Saving Money on Motorcycle Parts

You don't have to spend a lot to make your bike perfect

Saving money on motorcycle parts
Keep some money in the bank with these tips on buying motorcycle parts for a cheaper deal.Cruiser

Whether your reaction is bug-eyed astonishment or just laughing in amazement, you have probably encountered motorcycle parts with stupefying prices. Even though we've heard the makers' explanations for these prices, we don't have to like them. You don't always have to pay them, either. There are a number of ways to reduce the cost of the parts your motorcycle needs.

Shop around: Dealers can and do change the prices of parts. Just because one dealer gives you a quote of $54.12 for a side panel, it doesn't mean the next guy will charge the same. We have seen variations of almost 20 percent after calling around. And the fact that a dealer shows you the price in a listing doesn't necessarily mean that it is the price the manufacturer recommends. In the past, dealers used special parts books to show you the amount they quoted was official, but now computers can do the same thing.

Put a parts-and-accessories discount in the deal when you buy the bike: Many dealers will give you a one-year or longer discount on parts and other gear if you buy a bike from them. We have heard this savings can sometimes go as high as 20 percent.

Look to the aftermarket: You can usually get a better aftermarket part for considerably less than the original equipment (OE) part. We can think of dozens of examples: brake pads, bulbs, cables, chains, clutch plates, fasteners, fenders, foot controls, handlebar, headlight, ignition coils, mirrors, pipes, saddles, suspension pieces, tires, turn signals, etc. For example, a chromed handlebar lever from Motion Pro costs substantially less than the OE part, and can even be had with small skulls replacing the ball ends. In many instances your dealer's parts department can steer you toward such options. But you may have to do some research on your own or ask them to check for an aftermarket piece. If you do opt for the OE part, be sure you get what you pay for. Some dealers will sell a less-pricey aftermarket part as the OE item, and run up a fatter profit. If you pay for the original Honda part, it should come in Honda packaging.

Go generic: Bearings, bulbs, fasteners, and other pieces needn't be motorcycle-specific to work. Kmart and Sears carry motorcycle batteries, and they are generally much cheaper than one you'd buy from a dealer. A bearing bought from a bearing house may cost a fraction of what a dealer would charge. If you bring in the old one, they should be able to duplicate it. We saw a Kawasaki at Daytona fitted with aftermarket foot-control levers intended for a Harley. They looked better and probably cost less than the OE parts. There are plenty of interchangeable parts out there, and some may be cheaper than the one shown in the parts diagram for your bike. Of course, there are some components—such as chains and tires—where we feel it's well worth the extra cost (compared with a no-name brand) for a quality item.

Consider mail-order: We think it's worth paying $15 more for a $120 part to support a good dealer—one who goes the extra distance to help you out. But if your dealer is more of an aggravation than an asset, you can save money by purchasing parts through the mail. How­ever, we think it's unfair to go to your dealer to figure out what you need and then order it elsewhere, no matter what your relationship is with that dealer.

Repair, don't replace: One staff member once rode 1000 miles or so on a piston that was welded up in southern Mexico after a too-hot spark plug burned a hole through it. That's a bit extreme, but it demonstrates how a lot of damaged parts (like alternators, brake discs, cylinder heads, frames, fuel tanks, radiators, seats and wheels) can be repaired for a much shorter stack of cash than you'd need to buy a new one. These services often come through the auto-repair industry, but there are companies that specialize in the repair of some motorcycle components (such as frames and forks). In certain cases, like rebuilding a wheel, you can end up with a better component than what you started with for less money than an OE replacement.

The preowned option: Every part on your bike is available from a junkyard for a significantly lower price than what a new item would cost. If you have blown an engine or center-punched a tree without collision insurance, this may be the cheapest and easiest way to put things back to their original form. We do see some encouraging signs on the parts-price front. At last fall's dealer meeting, Yamaha announced price reductions on thousands of heavy-demand parts. Maybe this is a trend.

Although turning up alternative sources of parts may involve more effort and research than just going to the dealer, the high cost of OE parts means the effort usually pays off with consid­erable savings.

Reader Tips
Helmet Touch-Up
No matter how careful I am every new helmet sooner or later falls, gets dropped, or bumps into something while I'm carrying it. Fortunately, I found a cheap source of touch-up paint at the cosmetics counter. These days, you can get nail polish in almost any hue. Since I favor burgundy and red helmets, it's easy to find a match. The small brushes make it easy to apply the polish to a scratch, and it's tough stuff. For a few bucks, you can't go wrong.
H. Barker

Warmth to Go
On a recent ride back from an event, my friends and I hit colder weather than we had expected. A stop at a local discount store got us some of those chemical handwarmers, where you squeeze the contents together to start the heat-creation process. For $6 I bought enough of these to warm various strategic regions of my body, by sticking them in pockets and gloves. I even had a few left over for the next surprise cold snap. They were still warm when we got home.
C. Brandt

My Tank Bag Sucks
After discovering that three different tank bag designs wouldn't stay put on my Honda Shadow VLX tank without slipping off to the side, I finally bought six suction cups at a local auto parts store and glued them to the bottom of the bag with contact cement. By locating them three along each side, at just the right points for optimum contact, I finally got my tank bag to stay put.
J. Davis
South Carolina

Headlight Hideout
While trying to figure out how I was going to fit my wife, myself and supplies for a week-long ride on our Virago without any saddlebags, I remembered an old trick. I put a spare taillight bulb, a few fasteners, a shop rag, and some extra cash in­­to the headlight bowl. When I got back, I took the cash out but I left the other items in there. I used to keep clutch cables in that space when I rode Triumphs. But I haven't broken a cable since I've switched to Japanese bikes.
R. Morgan