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Rants & Raves Index
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Newstand Parts Nonsense...
Tell The Truth


You know, I read the same bike magazines and watch the same TV shows you do. But there’s always something that seems to be escaping me with all this stuff – the real truth. What (you might ask) truth am I looking for? The truth about motorcycle parts.

I see you rolling your eyes and thinking “Here he goes, off on another wild rant” – but hear me out and then see if you agree. Ok, we know the motorcycle parts market is just exploding. Manufacturers are building new, groovy and innovative parts as fast as they can to a sell to a marketplace of buyers all hopped-up like crack addicts from watching too many episodes of American Chopper and Motorcycle Mania.

Some guy comes out with a billet version of the rear-view mirror, some other company chrome plates it, some other company releases the same thing but with iron crosses etched in the glass and then some other company makes the same thing with mirror stems that look like bones. You now have the original product and five or six generations of knock-offs…and that’s just ONE STYLE of mirror. I see stuff in the expensive catalogs, then another version in the online retail sites, another version on the swap meet benches at Sturgis and finally another version in the JC Whitney catalog. These things are made in the USA, Korea, Japan, Taiwan and God nose where else.

Here’s my point – how can they ALL be good?

I guess “good” is a relative term. How can they all be of a usable enough quality so they won’t fall off my bike when I need them the most and I end up getting crushed like a bug under a semi? I guess that would define “good”, dontcha think?

So here’s where the truth comes in. You know from personal experience that some products just suck out loud. They don’t work and only an idiot would put one on a motorcycle they had any intention of riding for more than three blocks. BUT (and here’s the big but) have you ever actually read a bad review of a motorcycle or motorcycle product? Think about it – when was the last time you opened up Hot Bike or American Iron or Cruiser or WHATEVER and there was the headline “SpunkCo Releases New Part – It Sucks Like A Hoover And Will Cause Instant Death At Low Speeds In Parking Lots”.

Never seen that one, huh? Neither have I.

The motor company takes a licking all the time for bad product ideas (The 1979 “one-off” Sportster, the 1982 “sport bike” Sportster, the front brakes on the Boattail, the “chuck key” in the tapered trans shaft, the wiring on any Softail before 1998, the battery heated by a horseshoe oil tank…the list is endless) but there is no “hall of shame” in the aftermarket space unless it’s spread by word of mouth. Here’s how this happens:

Biker 1: “Man, I saw an ad for that new Triple-Revved Funkerby Carburetor. I’m gonna get me one of those.”

Biker 2: “That thing sucks.”

Biker 1: “Oh, yeah, well…guess I’ll stick with S&S.”

So how does Biker 1 know Biker 2 is right? How does Biker 2 know it sucks? How can we tell the truth in aftermarket parts when the entire industry is driven by advertising revenue in all the biker magazines? (Ok, not all – The Horse BC does not praise all products – in fact, they hate EVERYTHING made after 1972, so they don’t count).

I mean, how many times have you struggled late at night in the garage before some crucial run with a “bolt-on” part that you’ve had to grind on for two hours to even begin to get it to line up with anything on the planet? Or maybe it’s that new carb that doesn’t mention (except in really fine print) that if you don’t vent your gas cap both ways normal tank pressure will cause this chromed beauty to spew a 6 foot stream of raw gas across your driveway when the temperature gets above 60 degrees? Or that simple ignition upgrade that causes your entire electrical system to look like smoking plastic spaghetti the minute you hit the switch?

You’ll notice in the regular scooter mags that every product comes out with great fanfare and praise (“We got 450 MORE HORSEPOWER out of our sportster after bolting on the Krimply Power Booster!”) – but it never fails that if there are problems found with a particular product or brand that there is NEVER a retraction article or coverage of the failure. In fact, in most cases there is nothing or a simple little text ad that reads something like: “Recall notice: Krimply Power Booster. Please return units with serial number 1 – 234,678 to your Krimply dealer for service”. What they have failed to mention here is that by now the motorcycling public knows that the Krimply Power Booster is a poorly engineered piece of crap that will cause your pistons to power directly through your heads, the frame and the gas tank.

I guess it doesn’t really matter, because by then it’s time for the next Product Showcase issue and they’re announcing a great new product: The Krimply Power Booster 2 with new “Detonation Control”.

So what are we, the unsuspecting motorcycle parts consumers to do? The same thing we’ve always done – keep bolting and grinding and building and storing up an amazing amount of information on just what works and what doesn’t and sharing it with our brothers through word of mouth and through email and message boards. We take all that magazine hype with a grain of salt and don’t believe a damn thing until we hear something from one of our buddies like “Dunno, those Grindo Gears work pretty good. I got 156,000 miles on mine…” and then we know the part has passed a test more accurate and important than any magazine test: The REAL Road Test.

I guess some folks will always just believe what they read (“They wouldn’t print it if it wasn’t true”) but as a rule, they’ll be pretty easy to spot. They’ll be by the side of the road trying in vain to adjust a burnt out Krimply Power Booster 2.

warren@choppersrule.com