Fly in, ride out

The Motorcycle Shop takes adventure touring to the next level

Visiting Alaska? Perhaps you’ve always wanted to ride to Dead Horse, the farthest northern point in the U.S., but never had the chance. The Motorcycle Shop in Anchorage, Alaska, has become the go-to stop shop for any travelers looking for a unique adventure touring experience.

“We’ve always been a big adventure touring market,” said Andrew McConnell, sales manager at The Motorcycle Shop (TMS). “Up here in Alaska, we like to say that you can see all the cool things by pavement, but all the really cool stuff on dirt.”

The Motorcycle Shop team posing in their new dealership. TMS has relocated to a more populated area and a  facility that is nearly five times its original size at 28,000 square feet.

The Motorcycle Shop team posing in their new dealership. TMS has relocated to a more populated area and a
facility that is nearly five times its original size at 28,000 square feet.

As the segment’s growth in recent years can attest, adventure touring has become more popular because of the off-road abilities the bikes allow. Without having to get into a car or load up a dirt bike, riders can see the backcountry elements that have made Alaska famous.

Since 1972, TMS has been locally owned, and it’s the oldest family-run dealership in Alaska. Its lineup includes BMW, Ducati, Husqvarna, Kawasaki, KTM and Triumph.

“The last couple of years especially, our six brands have gotten really competitive, with KTM coming out with the new 1190, Ducati’s updated Mulitstrada and Triumph’s Tigers,” McConnell said. “We’ve got all of these different and very competitive adventure bikes all in the same room, so it’s been really neat because we’ve seen a lot of growth there. People come in, have a great selection and see what all the really big players have to offer.”

TMS has undergone an expansion in recent months. The dealership relocated to a more populated area and a facility that is nearly five times its original size at 28,000 square feet.

“On our old street we saw about 1,000 cars a day and now … it’s a huge amount of traffic increase. We’ve always been kind of in an industrial production district, and we’ve moved now to a much more trafficked area,” McConnell said.

Although the competition between brands remains relatively equal, the R 1200 GS from BMW is the top-selling adventure bike model.

“It seems like most people are able to see the value in it even though it’s a bit more expensive,” McConnell said. “Most people coming in looking at other models, they seem to have that one in the back of their minds. Once we can talk to them a little bit and explain why it costs what it does, they’re usually pretty accepting of it.”


The R 1200 GS is followed closely by the KTM 1190 for those “who are a little bit more hardcore and aren’t looking to do quite as much of the road riding,” McConnell said.

Easy access

For those looking for the ultimate road trip, TMS has experience helping travelers get the bikes they need safely and in a timely manner.

“We get a lot of travelers that are flying into town and are purchasing motorcycles to ride home. That’s another place where people assume that we won’t be able to help them out, and they’re just as surprised and excited when we say we can,” McConnell said.

TMS has seen visitors from all over the world, including Canada, Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina, Australia and the U.K. McConnell gets emails on a weekly basis from people who are interested in buying a bike and then driving from Dead Horse to Argentina, or back home, wherever that may be.

Just this year, TMS has sold 25 bikes to owners flying in and traveling the rest of the way on two wheels. “We arrange all that for them and make sure that the bike and everything else they may need is 100 percent ready to go when they get here because you don’t get a second chance — everything has to be perfect,” he said.

Along with making sure the bikes are ready, McConnell says he gives advice to all travelers, talking through route and travel logistics.

“We really try and educate all our travelers,” he added. “We have some pretty dangerous roads up here, some pretty big stretches.” Dalton Highway, located in Alaska, is the longest dirt highway in the country. The highway consists of a 500-mile stretch from Fairbanks to Dead Horse, and McConnell says it’s important to know how quickly the conditions can change on such a long route.

Outreach efforts

The dealership as a whole has made community outreach a focus for the coming year. “Especially because we’re in a smaller market, we really are trying to take an approach where when anybody needs something relating to motorcycles, they think ‘The Motorcycle Shop’ first,” said McConnell.

TMS markets such outreach events mostly by word of mouth, especially with such a tight-knit riding community. The dealership has seen a large increase in its target audience for social media and email marketing as well.

Last month, TMS hosted an Adventure Bike Showcase, which combined bike contests, free food and a fundraiser for the Lone Survivor foundation.

“It was a community event first and foremost, and then we added in this fundraiser aspect and of course for the dealership side of things, we want to make sure that we were showcasing some bikes that we actually have available.” The parking lot was full of 50 adventure touring travelers sharing stories about their bikes and their journeys. McConnell agreed it was a success, as it attracted riders who hadn’t heard about the joys of adventure touring.

Part of what makes the TMS team so unique is not only their commitment to customer satisfaction or adeptness to change, but their age, said McConnell: “We have our dealer principal who has been here the whole time, so he keeps us in check. But as far as our management and people doing the ordering, nobody’s over 30. We all have this fresh approach, and we’re not afraid to try things out.” 

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