Two-wheeled gas solution

Some residents turn to motorcycles for relief from fuel prices
Tuesday, May 2, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:12 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Soaring prices at the pumps may be a bellyache for many, but not for motorcycle mechanic and service-center owner Mark C. Autenrieth.

As gas prices continue to climb, Autenrieth, owner of M.C. Cycle on Range Line Street, has noticed more two-wheeling mid-Missourians rolling into his newly renovated store.

Autenrieth said the galloping gallon has meant that more Columbians are swapping their SUVs for their Harley-Davidsons.

Robert Conners, a 33-year-old motorcyclist who frequents Authenrieth’s shop at least once every two weeks to service his bike, said that he has preferred to use his Harley instead of his car to cut costs during this period of rocketing prices.

“Even the big motorcycles can have a much higher mileage than cars. That’s really a big deal today,” Conners said.

“(Gas mileage) varies a lot; some of the smaller bikes get as high as 80 to 90 miles per gallon, for a 250 Rebel or something like that,” said “Racin’” Dave Stevens, a long-time friend of Autenrieth who has a doctorate in bike service from Harley-Davidson University. “Some of the big Harley touring bikes will get close to 50 miles per gallon, cruising at 70 mph. It’s really largely dependent on the riding styles.”

Stevens’ degree is from “an online training program where you study video tapes and have to pass the Ph.D. criteria before they send you to be Buell Factory-trained,” he said. The program is conducted by the Harley-Davidson company in partnership with Fort Scott Community College and Pittsburg State University in Kansas.

“(Customers) want someone who has been trained and is up-to-date on new models, and so from that aspect it’s important,” Stevens said.

The 30-odd motorcycles lined up in Autenrieth’s shop, which opened in January of this year, attest to his busy schedule and to the shifting of people’s mind-sets when it comes to gas-guzzling vehicles, he said.

Most of the 30 were brought in to M.C. Cycle to get their engines tuned and tires fixed after being stored away for the winter months.

Autenrieth is still getting used to dealing with so much business. The renovation is actually more of an extension of his initial “hog-bar” bike-repair business, then called P.J. Cycle, along a dusty gravel road off North Dripping Springs Road in 1998.

But he doesn’t seem too perturbed by the influx of bikes awaiting his care.


Mark Autenrieth services Harley-Davidson motorcycles with his friend “Racin’ ” Dave Stevens at his shop on Range Line Street. (ELISA PETERSEN/ Missourian)

“We’ve gotta keep the guys riding,” he said.

Autenrieth has been interested in riding bikes for the last 30 years, when he first started dirt-bike riding. He still rides to the West Coast with his buddies on the Harley Tour for two weeks over the summer.

After moving his business from two other locations on Burlington Street and then on Smiley Lane, Autenrieth has finally settled in a spot that he’s proud to say is no longer hidden in the back streets.

His service shop has expanded to four times the size of his previous location on Smiley Lane and now attracts passers-by without even trying, he said. More than $10,000 was spent on remodeling what was once a shop that sold garage doors.

The service center provides same-day tire services and repairs to Harley-Davidsons as well as other brands of bikes, including Honda and Kawasaki.

Autenrieth said the center is also the only location in Columbia that fixes BMW bikes.

He claims that competition isn’t a problem because there is a good sense of community among stores and riders, so much so that he even gets spare parts from other service centers when necessary.

“There’s enough bikes in this town that no one’s hurting each other,” he said.

Keeping true to the Harley-Davidson spirit, Autenrieth is also starting to sell bike merchandise.

The extra room now allows him to showcase bike parts as well as leather jackets.

A whole collection of printed T-shirts also hangs on the racks next to a computer that runs a screen saver slide show of photos from the touring trips Autenrieth has taken.

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