard. Sales staff are keen to sell you the ubiquitous extended warranty, I declined. It's a BMW, what can possibly go wrong???
When I bought the Integra I had to suffer the slings and arrows of my so called mates who couldn't possibly accept this was a 'proper' motorcycle. Now that I have what is quite clearly a 'scooter' I may be the lone rider, but I'm really enjoying life with the C650 so far. There are some nice touches such as the metal plates on the foot-boards, so that the rubber doesn't wear. I now have heated seats as well as heated bars. The twin engine is vibration free, and the mirrors provide a superb viewing range. Handling is much sharper than I expected and on a recent long trip when I encountered heavy rain, the screen and bodywork kept me so dry that I was able to step off the bike, discard my riding gear and sit down for a curry as if nothing had happened.
Oh yes. I've heard from the insurance company that they will be settling for the stolen bike. Smiles all round.
Have you been looking for a new vehicle recently? How was your purchasing journey during the pandemic? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop us a message on Facebook.
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