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Posted: 4/18/2016 9:45:09 PM EDT
Hey guys I posted in this forum vs general hoping that I would get more serious answers to this question.

I have been contemplating becoming a motorcycle mechanic for quite some time now and was wondering your thoughts on the best ways into the industry.

Most people tend to say go to MMI and then get their advanced degrees in whatever make you want to pursue but that costs upwards of like 30,000 dollars just in freaking tuition!

Other people have told me that I should just start working around the shop at any place that will take me and slowly work my way up to apprenticing with one of the mechanics which may take a lot longer but will be far less expensive.

Anyone's input would be greatly appreciated especially someone in the industry and in the know, Thanks!

Link Posted: 4/18/2016 10:23:55 PM EDT
Do you have strong mechanical skills already ?
If you don't, no school can turn you into a technician.

You will never make 6 figures unless you own your own place or work for an industry partner. If you want to make that kind of money go to school to be a welder. Then you can work on your own bikes, In your $100k garage during your 6 weeks a year vacation. You'll probably never have a $100k garage or 6 weeks a year vacation as a MC tech unless you marry a rich woman.

What area of the country do you live in? That can make a huge difference

Do you love bikes now? Because you may hate them after 10 years in the biz lol. Do you like to work weekends?

I went to MMI a long time ago (93-94). I know it's changed a lot since then but I can guarantee you 50-60% of the students at that time never made it in the business.

If you can find a shop willing to train you, you will be far better off. Schools teach fundamentals, which are important, but real world experiences will make you successful a lot quicker.

You will need to buy tools. A lot of tools. As you progress you'll need even more tools. And a box, which at some point you will have to upgrade to a bigger one.......

I have been a tech since 94. I worked at a 3 franchise dealership for 8 years, an independent shop that specialized in Harleys for 5 years and opened my own small repair shop in 2007, which i am still currently operating.

When I started working at the independent shop that worked on Harleys I had zero HD experience. The guy was running the shop out of his garage. I went in on my day off and worked/learned for free for 3 months, then left the dealership for a $6 an hour pay cut to work with the guy in his garage. It was a huge gamble but it payed off. Within 2 years the owner bought a building and I had 6 employees under me and was making good money for my age working 9-6 M-F with weekends off.

Now that I run my own place the industry is changing. Not a lot of people getting in, but a lot getting out. I can't find quality help there just aren't enough guys left. The dealerships have the same problem. They have 1 or 2 good guys and a half dozen turds. I mostly work on 2010 and newer Harleys and I am currently scheduled out 6 weeks and I'm about 2 weeks behind lol. I haven't had a day off since Easter and I finished my 3rd consecutive 80 hour week yesterday with no days off in sight until Mother's day. Then its back to work 7 days a week till Memorial Day. Sounds like fun, eh?

I don't mean to make it sound like it sucks, because it doesn't. I've met a lot of great people over the years and had a lot of fun. Plus I get to ride other people's bikes while they pay me to do it. Its just not always the cool, rosey job you think it would be especially in the Northeast in the Spring. It's a lot of work and dedication to be good at it, just like any other trade .

If you have any specific questions feel free to ask
Link Posted: 4/18/2016 10:32:52 PM EDT
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Originally Posted By SuperAir:
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This is one of the very best, experience-based, no nonsense and direct responses to any question I've ever seen here, on arfcom.

Much happiness and success to you, sir! I'd bring my scoot to you if you were within 100 miles!
Link Posted: 4/18/2016 11:55:07 PM EDT
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Originally Posted By Former11BRAVO:


This is one of the very best, experience-based, no nonsense and direct responses to any question I've ever seen here, on arfcom.

Much happiness and success to you, sir! I'd bring my scoot to you if you were within 100 miles!
View Quote View All Quotes
View All Quotes
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By Former11BRAVO:
Originally Posted By SuperAir:


This is one of the very best, experience-based, no nonsense and direct responses to any question I've ever seen here, on arfcom.

Much happiness and success to you, sir! I'd bring my scoot to you if you were within 100 miles!

Agreed, great reply.

Man, I just work on my own bikes and I typically have a number. I honestly don't want to do it for a living. But if you think you are being pulled that way I would not want to live my life with a big "should have" hanging over my head. But with the economy sucking it does seem like a shaker industry right now.

Now I am off to pm SuperAir for a tech opinion
Link Posted: 4/19/2016 12:22:57 AM EDT
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By SuperAir:
Do you have strong mechanical skills already ?
If you don't, no school can turn you into a technician.

You will never make 6 figures unless you own your own place or work for an industry partner. If you want to make that kind of money go to school to be a welder. Then you can work on your own bikes, In your $100k garage during your 6 weeks a year vacation. You'll probably never have a $100k garage or 6 weeks a year vacation as a MC tech unless you marry a rich woman.

What area of the country do you live in? That can make a huge difference

Do you love bikes now? Because you may hate them after 10 years in the biz lol. Do you like to work weekends?

I went to MMI a long time ago (93-94). I know it's changed a lot since then but I can guarantee you 50-60% of the students at that time never made it in the business.

If you can find a shop willing to train you, you will be far better off. Schools teach fundamentals, which are important, but real world experiences will make you successful a lot quicker.

You will need to buy tools. A lot of tools. As you progress you'll need even more tools. And a box, which at some point you will have to upgrade to a bigger one.......

I have been a tech since 94. I worked at a 3 franchise dealership for 8 years, an independent shop that specialized in Harleys for 5 years and opened my own small repair shop in 2007, which i am still currently operating.

When I started working at the independent shop that worked on Harleys I had zero HD experience. The guy was running the shop out of his garage. I went in on my day off and worked/learned for free for 3 months, then left the dealership for a $6 an hour pay cut to work with the guy in his garage. It was a huge gamble but it payed off. Within 2 years the owner bought a building and I had 6 employees under me and was making good money for my age working 9-6 M-F with weekends off.

Now that I run my own place the industry is changing. Not a lot of people getting in, but a lot getting out. I can't find quality help there just aren't enough guys left. The dealerships have the same problem. They have 1 or 2 good guys and a half dozen turds. I mostly work on 2010 and newer Harleys and I am currently scheduled out 6 weeks and I'm about 2 weeks behind lol. I haven't had a day off since Easter and I finished my 3rd consecutive 80 hour week yesterday with no days off in sight until Mother's day. Then its back to work 7 days a week till Memorial Day. Sounds like fun, eh?

I don't mean to make it sound like it sucks, because it doesn't. I've met a lot of great people over the years and had a lot of fun. Plus I get to ride other people's bikes while they pay me to do it. Its just not always the cool, rosey job you think it would be especially in the Northeast in the Spring. It's a lot of work and dedication to be good at it, just like any other trade .

If you have any specific questions feel free to ask
View Quote


First off I would like to say thanks for the detailed response!

It is greatly appreciated.

A bit of my backstory, I grew up on a farm my whole life and have been doing mechanic work on tractors and trucks since around the age of 14. I really don't know if I am or am not mechanically inclined for the most part. I would like to think I am.

But, anyway when I was 18 I wanted to go to mmi or mechanic school but got pushed into the college thing and graduated in it even though I kind of just did it to do it and have regretted it since having to be out in the "real world" and being miserable in a job that should be really good for the average guy.

I would rather not work weekends but if it is something I have to do for several years until I gain enough experience in it then so be it.

I live in SW Louisiana so it is pretty much year round riding for the most part.

So should I just be looking to be a shop hand at just anywhere or try for like a Harley dealership?

I ride a harley if that makes any difference and that is what I would ideally like to end up working on for the most part but to gain experience I would work on any make.6
Link Posted: 4/20/2016 5:21:20 AM EDT
I've lived next to MMI for years, and known/lived with a few people who went there.  As the first post said it will NOT make you into a mechanic if you aren't one already and specifically with an interest in motorcycles.  It's almost sad to see waves of guys who don't know how to change oil in a car thinking MMI is going to turn them into Jesse James.  Hell most bike shops I know of around here WON'T hire MMI grads, and none of the people I knew who graduated there actually got a job working on motorcycles.
Link Posted: 4/20/2016 8:30:53 AM EDT
I say you buy an old bike and rebuild it. If you don't go out to the garage at night to work on that bike because you want to, then I cant imagine working on other peoples stuff.

I love bikes, really love them. I am always working on one or another. But I have had one of my bikes on the jack for three days doing mods and honestly by the end of last night I was sick of it. I have been doing a lot of work to this bike over the last month and I just want to be done. I liken it to cutting the grass or changing oil. Some guys really enjoy doing those things. For me it is just something that must be done and I am the only one to do it.

Next, I will be starting on tearing a 40 year old bike to the frame and rebuilding it. I guess I like it but for me it is the end product not the actual wrenching. I enjoy it as it comes back to life looking almost new. I don't enjoy the grease, grime, and busted knuckles but that goes with it. So I can't imagine 8 hours of tire changes, oil changes, and making bikes louder. I think it would be more interesting if you would get to work on the more unusual or neat, old bikes, but likely it would be 90% Street Glides.

.
Link Posted: 4/21/2016 6:46:35 AM EDT
I know a handful of guys that went to MMI. None of them are putting their education to work.

I've hired a lot of techs (auto repair) with college training degrees, not a single one of them have made it very long.  

Like others have said, natural mechanical intuition is a must.
Link Posted: 4/21/2016 7:23:05 AM EDT
Superair pretty much nailed it.

We used to hire most of our apprentices from the kids that came in as interns during their school work-week. We'd pick the kids that were smart or showed promise or sometimes just the ones that seemed a best fit personality wise for the shop. No such thing as MMI back then, it was AMI and we'd laugh at those guys.

I got in as an apprentice by knocking on doors but I think luck played a huge part in it. If I was you, I'd go offer to work at a shop for free for a couple weeks. Do anything they ask, sweep floors, drive the parts truck, deliver bikes, wash bikes, get coffee, assist the techs, anything they ask and don't complain. Never complain. Stay as late as the last guy and offer to stay later. Don't be late for work, be waiting when they get there. Don't expect to turn a wrench or a screwdriver on any bikes for those two weeks. If they go out for beers after work, go with them if they ask you along. Don't act or pretend like you know anything because you don't, at least not compared to a real mechanic, not yet anyway and nobody likes a know it all. Demonstrate your interest and willingness to work hard and don't be afraid to get dirty.

I worked on bikes for nearly 20 years then switched careers and now I'm back working on my bike as a hobby. It's much more fun that way. I'll tell you what though, I wouldn't trade those twenty years for anything. If you're in a good shop with a good bunch of guys, it's a great job. Very fun and rewarding but you won't get rich, that's for sure.
Link Posted: 4/21/2016 8:16:55 AM EDT
Save your money. Get on at a dealership n get free factory training. Ive hired mmi grads that couldn't be trusted to change a spark plug.
Link Posted: 4/21/2016 8:59:05 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 4/21/2016 9:00:23 AM EDT by dino1]
I imagine people get in thinking they will be working on R1's and CBR 1000's all the time and then find themselves working on rebel 250's and zuma's.
Link Posted: 4/21/2016 11:05:24 PM EDT
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By Nightfalcon007:


First off I would like to say thanks for the detailed response!

It is greatly appreciated.

A bit of my backstory, I grew up on a farm my whole life and have been doing mechanic work on tractors and trucks since around the age of 14. I really don't know if I am or am not mechanically inclined for the most part. I would like to think I am.

But, anyway when I was 18 I wanted to go to mmi or mechanic school but got pushed into the college thing and graduated in it even though I kind of just did it to do it and have regretted it since having to be out in the "real world" and being miserable in a job that should be really good for the average guy.

don't know your age but if you wanted to try an apprenticeship or schooling you'd probably know after a year if you were going to like it or make it. Can you spare the time and finances? If so do it and if it doesn't work out you can fall back on your degree

I would rather not work weekends but if it is something I have to do for several years until I gain enough experience in it then so be it.

I'd rather not work weekends either. Ask me how that is working out...

I live in SW Louisiana so it is pretty much year round riding for the most part.

That changes a lot of things. Probably a lot less stress/pressure. When the snow melts here the floodgates open and everyone wants their shit today. In the fall everyone disappears and no one wants to spend a dime when its freezing out side. Our season is about 7 months during a good year with about 5 months being "nice". I put over 500 bikes a year thru my small shop and I work on every one myself. Think about those numbers for a minute


So should I just be looking to be a shop hand at just anywhere or try for like a Harley dealership?

Personally, I would find a independent shop. A dealer isn't even going to let you wash bikes unless you're on the payroll/workers comp. A small shop would be more willing to let you "volunteer" to start. Guys who are successful in this industry have most likely been doing it a long time. If they let you hang around more than a week or two, they see potential.

I ride a harley if that makes any difference and that is what I would ideally like to end up working on for the most part but to gain experience I would work on any make.6

If you ride a Harley now I'd stick to those types of shops. Obviously the more interested you are in the product the more enjoyable it will be. You bought a Harley, not a Honda so...I'm guessing that;'s where your interest lies.

View Quote View All Quotes
View All Quotes
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By Nightfalcon007:
Originally Posted By SuperAir:
Do you have strong mechanical skills already ?
If you don't, no school can turn you into a technician.

You will never make 6 figures unless you own your own place or work for an industry partner. If you want to make that kind of money go to school to be a welder. Then you can work on your own bikes, In your $100k garage during your 6 weeks a year vacation. You'll probably never have a $100k garage or 6 weeks a year vacation as a MC tech unless you marry a rich woman.

What area of the country do you live in? That can make a huge difference

Do you love bikes now? Because you may hate them after 10 years in the biz lol. Do you like to work weekends?

I went to MMI a long time ago (93-94). I know it's changed a lot since then but I can guarantee you 50-60% of the students at that time never made it in the business.

If you can find a shop willing to train you, you will be far better off. Schools teach fundamentals, which are important, but real world experiences will make you successful a lot quicker.

You will need to buy tools. A lot of tools. As you progress you'll need even more tools. And a box, which at some point you will have to upgrade to a bigger one.......

I have been a tech since 94. I worked at a 3 franchise dealership for 8 years, an independent shop that specialized in Harleys for 5 years and opened my own small repair shop in 2007, which i am still currently operating.

When I started working at the independent shop that worked on Harleys I had zero HD experience. The guy was running the shop out of his garage. I went in on my day off and worked/learned for free for 3 months, then left the dealership for a $6 an hour pay cut to work with the guy in his garage. It was a huge gamble but it payed off. Within 2 years the owner bought a building and I had 6 employees under me and was making good money for my age working 9-6 M-F with weekends off.

Now that I run my own place the industry is changing. Not a lot of people getting in, but a lot getting out. I can't find quality help there just aren't enough guys left. The dealerships have the same problem. They have 1 or 2 good guys and a half dozen turds. I mostly work on 2010 and newer Harleys and I am currently scheduled out 6 weeks and I'm about 2 weeks behind lol. I haven't had a day off since Easter and I finished my 3rd consecutive 80 hour week yesterday with no days off in sight until Mother's day. Then its back to work 7 days a week till Memorial Day. Sounds like fun, eh?

I don't mean to make it sound like it sucks, because it doesn't. I've met a lot of great people over the years and had a lot of fun. Plus I get to ride other people's bikes while they pay me to do it. Its just not always the cool, rosey job you think it would be especially in the Northeast in the Spring. It's a lot of work and dedication to be good at it, just like any other trade .

If you have any specific questions feel free to ask


First off I would like to say thanks for the detailed response!

It is greatly appreciated.

A bit of my backstory, I grew up on a farm my whole life and have been doing mechanic work on tractors and trucks since around the age of 14. I really don't know if I am or am not mechanically inclined for the most part. I would like to think I am.

But, anyway when I was 18 I wanted to go to mmi or mechanic school but got pushed into the college thing and graduated in it even though I kind of just did it to do it and have regretted it since having to be out in the "real world" and being miserable in a job that should be really good for the average guy.

don't know your age but if you wanted to try an apprenticeship or schooling you'd probably know after a year if you were going to like it or make it. Can you spare the time and finances? If so do it and if it doesn't work out you can fall back on your degree

I would rather not work weekends but if it is something I have to do for several years until I gain enough experience in it then so be it.

I'd rather not work weekends either. Ask me how that is working out...

I live in SW Louisiana so it is pretty much year round riding for the most part.

That changes a lot of things. Probably a lot less stress/pressure. When the snow melts here the floodgates open and everyone wants their shit today. In the fall everyone disappears and no one wants to spend a dime when its freezing out side. Our season is about 7 months during a good year with about 5 months being "nice". I put over 500 bikes a year thru my small shop and I work on every one myself. Think about those numbers for a minute


So should I just be looking to be a shop hand at just anywhere or try for like a Harley dealership?

Personally, I would find a independent shop. A dealer isn't even going to let you wash bikes unless you're on the payroll/workers comp. A small shop would be more willing to let you "volunteer" to start. Guys who are successful in this industry have most likely been doing it a long time. If they let you hang around more than a week or two, they see potential.

I ride a harley if that makes any difference and that is what I would ideally like to end up working on for the most part but to gain experience I would work on any make.6

If you ride a Harley now I'd stick to those types of shops. Obviously the more interested you are in the product the more enjoyable it will be. You bought a Harley, not a Honda so...I'm guessing that;'s where your interest lies.




Plus, working on metric bikes is a pain in the ass. Especially if you work someplace that services bikes/ ATVs/ SidexSides/ Watercraft/ sleds/ dirt bikes. Way to much shit going on there. You'd probably never do the same job twice unless its a recall or update.

Do you understand what myself and some others are saying about mechanical aptitude? If you have it, you can be successful in any field given enough time. If you don't, someone could die.

Attention to detail is the only other thing you need to be successful in this business.

Most Harley riders are extremely fussy, but they love to spend money. Lots of it. I've had customers come in and drop over $ 20k worth of work into new  bikes with less than 10 miles on them. I did a $10,000 job on a Dyna Superglide a few years ago for a guy that didn't even have a motorcycle license. I had to pick the bike up at his house and drop it off when it was done because he couldn't legally ride it haha. And I haven't seen or heard from him since. I have customers who ride bikes every day that their wives don't even know they own. It's a weird business.

Link Posted: 4/21/2016 11:14:55 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 4/21/2016 11:15:16 PM EDT by akethan]
I've hired several kids from MMI but it seems that all they knew how to do was smoke weed.

Good Techs are a different breed and the good ones are hard to find so I'm lucky to have one of the best in marine. Staying on top requires a lot of time updating to new stuff.
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