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  • Staff Photo by Grant Morris

    Ben Turner browses the selection of motorcycles at RJ's Motorsports in Nashua, Thursday afternoon. Because of sites like Craigslist, vendors are having a hard time stocking their showrooms with used motorcycles.
  • Staff Photo by Grant Morris

    A man stands at the counter in a sparsely filled showroom at RJ's Motorsports in Nashua, Thursday afternoon.
  • Staff Photo by Grant Morris

    Rosevelt Naciff looks through the selection of used motorcycles at RJ's Motorsports in Nashua, Thursday afternoon, as he waits for his motorcycle's service completion.
Sunday, April 10, 2011

Motorcycle dealers in area hard-pressed to find used bikes

Vendors of used bikes are having difficulty stocking their showrooms entering the first weeks of spring, thanks to competition from online sellers and a reluctance for people to part with their steeds, several Greater Nashua dealers say.

“Everybody’s scrambling looking for used bikes. There’s just no used bikes out there,” said Roger Pageot, owner of RJ’s/RPM Motorcycle Service on Amherst Street in Nashua, which sells and services bikes.

“It looks like more people are holding onto their motorcycles, due to the cost of the new ones,” he said.

With gas prices reaching their highest levels since 2008, motorcycles are an increasingly enticing alternative to cars, especially as the riding season kicks into gear. High demand, combined with people’s decreasing willingness to sell their bikes, means it’s harder and harder for dealers to get their hands on quality stock.

Motorcycles, much like cars, quickly lose value when they’re driven off the lot. A new Harley Nightster sells for $11,000, according to Nashua Harley-Davidson, while the same bike, a year older with 4,000 miles on it, will retail for $8,690.

In part, Pageot blames the shortage in the motorcycle consignment market on “the wonderful world of Craigslist.”

“That thing seems to be loaded with used bikes,” he said. “That may be part of the reason I’m not getting some of the used bikes I used to get.”

The New Hampshire Cragslist site offers motorcycles of all sorts, from choppers to cruisers to race bikes to scooters, and everything in between in all conditions, mileages and ages.

Dave Anderson, of Big Toy Consignment, also on Amherst Street, agreed with Pageot. Unlike RJ’s, Big Toy relies heavily on consignment, with 90 percent of its business coming from used bike sales. A large banner outside the shop implores passers-by to bring in their bikes.

Brian Wheeler, manager at Hudson Cycles, said his shop is facing the same difficulties for the same reasons.

“I really have nothing I can do,” Wheeler said. “It’s a free market.”

Things were different when the recession hit. Motorcycle consignment shops saw an influx of top-notch bikes, such as choppers and custom hogs, that riders were forced to sell.

Pageot said before the recession, many bought new through “teaser” deals – low-payment, big-interest loans. But then owners found themselves “upside down,” meaning the vehicle was worth less than what was owed.

“The $39-a-month special from Suzuki, where you’re not paying anything and then all of a sudden, a year later, that $7,000 bike you bought, you still owe $7,800.”

Pageot said he actually saw some benefits from that because the used bike market flourished.

Regardless, RJ’s was no exception to the general economic malaise. Prior to the recession, Pageot employed 10 people. He had to lay off five. Business has increased over each of the past three years, but he hasn’t been able to rehire.

Used bikes comprise a small part of Pageot’s business – some 10 percent – but he considers bike sales a necessary evil: “Motorcycle shops aren’t any fun if they don’t have any bikes in ’em.”

And the bikes he sells, Pageot said, bring in customers who spend upwards of $500 on accessories, not to mention service, his company’s mainstay.

The service end is especially booming this time of year, Pageot said.

“Guys are getting their motorcycles prepped early,” he said. “Guys are pulling stuff out of their garage that hasn’t run in three years.”