Six Gears and a Mountain Ride: Mechanical Breakdown and Communication Rescue

Jul 17, 2023

Six Gears and a Mountain Ride: mechanical breakdown and communication rescue

A Riders Share Owner’s Story: By Gregory Ormson, Mesa, Arizona

 

Nobody wants a mechanical breakdown – ever! But think of your bike out with a renter and he is a thousand miles away. Worse, the nearest repair facility is over 100 miles away; your bike and renter are stranded on a remote mountain road. You absolutely don’t want a breakdown then, but that’s what happened to my Riders Share client.

Jose rented my bike for a nine-day trip and was joined for a Southwest U.S. tour by his group of longtime friends. They had created their own bikers club and had taken group trips before. As they took off from the Phoenix east valley on their trip, I watched their social media posts and they looked happy as they logged miles and smiles. Jose was posting maps on Instagram. In one, bikers in leather lay down on their backs and carved snow angels high in the Rockies – something people in Guadalajara, Mexico don’t do.

On the sixth day, my phone lit up with a call from Mexico. It was Jose, stranded in mid-Colorado, deep in a canyon. Through a crackling and intermittent connection, I understood Jose to say there was a problem with my shifter. He was going to call Rider’s Share as the bike was inoperable. An engineer by trade, he accepted that mechanical problems do happen, metal parts give out, and he was gracious about the situation. The most important thing is that he and his wife were okay. From then on, we kept in contact by text. And yes, it’s worrisome when something like this happens.

 Not long after I spoke with Jose, Kendra from Rider’s Share called and we discussed my bike’s situation. She confidently laid out the steps she would take to secure my bike and deliver it for repair. She said towing costs would be paid by Riders Share. Because of my bike’s remote location, the tow bill turned out to be well over $1,000. Read that again, well over $1,000.

Kendra answered all my questions and said she’d keep in touch with me throughout the process of decision-making and transporting my bike. She asked if I’d make some calls to Harley Davidson shops in and around Denver to research their service situations. I did but was dismayed that the service queues were booked for a couple of weeks in most places. This wouldn’t have been a problem, and I could have elected to ship my bike back to Mesa, Arizona, but I was scheduled to attend the Panguitch Old Skool Motorcycle Rally in Panguitch, Utah (July 6-9), to write a story for American Rider Magazine. Shipping my bike to Mesa would not have given me enough time to get it repaired and make it to the rally.

While I was calling Harley Davidson dealerships, Kendra was working hard asking questions of tow companies, repair shops, and their reputations. This could have been a bad situation because while mechanical breakdowns are fixable with common tools, handling human emotions is far more difficult. Emotions and people are messy and unpredictable: disappointment, anger, sadness, worry, stress, and money anxiety. Handling people and their feelings requires the best communication skills.

Immediately, Kendra assured me that Riders Share would solve the logistics of towing my bike to the place of my choice. I was confident in her ability to handle all the issues we faced because of her tone of voice, her confident and deliberate manner, and her strategic thinking out loud with me as we talked about the options, costs for repair (my responsibility), repair destinations, and the time element I had in mind to pick up my bike in Denver and get to the rally in Panguitch.

My bike on the trailer towed to Wicked Influence

Handling these moving parts effectively requires someone with communication skills and the ability to inspire confidence. At one point in our conversations, Kendra said, “Greg, I know this is stressful and there’s a lot involved, but I do this all day every day, and I can assure you we’ll take care of it.” This was immensely reassuring.

The transportation industry is a big deal and it’s an important aspect in nearly all our lives. We need transportation for rescue services, food delivery, movement of supplies, people, tourism, commuting, public safety, life-saving medical supplies, and more. It’s common to think of the transportation industry in terms of logistics, but an equally important factor for effective transportation management is communication skills.

At the start of the second day, I knew where my bike was going, who would tow it, and who would work on it. Perhaps I was just lucky, but I think Kendra was able to secure the people that I needed, and they also took time to communicate with me.

Rider Rescue Towing Company owner, Mike Levy, was one of them. He called and explained that my bike was safe and told me his plan for towing the next morning. Mike had towed many motorcycles over the years and acquired vast knowledge about motorcycle shops, their reputations, and their service. Mike had confidence in Frank Coghlan at Wicked Influence in Wheat Ridge, Co., and largely because of his recommendation, Kendra and I decided to take my bike there. I was relieved to see that the Better Business Bureau had rated Wicked Influence as an A+ company.

From the time Mike picked up my bike until delivery on the morning of day three, we had four conversations. He went well above expectations with his communication, and when my bike was delivered, he sent six photos to assure me it was where he said it was.

After his work was done, Mike asked many questions about Riders Share. I was impressed that he was taking the time to learn. He is an example of someone using the communication loop to ask questions and listen to feedback. That’s how he knew which shops had good reputations and which ones did not.

My experience with Riders Share illustrates the importance of “soft skills.” They are underrated, but in a problem/solution scenario, soft skills are the key to positive outcomes. An axiom of any difficult experience is that miscommunication compounds misunderstandings and problems, but good communication can be the pathway to resolution and solution.

In my professional life, I taught communication skills full-time for 12 years at a Wisconsin college. Many communication scholars consider empathy to be the most important communication skill, yet the least often practiced. The ability to empathize with another person, to imagine their worry about their bike, and use other communication tools (like listening, feedback, and disclosure) to put someone at ease demonstrates to the other person that they have been heard.

To put my mind at ease, Mike gave me the number for Frank at Wicked Influence and said, “Frank is a great mechanic and he’ll be expecting your call.” When I called Frank, he said, “Oh yea, you’re the third person to call me about this bike.” It was another sign to me that Riders Share and Rider Rescue had done their jobs.

I asked Frank about the shifter and if he thought it was something that he could take care of. “Oh yea. I’ve replaced hundreds of those shift levers for the bagger models. I keep a stack of them on hand. Not the cheaper stock aluminum grade but heavy-duty steel. If it’s what I think it is,” Frank said, “I’ll have it replaced in no time.”

On the fourth day, Frank called and said my bike was done. I asked if it was what he predicted. “Yep, exactly what I thought,” he said. Relieved, I sighed.

I thank Mike for towing my bike and keeping in touch with me through the towing process.

I thank Frank for repairing my bike and Frank’s wife Katy who picked me up at the airport and drove me from Denver back to the shop in Wheatridge to get my bike.

I thank Jose for understanding that things can happen with a motorcycle through normal use.  

Most of all, I thank Kendra, the primary Riders Share contact in this breakdown drama of six gears and mountain ride.

Riders, when your bike has a problem, think not about taking your frustrations out on someone, but think about the people who stand ready to assist you. Have a little faith that Kendra’s experience, Mike’s experience, Ken’s experience, and your rider’s experience will keep your bike safe and get the job done for you.

To appreciate what they are doing on your behalf will require you to have some empathy for their situation too. Remember that Kendra said, “I do this all day long, every day.” With the help of Riders Share, when your renter has a breakdown with your bike, take confidence that you will be part of a mechanical fix and a communication rescue. With that, carry on. Happy renting and happy problem-solving.

 

Gregory Ormson is a former MSF rider/coach for the State of Hawaii and a moto journalist with stories in Arizona Rider News, HOG Magazine, Thunder Press, and American Rider Magazine. From 2017-2022 he taught Yoga for Bikers at Superstition Harley Davidson in Arizona. He’s been a Rider Share owner/renter since September 2021, Greg’s motorcycle experience/tour takes riders to visit the memorable, majestic, and mysterious pyramid tombs of three early Arizona pioneers. He writes on motorcycling, music, and yoga at https://gregoryormson.com