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Why don’t more dealers offer test rides?

test rides demo motorcycle sales showroom selling motorcycles

Despite the continuing slump in motorcycle sales, too many dealers sill don’t offer test rides, one of the most important sales tools they have!

You wouldn’t buy a car without a test ride, so why should riders be denied the opportunity to test out the bike first?

Some dealers don’t even allow customers to sit on their showroom bikes.Please do not sit

US study

A 2015 US motorcycle industry study found that the availability of demo rides not only improved customer satisfaction of dealerships but also increased motorcycle sales.

The ninth annual Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index (PSI) US Motorcycle Industry Benchmarking Study found that test rides were offered 63% of the time to mystery shoppers compared with 34% five years earlier.

It also found sales staff encouraged customers to sit on a bike 81% of the time, up from 70%.

A good dealer experience also translated to improved sales, with dealerships ranking in the top quarter selling 22% more motorcycles than dealerships in the bottom quarter.

It found Harley-Davidson, BMW and Ducati the most aggressive in offering test rides.

It is no coincidence that every Pied Piper study for the past decade or more has been led by those same three companies.

Aussie test rides

While there is no equivalent study in Australia, the results are perhaps indicative of strict global manufacturer training standards of dealer staff and attitudes to offering demo rides.

The lack of demo rides is one of the biggest complaints about dealerships we receive at

But many of these are for popular new models where demand outstrips supply and every bike that comes into the dealership is already sold.BMW Motorrad GS Off-Road Training

Perhaps the most aggressive brands offering test rides in Australia are Harley-Davidson, BMW and Indian.

Harley not only offers test rides to licensed riders, but also offers a static ride to unlicensed riders with their Jump Start program.

It’s rare for any dealer to offer test rides of off-road or adventure bikes because of the risk of damage, but BMW even hosts annual GS demo ride days around the country.

And Indian throws in free fuel and accommodation on their weekend demo ride offers!

We only have our own experiences and anecdotes of readers to go on, but it seems Japanese brands are the worst at allowing test rides.

Maybe that has to do with complacency because they are the four biggest sellers.

Sales trends

But with their sales down between 6.8-17.4% in the first quarter, they need to pick up their act.Slide sales motorcycles

It may cost more to have demo bikes available, but the results speak for themselves.

The motorcycle industry grapples with this basic sales technique.

Some dealers just see the cost of bike depreciation, fuel and staff time to take riders on escorted demo rides, rather than looking at long-term customer goodwill.

It also requires the manufacturers or importers to back them up with demo bikes and allow them to later sell them at a discount.

Riders see buying a bike as a lottery unless they can actually throw a leg over and feel the bike.

They need to evaluate the ergonomics for their body size, hear the noises, test the power and handling, and even feel the heat from the engine.

  • Have you ever been denied a demo ride? What did you do? Did you go elsewhere and buy the same bike or another brand? Leave your comments below.


  1. Tried several times to test s Speed Triple at Team Moto Blacktown…still have not ridden one. The last attempt failed so i rode Superduke r, thanks Suttos, then Kawasaki 900rs next door, then 1200 Monster at Frasers….all 3 shops only to happy to oblige. My 1200 Monster now has 16454 trouble free kilos so far and is most underated sport naked i have ridden. Just bought R nin T UGS from Bike Biz to park beside it , they also were happy for me to test ride and great to deal with.

  2. I have been denied test rides many times over the past 30 years. I have *never* purchased a bike from a dealer who wouldn’t offer a test ride.

  3. I was denied a test ride of Yamaha R1 at Bikebiz Parramatta. The excuse was that it was a demo bike on which they didn’t want to put extra miles and if I didn’t have serious intentions of buying they wouldn’t let me try it. Having said that, I have purchased two bikes from them in the past but they wouldn’t care. What can I say… I’m still saving the money and will be happy to hand it over to another dealer who is more approachable.

  4. When I introduced myself to a potential customer admiring a bike in the showroom, I always encouraged them to get on it & see how it felt, if they liked it a test ride was next…… 98% of ‘your sell’ was done!

  5. Wanted to test ride a Triumph Street Triple R 765 at Team Moto Virginia. Rang one Saturday morning to be told they do have a Street Triple RS, but it was at the bosses house so could I come in during the week instead. Politely told them no, called Olivers at Moorooka who confirmed they had an ‘R’. Went over about an hour later, it was in the parking lot fuelled and ready to go (even though I didn’t “definitively” say when I would be there). Was taken on a decent ride and laid out the deposit straight after.

    Its funny, because when I was test driving cars I was also told the demo they had was at the bosses house. But in this case, the sales guy was like ‘no problem’, gave his boss a call on a Saturday morning and the ‘boss’ actually brought the car in on his day off so we could test drive it. Just a different mindset I suppose.

  6. I have had to test ride at one dealer but get a better price where no test ride available.
    Test ride on a similar model Italian bike than the one I was buying and probably wouldn’t have bought the bike if had ridden it.
    One younger salesman wouldn’t take me on the M1 because it was too cold and I was test riding a touring bike? Went elsewhere and bought the same bike.
    I have always found Olivers good for a test ride and bought one bike off them.

  7. If you are a learner or LAMs rider it is even worse although if you are in Victoria Honda do offer test rides on all their LAMs range at their Summerton H.A.R.T facility on a regular scheduled basis, check the H.A.R.T website, No Sales people present either. I’ve also done two test ride days (annual events?) through Ducati and Yamaha but curiously did not receive any follow up sales calls. I ended up buying the new Royal Enfield 650 after the dealer threw me the keys and asked me how long a ride I wanted. I test rode both for an hour and ended up laying down a deposit on the Interceptor

  8. There is no way I would purchase a bike without a test ride. Other than a couple of cases when a bike I’m interested in has been in very short supply, I’ve actually generally had a good experience.

    In the last five years or so I’ve bought four bikes and test ridden quite a few. Props to Peter Stevens Dandenong, Melbourne Ducati and Southbank BMW. Melbourne Ducati and Southbank BMW in particular were very good to deal with. I also did a ‘GS Experience’ day which I was a bit cynical about at first, but I really learned more than on a typical test ride and it earned them a sale.

    I’m really surprised by some of the stories of repeat customers genuinely looking to buy being refused rides. Unless there was an extremely good reason that would be the end of the relationship for me too.

    From a buyer’s perspective, I think it’s critical to be genuinely open to the purchase (even the impulsive ones!) and make it clear that is the case. I’d love to satisfy my curiosity and ride every new bike out there, but as the article points out, the bike selling business is tough so in my view that’s not really fair. We have responsibility as buyers not to waste people’s time too.

  9. I simply will not hand over my hard earned unless I test ride one. I have 3 bikes in my garage and will be replacing 2 over the next 12 months.

  10. In 2001 I wanted to test ride the “new” Triumph Bonneville but they were being sold before they arrived. Eventually JCS Motorcycles in Burswood WA had a demo. I rode it and bought one. Later, I traded it on a very low mileage later model – no problem with test riding it. Eventually I traded that on a Sprint GT from the same dealer. They loaned me their demo for a weekend away and I loved it enough to buy one. Kudos to John and Bill at JCS. Guess where I’m going for my next bike ?

  11. Like everyone else who has commented, I won’t buy a bike I haven’t ridden…yes it must be more expensive to offer test machines, but have you read the fine print you have to sign before you test ride…if you damage it you are up for a LOT!! Dealers then sell the test bike but seem to only take off about 5-10% of the new value (depending on Miles) so they really lose very little.
    Could you imaging spending $20+k on a bike that felt wrong, power delivery wasn’t what you expected, uncomfortable, etc, etc. Just plain silly not to test. For me the longer the test the better.

  12. I had the opportunity to test ride a couple of bikes I was interested in, from different brands. And thanks to this test ride I could make a decision on what bike I liked the most. Definitely it is very important to actually sit on the bike and ride it (even though the test ride is only 30min!). This way you can feel the engine, brakes, handling, body position, etc… to make a decision to buy or not to buy.
    I wanted to test ride a Triumph Street Scrambler because I liked it and wanted to see if I would want to buy it in the future, but they went into such hassle to figure if I was actually going to buy it or not, that I decided not to do the test ride (they lost a potential buyer).

  13. Here in south west montana. Went to griz harley to buy a nice new full size cruiser, I wanted street glide. After they ran my credit (somehow took an hour) they then wouldn’t let me ride or indeed even sit on the actual bike I wanted to buy….needless to say after several hours of getting nowhere they wouldn’t even write up paperwork…

    Driving home I stopped at a honda dealer and a Yamaha dealer, both of which were happy to roll any bike on the floor out the door and hand me the keys for a test ride…I bought a brand new raider from the yamaha dealer..and a year later on my wife’s birthday we had a similar experience at the same harley dealer, and she bought a brand new honda fury from the Honda dealer.

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