Northern Washington state changes in climate and terrain from east to west. Western Washington is cool and often rainy but seldom sees snow. It is possible to ride most of the year, and many locals do. Seattle is the major urban center in that part of the state. There are so many islands that Washington state operates its own ferry service. Eastern Washington, on the other hand, is rural and high desert. The scenic Cascade Mountains sit in the center, with ranches and farmland on their eastern side. The Cascades and Eastern Washington typically get several feet of snow a year, producing a paradise for winter sports.
I-90 Motorsports sits just east of Seattle (home to techies who like to ride motorcycles and get out on the water) and just west of the hills and woods of Central Washington (home to rural folks who like to go snowmobiling in winter and get out in the woods the rest of the time).
“Street bikes fade as you go east of here and ATVs fade west of here, but there are exceptions,” says Kurt Opel, the general manager of I-90. “Urban people have cabins, and they buy snowmobiles, ATVs, side-by-sides and dirt bikes to keep at the cabins.”
I-90 generally sells to customers within a 50-mile radius, but given the broad range of products in stock, more than occasionally sells to people outside the immediate area who can’t find what they want locally. One positive Google review was recently posted by a woman who lives on an island in Alaska.
I-90 sells a broad range of products to meet the broad interests of its customer base. On the showroom floor are Sea-Doo watercraft; Ski-Doo and Lynx snowmobiles; Can-Am side-by-sides and ATVs; Can-Am Spyder and Ryker road-going three-wheelers; and Honda, KTM, Suzuki, Triumph and Yamaha motorcycles. The dealership also sells parts and accessories for all these different types of vehicles.
According to a Google review, “Folks at I-90 Motorsports are always willing to help, chat and talk shop. They have one of, if not the widest, selection of powersports accessories and tools in the whole area, and the service in the maintenance department is great. Highly recommend stopping by. I think I’ll be purchasing my next bike here when the time is right.”
In addition to the location of the dealership being squarely in the middle between urban and rural, I-90 Motorsports also benefits from a couple of large nearby lakes, ideal for personal watercraft, and the nearby Costco headquarters, many of whose tech employees are motorsports enthusiasts.
“We have lots of tech customers — they buy anything that looks like fun,” Opel says. “We have a big adventure bike market along with a substantial PWC [personal watercraft] market and also sell a lot of entry level motorcycles.”
The shop started in 1987 as a Honda store and gradually added additional lines. “We added Can-Am on- and off-road machines around 2012,” Opel says. “There was no equivalent to what they were selling, and we were already carrying Sea-Doo and Ski-Doo from Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP). Can-Am makes good side-by-sides and performance ATVs.”
Many dealerships customize motorcycles. I-90 customizes ATVs, personal watercraft, snowmobiles and UTVs. Generally, the customization is intended to make the machine work for the customer’s particular application, whether it be tackling snowmobile trails in the mountains or setting up a UTV for a certain kind of ranch work. The many positive reviews I-90 receives shows that the staff knows what it is doing. Many staff members enjoy dirt biking and snowmobiling in their off hours and have the practical knowledge to set up a machine to do what the customer wants it to do.
The influx of new riders has been a pleasant surprise over the last two years. “We work to steer new riders towards an entry-level bike, often our Honda and Yamaha naked bikes,” he says. “We try to educate them. We point out that the resale value of entry-level bikes is strong, and they can get good value on trade in. We reimburse people for the cost of motorcycle safety courses. Most safety courses do a good job of educating people on the value of safety gear, but we sometimes have to explain to people the value of good gear, especially people who are re-entering the sport.”
I-90 Motorsports maintains an extensive parts inventory, but with so many different types of products, the dealership doesn’t list what is available on the website. Instead, online customers are invited to either call the dealership or fill out an easy-to-understand form, stating what is needed. The dealership also buys used motorcycles and other types of powersports equipment, and it allows customers to order a model that is not currently in stock.
The pandemic caused many changes in the I-90 business plan. Pre-pandemic, I-90 organized rides and occasionally rented a local racetrack for its customers. The pandemic brought in an influx of new customers and stopped any in-person activities. Opel and his staff are busy with their current floor traffic and feel that they need to hire and train more staff in order to return to the number of events the shop sponsored three years ago. A customer trail ride is in the planning stage now.
Looking ahead, Opel is considering what changes the upcoming electronic revolution will make to both motorcycling and his business model. “Electric bikes will be in our immediate future,” he says. “I am not sure what that will do to the parts and service departments with the possible reduction of consumable items. Service people will still be changing tires and brake components, but otherwise, they will be mostly electricians. I also worry about the distraction of all the electronic menus above the handlebars and the concern about whether there will be more distracted riding accidents?”
Regardless, Opel and his staff intend to keep doing what they are presently doing — providing the best level of customer service possible to all customers — whether they plan to travel on-road, off-road, on the water or through the snow.
200 NE Gilman Blvd., Issaquah, WA 98027
OEM: Can-Am, Sea-Doo, Ski-Doo, Lynx, Honda, KTM, Suzuki, Yamaha and Triumph
Aftermarket: Parts Unlimited, Western Power Sports
Number of employees: 16