Pardon me for a moment while I take you down memory lane. The year was 2007. I was racing my beloved Suzuki SV650 at the Barber Vintage Festival in Alabama, with intentions of going further east afterward and tackling the high banks at Daytona International Speedway with the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association (AHRMA). The Barber round was great – I had some decent finishes to my name, and better yet, I came away from the event in one piece and with so many happy memories. Meanwhile, one kind competitor even agreed to take my SV to Florida!
Fast forward a few weeks, and the situation has unraveled. I accepted a job in Los Angeles – and my motorcycle was waiting for me in Florida. Needless to say, I never did make it to Daytona. And for the past 11 years life has taken me on several other twists and turns. All the while, my poor SV650 sat in a basement in Pensacola.
The last time I rode my SV650. Barber Motorsports Park, 2007. She wasn’t pretty then, she’s even worse now. Photo: Laura Trigg
I thought about that bike often – it was the motorcycle I lusted after when I got my license. It was also the motorcycle I rode the first time I touched a knee down. At one point, I could practically pull it apart and put it back together. Almost everything I know about two wheels I learned on that bike. Needless to say, I have a soft spot for middleweight twins, and whenever I test one for MO, I always think back to my SV.
I figured my bike was long gone. I had given my buddy in Florida permission to do with the bike as he pleased. I’m a motojournalist now. I get to ride everything! There’s no reason to have my SV anymore. Eleven years on, and I had a wild thought to contact my friend to see if he still had the bike. I’d been getting sentimental about it, but surely my 18 year-old motorcycle had moved on to greener pastures. I was hoping it had, so I could have some closure and move on.
“Yup, still here,” read his text. “People have asked about it over the years, but I didn’t want to let it go without your permission.” Clearly he forgot my prior blessing to do with it as he pleased.
Now that I’m at a more stable point in life, those sentimental thoughts took over. I returned his text.
“Ok. I’m getting it back.”
Who ya gonna call?
Enter Clint Lawrence, founder and CEO of Motorcycle Shippers. He’s been moving motorcycles around since the early 1990s, and started Motorcycle Shippers in 1994. Originally, his business model was to facilitate the sales and transport of motorcycles all over the country in an age before the internet. Today, Motorcycle Shippers still helps people buy, sell, and transport motorcycles to and from far away places, but Lawrence also says he’s seeing business from folks who’d rather ship their motorcycles to rallies. Other clientele include movie sets, celebrities, and even OEMs. With a network of trucks and drivers across all 50 US states and Canada, with the ability to ship a single motorcycle, or an entire fleet, Lawrence is able to transport motorcycles, ATVs, UTVs, and even snowmobiles and jet skis.
There’s my trusty SV650 now, in its Pensacola home of 11 years. Probably the first time it’s seen light in some time.
In talking with Lawrence, it was clear his heart is in the right place. Motorcycle shipping isn’t exactly glamorous, but this company has survived for 24 years (and counting) because the guy on top cares. Lawrence and his team developed a special skid to transport motorcycles quickly, easily, and safely – it doesn’t matter if it’s a sporty bike like my SV, an adventure bike, or a chopper. They’ve seen – and transported – them all. On top of that, they’ve developed a sort of curriculum for its drivers so they know the unique challenges that come with transporting a motorcycle.
The booking process was incredibly simple. A dedicated page on the Motorcycle Shippers website asks four basic questions: Where is the bike currently located? What kind of motorcycle is it? Where is its final destination? And how did you hear about the company? Talking to a live human is also an option, which was what I did because I wanted the full experience.
Awoken from its slumber, it’s time the ‘ol girl came home.
This is where Ed Merati comes in. A true professional, Ed asked me all the questions above, then eased my fears and answered my questions about the process. Seeing as how my SV had been tucked away for more than a decade – and it was put away already banged up – I wasn’t concerned if there were a few marks. However, most customers rightly expect their pride and joy to show up pristine. Ed explained that the drivers attach the bikes to the special skid with soft ties around the triple clamp and that a $7000 valuation is included with each shipment with no deductible. Higher valuations are also available.
Feeling good about the process so far, the inevitable question about price came into the picture. The cost will obviously vary depending on the distance between point A and point B and the type of motorcycle being transported, but for a small motorcycle like the SV650, the cross-country trek from Florida to California would be roughly $700 (before tax) – extremely reasonable in my opinion. Cheaper, in fact, than me trying to drive my own vehicle out there and back. Better still, the cost quoted is the cost paid for door-to-door service. There are no hidden surcharges, fuel charges, or toll fees. Transparency is the name of the game.
No, the forklift was not taking the SV to the trash heap.
With cost agreed to and paperwork filled out, all that was left was the actual transport. For a trip across each side of the country, Merati estimated about five working days once the motorcycle was loaded and on its way. It’s asked that both the pickup and drop-off party allow a three-day window prior to arrival in the event of unexpected delays. A phone call is placed 24 hours before pick up and drop-off to ensure someone will be available when the truck arrives at both locations. Pretty standard stuff, really.
What caught me by surprise was the tracking service offered. Much like you would get when shipping anything else, my package was assigned a tracking number, so I could go to the Motorcycle Shippers website and see exactly where my SV was on its journey. It’s a nice touch adding extra peace of mind for those anxious worry-warts out there.
Five days after leaving Florida, this nice man rolls up to my house at 8:30am – a half hour before he was scheduled to – with my motorcycle. Talk about timely.
Once the truck was on its way from Florida to California, all that was left to do was wait. True to Merati’s estimate, I got a phone call from a dispatch office on day four to confirm I would be home the following day between 9am and 4pm. I cleared my schedule to ensure I would be around. Seeing as I live on a narrow, dead-end street, I asked the dispatcher if this would be a problem. “Not at all,” they said. Sweet.
Lo and behold, the next day – day five – my phone rings at 8am from the driver. “I’m 30 minutes away, will you be home?” A little earlier than I had expected, but having my motorcycle delivered to my house early is much better than waiting all day like I do for the plumber or cable guy… The drop-off process was a breeze. My SV was the only bike in the truck, and the driver clearly had loaded and unloaded motorcycles before. He knew what he was doing.
The special skid Motorcycle Shippers uses, soft ties are used around the triple trees in front and typically the subframe for the rear. Lockable casters in all four corners allow the entire skid to move or stay in place during transport.
With a copy of my autograph, the cross-country shipping of my SV650 was complete. I couldn’t have asked for a more painless and easy process. I realize most of us would rather ride their motorcycles wherever they need to go, but that’s not always possible. In those cases, I can’t recommend Motorcycle Shippers enough. Fast, friendly, efficient, and reasonably priced, I’ve seen first hand the reason why Clint Lawrence and his team are still going strong after 24 years.
Eleven years on and I’m happy to have my SV650 back, but as you can see here she’s missing a few pieces – bodywork, fuel tank, carburetors, and exhaust chief among them. This isn’t any fault of Motorcycle Shippers, but rather the result of me giving a shop across the country permission to do with my motorcycle as they wanted. I allowed this to happen, so I’m not mad about it.
I had no idea this could happen to a brake caliper from just sitting in a basement for a while.
Meanwhile, more than a decade in a Pensacola basement has taken other tolls on my bike. Rust has found its way to nearly every bolt, the Öhlins rear shock I installed years ago looks petrified, and even the anodizing on the GSX-R brake caliper is peeling away. Needless to say, I’m wearing gloves when I start working on this bike.
While some may get angered, for me this is actually a blessing in disguise. All along, my plan has been to restore my bike into the SV I’ve always wanted it to be. I was going to replace the missing parts anyway (they were all fairly damaged and destined for the trash), and the items still remaining are the ones actually worth something (at least to me). This is going to be a big undertaking, but there’s something poetic about getting reacquainted with an old fling.
To quote The Six Million Dollar Man, “We can rebuild him. We have the technology.”
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