Recently I was talking to a fellow merchant about the cost of spares and the reaction of his customers to prices hikes what with exchange rates etc. He was mentioning about that they even complained 18 months ago when our dollar was stronger and parts were around 20%+ cheaper to which I remarked to him what a individual said to me years ago "You can't make a profit out of my hobby"
Back in the swinging 60s and 70s motorcycles were bought by enthusiasts as they are today but the difference is they had to be practical and have a purpose to serve whether that be riding to work or racing or for leisure sometimes the one bike did all three a mate of mine Arthur Roberts used to ride to work as a panel beater on his 1965 Bonnie then race it on the weekends at Calder Park or Winton even Hume Weir after the race sticking on the lights and lens's ready for back on for work on Monday this wasn't uncommon then but would be now. Cosseted machines such as the famous BSA Gold Stars weren't all Clubman models lots were scrambled (old timer speak for M-X ) but all of these bikes were bought by guys on hire purchase who were sometimes apprentices on anything from $7-$36 a week so after spending $250-$1100 they rarely had money for servicing or accessories things were either bodged up or you had a mate that could fix it or machine up a new bit for a couple of "longnecks" (no slabs those days) things were tight.
In 1974 when I started at the Triumph Importer Frank Musset & Co on $108 .50 a week and there was a door on our workshop that someone had torn the label off a Amal Concentric box and stuck it there, nothing interesting about that except I vividly remember a price was written on it $28.50 when I left in 1979 the price of a Amal was close to $45 and I was on $121 these days a new Amal Concentric is close to $280 for a standard model and no I'm not telling you my wages today! Other examples spring to mind a Lucas Zenor diode was $30 when I was on $50 a week and so was a speedo drive, my dear mum couldn't believe the diode as I heard her telling her sister that I had bought a "bolt" (because that's what they look like) for my motorcycle for $30 they agreed I was a foolish youth. Even earlier when I was 16 I had a 3TA Triumph and I broke the Lucas PRS8 lighting/ignition switch $28 when I was on $7 a week that was a months wages! So I digress again people were always "tight" and until motorcycles were regarded as leisure vehicles in the 80s and people bought bikes for their mood or what day it was the "tight arse" that reigned supreme, reality hit with the Japanese you no longer bought piston kits it was a piston, rings, circlips, and a gudgeon pin, and valves were multiple,master cylinders were assembly etc no screws for the tailight lens here it was a whole tailight and sometimes on the guard!
Meanwhile people going to swap meets cultivated the tight arse syndrome as it was You want how much, and then offer half. "I only take $10 to the swap meet so I don't spend to much "is another common heard saying, my mates in other industries commented on the Scrooges in the British Bike industry and things are only starting to slowly change recently. Triumph owners that have bought a new Hinkley version realise now how fortunate they were to own a Meriden model what with a set of 40 spokes and nipples at $200 for the old model and over $400 for the new model or $220 for a pair of fork staunchions vs $710 on the new model plus easier availability of spares on the 45 year old model.
About 1985 I remember a customer bought a bike for under $2000 and nearly fainted when a small packet of spares cost $500 others would lament the parts were dearer than the whole bike that they bought new in the 60s, conveniently they forgot the wage they were on back then and amazingly they never sold the bike at the old value it was right up to the minute " My bikes worth $15,000" but anything over the price of a set of plugs is to dear. One customer complained with the retort "How dare you make a profit out of my hobby" he didn't care that I had kids to feed.
This is one of the reasons British Bikes got the reputation for unreliability all fixed with twitching wire and insulation tape and lots of silicone with a large hammer and a shifta usually on the back lawn with your little sister stomping the parts into the grass and the parts that were necessary were lost and the ones left over were put in a glass jar, they were not needed as the bike started you convinced yourself. The wiring you sorted out with your mate a house electrician and used terminal boxes, house 2 core flex and plastic wire terminators, anyway a customer once told me you only need six wires and the factory harness just put in to many extra wires especially earths!
Your motorcycle merchant usually is a enthusiast that has for years worked long hours for next to nothing and over weekends and into the night getting your machine going when he wants to ride his own motorcycle, he has missed time with his wife and kids and tried to give you value for money sometimes loosing on a job as he knows it took to long getting out that broken stud and you won't pay, his margin is 5%-10% on some genuine spares and at rare times 25% on local wholesaler provided spares and then you say "how dare you make a profit on my hobby" well F**k off.
Phil Pilgrim 2015