Timely tuner

Ray Jenkins

SN&R Photo By Larry Dalton

It’s time for a reality check, boys and girls. Gasoline is pushing $4 a gallon. Remember when you were freaking out when it hit $3? And guess what? It may go back down a little, but in this case, what goes down is going to come back up, with a vengeance. The days of cheap oil and gasoline are gone forever. In the long term, this spells disaster for life as we know it. But why worry about tomorrow when you’ve got to get to work today?

That’s where Ray Jenkins, proprietor of Cycle Tune Co., comes into the picture. For the past 33 years, Jenkins has been resurrecting motorcycles and scooters that have been left for dead. Often, these machines require nothing more than a simple tune-up, minor electrical work or the replacement of a few missing parts. Once resurrected, they become viable, efficient modes of transport that can go up to 100 miles on a gallon of gasoline. Try that in your Prius.

Cycle Tune Co. is located at the corner of Alhambra Boulevard and I Street in Sacramento. Jenkins can be reached at (916) 442-3300.

How did you get in the motorcycle-repair business?

I started off young, liking motorcycles. Then I got to a place where I had to make a decision, college or whatever. It was a state deal, vocational rehab. The guy says, “Whaddaya wanna do? We got a little bit of money here.” I said motorcycle mechanic. So they bought my tools and I found a place that would hire me. It was a Kawasaki shop out in West Sacramento, but that was a long time ago; it’s not there now.

What kind of bikes do you work on?

Japanese: Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha, both motorcycles and scooters. I try to steer everybody toward the Japanese stuff because of the quality. You’re starting to see a lot more stuff coming out of China, and it’s pretty poor. I had one fellow who had one and we discussed doing a tune-up on his bike and it was a nightmare. The way it was designed, there was no thought given to maintenance. There’s no engineering; they just try to copy and make it as cheap as they can. People buy them over the Internet, and once they get them, there’s no support or dealer.

So you wouldn’t recommend buying one of the Chinese motorcycles?

No. If you bought that little Honda, the blue one there, all you have to do is ride it and put gas in it. It’s not going to give you any trouble. It gets 60, 70 miles to the gallon. When I see the price of gasoline going up, I kind of smile, because it’s good for me.

Business is pretty good?

It’s seasonal. In the cold fog and rain of the winter, for about three months or so it slows down. Now, through the summer, it will be busy.

What kind of work will you perform?

Each situation is kind of unique. This fellow here on this Honda XR650, he’s not real tall, so his challenge is to get his feet to touch the ground. I put on more street-oriented tires, as opposed to knobbies. I dropped the forks a couple of inches. This [Yamaha TT 250] sat for a year-and-half, so I had to go through the carburetor, do an oil change, put in a new battery because the battery was dead and it has to have it, because there’s no kick starter.

What are your rates?

The hourly rate here is $65 per hour. At a lot of the dealers, I think it’s more like $100. A lot of the jobs, like this Suzuki 1400 Boulevard, it’s in for the first service, so I’ll look up on a chart to see what I charge for it. It’s a given. It’s not by the hour.

Why should someone bring their motorcycle here?

I like to think I know what I’m doing after all these years. I feel like I try to communicate with people, as opposed to a service writer who does the work order and doesn’t really know about mechanics. People get to know what’s going on with their vehicle. I feel like I’m honest, and I like what I’m doing. I get a lot of business from referrals, by word of mouth. That’s because I try to treat people decent. It doesn’t make sense to me to try and get as much money from someone for one time, and then they’re pissed off.

What kind of dog is that?

That’s a Lhasa Apso. She rides between my feet on the scooter. You couldn’t tell by looking at her, but she’s an agility dog—the weave poles and the teeter-totters and the tunnels—so she’s trained. She’s getting older. We don’t compete now, but we used to. She patrols around here. She doesn’t go in the street; she knows where her boundaries are.