One of the very best parts about buying a new bike is researching all the farkles you just know you’ll need. Sometimes the treasure hunt leads you to familiar places, for example Touratech is always a first stop. Sometimes, and this is particularly true when you add a new marque to your stable, you find new sources of motorbike smack. That’s how I found Jerry Finley, who along with lovely Amber, keep watch over Pirate’s Lair, a dandy place to buy kit for your BMW bike.
What’s true about Jerry is true about everyone else I’ve interviewed in the business. Motorcycles and Motorcycling are something like an incurable itch, incurable to the point that folks like Jerry become convinced that they can do something better than anyone else. Maybe that’s making a thing, or maybe it’s selling a thing (in my case it was a conviction that I could write about it better than anyone else). Jerry does all three. That’s why I plagued him to tell me his story: It’s that passion that’s so interesting and makes hanging around with bikes and riders so compelling. And yes, I’ve bought a bunch of stuff from Jerry, and yes, I paid full retail, so don’t even think what you were thinking. He’s the real deal.
So here’s Jerry. Make sure you read the story about the Corvette . . .
Do the self introduction . . .
I’m Jerry Finley .. son of James… and along with my lovely wife, Amber I own and run Pirates Lair Motorcycle Accessories at www.PiratesLair.net. All my friends call me Pirate. I design, manufacture, and sell specialty parts primarily for the K12 series BMW’s but I do make a few goodies for Ducati’s, Hondas, Yamahas, and MV Agustas. We were just recently voted the #1 place to buy K12 accessories in the US.
What attracts you to riding motorcycles?
Not sure… probably the same thing that attracts me to breathing… I ride, therefore I am. I do love meeting and talking to fellow motorcyclists. Motorcyclists (not bikers) are much more interesting than non-riders.
When did you ride your first motorcycle? What kind was it?
That’s easy. I remember as if it was yesterday. It was a sunny day in 1965. I, a skinny 10 year old, came home from school, threw down my books, packed a snack, and headed out to the garage to get my bicycle for my daily “adventure” exploring the back roads of Nashville.
When I got to the garage…beside my bike, there was my father leaning over and polishing a shiny new Yamaha. I can recall his first words as if it was yesterday.. “Wanna go for a ride?” I remember him smiling then coolly getting on..kicking it to life.. me climbing up behind him and wrapping my little fingers around his thick waist. He grasped my hands, leaned around and said …”hang on”. The very minute we pulled out of the driveway I remember thinking… I hope this ride NEVER ends. At that EXACT moment…I knew I was a motorcyclist for life.
What was the first bike you owned?
It was a Sears 106.. Yes.. sold by Sears back in 1970.. made by Jawa. Loved that piece of crap single. Put about 10K on it before I was broad sided… put me in the hospital for nine MONTHS.. Broken up pretty bad. Almost died, but amazingly I was saved by a young doctor who had just returned from ‘Nam.. a trauma expert. Woman pulled left in front of me.. Her fault. Sued and 2 years later won enough to cover all my hospital bills and buy me a brand new Honda CB750. Wish they had had rider ed back then..
What do your ride now?
Currently own a 2006 BMW K1200S and a 2008 Ducati 1098S. My track bike is a 2006 Special Edition Yamaha R1
What bikes have you owned?
I think this list pretty much covers them..The years might be slightly off..bad memory.. too many drugs.
72′ Honda CB750
79′ Honda CBX
81′ Kawasaki 1000LTD
82′ Honda V45 Sabre
84′ Kawasaki GPZ 750 Turbo
91′ Suzuki 750 Katana
98′ BMW K1200RS
03′ MV Agusta F4
03′ Ducati ST3
06′ BMW K1200S
06′ Special Edition Yamaha R1
08′ Ducati 1098S
What is the coolest thing you’ve ever done on a motorcycle?
Everything is cool on a motorcycle…Had lots of adventures… lots of near death experiences.. Too many to waste time on. One interesting experience I had might entertain… I swear it’s true…
Years ago.. when the earth was young .. It was a hot, mid-summer Nashville night and I couldn’t sleep. Decided to take my Kawasaki 750 Turbo (then the fastest bike on the planet) for a midnight ride around town on the interstate loop. In the summer it’s about the only time of day you can ride in Nashville and not melt.
There were almost no cars as I recall and at that time of night . While on the far side of town I was all alone on the interstate except for a lone car waaay up ahead.. As I got closer I could see that it was a Corvette. He’s in the fast lane far to the left of the 4 lane section. As I get a little closer I see that it’s a T-top with the top wide open and on the passenger side of the car I see long blond hair billowing out the right side window and the top. I mean.. looong blond hair. Sweet.
My first thought was.. It‘s gotta be a babe. So what to do?? Plan formulated, I’m going to coolly come up on them…pull up along side.. kinda close.. glance over ..perhaps wink to the obviously beautiful blond who must be riding with the chump.. then light up the turbo and let them see it’s godlike power…Vette guys were always posers anyway.. Who better than I to humiliate him in front of his babe than myself?
So.. I slowly close in on them …I pull up alongside dead even with the car matching their speed … closer than I should have but I wanted to get a good look at the girl…I glance over and… I am about 5ft away and eye to eye with a full grown male lion which instantly roared so loud that it scared me 2 full lanes over and almost off the road.. GEEZUS!!
I did NOT look back as I felt so stupid…just fired up the turbo and was gone.. No idea if the lion was impressed or not.. and No… I was not on drugs that particular night…
[Me: Holy shit!]
If you could ride your bike one more time, one more place, anywhere in the world, where would that be?
Swiss Alps or Sonora Pass in California
If someone handed you a blank check and said buy a motorcycle, what would you buy?
Fortunately I usually buy any bike that I want.. life is good..Hmm.. Probably the Desmodeci Ducati..
Can you tell the story about how you got involved in your business? What did you do before? What was the inspiration/motivation?
Oddly enough.. my biz came together like a perfect storm.. I was in the printing/publishing biz for 25 years.. hated it so I quit. Made some money as a freelance journalist for a few motorcycle and scuba publications.. Also a photographer for a few years. Loved that but the money wasn’t conducive to the extravagant lifestyle I so richly deserved so I decided to try something different.
Left the country and lived in Guatemala for a while. Wrote for a Guatemala English speaking paper for a year, but that didn’t work out so back to the USA I came without a job and only $1000 in my bank account. What to do? I decided to start a new biz from scratch doing something I loved… So began Pirates Lair Motorcycle Detailing service based out of Nashville, Tennessee. Within a year I not only had the business of virtually every bike shop in the area, but also many country music stars. During this same time, I bought my first BMW.. a 98 K1200RS. Fell in love with it but immediately realized nobody made any accessories for it so I designed some things myself…
At about the EXACT same time, internet chat sites were popping up around the country and I came across www.I-BMW.com A site made up of fellow K1200RS riders. I posted a few pics of my bike (with my custom made accessories) and immediately was flooded with requests for my products and requests for other items… I sold my goodies the best I could out of my garage.
To make the perfect storm complete.. a buddy of mine .. a designated computer geek, suggested I learn HTML so I could build a website to sell my custom BMW products in a more professional way. He offered personal tutelage if I supplied an endless supply of beer. Pabst Blue Ribbon. .. I took him up on it and took to it like a junkie to crack. As it turned out.. all my experience in the printing and publishing industry combined with my knowledge of writing and photography were EXACTLY the knowledge I needed to produce a successful website/business. I couldn’t have scripted it better. The rest is history. Now we are the #1 K1200 accessory site in the universe selling to every country in the world (except Indonesia.)
What products excite you the most?
I’m a big fan of leather suits or jackets and helmets. I’m always looking for a new model or style..I’m a sucker for cool looking riding gear. It’s a curse.
What product do you see on the market that most needs to be redesigned? Or designed?
We manufacture a few backrests for bikes like the ST1300, the FJR1300, and quite a few BMW’s only because Honda, Yamaha, and BMW doesn’t. I’ve always wondered why they don’t as all these bikes are generally two-up machines and virtually every buyer would want a backrest as an option..?? This has always baffled me although it’s good for us as we sell them by the truckload. Liability issues?
Also.. I see motorcycles getting too complex for mortals to work on. The new BMW’s are so complex that you can’t even add accessory lighting to some of them without triggering dash warning lights. If these bikes break down you have no choice but have it towed to a dealer.. Sad. I see the Japanese and Italians slowly sliding down this slope with traction control and hp output devices.. Not good. Sooner or later they’ll be like cars… Nobody but professional mechanics will be able to work on them.
[Me: Agree, agree, agree.]
Who are your typical customers? Demographics? Likes. Dislikes?
Generally between 35-60.. upper middle-class. Lots of professionals and retirees… and oddly enough a large percentage are pilots. Most of our customers are anti-cruiser. Serious riders concerned with safety and serious riding.
When you love your business, what is it you love?
I love sleeping late. and I love sleeping with the boss’s wife. Getting to write off all the rallies and track days I attend on my taxes is just icing on the cake.
When you think going into business was nuts, what drives you nutty?
When biz is good.. which is about 9 months out of the year I find myself working 14 hour days.. Not healthy for the body or soul. However. it’s still better than working 8-10 hours for somebody else. I’m paying my dues now in hope that it’ll pay off in the long run..
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing motorcycling?
Motorcycles are slowly being legislated off the road.. I hear about mandatory speed control devices being discussed in Europe. Horsepower is already limited in one or two countries. Factory programmed GPS units that alert law enforcement that the rider has broken speed laws should be on some bikes within the next 3-4 years. If that doesn’t reek of “big brother” .. I don’t know what does.
In Denver they just passed a law that ALL after market exhausts are illegal. Florida has just passed laws giving motorcyclists $1000 fines for speeding or even improperly mounted license plates. The lone protector of motorcyclists rights is the toothless AMA. Insurance companies are actually banning some bikes from coverage and/or putting them on “scary bike” lists. This does not bode well for street riders when the manufacturers are pouring gas on the fire by pumping out faster and more powerful bikes year after year without suggesting/offering comprehensive training for it’s potential customers. Something needs to be done, yet nobody is doing a damn thing.
IMHO.. sooner or later, street riders will be legislated out of existence…forced off the streets and onto tracks.. Very sad.
Tags: JerryFinley, Pirate’s Lair, BMW, K-Bike, I-BMW, K1200S, Ducati 1098S, Pabst Blue Ribbon, AMA