Elevator Repairman by Day, Motorcycle Dream-maker by Night
Walking into True Performance is like visiting Disneyland for Harley Davidson fans. The parking lot is filled with two-wheel wonders and every single rack in the shop has some lust-worthy Harley getting dialed in.
True and Stephine Garwood, owners and operators of True Performance, do almost everything a Harley might need, from basic maintenance to full custom kits. They opened up the shop in Morgan Hill, CA at the height of the pandemic but this didn't seem to slow the work. If the line up of bikes and the list of requests is any indication, the dream-makers will be busy for the forseeable future.
Early memories of wanting a motorcycle?
Stephine: For me, I grew up around motorcycles. I’ve been around them since I was like seven. I’ve always liked the smell and the sound so I’ve always had interest in them and wanted one. I had only ridden dirt bikes so True told me one morning to ride his motorcycle around because I was scared and I came back and told him he was in trouble because he’s gonna have to buy me one.
True: The first real bike that really impressed me was my best friend's bike. He bought a street glide and this was over fifteen years ago. He didn’t want to keep it at his house. My garage was empty. I had just moved into my place. He was cluttered building a Grand National at the time so I said he could keep the bike with me as long as I could ride it whenever I want. He agreed but I only rode it three times.
How did True Performance come about?Stephine: We’ve always been interested in bikes and when we first met we had talked about buying a bike. Bought a bike, started working on bikes in the garage and then a hobby just turned into passion.
True: Steph is really the reason I got a bike and just like with anything that I’ve ever owned, I never left it alone. I mean it always ends up being lifted, lowered or put on new rims and it's gotta have a new stereo. As soon as I hopped on a motorcycle I couldn’t believe I waited as long as I did to get one.
True: Being able to figure out how to take a factory part off and put something on aftermarket and customizing it and making it different from the next guy who bought the same bike as me. It spiraled out of control. Apparently, I did good enough and it got a lot of recognition through social media. The social media platform put us in touch with so many people and seeing so many people like my bike got me looking at how cool and different other people's are. There's so many people out there that are into the same thing that we’re into. Going to events got me meeting so many down to Earth people that wanna look at your bike and pick your brain. Then dm’s started coming in, “Well, I’m having fitment issues with that part.” I had fitment issues with that part too, this is what I did. A lot of our friends that we met through the moto community told us that we should open up a shop and do this for a living. At first I told them no, I had a job, my wife had a job and we just do it on the side.
Stephine: The good thing for us though getting into it was that I used to work for Harley and did parts over there and then worked at another place and did parts over there. So he did the mechanical side of the job and I had the other side of looking stuff up that he needed to make that job complete. So everybody said why don’t you guys open up a shop so we kinda did it in the garage at first.
True: One of my best friends basically has the same passion. He bought a bike right around the same time I did and we just kind of figured out how to do everything together. We bought a manual, followed the book step by step and enough people were interested in what we were doing to allow us to work on their bikes. I’ll forever be grateful for people trusting us with their brand new bike or used bike or reaching out with, “Hey, I can’t get this thing running. It's sitting.” I feel the need to figure it out so I’ll tell them to bring it over. To put bikes back on the road and keep bikes on the road has really been a humbling and rewarding feeling. I’ve never been so grateful for everybody. To run a business, it's pretty wild figuring out all the ups and downs.
What drives you?
True: I don’t care about the money. I really just want people happy with the work that they’re getting and to be excited about doing mild stuff to radical stuff to their bike. To me that’s a no-brainer and what drives me. It makes the longer days, coming in on the days off and staying the late nights worth it. Everybody that comes to us says it's from social media or they heard about us through a friend or they see their bike and it's blowing up. I hope we can keep up the pace and quality of work. It sounds so cheesy and I’ve heard so many people say it but it's the customers and those believing in us or bringing us their bike, issues, parts they want put on that keeps us going. It’s pretty enlightening.
What’s the most common thing people come in for?
Stephine: We do a lot of suspension, braking, and handlebars. We’re very ergonomically driven to getting the bikes tailored to the customer themselves and that really caters to your seating, your handlebar set up and the way that it rides and glides down the road.
True: A lot of oil changes, tires, services and inspections. Some stuff comes in spurts. I won’t see a transmission for a while and then all of the sudden I've got six faulty transmissions in the shop. We want to solve problems.
What’s the craziest request you’ve ever gotten? How’d it go?
True: Probably the coolest dude you’re ever gonna meet. Craig, I’m talking about you. He brought us a flat track turbo'ed sporty that was race only and he said I want this as my daily rider. So we’ve completely changed everything. He’s gonna get a whole new tail section. We put bags on his bike so he can carry his gear. We went from a very low rise handlebar to tall up top, comfortable ones. Custom headlight. We fabricated a fairing to block the wind. Handguards. He’s gonna get a full paint job. Different exhaust flow system. A lot of stuff is being relocated since it was a race bike. It had a little tiny tank so now it's got an FXR tank on it that we out fitted to fit the bike. Of course FXR was not fuel injection so now I need to cut open the tank and install fuel injection so everything is being modified. There’s nowhere to go online and buy what we want. So everything that we’re doing to this bike specifically has been definitely more handcrafted.
Have you ever refused to do anything to someone's bike?
True: Being a new business, striving for the next customer and trying not to let anyone down has made it hard to say no. It’s gotten me in trouble before. We had one bike come through and I could not get it running. I didn’t tell them no. The bike had been sitting forever. It was a rat's nest, wires were missing, twisted together, tape holding stuff together and it had been to two places before it came to us. That’s the one thing I haven’t started up and it makes me feel bad because we figure things out here. We refunded some of the money and it was a learning experience.
How do you keep your shop running smoothly?
True: Communication. Everyday towards the end of the day I feel like I have to grab Steph and we go walk the parking lot. “What’s up with this bike? Where’s his parts? Did he pay his bill? Have we been in contact?”. Constant reminders and going over everything is really what we need to stay on top. Organization is huge. Again, communication is huge especially with our customers. Everybody wants to talk about or go see their bike so when a customer rolls in and has a question I’ll stop what I’m doing to go look at their bike and get that one on one with them. Don’t stand behind the counter, don't be distant. We have chains to keep people out of the shop but I’m constantly pulling people in to check stuff out. Even though we’re a tight group, we’re a big family. The door is always open. We wanna see everybody’s stuff.
What’s a normal day here like? What’s it like working together?
True: Everyday around here is like Christmas. We're constantly opening boxes. We get to see so many great company’s products.
Stephine: True comes in around three everyday after a drive back from San Francisco so I’m not with him 100% of the time but in the nine months we’ve been here it’s been crazy. We’ve had to hire another tech on top of the one we have. I’ve had to get assistants because it was just a lot. There were a lot of things going on and lots of people coming in and even though we have six lifts in there and two guys on them I’m dealing with every customer, every order and everything else.
True: She has to locate the parts, see what the turn around is, put a work order together, order the parts, maybe sign up with the company if it’s a new company. Some of the companies that we deal with, there’s a buy in so we have to save our money and allocate it to certain areas of the shop to help us grow. We make sure we get what we need to get the job done right the first time. I come in around three because I work in the city as an elevator repair man and have been doing that years and years before we opened the shop.
Stephine: When he gets in it’s nice since we work really well together. We get everything lined up and get the guys prepped and ready to go with what needs to be hammered out next and trying to do things in a timely fashion. I love looking at people's bikes but I don’t want them in here because I want new bikes in here.
True: Everyone says when we hop on a bike when we’re done, “We gotta go for a test ride.” That’s the best part of the job. I’ve never gotten to ride so many bikes. We’ve got turbo bikes, supercharged bikes, flat track bikes, choppers, cruisers, and bobbers. We’ve ridden two hundred bikes and one was a bike that someone put a hundred grand into.
Does everyone that works at True Performance ride? Do you ever ride together?
True: We all ride. We all have bikes. Some of us have multiple bikes. We’ve done some events and we love to give stuff away. We love to have bike shows because who doesn’t wanna look at beautiful bikes? Music and food is always involved, it's always all ages, pets and any bike. We really want to put together some quality rides in some great places in California where we can end up at a sight to see or have food and just talk.
Stephine: There's not a lot of us here but we're all pretty close. Our last ride we just went on, we told two people about it and twenty people showed up. We’re together a lot of the time. Our tech doesn’t work tomorrow but he’s gonna be here all day tomorrow because he’s coming in to work on his bike. So we must be doing something right if people still wanna be around us on their days off.
True: Can’t just always be business and there’s nothing like being behind handle bars. No matter what form it is. I grew up racing. I raced ABA for like five years so I was constantly working on my bicycle. As that progressed I got into dirt bikes and that eventually turned into Harleys. I wish I would’ve done it sooner but we’re doing it now.