If you’ve been to our shop on 1901 S. Western Ave, then you’ve probably met Grant. Part of our sales team, Grant helps new customers and seasoned riders navigate the waters of making good motorcycle decisions. We recently sat down with Grant to talk sales, surfing, and letting go of all those reasons you’re not buying the bike you really want.
Nathaniel: Who are you?
Grant: I’m Grant W. Newcomb. I like the pretentious middle initial.
Tell us what you do here at the Motoworks.
Well the whole point of having a shop is to make some money, so I sell bikes.
So you’re sales — in the sales process.
Tell us about that. What’s it like to buy a bike here? What is it that you’re helping people with ultimately? Because if they’re coming in, it’s not like you’re talking them into it.
No, most of the folks that come in are just browsing or are completely new riders. These are guys and gals — and we’re seeing more and more gals, which is awesome — come in and they have some preconceived notions of what they might want to buy. We just help them break it down — help dig into what they’re looking to use the bike for. What do they expect to do? What kind of person are they? Then, we just try to find the right bike for them and hopefully get them financed and on the road.
But, there are a lot of realities to walk through and a lot of information to deliver.
Well, there’s servicing the bike. People need to understand that there are service intervals, what that takes and what it costs, and that they have options for how to take care of that.
So you’re not shying away from that complete cost of ownership?
No, you can’t, because anything else would be a lie. They’re going to figure it out, so might as well help them understand that up front. They just have to understand that there’s going to be an expensive service coming up in a couple years. Or if they ride a lot and are putting 12,000+ miles on their bike in just a couple seasons, that there’s going to be some costs coming up.
That makes sense, and better they know that up front.
How long have you been with Motoworks?
I’ve been here since January of 2014
So you’re coming up on a year?
We’ll have to throw you a party. We’ll have cake and all wear little hats.
We did that for my birthday. Well, we just drank…
Well, there’s always that.
N: So let’s go back into Grant’s Childhood here in our deposition / therapy session.
Are you going to hypnotize me?
Yes. You are getting sleepy.
I am getting sleepy.
Where are you from originally?
I was born in Buffalo, NY, which is covered in snow right now. I don’t really have any memories of Buffalo, so I don’t really say that I’m “from” there. So the next location was Beuford, SC. If you’ve ever seen Forest Gump, that’s where it was filmed.
Did you grow up in that house with all the trees on the road?
No, not that particular house. I grew up in a home that stood on our old family land. It was where our family’s plantation originally was, but my grandfather had lost the plantation to taxes. Now it’s actually several subdivisions and I lived in the oldest, early ‘90s subdivision called Planter’s Circle.
After that where’d you end up?
After that we moved to Columbia, SC and we lived there for two years. Then up to Corning, NY, where I went to high school. Then I moved down to Charleston, SC which is really the major metropolitan area of the low country.
When did you come to Chicago and what brought you here?
I moved here in December of last year and I came here to work at Motoworks.
Oh wow. So how did you make that connection to come here from Charleston?
Well I got back into motorcycling a few years ago, although I wasn’t really riding at the time. I’d gotten my dad’s Ducati Monster as a hand-me-down, but my car at the time was Ford Mustang 5.0. I was driving the Mustang, but then started riding the Monster in to work every day. The more I did, the less often I drove my car.
I hated my job at the time. I was climbing the corporate ladder and just started hating it. Of course then they laid off everyone in my division and that pretty much made the decision for me. The job market is a little tough these days, so I wanted to go a different route and now I had the justification to take a risk and do something really different, and this was a job I could take. It was either this, or selling insurance, so that was an easy choice.
So you said that Monster got you back into bikes. Where did you start?
I rode a little bit in high school. I would ride friends’ bikes. I spent some time on a couple different Kawasakis. A lot of time it was dirt bikes. I never really bought my own, and I kind of never thought I’d ride again after high school, you know?
Why did you stop riding, just because you didn’t have your own bike?
I didn’t have my own bike and I always thought it was kind of unsafe, but after crashing a few cars I know that cars aren’t that safe either.
That’s a good realization. I think a lot of people assume motorcycling is perhaps more dangerous than it really is. Not to say that it isn’t dangerous, but they assume that by comparison other things they are doing are safe, but that’s not necessarily true.
Well you know, there’s no illusion of safety on a bike. You know that it’s dangerous. In a car you think “Oh, this will save me in an accident.” It might not.
So there’s no false sense of security on a motorcycle?
Exactly. You’re on your guard. You’re not listening to music. You’re not texting. you’re on your guard. Everything is right there, and you’re passing it by.
So what are you riding now?
Now I’m riding a 2014 Vespa Sprint.
That’s such a great looking bike, and a great riding bike.
It is. It’s not fast. That is, the top-end isn’t that fast. It’s quick though. I’m in no hurry to go too fast here in the city.
So you use that to commute, as I saw it out front of the shop.
Yeah, I use it to commute the whole mile to work. I live in Little Villiage.
If you’re just going to go for a fun ride, where do you like to go?
I’ll hit up Lakeshore Drive and then pull off into some part of town I’ve never been to. I rode up to Lake Geneva with my wife on the back and that was …interesting. It was fun. It wasn’t bad. I was a little cold. I haven’t really gotten to explore the Chicago area that much yet.
Is that something you like to use your scooter for, to explore places you haven’t been and learn your way around.
Yeah, I think it’s cool to explore that way.
So aside from the motorcycle-related stuff, what do you like to do for fun?
Nothing at the moment. I really miss surfing and I used to make my own boards. I had my own brand name for a while, but it didn’t work out too well. I launched Fat Man Surfboards in 2008 and instantly saw that recession hit hard. I have a few friends who have surf shops and they’ve still got a few of my 2008 boards in stock. So that’s kinda sad. It’s just like bikes, there’s no margin in surfboards, so I was spending time and money on something that I was really not making any money on.
So you mentioned earlier that there’s actually fresh water surfing on Lake Michigan.
Yeah, on Lake Michigan and I think on Lake Superior. I’m not an expert at all in it but I’d like to try out surfing again here. It looks like there’s some pretty good waves, especially those winter storm waves.
So is winter the time that you’d end up doing that?
Yeah, it’s not really that strange to me because in South Carolina, most of the waves come in late fall and winter and so there’d be that meeting of cold water and cold wind.
I guess I would assume that in the winter you would just get in the water and die of hypothermia right away.
Well you wear a wet suit and that basically turns you into a seal. You’re actually very warm in the water. It’s when you’re up in the air. That’s what freezes you.
So getting up on the board, that’s when you start freezing your ass off until you get back in the water?
Yeah, the reality is that you’re talking about 10-20 seconds tops. It’s all this work for a couple seconds of thrill. I guess that applies to a lot of things, right?
Right. Hurry up and wait.
So yeah, the water is usually warm. It’s when you’re on the board that you start to freeze your ass off. Your back gets cold first. They do make heated wet suits though, just like heated motorcycle gear.
Really? Seems like electricity and water wouldn’t be a good mix.
It’s DC though.
Well DC can shock and kill you too!
I don’t really know about electricity. It’s PFM.
Pure f–kin’ magic.
Ha! That’s awesome. So aside from getting into fresh water surfing this winter, anything else on your radar that you want to try?
I want to learn how to sew. I want to learn how to make shirts. It’s tough to find interesting shirts that fit me well.
I’ve got a guy you should talk to.
You’ve got a shirt guy?
Yeah I’ve got a shirt guy. I literally know a guy who owns a shirt company. I think he’s actually a Motoworks customer. The company is Glass House Shirtmakers. They make their shirts domestically with sustainable materials and sustainable labor practices. It’s all on the up-and-up.
So by sustainable do you mean lasts forever or environmentally friendly.
Environmentally friendly, but also made to be durable. That’s part of their jazz as well.
You buy fewer shirts in your life.
Fewer Bangaldeshi children making your clothes?
Yeah, and fewer resources used keeping you not naked.
Well, if I could walk around naked, I probably would.
Wouldn’t we all?
So what is the one thing that you would want people to know? When people come in to look at a bike, what’s the thing you see a lot of that you wish people understood before they came in just because it would make their experience so much easier?
I see a lot of people trying to rationalize their purchase. I think you need to let go of that. You’re buying something that’s completely irrational. You’ve got two wheels, and nothing stands on two wheels by itself, so already the whole prospect is kinda crazy. People try to rationalize it like “Oh I’m going to use this for commuting so I want it to be really utilitarian.” When what they really want is a sport bike or a cruiser, but they’re talking themselves out of what they really want. It’s really a gut call, so I’d say don’t try to apply reason to an irrational thing. Go with the bike you actually want and don’t worry about why. If it’s within your budget, great. If not, wait a little while and save a little more, or finance it.
So buy the bike you actually want, and it’s okay to buy it purely because you want to?
Right. So for example, I didn’t really understand scooters when I first got here. I thought they were this weird little thing that people buy for scooting around the beach. Then I rode one and realized how much I loved it. I didn’t love my motorcycle as much as I loved riding a scooter. What do I do about this? Well the answer was simple. I traded in my Triumph Thruxton on a yellow Vespa Sprint. I’m a big guy rolling around on a scooter that weighs less than I do, and I don’t care.
That sounds familiar.
It’s funny, when we did that ride earlier this year it was Jacob, Johnny, me and you on Vespas and it was like the four levels of a power-to-weight equation.
And especially when I got on the 946!
The 946 actually has a slightly higher top speed than the Sprint.
Is it geared higher?
I don’t know. It could just be aerodynamics. I did 70 mph on the 946 and can only get 65 mph out of my Sprint.
Well who’s to tell if the speedometer is accurate?
Oh probably neither. They’re both out of the same factory.
Really the only way to find out how fast you’re going is to find those school zones with the electronic signs and just compare the radar to what the speedometer says.
Or use GPS.
Although I have always wondered what would happen to one of those school zone signs if you hit triple digits.
Would they read “00”?
We should find out.
We will keep you posted on Grant’s inevitable bail bond fundraising efforts after he’s arrested doing the ton in a school zone on his Vespa. In the meantime, say hi to him next time you’re in the shop. He’ll be the guy wearing a wet suit.