Friday, 11 July 2014

Chain and Agony, or, the End of Local Parts Suppliers

I've got to admit I'm a bit pissed off.  After trying to wrap my head around chains and sprockets online I decided to buy locally and have a chat with the parts desk at my regional dealer.  Since it was my first time doing a chain/sprocket replacement I figured I'd pay the extra cost and get some face to face advice.

Trying to get details out of the parts-desk guy was like pulling teeth.  He seemed frustrated with my questions and didn't offer up much.  I guess the logic there was, 'just bring it in to service.'  I left paying over $300 taxes in for what would have cost me $240 online, but was none the wiser.  I was at least assured that these were the specific parts I needed.

After a series of confusing and frustrating situations, here is the advice I wish the parts guy at the dealer had given me:

The Ninja 650r uses a 114 link chain, he gave me a 120 link chain but told me this was the stock chain especially for my bike.  He's not wrong, but he didn't tell me I'd have to 'break' the chain.  Here is how I wish it'd gone down:

You're going to need one of
these to break and master
link up a motorcycle chain.
It isn't expensive (about
sixty bucks)
Parts guy: "I'm ordering you the chain size for your bike, but it comes with six extra links.  When it comes in I'll get one of the guys to break the chain so it fits your bike specifically.  If you want I'll even ask him to do it when you come to pick it up so you can see how he does it."

He could have sold me a $60 tool (probably for more) and I would have left knowing what I was getting into, instead all I got was the exasperated face.  

When I hung the chain on the bike it was way too long (it was a 120 link chain going on a 114 link bike, but I didn't know that at the time).  I had to go digging to find out why the chain 'specific to my bike' obviously didn't fit.

This experience asks a larger question about brick and mortar stores versus shopping online: why would I spend the gas and time driving there and then pay the extra 20% for the experience if I can pay less online?  If there is nothing value added in me bothering to buy at full retail locally, then why would I do it?

Second up, I wish he'd have offered me some pragmatic advice for doing my own chain work:

Parts guy: "Is this your first motorcycle chain?  It's pretty easy to mess it up.  I'd suggest going for a basic O-ring chain for your first go.  If you botch the job you're only out fifty bucks and you've learned something."

I ended up buying the bells and whistles X-ring chain on his advice, and then breaking it a link too short (after looking up how to do that on that paragon of customer support, the internet).  It's an expensive learning experience breaking a chain so that it doesn't fit my bike.  At least it's still over 110 links and a 520 sized chain, meaning it'll work on a lot of other bikes.  Now I've not got to decide whether to seal it up and wait for an ideal use or try and resell it (at a loss).

One way or another, I don't think I'll be driving down to the local dealer again for parts, I get my questions answered with more patience on the internet, which beggars belief.

Note:  a couple of days later I went online and picked up a basic O-link chain from the same Japanese chain manufacturer from
Canada's Motorcycle (35% cheaper than the equivalent chain from the dealer).  In a matter of moments the chain was on its way (free delivery).  It got here in the same amount of time it took the dealer to order it in (but I didn't have to drive down to the city twice).  I'm all for buying locally and helping out the area economy, but if local business don't realize how they can add value to a local buying experience they're going to kill it stone dead.

Note²:  maybe it's only a motorcycle dealership thing.  I went to RONA to make an order for deck parts and they couldn't have been more fantastic, same with Universal Rentals in Fergus, equally awesome customer service.  Are motorbike shops just too cool to care?

Note³: See the followup post on how to break/shorten/master link a new bike chain for how-tos.