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Belle Vue Motorcycles: Torque Bike case study

Based in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Belle Vue Motorcycles is a business with deep roots in the local community. First established in 1935, today the company is headed up by brothers Bill and Dan Stilwell, the third generation of the Stilwell family to take the helm.

A long-term reputable Honda dealer, today Belle Vue sells both new and used motorcycles, as well as providing keen riders with test rides and motorcycle servicing.

To learn more about this long-running business, its origins and insurance needs, we caught up with Bill Stilwell.

Tell us a little bit about Belle Vue Motorcycles.

Belle Vue is currently run by my brother Dan and myself. We’ve been a Honda motorcycle retailer for a little over 20 years now and are primarily motorcycle dealers – we had a short period of time selling cars, but we’re exclusively focused on motorcycles today.

Our services cover both sales and post-sales. We’ve got four Honda Technicians, including two Master Technicians. Honda encourages every dealer to have just one, but we have more for a really high level of customer satisfaction. Customer service is really important to us, which is why we were awarded the Honda Yūshū Award for customer service excellence. ‘Treat people as you’d like to be treated yourself’ is our motto.

The business was started in 1935 by our late grandfather, Bill Stilwell Senior. He began by selling and repairing motorcycles from a shop on Southchurch Road. He had to go away during the Second World War, but when he came back he carried on where he had left off, taking over the shop that was almost next door to his original business. We’ve been based there ever since!

Dan and I took over after our father left the company, which makes us the third generation of Stilwells to run Belle Vue.


Did you always know that you wanted to become a part of the business?

There was never any expectation or pressure about joining the business, but growing up with a father who was running a motorcycle dealership meant that I had an early interest in it. We’re a part of Belle Vue today because we want to be.

We both love riding: I started at the age of 16 and Dan began by doing a bit of off-road Motocross in his early teens. We’ve been riding ever since!

How has the motorcycle sector changed since you took over?

The motorcycle industry has really changed over the years.

Most motorcycles we sell now have lots of technology; Honda is a market-leader when it comes to this. For instance, we now sell motorcycles with airbags and we have a range of traditional motorcycles with automatic gearboxes. It’s called DCT, Dual Clutch Transmission, which is a type of sophisticated gearbox you’d get if you bought a high-performance car.

We’ve also seen the motorcycle market evolve from a primarily leisure market into a commuter market too. We now have customers who come to us for a motorcycle that is purely going to be used to get to work.

Motorcyclists have also become more diverse; we have riders coming to us from the age of 17 to 80! We have lots of lady riders as well.

What challenges have you faced?

Covid was a challenging time for everybody and we were no different. At the onset of the pandemic we had two things that we wanted to protect. One was our employees, so we worked hard to ensure that we didn’t have to make any redundancies, which we achieved. The other thing we needed to do was to make sure the business was financially stable. Credit goes to Honda, our staff and the government that we were able to do that. When Boris Johnson said that we were all to stay at home and businesses were to close, we didn’t really know what we were walking into, but we’re all still here.

Today, cost of living is on everyone’s mind and we’re all talking about mortgage rates and increased utilities and food bills, etc. But actually, this is favouring motorcycles as people are looking for more economical ways to commute. Running a car is becoming increasingly expensive but you can jump on a motorcycle and get 150 miles to the gallon. Financially, it’s a cracking way to commute.

What are your challenges when it comes to insurance?

There’s always a trade-off between the cost and the quality of service that you’re likely to need. But we’ve had a relationship with One Broker’s Torque Bike for a long time and we have the confidence that if we need to make a claim they’ll be able to support and guide us.

We’re not a business whose insurance requirements could be seen as simple and an off-the-shelf product wouldn’t work for us. We therefore value Torque Bike’s knowledge of the market and access to quality insurers. 

How would you describe Torque Bike’s service?

I would describe it as approachable and professional. You can talk to actual people and if you have a question, you get a straight answer. That’s really important as many businesses try to hide their responsibilities by not giving you a clear answer to your questions. I never find that that’s the case with Torque Bike.

I therefore recommend them to others and will continue to do so.

What does the future hold for your business?

We’ve just formalised a partnership with a local training company, so we now have a Honda-approved school of motorcycling available.

We recommend the school, and if the customer completes their training with them and gets their licence, they can get a brand-new Honda from us with a discount. We also have a facility where we can help to fund their purchase of clothing and equipment. So, if someone who is new to motorcycling walks into the showroom, they don’t necessarily have to dig deep into their pockets or savings.

We’re always encouraging new people to start up their motorcycling experience, so we look at our business as being a one-stop shop for whatever a rider may need.

Other than that, we are happy doing what we do. We have a good team, good customers and a good franchise… long may it continue! We just want to make sure that customer satisfaction is really high, and we do that by making sure that we’ve got a good team of people who work for us.

My wife reminds me quite regularly that I’m quite lucky to be going to work every day with a smile on my face.

Talk to us about Motorcycle Business Insurance

If you have a motorcycle business, talk to our experienced Torque Bike team to make sure you get the right cover in place.

You can also take a look at our dedicated Torque Bike webpage to find out more.

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