We sat down with Craig Reimer, who is relatively new to the Motoworks Chicago team, to get to know him a little bit. If you’ve been in the store recently, there’s a good chance Craig helped you out with riding gear, helmets and accessories. In this conversation we dive deep into Craig’s checkered past with motorcycles, moving to Chicago to chase a girl, and his enthusiasm for making motorcycles and scooters part of his daily life.
Nathaniel: Okay, so state your name for the record.
Craig: Craig Reimer. As it goes, they call me 2.0, so Craig 2.0 Reimer.
Where are you from originally?
I am from Manitowoc, Wisconsin — a little Indian-named town. There are so many in Wisconsin.
Okay, so you’re originally a Wisconsin guy.
Originally from Manitowoc, joined the service in high school, did that for about two years.
Army, active duty. I was in the chemical corps, which sounds a lot fancier than it is. My actual job was Heavy Decon Specialist, which turns out to be glorified car washer. It’s a very necessary job, though. I was in Iraq when all that went down in 2003 — you know the big WMD scare — so had our U.S. coalition forces been attacked with biological or chemical weapons, I was on the cleanup crew. So this was a very important job, but one you hope to never actually do.
Definitely hazardous in its own unique way.
Absolutely. Thank goodness I never did have to do my job. We got tasked out to do various other things, though. We worked with EOD and did casualty evacuation and some other, mostly interesting stuff. It was definitely an experience.
After the army, I was back to Manitowoc for a couple years, where I worked in manufacturing. I moved to Fox Valley — so Appleton, Oshkosh area — in late 2011 and continued working in manufacturing for another couple years before I just got sick of corporate bullshit and was like, “I cannot do this. This is not my life.”
I found a better job really just by happenstance and coincidence. A new Triumph dealer popped up in the valley. I had been riding a Triumph for a couple years so I was like, “Great! A place to get service done!” I went and visited the shop, and I liked them and they liked me, and three months later I had a job there. I thought all right this is it, this is it, this is where I belong. Now I’ve been working in the industry for, creeping up on a year and a half, and there’s no turning back. I’m much happier here than I ever was in manufacturing, no doubt about it.
What brought you to Chicago?
I hate to admit it, sort of, because I was, well, chasing a girl.
Five weeks from inception to completion, I moved to Chicago. My outgoing boss knew Johnny [Scheff], and had said, “Hey, if you’re going to Chicago check out Motoworks. It’s a little, boutique Triumph shop in the city. I think you’d like it. It seems like your speed. You’re kind of a quirky guy, they’re kind of a quirky place. Go check it out.”
I came in here to Motoworks the first time like anybody else would. I didn’t come in looking for a job necessarily. I just came in, scoped the place out to see how they’d treat me. Somebody showed me around and slowly but surely, I started opening up and sharing that I did know a little bit about what was going on, and that I had some industry experience. Before I could even walk out, Johnny offered me a job. He was like, “Hey, we’re looking for some part time help, maybe just weekends. You know Lightspeed, it’s impossible to train anyone for part time. You have to invest so much, and you only get so much back. If you already know it, are you open to that? Would you come hang out on Saturdays?” Yes I would, absolutely. Started working here Saturdays in July, and now I’m full time.
Cool, so what’s your role here now in a full time capacity? What are you up to?
I want to say that my title is Motorcycle Enthusiast, because it’s absolutely accurate but totally nondescript.
Well, you don’t need to title it. If a customer comes into Motoworks, what are you going to help them with?
Apparel. Really, I’m the Apparel Manager. All technical stuff, helmets, jackets, gloves, boots, but then t-shirts and thinks like keychains and all that too. I make sure that we maintain the right stocking levels, have the right stuff that our client base actually wants. Then I actually help sell it as well.
Chicago is a really different place to ride. It’s very street-oriented, and you’ve got to escape the city to really have fun. When it comes to the gear, and what not, what are you seeing that people are really liking — that people are getting really good use out of for the riding they’re doing based out of Chicago?
It’s been a real challenge for me, coming from a place where pulling out of my garage, it was two minutes until I was on empty country roads of twisties. So it’s been a real transition to understand what the city riding life is all about. It seems that people are looking for convenience. Not everyone wants to wear a full-face helmet because it doesn’t seem like the most convenient thing to do, so we move a lot of three-quarter helmets.
That also seems to fit the retro resurgence that we’re seeing too, like the most popular bikes. The Ducati Scrambler was huge this year. It doesn’t quite fit in the same keyhole as the Triumph Scrambler, but it’s in the same neighborhood. The Triumph Modern Classic bikes, I think, are probably the best moving out of the shop, so that’s the person that I am trying to help get outfitted.
For folks living in the city, they want gear that is going to perform for them on the bike, but is going to look good off the bike too. I can park and walk down the street, and I don’t necessarily look like a Power Ranger with super-flashy sport bike gear. They want something that’s kind of living in that middle ground between form and function. Thankfully, there’s enough manufacturers out there making the right gear, so we can help them do that.
Obviously, we don’t carry every brand imaginable here in the store. We have a handful of lines that we focus in, precisely because it’s the stuff that our customers actually want and actually use. Give us a little breakdown of who we carry, and what they’re doing well, and why folks should consider them.
On the helmet side of the house, I would say our best selling brands of helmet would be Bell, Shoei, and Arai. Shoei and Arai are just well known for being cream of the crop helmet manufacturers, they really are top of the line, and you certainly pay for that. You’re looking at $500 to $800 for one of their helmets, so that’s generally for somebody who’s pretty serious about riding. Most first time riders aren’t prepared to spend $800 bucks for a helmet, but once you’ve worn a crappy helmet or two, they’re often thinking “Okay, I’m ready to step up.”
Bell makes a less expensive helmet range, which is not to say that they’re the crappy helmet manufacturer. They’re really not, but they do make some really nice price-point helmets. First time riders often have a specific budget in mind, like “I only want to spend $200 on a helmet.” I can’t get them a Shoei for that price, but here’s a Bell. It’s going to perform for them, it’s going to give them everything they need from a helmet, and it’s a great place to start.
We’ve got the Biltwell helmets as well in that price-conscious space.
Biltwell helmets are sitting in that retro group along with the Bell Custom 500, or Bell Bullitt. They’re a really nice helmet too. In particular, they have some really great padding inside, so it’s really comfortable on your head.
My Gringo is really comfortable.
It’s still got the retro look. It’s sub-$200, so fits right in there. You can put a bunch of really fun looking shields on it — some bubble shields or some mirror stuff, gradient shading, the works. You can really create your own look with it, which is fun too. I think that’s something that a lot of people are trying to do. They want to belong to motorcycle culture, but they don’t want to look like everyone else. “I want to fit in in my own way.” That’s something, I think, is good for people to do, but I think it’s something you especially find in the city.
Where I come from — a small town — people are scared to stand out too much, because they’re going to be the only one who’s standing out. When you live in a city like Chicago, there’s a lot of people who are standing out, and so even if you’re standing out as a completely unique individual with your own style, you’re still in a group of other completely unique individuals who are standing out. It’s easier to do here.
No, that makes sense. You look at that cross-section of people and it’s a lot of different patterns. Whereas, like you say, in those smaller communities it might be more of a solid color. Everything is blue, you don’t want to be the red, or the white, or whatever that’s contrasting on that. If it’s a thousand different colors though, and you want a color that’s yours, you can do that without actually sticking out like a sore thumb.
In Chicago I’ve learned that you can mix patterns with patterns. I didn’t know that, I thought that was taboo in the fashion world. Apparently not, I don’t know.
I think it depends on who you ask, fashion is pretty subjective stuff.
You get to do whatever you want.
What got you into bikes, and riding, and all of that?
That’s a good question too. I think as a kid, I always saw guys on motorcycles and thought that was the coolest thing that there was. I definitely have always had a rebellious side. Growing up it was just me and my sister. She’s older than I am by two years, and she fit right into the box. She had good friends, she had good grades, she didn’t smoke, she didn’t drink, she participated in all the extracurriculars, so she is a good kid.
I don’t know if I just didn’t want anything to do with that, or I just thought, “Well, there’s a big space to fill on the other side of the spectrum.” I don’t know how I ended up there, but that’s what I did. I was kind of a bad kid, and I got a little under-age criminal rap sheet from vandalism, to theft, and just the silly shit that kids get into.
I didn’t find motorcycling, it found me. I was actually looking for a moped to commute to work cheaper, and so I told my friends, “I’m looking for a scooter or a moped,” and one of my buddies had a bike that he was selling. He pulled a Jedi mind trick on me. “You don’t want a scooter, you want to buy my motorcycle.” [hand wave]
“Yes, yes I do. I want to buy your motorcycle.”
That was that, man. We went to the bank, I got some cash, and that afternoon I bought a bike. I had never ridden one, and never even sat on one. He asked me, “You know how to drive this thing?”
“No, I don’t.”
“All right, clutch, brake, shift, you got it?”
“Yes, yes I do. I will figure it out.” I rode it home, only stalled it twice, and I was hooked. I was 24 I think, so from that age forward I’ve just been lamenting those years that I missed out on riding. I should have got into this sooner. So yeah, I didn’t find it, it found me. I’m very thankful that it did, because it’s certainly number one thing in my life now that I’m passionate about it.
You’re doing it for a living.
Right, and I’ve turned it into a career, which is really nice. Certainly you’ve heard the expression, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” That’s how I feel now, and I’m very transparent about that too. I love to tell customers when they come in here, “Hey, how’s it going?”
They ask back, “How are you doing?”
“I’m great, I get to hang out here, I’m going to talk with you about motorcycles, we’re all going to have a good time, and at the end of the week I’m going to get a paycheck for this.” It’s kind of unbelievable.
What was that first bike?
My first bike was a 1990 Kawasaki EX500. Everyone calls it a Ninja, and it says Ninja on the side, but as far as models go it’s not strictly a Ninja. I’ve been a sport biker the whole time. I held onto that bike for about three years. I rode it for the first two, and then that third season I taught my then-girlfriend how to ride the bike as well. That third year I bought a slightly newer ’94 ZX750. This one really was a Ninja, just a little bit more powerful.
We were riding Kawasakis side by side, and we destroyed both of those bikes that year. One of them fell over — the 500 fell over and sustained some damage that I didn’t care to fix. The 750 — I threw a piston rod through the side of the engine block, so I didn’t care to fix that either. I had gotten into the community by that point and I knew some guys that were like, “Yes, I will take that off your hands, and fix it up.” She upgraded, she got herself a Buell XB12R, and I bought a Triumph Daytona 675 which I found in Milwaukee.
From the first time that I’d seen the Daytona 675 I thought, “That’s the bike I want.” It just had a sharp look. It was really aggressive. I knew that Triumph, compared to the big four Japanese brands, just didn’t make as many bikes. You didn’t see many Daytonas out there, so it had this unique factor to it. It’s uncommon.
Then you rode one and then you really had to have it.
Yeah, then I rode it and I was sold. I didn’t buy it the first day that I was down there, but I think I was back maybe two to three days later. That’s all it took. I just had to secure some financing and make it happen. I still have that bike, so I’ve had it for six years now, and so in love with it that I don’t know what it’s going to take to make me move on.
Certainly I’m interested in other bikes, but I still can’t see trading my Daytona in. I want to add to the collection, as I think you understand. I certainly have some friends who have collections of bikes as well, so I wouldn’t feel a weirdo with more than one bike. That seems like the right thing to do.
If $30,000 fell into your lap, and you could go downstairs here at Motoworks and just buy whatever you wanted, what would you be interested in?
For the last two years I would say, I’ve really been contemplating breaking into the adventure category. Because I like Triumph, I certainly have some interest in the Tiger 800XC. It’s still a fairly sporty bike, it’s got good power, but it’s definitely more comfortable to ride. It gives you an upright riding position. Being from Wisconsin I love the outdoors. I love camping. If I do spend more nights outside during the year than inside, I would be happy. It’s very hard to do that in this part of the world, but that would make me very happy.
Owning a Tiger, it’s a bike that allows you to do that. Strap some bags on there, you can load up some extra gear, you can tour the country and camp in state parks all over the place. That is really exciting to me, that’s something I’d like to do, so I’ve had my eye on it for awhile. However, in the last two weeks I’ve put a few miles on the Ducati Multistrada, which is sportier than the Tiger, but it is just so loaded with features and electronics that the Tiger doesn’t have that I’m like, “Maybe I want the Ducati instead.”
If thirty grand fell into my lap today and I walked downstairs, I’d be walking out of here with a Multistrada for sure. I’m excited to see what Ducati does with the Multistrada. I’ve heard maybe some rumors that there’s an adventure version of the bike coming out. So maybe I’d hold off until 2016 and see, but if it were today, I think it’s the Multistrada.
Multi’s a great bike, we’ve written about it quite a bit on the site, so I’ve gotten some seat time in them and they are spectacular. They’re not as off-road focused, but they’re not useless off-road either, if you make good tire choices. In terms of their on-road performance, they’re ridiculous. It’s superbike performance in a comfortable package.
That’s exactly what I want.
You’re also not wearing the bike like a pair of pants. You’re actually just riding the thing and piloting it, and you can be comfortable on it all day, as opposed to your twenty minute session on the track.
I was really pleasantly surprised to learn just how sporty of a bike it is. You look at it, and you’re like, “This is an adventure bike.” Maybe it’s a sport touring bike, but it looks like an adventure bike, so I kind of expected that performance out of it.
It definitely behaves much more like a sport touring bike. If I was going to buy one, that’s how I’d use it.
Yeah, I think so too. Even though I say, “Yeah, I’d love to drive around and camp in these various places,” I’m not going to be taking off-road paths to get from place to place. Generally you’re going to have to do that on the road. Ideally, I think you need a bike that’s going to perform well on the road, and can do okay off road. I think the Multistrada fits the bill.
Definitely. Especially with the right set of tires, you’ll be just fine.
Exactly. Making good tire choice, and at least if I have to take a fire lane and do some gravel roads, we can handle that. I don’t think it really needs to go down a trail, it’s not quite meant for that. To do some fire lanes, some gravel roads, and at least be able to see a little bit more than you could do on a true sport bike, like a Concourse…
..or like the Honda ST1100 — something like that.
That’s truly just an on road machine. You’re not going to make it very far on a gravel road. I think the Multistrada would do a little better, so I’m kind of leaning that way.
That’s cool. It’s a great machine. The Tiger 800 is nearly as good at pretty much all of those things, just in a different way. It comes down to a matter of what kind of experience do you want to have? There’s the more boiled-down, essential, rough and tumble, little more off-road focus capabilities in the Tiger, but you still have features like ride-by-wire, cruise control, traction control, ABS — all those bells and whistles that you want in a modern bike.
Or do you go a little more street performance focused in the Multistrada, and have something that’s quite a bit more elaborate, but also all the pitfalls of that. Because you’ve got a more complicated bike, it’s going to be a different ownership experience, but that’s fine too. It’s all a matter of preference.
One thing I’m curious about: from an apparel and accessories standpoint, in terms of peoples riding gear and whatnot, if you could give some advice to people who are out there shopping for gear, what would you tell them? Or asked another way, what are some assumptions that people come with to bike gear that just aren’t true? Any misconceptions you’d like to dispel?
Certainly I think one of the issues is people aren’t prepared to spend the money that you really need to spend to get quality gear. A lot of people — and this goes back to the helmet thing — are thinking “I want a helmet for $100.” Yes, you can do that, but it’s not going to be a very good helmet, and you’re going to pay a different kind of price for that. It’s going to be loud, it’s going to be uncomfortable.
The same thing when we step to jackets. “I want a jacket for $150.” You can do that, but it’s not going to be as comfortable. It’s not going to fit you as well. It’s not going to be waterproof. It’s not going to be windproof. You’re going to make a lot of sacrifices. If you really want gear that’s going to hold up and deliver the quality that you want, be prepared to spend a little bit more for it. Do some research, see what is really out there and what it really costs, and save a little bit.
If you want a good adventure jacket, or a good leather jacket, you’re going to spend $600. That’s just what it’s going to cost. However, it’s going to be comfortable. It’s going to breathe. It’s going to be more waterproof. For the adventure jacket, it’s going to have multiple layers so you can adjust for temperature. It’s going to have pockets all over the place. It’s going to offer you all the crash protection that you would need if, god forbid, you ever do end up on the ground.
Having waterproof gear is really nice, although not everyone needs it. It depends on what kind of riding you’re doing. If you truly are a casual rider, and when you see clouds you think, “Nope, I’ll take the car today.”, then you don’t need waterproof gear. It’s a little bit different in the city though. I find that a lot of people don’t own cars. They own a bike and that’s it. I say invest in some waterproof gear. Or even if you just want a decent jacket, then buy a raincoat to go over it. It’s a very worthwhile investment.
Be prepared to spend some money, which may hurt at first, but I truly believe that you’ll find that you’re very happy with the money you spent because quality gear will deliver. Motorcycling is certainly a category where you get what you pay for, so spend a little more money, and you won’t regret it.
I know that just in my own personal experience, I have found that to do it right you know you’re going to have to spend a little bit of extra money, but you compromise and regret it later. It’s a really easy mistake to make. “The jacket I really should have is $600, but I’m going to compromise and get this other thing for $200.” What I’ve experienced, just personally, (and I’ve seen other people do this too) is over the lifespan of what that $600 jacket would have been, I’m going to buy that $200 jacket three times.
I end up spending the same amount of money, or close enough to it that I should have just bought the good gear in the first place. The same thing can be true with bikes. I went through several old Japanese bikes that all along I was just wishing they were a Bonneville. I could have spent less money overall if I had just bought a Bonneville in the first place. I wasn’t quite in a position to do that at the time, so I get that. You do what you’re able to do, but it’s really, really easy to think, “Oh, I’m getting a good deal, I’m saving some money,” and then in the long run you spend just as much, if not more. Am I being smart, or am I just being cheap?
I like to use the phrase, “The best is the cheapest in the long run,” and that’s sort of exactly what we’re saying here. I’ve done the same thing with jackets, and helmets, and went through a number of cheaper, crappier helmets, before I finally bought a good one, and thought, “If I had bought a good one to begin with, I’d be at about the same number of dollars spent, and I would have been happier all along because I would have been wearing a nicer helmet the whole time.”
Same thing with jackets, cheaper jackets wear out. Just the stitching holding the thing together is not as good, and the fit and finish is not as good. If you invest in some better equipment it’s going to last longer, it’s going to treat you better. Like you said, at the end of it all, maybe not the end of this year, but two years, four years, six years, which is not that long in the scheme of things, and most riders are going to ride for at least that long. It’s going to wash out in the end, so you’re better off to invest.
Like you say, all that longevity not withstanding, you’ll have something that’s higher quality. It’s going to take better care of you if you end up in the incident for which it’s designed. Then also, your higher-quality waterproof jacket will be more waterproof than your lower-quality “waterproof” jacket. You’re going to stay dryer, you’re going to stay more comfortable.
One of the things I learned about the term “waterproof” is that for every jacket that says waterproof, if you dig deep enough, it really means water resistant. There’s even a rating. “Waterproof up to this much rain per hour.” People hear waterproof and they think that means 100% waterproof always, but doesn’t actually work like that.
It’s not a dry suit.
Yeah, right. It’s just like watches. “This watch is water resistant to thirty meters.” Jackets work the same way. Their water resistant to, or waterproof to “one inch an hour”, or whatever the rating is. That’s still a lot of rain.
Have we got anything in the shop right now that you think is especially interesting, especially cool, that people should know about and come check out?
It’s hard for me to choose any one item. I’m kind of a ADD kid. I just get excited by everything. I really am, I’m excited about the Rev’it brand that we carry here at the store as a whole. I had never heard of them before I came here. It’s a Dutch company that’s only twenty years old at this point. They only really started making an appearance in America about ten years ago, and are still fairly exclusive. Not many dealers around carry the gear, that’s why I had never heard of it.
Just like I was drawn to the Daytona for its exclusivity — there’s not so many people out there riding it — now I’m drawn to Rev’it for the exclusivity as well. There’s not that many people wearing it. The more I learn about it, they’re on the gas as far as R&D goes, especially on the textile side. Certainly everyone thinks that leather is the best quality jacket you can wear, and that’s generally still true, but there’s a limit there because leather is a natural product coming off a cow, and we can’t just tell the cow, “Hey! I need you to grow a thicker skin so I can make better jackets.” It doesn’t work like that.
With textile, it’s man-made and so as we develop technology, we’re truly in control. We can develop — and Rev’it is on the verge of this — textiles that are as abrasion-resistant, or more so, than leather. We can make it lighter. We can make it breathable. We can make it do whatever we want because we’re in control. Just as far as developing new technologies to make fabric, Rev’it are doing some amazing things. Then on the protection side of the house too, they’re using different material blends to develop protection, even as far how they attach it to the jacket.
For example, is this piece of armor or protection stitched onto the jacket, or is it fused in? Is it melted and sealed right into the fabric? I can’t even get into specifics of how it’s all done because it’s so above my head, but I like that. It’s very fascinating. To me that’s indicative of a company who really cares about what they do because they’re really in it for the rider. They’re really trying to develop products for the rider. They’re not just churning things out for the money because they saw a market and thought, “Hey, we can do that.”
They’re really interested in the rider experience. Going back to that cross between having a piece of gear that’s going to perform well on the bike, but still look good off the bike, Rev’it is doing a lot to try and fill that niche as well, which makes it a really great brand here in the city.
You can get a motorcycle jacket that really just looks like a business overcoat, so when you ride your bike down to the loop to work your corporate office job, you don’t look like you’re wearing a motorcycle jacket over your suit. You look like you’re wearing just a nice overcoat, but lo and behold, it’s got some protection in there and it’s actually a really quality piece of equipment. I think that’s fantastic.
That’s fabulous. When you talk about that dealer exclusivity, hear at Motoworks Chicago, we’re one of the few places where you can go and actually try Rev’it stuff on, and check it out, and make that purchase, or order the thing that you’re looking for. We’re a unique resource in that regard in the local area.
Well thanks, Craig 2.0. This was great.