Skip to content

What About Test Rides? | MC Garage

Retail Confidential | MC Garage


JeffMaddox 150x150 photo

MC Garage contributor Jeff Maddox

WORDS:  Jeff Maddox PHOTOS: Trudy Quelch & Marc Cook

Reader Joe Ryan writes: “Six years ago, I was stationed in Germany and got a used BMW. I was shocked when I brought in my $4,000 GS for maintenance and the dealership offered me my choice of a new R1200GS, R1200RT, or K1300S as a loaner bike. I’m back home now with a new GS Adventure. When I brought it in for its first service, I got a look like I had just escaped a padded room when I asked about a loaner. I’ve also asked about test riding a couple of bikes at dealerships where I’ve ridden up on my $21,000 bike with my quality lid and jacket and received a similar response. What’s the difference here?”

There are important financal and cultural differences between European and American dealerships. For us, motorcycling is more of a hobby, where it’s likely to be a main or sole form of transportation in Europe. With those differences come opposite approaches.

Whether you’re offered a test ride or a loaner here in the states varies dealer to dealer but there are reasons behind the decisions. Let’s break it retail edit 300x256 photodown:

1. My dealership offers test rides on used bikes and a select number of new “demo” bikes in stock. The odds are better of getting a test ride if you arrive on a motorcycle, carry a valid license with the proper endorsement, and bring your own helmet. The dealership sees you have the ability to ride, can operate a motorcycle, and can then proceed with a test ride. We have actually had someone wanting a test ride without having ridden before. Not all dealerships offer test rides due to insurance restrictions—again, another difference between here and Europe—and inventory availability. So you know, the new motorcycles we have on our sales floor aren’t serviced, and it can take up to three hours to get one ready to ride. Also, with certain models, we may have only one in stock. We’re going to be careful with it.

2. Not every dealer offers loaner bikes while you wait on service. The reasons can range from insurance restrictions, inventory size, or weather conditions. Putting the customer on a newer “step-up” model to entice you to buy is one reason dealers offer a loaner while you wait, and it often works well when selling new bikes. But not every dealer can do this. It would be great if they did, but it’s the nature of the business that they don’t.

Jeff Maddox is the sales manager for a multi-line dealership in the Midwest. Questions for him? Email us at with “Retail Confidential” in the subject line.



  1. razteo
    Posted on: March 26, 2014 8:23 am

    The US dealers have a lot to learn from the European ones. And if they do, they may sell more bikes. Most of what you say here is true (insurance liabilities, etc), but the majority of sales people & managers at the dealership are not open minded and can’t see an educated buyer / rider, and they prefer to sell whatever they can to a new rider, etc. Too bad.
    And as for the loaner, they don’t care, they can take your $ without giving you a loaner. Not all dealers, but this is the mentality I noticed around here.

  2. Jim Reicker
    Posted on: March 25, 2014 5:11 pm

    Gotta wait for ‘demo day’ at your distributor.

    Join a local club and chat up a member.

  3. Nate
    Posted on: March 25, 2014 2:35 pm

    I’ve got a K1300S, and in Washington state. The first time I went to the dealer, they offered a test ride, and provided gear. After I bought the 13S, every single service i’ve brought it in for i’ve been offered a loaner. There was some issues with the fueling, and I was about to leave on a trip, the dealer gave me a loaner for a 1k mile trip to ensure I was happy.
    I don’t know if it’s just the single dealer, or the BMW, but i’ll be buying my next bike through the same one if nothing else, because of the dealer.

  4. John R.
    Posted on: March 25, 2014 2:17 pm

    If Joe Ryan had to complete German rider training. I might even let him ride my bike.;-)
    Seriously, from what a friend has told me about how they do rider training in Germany, it’s like pilot training compared to the VERY basic MSF course that most states use as the standard.
    And THAT very likely plays a part in the difference between Mr. Ryan’s experience with German and American dealers.