At Sierra Motor Sports, Sue Johnson refers to herself as “the shop mom.”
“I’m always reminding the kids to wear their helmets, boots and knee protection,” she said. “We’re like a big family here.”
Not only has the decades-old business become a hub of all things dirt bike, but it truly is a family business in several senses of the word. Sue and her husband, Wayne, bought the shop in 2006, and both their children, Megan, 18, and Mike, 29, have since become dirt bike racers.
When parents come in to buy dirt bikes, said Sue, more often than not, they’re outfitting the whole family.
“These dirt bikes are for 4- and 5-year-olds,” she said, while pointing to a row of miniature motorbikes. “But some people like to start their kids even earlier — you can get training wheels for dirt bikes.”
When starting out, women tend to buy scooters or smaller street bikes to build up their confidence, she added, but often graduate to something larger.
“Excited little kids come in making motorcycle sounds — we hear it all the time,” said sales manager Jerry Bradley, who’s worked at the store for more than 20 years. “It’s so fun here because of the nature of the products we sell. Dirt bikes are the ultimate toy. On Saturdays, people drop by to chat and tell us where they’re riding.”
But Sierra Motor Sports is not just about dirt bikes — the large retail floor boasts generators, ATVs, lawn mowers, rototillers, weed trimmers and up-to-the-minute street bikes.
While the Austrian-made KTM dirt bikes are arguably the most popular, street bikes — such as the top-of-the-line Honda Gold-Wing touring bike or the Italian Vespa scooter manufactured by Piaggio — also generate plenty of interest, said Bradley.
In April, a new shipment of Honda street bikes are expected to arrive, and the coming of spring will also bring an open house, gift giveaways, big sales, low financing and impressive manufacturers’ rebates, said Sue.
In addition to helping to sponsor bike races, Sierra Motor Sports also hosts numerous events each year, including a fall colors ride, a St. Patrick’s Day barbecue and a scooter scavenger hunt.
Many of the shop’s seven employees, most of whom are factory-trained technicians, enjoy cross country races in their time off. These can last up to two hours, a feat that requires a high degree of skill and endurance, said Sue.
In addition to his highly trained staff, Wayne himself started out as a kid in the early ’70s sweeping the floors of the Honda dealership that is now Sierra Motor Sports. He went on to work at several motorcycle dealerships, then worked in the parts department of the former Keil Chevrolet in Grass Valley.
“He learned there about running a dealership,” said Sue. “He and all of our techs know their parts and can work on any brand.”
Sue has lived in Grass Valley since moving to the area in the fourth grade and spent many years working for State Farm insurance. Little did she know her future would be steeped in the world of motor bikes.
“I learned to ride about 20 years ago,” she said. “Wayne was very patient. I didn’t realize how much I’d learn to love it. You see 16-year-old girls coming in here because they’d rather hang out with dad in the dirt than go to the mall.”
The Johnsons each own a dirt bike and a street bike, but occasionally on longer trips, Sue will hop on the back of Wayne’s bike.
While Saturdays at Sierra Motor Sports are often a bustling with customers gearing up for their next ride, the store is always closed Sundays.
“I mean, come on,” said Sue, with a smile. “We have to ride on Sundays.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4203.