Rob has been riding, building, swapping, and selling for almost 3 decades. He has dedicated customers, suppliers, and friends from all over the bikersí world. Folks trust Rob because he knows Harleys, and he buys and sells only the good stuff at a fair price. You can virtually build and entire bike from parts supplied by Rob and his knowledgeable crew. Fact is, he has been shipping parts to our soldiers overseas so they can do just that. And when the parts show up, you know they are gunna be what you ordered.
I have only seen Rob on the road, and wanted to check out his operation. His shop is tucked into the woods just west of Washington, DC. Looking for what Iím accustomed to in bike shops, I drove right by his place. Unlike the stereotypical hard core biker, Rob is Mr. Clean. Everything about and around Rob is tidy. His shop, along with all the parts are clean, and organized. His crew is friendly, his wife is a dear, and Rob was a generous host. Usually folks donít put up with more than an hour of me poking around. They gave me the grande tour of the shop, house garage, and attic. Thatís because Rob has bikes, motors, parts, and memorabilia everywhere. Then Rob treated us to Chinese carryout. By the time I finished photographing, and swapping tales almost 4 hours had slipped by.
Wish I had more time to spend with Rob & the crew. Below is a small sample of our conversations.
Q-Ball: How long have you been riding, and what was your first bike?
Rob: I got my motorcycle licence in 1976 that was back when all you had to do was ride through a line of cones without knocking them over. I had a 1972 Yamaha chopper with an extended front end that was a trick to ride but I passed on the first try!
Q-Ball: Have you always been into Harleys, or did you ever tinker with metrics?
Rob: Just Harleys, that Yamaha was the only experience I ever had!
Q-Ball: Over the years, what was your favourite bike?
Rob: Hands down my 1967 Shovel Hardtail. It was always a one kick bike and got more looks than any other bike I ever had. It was so much fun to ride and stopped on a dime! There is a picture on my website. I sold it because I had an offer I could not refuse and the guy has been a friend of mine for 30 years.
Q-Ball: How long have you been in the used bike business? (25 years) What got you started?
Rob: I heard about this 1972 Sportster in a cornfield and the owner only wanted $600 with the title! I dragged it out of there and it took me two weeks to get it cleaned up and running. The young guy who owned it was hiding it from his parents. I think I sold it for $1200 and the rest is history!
Q-Ball: I know you have been doing swap meets all over the US. What is your favourite place to set up, and why?
Rob: It would have to be Harrisburg Pa just because I get great deals on parts there. I take a truck load and always come home with more than I sell! I hunt out the hard to find stuff. I like to keep a little of everything in stock. That meet is known for parts not leathers and feathers.
Q-Ball: Any good swap meet stories? Bet you have a few.
Rob: A few years ago at the Smoke Out in Salisbury NC I was set up in the building and in those days anything and everything was going on. Billy Lane and Indian Larry had booths just down from mine displaying their bikes and somehow they decided to have their own burnout competition inside the building! Billy started first. His chopper had a crate motor he bought from some manufacturer and must have had a faulty ignition because when he put his front wheel against the wall the motor would break down at high RPMS (pop pop pop). Well needless to say the crowd booed him (I felt bad for him) but he was his usual cool self about it. Larry had one of his original hard tail bobbers with a Shovelhead motor he built himself and when we put the front wheel against the wall that Shovel sounded just like a Pro Stock car leaving the line at the race track! He had it going and the crowd went wild cheering him on! You could not see the hand in front of your face for the smoke! What a show they put on!
Q-Ball: What swap meets will you attend this year?
Rob: Harrisburg Pa in March, The Smoke Out in North Carolina in June, Carlisle Summer Bike fest in August and Delmarva Bike Week in September. I usually have all the shows and dates listed on my web site
Q-Ball: The name of your business is Rob's Used Harley Parts. Do you buy and sell parts for any another motorcycles?
Rob: Not really as I don't have the room to store them or the market to sell them. I usually list other parts on E Bay when I get them.
Q-Ball: You seem to have one of everything from over the years. How much of your trade is older bike parts?
Rob: I do have some vintage parts and I am always trying to buy quality stuff when I can find it. That is where I started with Pan, Knuck and Flathead parts but that stuff is getting hard to find. The last load I found was in Baltimore. I bought two box truck loads form a WWII era widow who knew exactly what the parts were worth. She drove a hard bargain but in the end it worked out nicely for both of us !
Q-Ball: From reading your website, it sounds like you help folks find parts. Any good stories?
Rob: I meet a lot of good people doing this and if I don't have it I try my best to refer them to someone who does. It is nice when you can help someone finish a project and they thank you for it.
Q-Ball: Looks like you do business with folks from all over the world. What's the furthest you had to ship, and what countries are your better customers?
Rob: One of my best customers lives in Finland. He gets his buddies together and places a large order about once a month or so. He loves the one stop shop and since he is such a good customer I don't mind getting him car parts sometimes! It all works out in the long run. Isn't this what it is really all about helping each other! I get a lot of referrals that way.
Q-Ball: What's your impression of the new generation getting into old school garage built bikes? Where do you see all this going?
Rob: I think it is great! I was almost beginning to think a few years ago that vintage Harleys might fade out like the model T some day as the young guys were buying crotch rockets and listening to rap music! I love to see them take an interest by learning and building themselves. They have got style and build some classy stuff! I hope that some of your readers will come to our third annual Antique & Custom bike show on Labor Day Sunday Sept 4th. We have a great time and I am sure they will enjoy the blues music of the Night Hawks as well as all the scooters! All proceeds go to the Spirit Equine Foundation. It is a great time for everyone! The details will be on my website soon.
Robís Used Harley Parts
Hours 10-7 Weekdays
Shop Phone 703-476-6607
More of my articles are in Lowside Magazine