Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Riding the heat wave

Summer weather in March has local motorcycle shops humming

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Owning a motorcycle in Manitoba typically means you have about six good months to hit the road -- May through October, if you're lucky.

Lately, however, things have been a whole lot different. Last fall, we were riding our bikes well into November. And a couple of weeks back, following that March heat wave, my friends and I went from barreling down the Red River on our snowmobiles one week to cruising to the World of Wheels on our Harleys the next.

That means that in the past year there have only been three months where we didn't ride. My buddy Jay McLeod, who is admittedly more adventurous than me, actually rode his motorcycle in January. As long as there's no ice on the road, Jay is good to go. Not bad considering the fact that the old man in our group just turned 39 last weekend.

This weather phenomenon certainly isn't exclusively reserved for my Cooks Creek brethren. Last Saturday night, the crew from Custom One Cycle in Selkirk made the trip to the newly branded Ranch Saloon on the corner of Pembina Highway and Bishop Grandin, where they officially unveiled the name of their latest custom creation, a cool-looking bobber-style chopper aptly named Double/Double.

With a softail suspension and a springer seat, this bad boy does double duty, looking like a rigid chopper from the past but offering the plush ride now usually found only on new bikes. It has a 107-cubic-inch Ultima engine bolted to its custom frame and makes a whopping 115 horsepower.

When shop owners Doug Youzwa and his son and chief fabricator Jared fired this beast up for a few minutes inside the Ranch Saloon, there was no denying motorcycle season has started early this year.

The Youzwas used to be in the food-service industry, but the father-and-son team have always been passionate about motorcycles and took the plunge eight years ago by and opened their popular dealership.

"Business has been booming," offered Jared. "Our used motorcycle sales are better than ever and our service department is crazy busy."

In addition to sales and service, Custom One Cycle will also build you a custom bike just like the Double/Double for less than $20,000. The strong Canadian dollar has made it viable for local shops like Custom One to source parts from the U.S. and build some amazing bikes for much less than previous years.

Over at Harley-Davidson Winnipeg, owner David Gray and his capable crew are also burning the midnight oil.

"It's like July in March," Gray said with a grin. "For us, the only concern is whether or not we can actually get enough new bikes to meet the demand."

In addition to new motorcycle sales, used bikes are also selling quickly and the service department is humming along at a feverish pace, even hiring a new mechanic in local Harley-Davidson technician Darcy Garrity.

Other exciting news from Harley-Davidson Winnipeg includes the dealership's first-ever Diamond Dealer award, making Gray's East St. Vital store the only Harley dealer from Toronto to Victoria to achieve this status. It's based not only on strong sales, but also customer satisfaction, and Gray is quick to credit his tireless employees for their hard work.

"We have a great staff that is really passionate about the products they sell and service, and it was amazing to be recognized for our efforts."

Gray also recently travelled to the Willie G Design Center in Milwaukee, the only Canadian Harley-Davidson dealer invited to get a sneak-peek and provide input on upcoming Harley models. Although he's sworn to secrecy, Gray said there are some very exciting products on the horizon.

One of my favorite haunts from my many years riding Yamaha motorcycles is Wildwood Sports on Pembina Highway. Owner Paul Germain and his tight-knit crew are also ecstatic about the early start to the motorcycle season, particularly in light of slow snowmobile sales.

"I don't recall in the 32 years we've been at this location that it has ever been this warm in March," Germain said. "There's usually a few diehards who ride as soon as the snow melts, but that weather we had last week was like nothing I've ever seen before."

In addition to Yamaha, Wildwood Sports also sells BMW, Ducati and Triumph motorcycles and sales have been exceptionally strong with all brands. "We're doing our best to keep up with the service demands too," added Germain.

With the quick start on the season and a huge variety of motorcycle show-and-shines, swap meets and charity rides scheduled in the upcoming months it looks like the summer of 2012 is poised to be a great year for the thousands of Manitoba motorcycle enthusiasts who live to ride.

Ride safely everyone, and for those who don't ride, please, watch out for motorcycles!

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 30, 2012 F1

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