Wednesday 27 May 2020

Finding Parts & Service in a Pandemic

They ain't kidding, but setting up online ordering without
actually setting up online ordering isn't great business.
Trying to get parts in is never easy in Canada where no one likes to get their hands dirty.  It's even harder during a pandemic.  The worst I've seen so far is Canadian Tire, who are a complete wreck.  Their web-page barely works and their online ordering system is in shambles.  It turns out aiming for the lowest prices on the cheapest Chinese made goods in the stingiest way possible doesn't make for a resilient response in an emergency situation.  I've yet to pass by the local store without a massive row of annoyed customers standing in line out front of it (I've yet to bother going in), and the one attempt at ordering a simple, in-stock item has resulted in weeks waiting.  Don't go to Canadian tire virtually or in person, they can't handle it.

Amazon was also a mess early on in this with orders sometimes taking up to three weeks to arrive.  They seemed to improve recently when I actually got an order the same week I made it, but they still aren't anything like as efficient as they once were.  I just ordered some spark plugs for the Triumph on Amazon (once you've got the tank off you want to do all the servicing because it's a bit of a faff to get in there).  Canadian Tire didn't have them or won't let me in to find them.  That Amazon order sat there unresponsive for 3 days before it shifted to 'shipping', but in the 24 hours since there are no shipping updates and the shipment is still untrackable.

Meanwhile, the rear brake pads I thought I'd put in the Fireblade have disappeared into a Francophone ether.  Fortnine is usually prompt and transparent with their deliveries, but this time around it took them over a week to get the bits out of their warehouse and the order has been in transit in an apparently very broken Canada Post for over three weeks.  I contacted Fortnine to find out if things have improved.  Their warehouse is now down to a 3-4 day turnover from the eight days I experienced, and Erin, who promptly replied to my inquiry over the weekend, suggested not selecting Canada Post (they have courier options) since they are still dysfunctional.  Unfortunately, Fortnine didn't have any of the tires I was looking for, so they're trying to limp forward with a half empty, slow moving warehouse and a delivery system that doesn't.

So, trying to get parts during this slow-burn pandemic sucks right?  Not always!  The other day the trusty Triumph Tiger actually stalled on me at a light.  I looked over every I've done on it (which is a lot) and realized I've never done the fuel filter, and I've put over 25k on it since I've had it.  If the Tiger is idling low and stalling on idle fuel starvation from a way-past-due fuel filter is a likely culprit.  But oh no, it's a pandemic, I'll never find parts!

The trickiest part was actually finding the fuel filter.  After searching around fuel lines under the tank I ended up looking in the Haynes manual only to discover that the fuel filter on a 955i Tiger is *in* the fuel tank.  This fully submerged fuel filter sits behind a panel on the side of the gas tank.

Finding a fuel filter for a 17 year old European motorcycle during a pandemic should have been a nightmare, but it turned out to be the easiest thing I've done parts wise, maybe ever.

Inglis Cycle in London is 140kms away, but they're still my local Triumph dealer, so I fired them an email asking if they had what I was looking for.  For over ten years from the late '90s to the mid zeroes Triumph used the 955i engine in the majority of their models, and they all used the submerged fuel filter in the gas tank, so they aren't uncommon.

Within a couple of hours Ken at Inglis had emailed me back.  After removing the filter assembly from the tank I discovered a pretty beaten up gasket with multiple rips, so I asked if they could add that in with the filter.  Ken had both the filter and gasket in stock and said he could ship it out to me for $15.  Considering it's a 280km round trip that would have taken me most of a day, fifteen bucks didn't seem bad.  I thought that meant postal service and a week long wait.  The box showed up the next morning via a courier.  If you're looking for quick, capable service during a pandemic, Inglis Cycle has their act together.

So the fancy gasket and new filter all went in flawlessly within 24 hours of ordering the parts, but I'm still stuck without a bike because I can't seem to find anyone to safety the Honda and the spark-plugs I'd ordered from Amazon two days before I even began emailing Inglis are still in the ether.  The moral of this is I should have just ordered the spark plugs from them too and cancelled Amazon and their inconsistent service.  The other lesson learned is that once you find dependable service during a social distancing slow down, make sure you reward it with your spending power.

The trusty Tiger is in pieces instead of putting on miles thanks to Amazon's hit and miss service.

UPDATE:  While some places are struggling with operations, others are able to reorganize around
things, so when you find a functional motorcycle parts supplier make a note of it and use them as much as you can.  The days of picking the lowest price from a group of competing companies are not these days.  As I write this a Roof Helmet is arriving from The Netherlands.  I ordered it only 4 days ago from Chromeburner.  Like Inglis, Chromeburner seems to have adapted to this crisis well.

UPDATE II:  I watched the Chromeburner order leave The Netherlands within a day on FedEx, pass through Memphis over the weekend and arrive in Ontario Sunday night.  Monday morning the driver from the Cambridge, ON managed to screw up the delivery (saying it was delivered when it wasn't), and I'm now four phone calls in trying to sort it out.  FedEx looks like they're working well everywhere except in Ontario.

UPDATE III:  The Fortnine order from May 6th is now almost a month old.  My rear brake pads landed in Stony Creek 6 days ago and haven't moved since.  Quebec might as well be on the moon.

The moral of all this?  Ordering parts seldom works like normal these days.  Few places are able to reorganize themselves to provide dependable logistics and most delivery companies seem to be struggling with even simple delivery options.

Unfortunately, I'm working with two old bikes that need parts, so I'll be leaping into this breach once again, or I can't ride.  The good news is that if the Triumph needs parts, I've got the most capable parts contact (Inglis Cycle) with the best delivery system (I think they used UPS, but I can't remember clearly).

I'm trying to figure out how to get tires for the 'Blade now.  Revco actually replied with an honest and detailed response when I asked about how delayed things would be (instead of 2-3 days expect it to take a week).  Two Wheel Motorsport and West End Cycle have both been radio silent for several days.  Trying to find parts during this social distancing slow down has two downsides:  some companies can't get their acts together and find a way to proceed effectively, and some delivery companies are in the same boat.  When you find a dependable one, make a note of them.  I think Revco's about to get a three hundred dollar tire order.

Saturday 9 May 2020

Athletic Intent

Coming to terms with the Fireblade...

The first couple of times I rode the Honda I found the riding position hanging over the gas tank somewhat extreme.  The bike was astonishingly light compared to others I've ridden (dirt bikes excepted), and changes directions like it's telepathic, though the clip on handlebars mean you don't get a lot of leverage when turning.

While the riding position is pretty extreme compared to the adventure and sports touring bikes I've ridden recently, it's the bike's geometry that really surprises.  The rake on the front wheel is nearly vertical, and feels like it's right under your hands rather than stretched out in front of you.  This results in those telepathic direction changes.

I've actually jumped on the Fireblade and had my groin seize and had to stop to stretch.  I've taken to doing some limbering up, Zombieland style, before I get moving on the Honda.  It's nothing that a bit of yoga doesn't address in my 50 year old self, but the 'Blade is an extreme thing that demands physical interaction; it reminds you that it's a SPORTS bike.

So, why be uncomfortable?  It might be argued that the CBR900RR is an appearance bike; something you put on to get attention, but that isn't why it's the way it is.  The 'Blade is built to explore the physical limits of what a motorcycle can do - it's the opposite of a cruiser, it's about the sport of motorcycling, not the appearance.  Every choice on the bike, including the riding position, is designed to maximize speed and agility.  The 'Blade is more of a boxing boot than a high heel.

One of the most shocking things about riding the Fireblade is its acceleration.  I've yet to own a bike where I can't turn the throttle to the stop opening it up... until the 'Blade.  It's so light it pulls strong through the first sixty-five hundred RPMs, but then it lunges to the redline in a startling manner.  Even in higher gears I haven't turned the throttle to the stop yet.

The CBR900RR is described as a bike that is engineered to exceed your abilities but is accessible enough to show you how to improve them, and that's just how it feels.  As someone who has gone out of his way to explore motorcycling, it checks a box for yet another aspect of the sport to discover.  I won't be putting big miles on the CBR, but they'll be highly intentional and informative ones.