My Experience of (Not Actually) Buying a Moto Guzzi From Moto International.
First off let me say that I’ve always loved Moto Guzzis since I got interested in motorcycles as a kid. There was just something about them: exotic, unusual, brutal or even agro at times. And I will admit that in high school there was a brief period where Ducati excited me too, but that was because the Paso 750 had just come out and they were all over in the motorcycle magazines. But before long Moto Guzzi was back in my sights. At the time I wads riding a Suzuki GS850L and I would ride around to the British and European motorcycle shops in the Seattle and Portland areas to drool and learn more about these exotic creatures. As a bratty high school kid I used to bug Dave Richardson at a couple of shops up in Shoreline. My first year in college I almost bought a 73 Norton Commando, and I would have if the owner had been home at the time (I heard it was for sale from a friend, I knew where it lived, I rode my bicycle over and knocked on the door). Instead I bought a BMW R65LS, and that was my primary ride for the next 10 years.
After college I moved back to Seattle. One of my best friends wanted to get into riding, so we used to go around to the local shops to look at bikes. And we found Moto International – which at the time was in a very stealth location. They had Guzzis, new ones and classic ones. There was a Benelli, a Laverda 750 SF that I fell in love with, and guys willing to tell us about them and talk motorcycles. It was awesome (at this time I still hadn’t put it together that Dave was the same guy I used to bug up in Shoreline).
Eventually my friend realized that a financially sounder option for him was a 10-year-old Honda Interceptor 700 to learn on. But we still went to Moto International every few months to look. Then came the International Motorcycle Show, and Moto International had a Sport 1100 there to show off. My friend James fell in love with it. And when they finally had one in for demo rides, we went down so he could try it out. He loved it. Me, I tried to talk him out of it (and I have a Sport 1100, and I still stand behind my reasons that it wasn’t the practical bike for him at the time). That day he didn’t buy the bike – he was going to crunch the numbers and figure out the best way to finance it – but so convinced was he that he was going to get it he bought a Moto Guzzi window sticker that nearly covered the entire rear cab window of his old Chevy truck. Ultimately being a poor student at the time, he didn’t buy it.
A couple of years later I was finally in a position to start thinking about buying a newer motorcycle, and I headed down to Moto International. I talked with Dave for a bit and he set me up to take a Centauro out for a demo. I liked it, it was nice, but it didn’t blow me away – speak to me if you will. When I got back with the Centauro there was a California idling in the parking lot. Dave came out and said that he thought I should take it out on a demo as well as a comparison. I actually liked it more (probably because it took a few more years to really figure out the Centauros quirks and set it up properly), but I just wasn’t quite ready to make a purchase.
Over the interim Moto International moved to their current location. They had also taken on Laverda during the marquees brief comeback. And they were now conveniently walking distance from where I lived at the time. I had to at least try a Laverda. And they handed me the keys to one, and I had a blast, and scared myself for a brief moment until I realized the speedo was in KPH not MPH. Tempting, but I wasn’t quite sure. That’s when Dave gave me some of the best advice about buying a motorcycle (or any vehicle for that matter): he told me to go out and ride a bunch of different motorcycles, ride everything I’d ever wanted or dreamed of owning, and eventually I’d figure out which one I wanted. So that’s what I did over the next few weeks. On my days off I rode around to and took out new BMW’s, Ducati’s, Honda’s, even some classic bikes. But then I started to think about the Sport 1100 I’d talked my buddy out of buying. I asked Dave if he knew of any for sale. Just by chance, he did – a customer who’d bought an early carbureted version was moving out of state and had come in earlier that week to let them know he was selling it. Dave only had an email for the seller (cell phones weren’t common then and he was in the process of moving) and he went to his computer and sent an email him an email with my phone number.
This seemed like it might be tricky: the seller was in town for a few days but really living in California; I didn’t have email and he might not have access to his email until he got back home; the Guzzi was at his parents house in Shoreline, etc. But I still wanted to check out a Sport 1100 before I committed to new(er) bike. By chance (again) I was running errands later that day and wile riding up Hwy 99 through Shoreline I saw a black Sport 1100 pulling into a gas station about a block away. I decided to check, just in case. I pulled up next to him and asked if it happened to be for sale. That was the very bike Dave had told me about only an hour earlier. I followed him back to his parents house, checked the bike over, to it for a little ride (“You break it, you bought it.” we agreed). And fell in love with it. We made the deal and a week later his parents had received the title in the mail and I went over with a cashiers check to pick up my Moto Guzzi. Now 15 years later, I still love my Guzzi.
So, I didn’t actually buy my Moto Guzzi from Moto International, but they were instrumental in helping me to find and buy my Moto Guzzi. And here’s the thing, the difference: over all the years of going to motorcycle shops (since 1987), I’ve had a variety of experiences. Some shops seemed indifferent to my buying a motorcycle from them, some shops felt like they either didn’t want to sell me a motorcycle or didn’t know how to sell them, some salespeople knew less about the bikes they were selling than I did. Moto International was, and is, different: it’s not that hey didn’t want to sell me a motorcycle, they wanted me to buy the right motorcycle, regardless of if it was from them or even a bike they could later service. That, and their incredible depth of knowledge is what make them stand out. In a lot of ways, the Crew at Moto International is like extended family, and I’ve made some good friends out the crew that’s worked there over the years.