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There are dozens of motorcycle and scooter brands available in Canada, offering hundreds of different choices of vehicles for two-wheel shoppers. And with the dozens of aftermarket distributors, you can customize your bike to your heart’s content.

“A lot of our customers just don’t want their bike to look like their buddy’s up the road,” says Chris Morgan, co-owner of Tony’s Cycle in Kingston, Ontario. “You know, two owners might like the same kind of bike, maybe even have the same model, but still want to personalize their own machine so it’s a bit different.”

It’s not just about looks

Tony’s Cycle is a Kawasaki and Suzuki dealer and sells a mix of cruiser and sport-style machines. “We sell a lot of saddlebags,” says Mr. Morgan. "They might be our biggest after-sale item.” Saddlebags come in hundreds of sizes, shapes, and styles, many of which change each season, and are made to fit most models of machine, from scooters to high-end sport bikes.

“Quite a few of our sport-bike customers are also putting bags or packs on their bikes,” says Mr. Morgan. “Sport-bike customers are using their bikes more and more for tours and longer rides, where carrying storage is a must.”

Windscreens are another way of personalizing a bike. Most bikes don’t offer wind protection as standard equipment, and anyone who rides in bad weather or who enjoys extended jaunts on the highway can certainly improve their comfort level by using a screen. Again, there is a huge variety of types and styles available, from small transparent wind deflectors that are barely visible at a quick glance to large, bat-wing styled units that mimic the look of original equipment screens fitted to, for example, large Harley Davidson touring bikes.

On the less functional side, Mr. Morgan also says they sell a fair number of wheel stripe kits (a wheel stripe is basically a decal stripe that is applied to the outer diameter of the wheel). These stripes give a distinctive look to the motorcycle and also provide a modicum of safety at night, since they are reflective. There may be a limit on the value/type of customizations and/or accessories, so riders should contact their insurers for more information.

GPS for touring

Other items that have more to do with function than form are gaining in popularity, according to both Chris Morgan and Ian McQueen, co-owners of Wolf BMW in London, Ontario.

“We don’t do a lot of ‘show’ stuff,” says Mr. McQueen. “Many of our riders are touring types who like to travel long distances on holidays. We sell quite a lot of GPS units that these customers use for mapping their routes; that’s definitely our biggest selling high-end accessory.”

“Probably the best one we’ve seen so far is BMW’s Navigator IV, a pumped-up version of the Garmin 660. It’s a full Bluetooth control centre — phone, passenger helmet, audio, direction information — and the system prioritizes whatever is critical at the time.”

Extend your riding season

Of course, one of the downsides of riding in Canada (unless you live in the southwest corner of B.C.) is that the riding season is limited by cold weather. Even without the snow and ice of winter, fall and spring temperatures can severely hinder your ability to ride comfortably and safely. However, you can easily extend your season with the use of electrically heated hand grips and a heated vest or jacket under your riding gear.

“Yes, we sell a lot of heated grips,” Mr. Morgan tells us. “They’re getting easier to install, and not so bulky to hold.” Mr. McQueen adds: “Our BMW bikes come with heated grips as standard, but we certainly do a steady business in vests.” If you like shopping Canadian, Black Jack Electrowear is based in B.C. and offers a large selection of excellent gear.

Both owners also agree that an old stand-by is still one of their best sellers — good-quality battery chargers. Deltran’s Battery Tender is one of the best, and both shops recommend it. Whatever you buy, though, make sure it’s a “floating charge” type so you can plug it in and leave it without worrying about overcharging.

As we gear up for the 2011 riding season, the trend is certainly favouring “go” over “show.”

Republished from In The Saddle. To subscribe to this free newsletter, simply request a motorcycle insurance quote!

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