With the success of hot TV shows like Monster Garage and American Chopper, customizing and kitting out your motorcycle became the in thing to do. Just like when anything hits mainstream media, what was once a niche market and a DIY project, becomes a household term and regular sighting. “Outlaw” mechanics have become celebrities beyond their customer clientele and now kids are recognizing Jessie James on the street as the guy who was married to Sandra Bullock. But that’s not the only thing that has blown up! With the popularity of the shows, comes the popularity of customs bikes. Vegas host a number of custom bike shows a year, where people from around the world, bring their bikes to sin city and display them for the fans to see. Of course this is not the only place this happens and the ironic thing about it all is that you seldom see these bikes on the road. Most of the bikes get shipped to the convention halls and rallies and very seldom ridden there. But the prestige and bravado that the builders receive when displaying these otherworldly steel chariots is worth all the time, effort and cost to create these modern masterpieces.
That being said, it’s not the easiest thing in the world shipping a customized bike, especially when you’re in a position like mine. I live in Canada and getting the bikes out to an exhibition in the USA takes a bit of paperwork and planning. First and foremost you want to know the exact length and weight of the bike. Since most of my bikes have been customized, they are not standard length or weight. When arranging with a motorcycle shipping company, make sure you give them the correct dimensions so they arrive with a correctly sized pallet. Not only does this ensure that they arrive to pick up the bike with the correct equipment, but it also helps you not getting hit with additional charges and fees. There is nothing worse than expecting your bike to be shipped, only to see the truck driving away without your bike loaded in the back because you neglected to tell them that it’s longer than the standard 96”. But that is just the shipping part; the cross border paperwork becomes a little trickier.
When shipping a Canadian registered bike into the USA on a temporary basis for exhibitions, repairs or modifications, a TEMPORARY IMPORT BOND must be taken out. The bond for motorcycles is usually around $250.00. Any motorcycle shipping company worth their weight in gold, should be able to assist you in taking out this bond. Of course you have to have the paperwork together to supply them so they can petition for it on your behalf. What you would need to supply are: copies of the Provincial registration and insurance, your passport picture page and, if exhibiting, a copy of the exhibit registration. If you are having work or modifications done, you will have to supply a copy of the work order reflecting the total value of the work being done. US Customs will then review this, and pending their approval you should have free passage to bring the bike into the USA on 6 – 12 month increments.
Returning the bike within this time frame is very important. It is vital to have the temporary import bond cancelled with a FORM 3495, on the return. If not, you are liable for the taxes and duties of the full value of the bike. You will also accrue penalty fees. Canadian and US customs work hand in hand with each other to make sure that all the necessary taxes and fines are taken care of. Obviously, if you are purely exhibiting a bike, you will not have anything to pay upon return. But having work done on a motorcycle is a different story. If the bike is being sent to the US for repair or to get back to running condition, it does not necessarily enhance the value of the motorcycle and you usually do not have to pay any fees. But if you are sending it down to accessorize, and customize, you will have to pay a percentage of the work that is being done. You will have to employ the services of a customs broker to take care of this for you, pay your fees and cancel the bond. Another thing to keep in mind when having work done to the bike in the US, is that Transport Canada has it’s own rules and regulations as to what is admissible into the country. Make sure that whatever work is being done is acceptable to the Canadian authorities. You can access this information at www.RIV.ca. Otherwise you will find yourself having spent a ton of money making your bike looking pretty, and you will only be able to admire in when you visit in the US. They will not allow it to cross the border.
I have learned all these things by trial and error. Some of them are hard mistakes that I have paid dearly before. But being the old hardened biker I am, nothing will stop me and my passion for the two wheeled beauties that bring me so much pleasure.