I’ve had a number of motorcycles over the years with the bike I regret selling the most being a 1995 Kawasaki VN800A with a 21” front wheel, Cobra pipes and a load of chrome bolt-on’s it was my pride and joy. For the most part I’d do most of the servicing on those bikes. Nothing major, just the oil, brakes, filter changes, carb cleaning etc, the larger jobs I’d leave for a proper mechanic.
In 2002 I got my first BMW, an R1150RT which I still have and love despite the weight of her, it’s worth sod all now but I’d never sell her as it’s still a magnificent touring bike. Last year I rode 1,400km in one day, I was bloody exhausted by the end of it, but after a good nights sleep I woke up with no aches or pains and ready to ride again. I honestly can’t think of many bikes that will allow that kind of long distance riding!However there is a down side to these BMW’s as for the most part you need a qualified BMW mechanic with the right tools to do even a simple oil change.
Even replacing the head light bulb is impossible unless you have the little girlie hands of a 6-year-old Vietnamese pick pocket with the patience of a watch maker, I have neither so when this happens it’s a trip to the fecken shop again where there’s probably a special tool just for this job. From the day I got the RT all the servicing was done in a shop, as replacing the battery or air filter was all I could manage. I lost the small mechanical knowledge I had and the internal workings of my bike became a mystery which really annoyed me.
I used to love working on my old bikes, laying out my tools, an old blanket and get stuck into a day of tinkering about and finishing it off with a few beers while scraping out the oil from my fingernails while the girlfriend at the time would give me grief for walking oil onto the kitchen floor. Fond memories and good times…
Since then getting the RT serviced became a right pain in the arse, I look forward to it with the same enthusiasm as a trip to the dentist! Mostly because bike’s like the RT are more complicated with onboard computers etc and ye really need to know what you’re doing, and I don’t! Then it’s the usual pains we all go through with getting any bike serviced, organising an hour or 2 off work, get the bike to the shop and watch as it’s wheeled off behind a door with the usual big red letters saying “STAFF ONLY” or “Keep Out”! Not the shops fault I know, it all depends on the shops set up and floor design. But if you have any interest in how stuff works like I do then ye can’t help but wonder what’s involved in servicing a big lump of metal like an RT.
Then it can be a painful 30 min wait while calling the insurance company and transferring my insurance to a loner bike for the day. Luckily many dealers offer a loner on their insurance (30 Euro extra in some cases) which speeds things up. Getting my bike serviced when I’m in Spain is far more frustrating to say the least. And I’m not a fan of the BMW servicing center in Murcia since their head mechanic left, although they have a massive glass wall allowing you a great view of the service area and the mechanics at work while you wait, but that’s a conversation for another day. Suffice to say that earlier this year I went to the trouble of having my RT shipped back from Spain to Ireland to have a proper full service by a mechanic I’d trust.
After that of course it’s the bill to look forward to before the shop wheels my bike out from the mysterious room with the “STAFF ONLY” sign. Then it’s the ride home where my mind is saying “Jesus”, what the hell did those guys do to my bike in the mystery room that I had to pay 800 Euro for?” A 10,000km plus annual service and a set of rubber for my R1150RT in October 2009 cost me 1,143.20 Euro, 889 Euro for the servicing, 415 of it accounted to labour and 254 for the tires which were on sale, normal price for tires being around 407 Euro and 62 cent inc labour and VAT. In 2008 the same service but without tires cost 1,010 Euro, with 671 Euro if it accounted to labour, do the math on that one, in both cases my bike was in and out again in a day so approx 120 per hour, or 10 Euro for 5 minutes labour. I keep the invoice’s as a reminder to do a bike maintenance course while my wife will never let me forget the cost of being a biker, at least with some dealers!!!
Luckily those “Celtic Tiger” servicing prices in most bike shops have dropped, and these days if you shop around your far more likely to find a better deal, there might be less in your pocket, but there is power there none-the-less. And lets not forget, “A happy customer will tell a friend and come back, an unhappy one will tell the world and go some place else”.
It’s said that “Cash is King”, if so then “Word of Mouth” is the Ace in hand, rumour, praise, criticism can and does directly affect a business or product. These days we have the internet, with blogs, popular review, social networking sites and forums this outlet has become frighteningly powerful for the consumer. You can tell the world of a positive or negative experience within an hour with the result being many businesses are really going that extra mile to give value for money, work harder on customer satisfaction and retention and therefore giving a better shopping experience. Gone are the days when a business can take your custom for granted, charge what they like or go off on a rant and tell you to sod off if you have an issue, hypothetically speaking of course.
In early September I had an extremely refreshing and enjoyable experience while having my RT serviced. Mark at Platinum Motorcycles in Bray recently offered to sponsor my 2011 motorbike tour through the Alps and Pyrenees and also offered to put up a set of Michelins Pilot Road 3 tyres for a proper road test, as he is now stocking them he obviously wants to know if he could recommend them for his customers. And as I’m doing an approximate 7,000km tour on almost every type of road Europe has to offer over 3 weeks I’m more than happy to test the hell out of them.
So last week I dropped down for the full service and have the tyres put on before my trip in September. This I might add was the 1st time I’d had my bike serviced here as I actually didn’t know Mark was a fully BMW qualified mechanic and specialising in the BMW bikes.
Finding his shop was easy enough, just off the N11 before Kilmacanogue behind the Topaz station on the Killarney Road roundabout, take the Powerscourt Gardens exit going south. The first thing you will notice is that the shop is a fully open space, with none of that “SAFF ONLY” carry on. While he offers a courtesy bike, free of charge I might add, ye have the option to relax on the couch and watch Mark working on your bike, have a bit of crack or watch the Moto GP on Eurosport with the big ass flat screen mounted on the opposite wall.
Like I said before, the internal workings of my RT had been kept a mystery to me and this was a great opportunity for me to see my bike getting stripped right down and seeing its insides. As a computer engineer I can strip and rebuild a computer in my sleep, and Mark is no different, he had my bike naked, fairing, brakes and wheels off, cylinders opened up and gear oil draining in 20 mins flat.
I felt like a kid in the Jacob’s biscuit factory seeing how they put the figs in the fig rolls! And Mark is one of those guy’s who really loves his job and enjoys explaining what’s what and sharing his knowledge, experience and endless tips and tricks when it come to BMW bike’s.
Even little things like the common faults with all RT and GS ABS systems on bikes before mid 2007. I never had to have mine replaced, (and at 2 grand for an ABS system who’d want to) and the reason I never had to was I always get fresh break fluid every year. Leave it longer on a pre 2007 ABS system or use low-grade fluid and it can pack up!
I’ve also always wanted to know how the injectors are balanced and how the diagnostics are performed; I have happily now put these annoying questions to rest. Reading about it and actually seeing it done and explained are two very different things. The list of little titbits I picked up over the 3 hours was almost endless, and I haven’t enjoyed having my bike serviced since I regrettably soled my VN800A and stopped servicing my own bikes.
I said to Mark more than once that if I’m getting in his way or annoying him with my dumb ass questions just tell me to grab a seat and watch the TV, but no, he is more than happy for the customer to get involved (within reason of course). The whole design of his shop was a conscious decision to allow the customer to watch, ask questions and to get to know their bikes better. Personally I really appreciate this philosophy, while I’m still incapable of servicing an RT myself, I now know enough to happily strip off all the fairing to clean it properly, fully check it for any rust or damage and prepare it for its winter hibernation after my Sept/Oct tour.
An example of current prices for servicing your BMW at Platinum Motorcycles are as follows but please note, pricing on all years vary a bit and pricing does not take into account any damage or faults found during the service which is of course normal and would be discussed, all annual services include brake fluid etc;
10km & Annual €180
20km & Annual €250
10km & Annual €220
20km & Annual €300
10km & Annual €205
20km & Annual €275
10km & Annual €245
20km & Annual €325
Contact Mark at Platinum Motorcycles Bray:
Tel: +353 (0)1 286 9575
Mobile: +353 (0)87 782 9793
Email – (mark at platinummotorcycles.ie)
Website: Platinum Motorcycles website; Mark would be more that happy to have a chat and give a more detailed quote depending on model, year etc.
Once again, all these prices depend on mileage and what got done or left out in previous services, but the worst thing you can do is pay less for a service that doesn’t do what your bike needs, always look after your bike and it will look after you. For myself, being able to put my full trust in my bike and having piece of mind the bikes in perfect working order allows me to fully concentrate and enjoy on my riding, be it just a Sunday blast or a full on tour.
Mark also adds in every service some smaller things that may not be on BMW’s service schedule, as he say’s himself “while I have the bike stripped we might as well get this done properly”! As a computer systems engineer myself where I’d relate a hard drive to a bikes engine I do the same thing, I know for a fact a little preventative maintenance can save the customer a lot of trouble and money, and when you’re talking about an expensive BMW motorbike that attitude is even more true..
An annual bike service is happily now something to look forward to again, and with Marks prices compared to what I was being charged over the last number of years for a service I don’t have to sweat blood and tears keeping my bike on the road. Oh, and that hated trip to the dentist is back on top of my list of pet hate’s. So a big thanks again to Mark at Platinum Motorcycles, looking forward to you getting that coffee machine put in