European Motorcycle Dealers Take it to the Track [Video]
Riding with Moto Forza and GP Motorcycles
For many, buying a motorcycle, especially a European motorcycle, is a big purchase. The aura of motorcycles from across the Atlantic rather than the Pacific adds an element of accomplishment and exclusivity to the purchase as well. As such, the buying experience should be more than just a simple exchange of money.
That's where Balz Renggli and Paul Lima come in. The two friends are also owners of their own San Diego County-based motorcycle dealerships: Moto Forza and GP Motorcycles, respectively. Dealing exclusively with European motorcycles, the pair have earned a reputation in the Southern California area as one of the "go-to" dealerships if you're looking for a Ducati, KTM, Husqvarna, MV Agusta, Moto Guzzi, Aprilia, and, starting later this year, Norton. From the moment you walk in to their dealerships, their passion and enthusiasm for motorcycles and the products they sell is readily apparent.
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To give thanks to their customers, allow them to get a taste of what their machines are really capable of, and to have a little fun, “We’ll throw on a few trackdays a year for our customers and anyone else to enjoy the track.” Renggli says, adding “We like to share the camaraderie and enthusiasm our shops provide.” They generally do two to four trackdays a year at different tracks all around Southern California and charge from $160 to $190.
This worked perfectly for us as late last year, when we were looking to book some track time to conduct our 2011 Aprilia RSV4 APRC vs. 2012 Yamaha YZF-R1 test, weather reports indicated sporadic rainfall in the longterm forecasts. Combine this with the fact that many of the trackday organizations in the area were wrapping up their seasons, and the track portion of our testing was under serious jeopardy.
This particular time Renggli and Lima secured Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond, California, and invited us along. Once the weather report came back with sunny skies, we quickly packed our things and accepted the invitation.
The trackday itself was well run – we were pleased to find a very relaxed atmosphere, responsible riders, attentive corner workers, and even a catered lunch. Turnout was rather slim, but that’s by design. “We keep the group small, no more than 50-60 riders as we are not looking to make a profit, but merely to break even,” Renggli says, adding that neither he or Lima are in the trackday business. All the better, as it gave us plenty of room on the track session after session.
What stuck out to me, however, were the men behind the operation. Renggli and Lima opened their dealerships in search of fulfilling their passion and enthusiasm for the sport. "We are enthusiast shops starting from desire rather than profit," says Lima.
The two actually met as a result of Renggli's racing efforts. In 1998, Renggli won the Battle of the Twins Heavyweight championship at Willow Springs on a Ducati. Two years later he followed that performance by earning third place overall in the Aprilia Cup Challenge National Series. His sponsor? None other than Paul Lima and GP Motorcycles. After his racing career was over, Renggli needed another outlet to express his enthusiasm for the sport. Thus, Moto Forza was born.
With the rise of European motorcycles, the desire both men share holds true now more than ever.
"In my opinion," Lima says, "motorcycling is a lot more interesting now than it was 20 or 30 years ago, and I believe you can thank the European brands for that. When I started with motorcycles, the big box shops would treat you poorly if you said you had a Ducati or a Triumph. Now things have changed and they can’t be ignored."
The rise of European motorcycles has only served to validate Lima and Renggli's decision to serve this niche market, but you'd never see them gloating this fact. These dyed-in-the-wool motorcyclists truly love the sport, and that's the atmosphere they want to project when you walk in their respective dealerships. Whether it's to purchase a new motorcycle, get work done on your current ride, or just talk shop, they (and their staff) want you to feel like friends, not dollar signs. They often host barbecues and street rides, as well, so there's plenty of customer interaction after the sale is made. It seems to be working, as much of the business for both shops comes from repeat customers.
In this age of big business, maximum profit and zero personality, it's nice to know shops like this still exist. And with the European brands increasing their market share in the years to come, there's little doubt that Paul and Balz will surely be hosting more trackdays in the future.
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