When playing Texas Hold ‘Em poker, a player is dealt two “hole” cards face down, then there is a round of betting where you can check, bet or fold. When all the betting has finished, three shared cards are dealt face up in the middle of the table. More betting, bluffing and BS take place before a “turn” card is dealt and then the final “river” card is dealt.
There are two ways a hand can end: a showdown where the ace in the hole is revealed or to bet big enough to induce the other players to fold. And that’s the magic of the game – you don’t always need the best hand to win. Mark Peterson of Southwest Superbikes may not have been dealt the best hand, but he has played the powersports game to win for the past 30 years!
“I started working at a printing press when I was 13,” says Peterson, admitting he had to stretch the truth a little and say he was 16. “I took the money I made running commercial cutting machines to trade/buy/sell cars and motorcycles.” The very first deal Peterson made was to get a Suzuki TS125 at a garage sale. “Never could touch the ground on that thing, so I sold it and moved on to a bike that fit.” The die was cast and many more deals started coming in.
“My first boss told me every good drunk wants a bar,” he laughingly says. “I had some great mentors and bosses over the years, but they always shot me down… ‘you need to stay focused and get a career rather than playing with motorcycles.’” However, his ability to buy a bike and turn a profit on it was his focus – and a ticket to a career in the motorcycle industry. He also recognized what a game changer motorcycle auctions could be very early on (see “Auction Early Adapter” sidebar).
By 1988, Mark had done enough “horse trading” to open Southwest Superbikes at the tender age of 21. “I started with a couple of my own bikes and a partner… and we were always focused on the pre-owned sector.” It wasn’t always easy and he literally lived in the back of the shop in the early years, but every single day has been rewarding. It was “some of the best years of my life, even if I didn’t know how much fun we were having until afterward.
“I have been working my whole life, but I still enjoy coming into the shop every single morning. I get to mess with motorcycles during the day instead of having to wait until after work. The people I get to talk to work their butts off and they want to reward themselves, so when they come in and I can sell them a bike, it is life changing!”
Peterson’s enthusiasm is as infectious as it is genuine. “I still get the same feeling when I get a new bike … I can’t wait to go ride! I think it is so cool to be a part of that for all of my customers. What it all boils down to is I’m a motorcycle guy, I’m in the business because of that.”
To fuel this passion, Southwest Superbikes stocks the largest selection of pre-owned sportbikes in Texas. Peterson decided to take Southwest Superbikes to the next level. “I wanted to stock even more motorcycles and a wider variety.” Instead of the Suzuki Hayabusas that had helped create the shop’s reputation, there is now everything from a little Honda Grom to a BMW R nineT on the showroom floor.
In fact, the last time we checked in on him, two EBR 1190s, a Triumph Thruxton and three Suzuki Hayabusas were blocking the front door – having just come in from the inaugural NPA auction in the new Dallas facility – and there was literally no room on the showroom floor for them. By the end of our visit, two of the ‘Busas had been sold and a buyer was coming in for the third as soon as he got off work.
About those Suzukis… it seems the shop has a certain reputation for having the fastest Hayabusas around. “We set three world records on bikes that we customized in house,” says Peterson. “We attained these records at the legendary Bonneville Salt Flats in Wendover, Utah. Along with setting these records, our bikes have put five more people into the 200 mph club.” Talk about the need for speed!
Just in case anyone forgets, there is a Hayabusa 20 feet in the air on a scissor lift out front. “That is just a shell of a bike we blew up in Bonneville, but it does get your attention, doesn’t it?” Mark’s 2003 record-setting bike is stashed away upstairs in the secret Southwest Superbikes Museum… oops, we weren’t supposed to mention that.
However, if such a museum were to exist, it may have been at one of those early auctions that Peterson bought a 1956 Moto Parilla 175 Fox campaigned in the Giro d’Italia back in the day that became the first bike in a world-class collection of vintage race bikes.
Is the powersports market played out? “Don’t bet on it,” says Peterson. While the market has definitely changed in the past 30 years, and more dealers have clued in on the importance of pre-owned bikes, there is always an opportunity for some good old-fashioned Texas-style horse trading. “They say it’s not work if you’re doing what you love, so I’m still playing … deal me in!”
AUCTION EARLY ADOPTER
It doesn’t matter if it is going 200 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats or being the very first one to recognize the value of picking up clean, late-model sportbikes at auction, Southwest Superbikes owner Mark Peterson has been on the gas since day one! Peterson parlayed his need for speed and love of motorcycles into a successful business.
Southwest Superbikes has always specialized in pre-owned sales, and Mark was the earliest of early adopters to the auction model. “A friend started the original Cycle Express motorcycle auction that morphed over the years into what is now National Powersport Auctions,” he recollects. “So I have been buying bikes at auction since the very first one.” To this day, he remains one of the top buyers and sellers at NPA’s Texas facility.
At one point in time, industry estimates noted that 75-80% of used bike sales were driveway-to-driveway, meaning a franchised dealer was rarely ever part of the equation. In recent years, the internet has created a whole new pre-owned vehicle marketplace of information, inventory and related services. Consumers can now access resources such as CycleTrader.com.
Rather than fighting with Craigslist and the Penny Saver, Peterson immersed himself in the pre-owned market, utilizing the auctions to make sure he had access to the largest selection of sportbikes in the entire state of Texas. Everything really is bigger in Texas when you are talking about inventory… and part of Peterson’s seemingly limitless supply comes from the nearby NPA auction lanes.
Southwest Superbikes is so entrenched in the process, the dealership has its own condition report/photo bay that is an exact match for one found at the NPA Auction houses.
So what is the one bit of advice this veteran horse trader would share with a dealer who has never been to an NPA event? “Don’t let the excitement of the auction get the best of you. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of it and raise your hand a few too many times!” Like the song says:
“If you’re gonna play the game, boy, You gotta learn to play it right. You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, Know when to fold ‘em…”