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Motorcycle Parts – a DIYer’s nightmare

Motorcycle Parts – A cowboy’s wet dream

Elsewhere on, Chinese Motorcycles – getting the facts straight, we covered the ever increasing popularity of Chinese imports. An interesting article, along the same lines can be found on Dan’s Motorcycles – Chinese motorcycles. Of course, we like to be skeptical if our life consists of selling British, USA or Japanese products but the fact remains, the Chinese are getting better at this. Having been in the electronics industry for the last 35 years one thing is certain, the Chinese need to get their technical writers in line and ensure that translations are done properly and proper workshop manuals are available to the public. Bouncing off the same problem although from a different quarter we have problems with spares. Here’s a brief summary:

A reader posted an email to us describing his frustration in trying to get his 200cc ‘street scrambler’ back to it’s original condition. The bike is 4 years old and a second hand purchase. He was supplied two mirrors, LH and RH threading. The bike only has RH threading. No converters available. The brake fluid spy glass disintegrated. The front master cylinder only cost 25 U$ so this was purchased. This has a tapped thread, 8mm to facilitate the RHS mirror. None of the original indicators could be found, another modification was required. Where plastic side-covers mounts were broken, these could not be obtained either. “Why are they selling these bikes when there is obviously a parts problem?” he asks.

terra-strada 250cc - motorcycle parts
Terra-Strada 250cc (supplied by MotoMia South Africa)


Service manuals and Tier One motorcycle parts (1)

Let’s look at Japanese products. In fact, lets look at Sony. They have impeccable service manuals, surplus parts are made to cover x-years of service, albeit at a price. In fact most of their products can be serviced years after their warranty has expired. Likewise Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, Kawasaki (supposedly) etc, etc. Being a dealer or reseller there is often only one distribution channel. The distribution channel should therefore ensure that the products they import are wholly supported or at least the manufacturer has a service channel available to the public. When we look at the manufacturer however, it’s usually the tier one brands that have the reputation and relationships which garner respect. Or is it the other way round? Respect comes from their reputation and relationships. This puts Toyota right on top along with BMW and Mercedes. Obviously there’s a lot more to this though – reputation is built up of many factors, in-warranty and out-of-warranty service playing a vital role – this costs the manufacturer, supplying a tier one warranty repair level does not come cheap.  Chinese motorcycles are nowhere near this level yet, but yet…

Service manuals and Tier One motorcycle parts (2)

Like in most industries, the strong will survive. Sony has taken a beating but hopefully they will bounce back. In China, motorcycle and 4-wheeler exports play a vital role in boosting their economy, not just electronics. Not all manufacturers are going to survive. Those that do are the ones that build their own reputation on exceptional service manuals, parts supply and have a finger on the distribution channel pulse. These, in majority are the Chinese joint venture motorcycles, sometimes called tier one brands, supplying parts to other reputed Japanese manufacturers. Already we see less manufacturers bringing their products to our shores – just ensure that there is a steady parts supply and they also focus on out of warranty work. Motorcycles do not clock in as many miles as a 4-wheeler per annum, a one year warranty or 8 000 miles will no longer cut it.

Although most of us are all for cheap imports there should be a standard and this needs to be controlled by a central body. To import cheap products just to open a channel for other more nefarious reasons has typically far-reaching consequences, most of them disasterous. Supplying a product which will only work throughout the claimed warranty period and thereafter should be trashed is akin to stealing. Yes, there are reliable manufacturers having their products made in China, we need to be aware of them. There are many thousands of manufacturers in China, not all of them fly by night. A Nissan floor-mat is not going to be made by Nissan, likewise certain engine and body parts. This will be outsourced. This holds for Yamaha and Honda as well.

If we can have the FCC and EAN then  how about proper VIN identifiers for Chinese motorcycles. Many of the forums on the internet will point out Honda engine clones yet sometimes you cannot get spares for the engine because of specific changes – OEM is a very confusing process. Walking the streets of Taiwan or China you will come across hundreds of motorcycle/scooter repair shops sprinkled all over the towns and cities.  It’s big business. Being hugely a single cylinder market, the engines are lightweight and can easily be removed, repaired or replaced.

Since Chinese bikes are here to stay, how about some centralised control? Dealerships must carry sufficient spares and parts to provide a reliable after sales service – not just for the bikes they are currently selling under warranty – certainly, push the price up by a few points to facilitate this and the provision of decent service manuals indicating parts numbers. This will reduce suspicion and take away a lot of the guesswork and rumour.

Essential reading:

eBay – Chinese Motorcycle Manufacturers

Beginners Guide to Chinese Motorcycle Import

Top 5 Chinese Motorcycle Manufacturers

Editor’s Note: The image is of MotoMia’s latest release. Read more – Popular Mechanics – ideal for city commuting and that Sunday cruise.  Currently MotoMia outsells Honda in South Africa, the previous top selling brand.

Getting back to the reader’s letter, more often than not the problem does not exist around the engine, motorcycle parts cover the cosmetics as well and this is where find ourselves trapped. Especially with joint ventures, the engines are amazingly resilient – they should be too. Side covers, indicators, tail-lights and headlamps remain a problem. Once this is resolved,  you may have bought a bargain. In 5 years time these bikes are going to cost a lot more of course. Horses for courses, eh!



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