Reno, Nevada is a tourist town with a lot of things to do. There is skiing and snowmobiling in the winter. In the fall and spring, there are huge motorcycle rallies, off-roading and dirt biking, and there is gambling and entertainment year-round. Bill Hermant has run a dealership in Reno since the 1990s and has figured out how to succeed in this environment. In fact, Hermant’s Reno Cycles and Gear has been the No. 1 Polaris dealership in the West for years.
Hermant started out racing both cars and motorcycles, and still has a soft spot for the flat tracks. He opened a dealership in the San Francisco Bay Area and continued to race. Eventually, Hermant decided to move to Nevada. Reno Cycles and Gear opened its doors in 1999, and has been going strong since. A big reason why – the first thing Hermant learned about selling motorcycles in Reno was to sell to locals, not tourists.
“The crowds coming in are not buyers,” Hermant says. “We keep some stuff on hand visitors can buy for souvenirs, and have a display at the Spring and Fall Street Vibrations rallies, but we are really there to promote the Polaris brand, not our business. If visitors want to buy, they usually will go home and buy from the local dealer.”
The profit margin on t-shirts is pretty slim. Reno Cycles and Gear has kept its doors open by selling what the local people want, and providing customer service that keeps them happy after the sale.
“Our customer base is snowmobiles – we are the largest snowmobile dealer in the area – and motorcycles, especially off-road motorcycles,” Hermant notes.
Thus far, 2021 has been good for Hermant, mostly due to the off-road explosion the industry has seen. Reno is in the middle of varied terrain – mountains and forests to the West, desert to the East – which offers multiple opportunities for both four and two-wheel off-roading. Much of the surrounding land is public, with established off-road areas and trails catering to all levels of skill.
While Reno Cycles and Gear has a thriving business selling Indians and Polaris Slingshots, many of the dealership’s customers are interested in ATVs and 4x4s for both work and play. Hermant also sells the SSR line of dirt bikes and CFMoto ATVs to customers who want a less expensive option.
“My average off-road customer is about 40 years old and tired of being inside,” he says. “He’s getting outside and enjoying it. A lot of my customers have kids, and the SSRs I sell are kid-friendly. A lot of my business is word of mouth – one family sees what another is doing and gets referred to me.”
New riders means training classes are important. For street riders, Hermant works with the training program at the local college. There is also a new rider school about 30 miles away. For off-road folks, he does some training in the parking lot before a customer leaves, and has them watch a safety video.
“I am pleased to see that new rider training is booked up,” he says. “We are surrounded by open land. Most of my riders have lived here for a while and off-road is bringing in young people who want to get outside.”
In order to keep off-road riding going strong, it takes stewardship from all those involved. When it comes to off-road riding, Hermant says there are environmental types and there are hooligans, but his customers are people in the middle – motorized, but responsible.
“There are 2,000-3,000 people in the clubs I support,” Hermant says. “They sponsor cleanup days. The people dumping are not off-roaders. Most off-roaders are conscientious and education is a big deal. I have a closing sheet that I ask customers to sign. I present information about the product I am selling, and the last item is, ‘I promise to keep the land available for recreation by being responsible.’”
Reno is very close to the California border and Hermant has to not only be cognizant of the requirements of Nevada law, but also California off-road regulations, as a lot of his customers intend to ride in California. Another concern he has is managing the space in his dealership.
“In 2008, I moved from a 7,000 sq.-ft. location to 21,000 sq.-ft. It seemed like a lot of room at the time, but it really wasn’t. The side-by-sides I sell take up a lot of room. They energized our industry, but at the same time, they need a lot of space. I am always searching for better products and better ways to use the space I do have.”
Concern about space led Hermant to drop several other brands he carried to concentrate on Polaris products.
“I decided to be a full-time Polaris dealer,” he says. “I chose Indian. Polaris makes a quality product and customers can see the quality built in when they come to the dealership. Polaris also stands behind their products.”
One major draw for Reno Cycles and Gear is the service department. Early on, Hermant realized that no one wants to wait a couple of weeks for an oil change and new tires. He started “No Appointment Tuesdays” where a customer who wants something simple, like that oil change or a basic tune up, can bring in their bike or off-road vehicle and get it back by the end of the day. No Appointment Tuesdays has turned the service department into a major profit center.
Reno Cycle also sells accessories at a steady clip. Hermant says the best way to sell accessories is to install them on a vehicle on the showroom floor.
“People can see the quality of our accessories and also get new ideas on how to use the machine they are buying,” he says. “I put a snowplow on one 4×4. Guys come in and say, ‘I didn’t know you could do that with a 4×4.’”
Despite the ability to showcase vehicles and accessories on the show floor, Hermant says his biggest challenge is the internet.
“The internet is the worst thing for business,” he says. “It’s not as bad as it used to be since they made internet companies pay sales tax. There are all these cheap helmets on the internet. I explain to people who come in why they need to buy a good helmet for their child – isn’t the kid important to them? However, a lot of parents say the kid will outgrow it in a year and there is no reason to spend a lot of money, so they buy a cheap helmet anyway.”
Reno Cycles battles the internet by having inventory available and on display. Donna, Bill’s wife, runs the parts department and makes a point of having inventory available.
“I can show people the quality of what I am selling,” Hermant says. “It’s also important to customers not to have to wait for their item. ‘You guys got it right here,’ they say, and reach for the wallet.”
Unlike many dealerships, Reno Cycles and Gear is still a family affair, with Donna Hermant in parts and their daughter Kim overseeing finance. And, after all these years, Bill still enjoys coming to work.
“In five years, I’ll still be behind the same desk. I like it,” Hermant admits.
Reno Cycles and Gear
3445 Kietzke Ln, Reno, NV 89502
OEM: Polaris, Indian, CFMoto, CCR
Aftermarket: Drag Specialties, Icon, Speed and Strength, Alpinestars, Throttlethreads, Moose Racing, FMF Racing.
Number of Employees: 30