#21: Parts is Parts

Today’s question for Dr. Buzz (his “panel of experts” has become more trouble than it’s worth) comes from Joe W. in Philly:

Does anybody there know how to contact ******** or whatever their corporate identity is this month? Their website lists a “dealer” in Westchester PA who had never sold one, never worked on one. I took my scooter there and unfortunately it needs parts. The dealer is unable to get anybody to sell him parts. The phone number is a secret so nobody can call, I get a grumpy response from some of the other dealers on their list – maybe it’s the same situation…

(updated 5/14 with more details)
Continue reading “#21: Parts is Parts”

Schwinn, the Bicycle

This weekend I stopped by my favorite local bicycle shop and it got me thinking. So let me spew some Andy Rooney nonsense on you:

  • Schwinn (bicycle) dealers have had it hard since Schwinn’s 1990s 2001-era (see comments) decision to sell inferior bikes under the Schwinn name in big-box stores. You can argue all day that even top-end Schwinns are made in Asia now, and/or nothing compared to their former glory, but the general issue is that there is a marked difference between what’s sold at Schwinn dealerships, and what’s sold at Wal-Mart. Schwinn corporate maybe has a lot to answer for, but their dealers always seem totally right-on to me. They love the brand, they love cycling, and they know their stuff. Incidentally, that’s everything a good scooter shop should be.
  • So, it says a lot (and it’s probably a good thing) that very few Schwinn bicycle dealers sell Schwinn scooters. Maybe the scooters weren’t even offered to the bicycle dealerships, but it seems more likely that a Schwinn bicycle dealer is uniquely positioned to realize that Schwinn will slap their name on anything, AND that even in hard times, it’s best not to sell something you can’t support 100%. The two products have little in common, it’d be like a car dealership deciding to offer steam-powered tractors. They’re both vehicles, but the parts supply, technology, customers, and expertise do not overlap. At all.
  • Schwinn’s making some tentative steps into e-bikes. They’re playing it pretty conservative, but that’s probably smart. It’s interesting that some bicycle dealers have jumped on the e-bike (UM, E-Go, etc) bandwagon, and others avoid them like the plague. I’m really curious how that market develops.
  • Bicycles are, like scooters, a great example of “You get what you pay for.” Sure, certain brand names will artificially jack up a price, but when it comes down to nuts and bolts, you can see the differences in quality. Scooters or bicycles, the cheapest asian models are assembled and sold by unskilled retailers without any support or personal contact. They’re made of components that are often second-quality, and sometimes dangerous. They feature outdated technology, or superficial imitations of current technology.
  • Short term savings matter little when you can’t source a replacement part or constant niggling problems keep it off the road. A good bike or scooter costs more, but comes with long-term support, a personal relationship, and quality. Parts and accessories will be available for years. Vina bought a 40-year-old Austrian three-speed at a garage sale for $10. I have a 15-year-old Schwinn cruiser, our local bike shop can get us any replacement part we need. But every time we’re in there, someone wheels in a three-month-old Wal-Mart bike with a cracked weld or some goofy mechanism that can’t be repaired or replaced. Sound like any scooter shops you’ve been in lately?
  • The cries of elitism come into play in both markets, too. But looking at the bicycle world is a good way to distance yourself and see that in an underegulated market (oh, the laws are there, but not the enforcement!) you end up with bottom-of-the-barrel deathtraps competing with top-end luxury models, and you start to understand why insiders are frustrated with all the junk out there. Cheap bikes rob sales from knowledgeable dealers, threaten consumer safety, and turn potential fans away from the hobby before they even get started.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, spend any time in a respectable bike shop, and you’ll see folks strut in with a credit card and buy a $4000 racing bike because “I was thinking about trying a triathalon” This, too, happens in scooter shops, and usually ends with Mr. “I don’t need a helmet, I’ve been riding dirt bikes since I was a kid” dropping his new Vespa 300 before he makes it out of the parking lot. And in both markets, there’s always the “audiophile-quality” “better” parts available for upgrades. Again, common sense prevails, but few people have it. I like to think that when you buy a well-designed product, the engineers that designed it knew what they were doing, and if you find yourself needing to upgrade, you shoulda bought a better one in the first place.
  • Last note: You always see people asking “What’s a good scooter can I get for $500.” For $500 you’re just getting into the juicy part of the bicycle market. Who would want to be on the road on a motor vehicle that costs less than a bicycle? A lot of top-quality custom bicycles cost more than scooters! And you could use the exercise!

Haynes’ “Chinese scooter” book

Scooter-Station notes that Haynes has released one of their famous service manuals targeted to Chinese/Taiwanese/Korean scooters. Probably handy, but it can’t be too specific, even though half the scooters made in Asia are Yamaha Vino knockoffs, there’s a lot of variety there, too, and surely a wide variety of tolerances and torques and such, which is where the Haynes manuals usually shine. Still, knowledge is power, and even if it just covers GY6-style engines in depth, it’d be useful.

Dealer Expo 2009, Part I: Overview


Every February, powersports dealers from around the nation descend on grey, shivery, boring Indianapolis to see what’s new in the industry. It’s a chance for manufacturers, importers, and distributors to wine and dine their dealers and hopefully round up some orders for the upcoming riding season. This was our third year at DealerExpo, though it was our first with actual 2strokebuzz press passes. Continue reading “Dealer Expo 2009, Part I: Overview”

2007 Dealer Expo: POCphil’s review


Since a week has passed and I still haven’t been able to collect my thoughts on the ginormous mindblowing extravaganza in Indianapolis, here’s POCphil‘s writeup. I’ll add my comments in italics where appropriate. -2SB

We were so excited to get to the Indianapolis Dealer Expo this year, we were running about 2 hours early. We took that time to go visit Speed City Cycles in Indianapolis, only a few minutes from the Show. Mike and Marybeth Tockey have created a fantastic shop with an ingenious use of space and rural/industrial feel that leaves room for a snack bar, lounge and a ton of scooters and accessories. Mike also builds award winning metric cruisers. Just hanging around his IWL Berliner is a treat. After a great tour and some bench racing we were back on our mission to deliver two scooters to the Scoot! Magazine/ Corazzo booth and still arrive early enough at the hotel for some hottubbing before showing up in time for the open bar at 4PM, whew!
Continue reading “2007 Dealer Expo: POCphil’s review”

Schwinn Scooters sales grow

Powersports Business magazine reported in November that Schwinn scooter sales rose 440% in 2006, adding 200 new dealers. Not terribly surprising, since as far as we can tell, most powersports dealers first became aware of Scwhinn’s entry into the scooter market at the Indianapolis Dealer Expo in February, 2006, around the same time 2strokebuzz discovered that discovered TNG Scooters’ parent CMSI had filed suit against Schwinn parent Pacific Cycle. In a story in the December 4 Powersports Business, Schwinn Motor Sports VP George Simone claims that Schwinn’s name recognition and corporate backing is resulting in further growth — even in the face of the reputation of Chinese scooters, market saturation, the leveling-off of the scooter market, and higher gas prices — with more than 2,500 units sold per year. The company is aiming for 500 dealers and 5000 bikes sold in 2007.

Schwinn vs. TNG: Pacific Cycle’s response

I emailed Pacific Cycle, parent company of Schwinn Scooters for a comment on TNG’s lawsuit against Schwinn. Here was the response from Mo Moorman, Pacific Cycle’s Director of Marketing and Public Relations:

Pacific Cycle has no comment regarding ongoing litigation, except that we are surprised and disappointed by these claims. We feel the claims have absolutely no merit and intend to defend vigorously. Pacific Cycle stands by the quality of its products and its relationships with its OEM partners.

You may find it worthwhile to review a variety of scooter OEM’s Web sites to note the similarities between their catalog’s standard, stock models and scooters distributed in the U.S. and around the world.

Fair enough, and we’ve noted that there are hundreds of US importers selling the same handful of Chinese-made scooter models (most commonly based on the Yamaha Vino design) under different brand names. Perhaps CMSI has written off smaller fly-by-night importers as being not worth worrying about, whereas a well-known name like Schwinn is a much bigger threat. And again, the lawlessness of the Chinese business frontier will certainly cloud this case– TNG probably has little recourse against their Chinese suppliers. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, the Yamaha settlement last week was an interesting precedent. Perhaps Yamaha will parlay their trademark victory into more lawsits against US distributors of Vino clones, if so, both TNG and Schwinn could be looking at even bigger problems.

TNG files charges against Schwinn Scooters

Can you tell the difference?

As 2strokebuzz noted a couple weeks ago, the new Schwinn Scooters bear more than a casual similarity to the TNG Venice and Milano models, and as promised, we’ve dug a little deeper into the situation and our findings are rather startling. Tom Lynott, president of CMSI, makers of the TNG scooters, had no comment on April 4th, but since then, a source outside CMSI confirmed that CMSI were preparing legal action against Pacific Cycle, the parent company of Schwinn, Mongoose, and GT bicycles. A complaint, which alleges that Pacific Cycle effectively “stole” TNG’s product and business model after a proposed collaboration was abandoned, was submitted to the United States District Court in Seattle on April 6, (two days after our original story), listing six charges against Pacific Cycle: False Designation of Origin, Violation of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act, Common Law Unfair Competition, Intentional Interference with Contract, Intentional Interference with Prospective Economic Relations, and Breach of Contract.
Continue reading “TNG files charges against Schwinn Scooters”

Schwinn & TNG links linked?

We’re still getting a lot of hits from Schwinn’s link, and we just noticed that they’ve borrowed more than design cues from TNG:
Schwinn Scooters’ “Extras” Page
TNG Motor Scooters’ “Extras” page
Which got us thinking “maybe they’re actually related somehow” but Whois records and Google searches provide no indication that CMSI (TNG’s parent company in Washington state) is involved in Schwinn Scooters (a division of Pacific Cycle who own Schwinn, Mongoose and GT, based near the Pacific in Madison, WI). I’ve emailed TNG to hopefully find out more.
(UPDATE: 4-18-06: It turns out there’s much more to the story.)

Schwinn Motor Scooters

While we’d like to thank Schwinn Motor Scooters for linking to 2strokebuzz, we’d also like to make it clear that 2strokebuzz in no way endorses Schwinn motorscooters. I don’t think i’ve ever mentioned them before, simply because they appear to be Chinese Yamaha knockoffs with a big Schwinn sticker on the front. Maybe they’re allright, try it out and let us know what you think, but in the meantime, we’d spend the extra few hundred bucks for a real Yamaha Vino. (UPDATE: 4-18-06: It turns out there’s much more to the story.)