May 3, 2010: An expanding consumer group

A recent consumer survey of new bike buyers has shown more and more metric riders are doing their own service work.

This likely side effect of a challenged economy doesn’t appear to be only occurring among metric riders, however. James Grooms, the editorial director for Clymer Repair Manuals, says the longtime publisher of consumer “how to” service books has seen quite a shift among its sales.

For the first time, an ATV book stands as the publisher’s No. 1 seller, overcoming the company’s traditionally top-selling Harley-Davidson titles.

“The Polaris ATV customer base seems to be a very hands-on group of people,” Grooms said, noting the company’s top-selling title covers the Polaris Sportsman.

“We’ve always done well in the ATV utility industry, and we’re going to continue to move more of our resources into that market and start to look at UTV,” he said.

The DIY group — the Do It Yourselfers — only seem to be growing. The recent J.D. Power and Associates’ new bike buyer survey of 2009 showed nearly 28 percent of metric riders prefer to do their own service. That percentage is up notably compared to five years ago. Smaller percentage increases are seen in the European and Harley markets.

Grooms said Clymer saw sales of its how-to consumer manuals rise in the first quarter. That could be partially related to a growing used motorcycle market. Past industry surveys conducted by R.L. Polk, a provider of industry data, shows the ratio of used to new bikes have changed dramatically over the past year. That ratio used to be nearly one to one, but now is at least four used bikes to one new bike.

“By their very nature, a guy who buys a used bike is generally more comfortable working on it himself,” Grooms said of the used bike buyer. “The bike is his risk and his reward so he usually knows more about it.”

Grooms says Clymer has definitely noticed the rise in preowned bike buyers through its customer service support line. “We’ve seen you have more second, third or fourth Harley-Davidson owners,” he said. “We see a lot of 2004, 2005, 2006 bikes have changed hands.”

The company also has seen its online efforts pay off as its YouTube videos have nearly 1 million views. That doesn’t mean Grooms believes the printed version is going away anytime soon.

“I believe a printed manual at hand when you’re working on something is still the best tool,” he said. “I don’t believe the vast majority of people have laptops and computers in their garage. I don’t believe that printing stuff is the best way to do it. A book is something you live with. You write stuff in it. You record service intervals and make notes.”

Grooms also doesn’t see the growing DIY crowd as necessarily a bad thing for dealers concerned about service department revenue. Grooms points out that consumer repair manuals usually coincide with added tool and parts and accessory sales.


“We price at MSRP on Clymer.com, so this pushes sales to dealers both traditional and online sellers,” he said. “We are actively working to develop tools to support the dealers. For example, we see our Web site as a research tool for them.”

— Neil Pascale

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