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River City Moto revved up for business

By Joe Buttweiler

MASON CITY — Walk through the shop at River City Moto and you’ll find an amazing assortment of motorcycles in a wide variety of assembly. Some are bare-boned and raw, while others are polished and showroom-ready.

The same could be said of some of the characters hanging around – friends who love bikes and all that goes with them.

For about two and a half years the shop has been mainly a back-alley operation. But now there’s a bright River City Moto sign out front at 619 N. Federal Ave., and customers have been rolling in with all sorts of cycles needing repair.

“Sales, service, modifications … We’ll work on every make and model known to man,” said co-owner Jesse Bell (pictured, top, working on a rat chopper.)

“We’ve had everything from Harleys to Ducati’s in here,’’ he said, adding that he likes working on Harleys because they’re usually fairly easy to fix.

That’s not to say his last repair of a Harley-Davidson was a ride through the park. One came in with an exhaust stud broke off in the head. Bell said he “used a little magic” – he froze the bolt to compress it — to get it out.

Much of the work lately has been on carburetors, but he and partner Chad Tippitt are game for about anything.

River City Moto is in the former Velvet Touch Car Wash building. Together with adjacent buildings there is about 6,000 square feet of space. Bell plans to have several work bays in the old automatic carwash section, plus a showroom and plenty of space for storage.

“This place is a bit of a mess, but I have some serious dreams for it,” Bell said.

Looking around the shop and listening to him and others, it’s easy to see the focus has been more on getting bikes fixed and out the door than on housekeeping.

Bell said he has been wrenching on bikes since his early teens. He later worked as a jet mechanic in the military and went to North Iowa Area Community College in 2006-07 to study automotive repair. “I always knew I wanted to do something mechanical,” said Bell, whose day job is in maintenance at Metalcraft.

With hard rock from The Blaze blaring out of speakers hooked up to a computer in the shop, Bell showed and told of his penchant for working on rat choppers – stripped-down yet highly customized bikes.

There are motorcycles of all shapes, vintages and sizes within the walls of River City Moto, including a 1967 Honda Dream 160, a green 1973 Honda 350-Four, a 1969 Ducati Mark III, and Bell’s own award-winning Suzuki Boulevard, a beautiful blue and chrome ride with air shocks and 1800 cubic inches of power.

Friends of the shop can be found there just about every night of the week, talking about bikes and good times. Some of the seven or so in the shop on a recent Friday night were members of a motorcycle awareness group. The idea is to build customer base, friendships and awareness of motorcycle issues, Bell said.

Customer John Jindra is a case in point. He said he knew Jesse and some of the others, so started hanging out at the shop. He recently bought a 2004 Honda CBR-600. It’s a highly customized red-white-and-blue bullet bike that’ll stand out in just about any crowd of bikes.

Which is pretty much the goal when it comes to guys who love to work on motorcycles.
Including right here in River City Moto.

River City Moto has a Facebook page and will eventually have a website. The e-mail address is The phone number is (641) 424-MOTO. Hours are roughly 1 to 10 p.m. weekdays, noon to 11 p.m. Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.

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