The Motorcycle Parts Problem In India

The USA is considered to be the land of opportunity. To me its a place where I can get parts for my motorcycles. Seriously. Every time I come here I go back with parts and accessories for my motorcycles. It’s not that they are cheaper here. After adding import duty and excess baggage charge, they sometimes turn out to be more expensive. Its just that, unlike in India, things are actually available here.

This January I rode my Fat Boy around the Golden Quadrilateral. That ride almost never happened. My tires wouldn’t last the 6,500 long ride and I ordered a new set months before. Turns out the Goa dealer didn’t have any Fat Boy tires and upon inquiry they found that no other Harley dealer in India had them either. I found that hard to believe. There are a ton of Fat Boys sold in India. How could it be possible that no dealer had tires for them?

This year Harley-Davidson celebrated five long years of existence in India. The company made a big hue and cry about this at India Bike Week 2015. But after five years the company hasn’t still been able to figure out its logistics in the country. Tires are consumables, not parts. They are designed to wear out and be replaced. You can’t sell motorcycles in a country and not have the basic inventory of parts and consumables in stock. There is no worse feeling than seeing your motorcycle languish in your garage or workshop for months on end waiting for parts so that you can start riding it again. We in India pay good money for these premium motorcycles expecting a premium user experience, but we end up having to deal with this nonsense. Harley-Davidson needs to be ashamed of itself instead of making a noise about their five years in India.

I often hear fellow Harley owners curse their dealership for lack of parts. The dealers don’t manufacture parts. They simply order them from Harley-Davidson. As far as parts go the dealer is merely a trader. They can’t take your money because they have no product to give you. It’s very frustrating for them as well.

Speaking of dealers, the owner of the Goa dealership went to the extent of telling me that if he couldn’t get the tires for my Fat Boy in time for my ride around India, he would remove the relatively new tires from one of his Fat Boys and give them to me so that I would not have to cancel or postpone my ride. Now that’s what I call good service and a desire to offer a premium user experience.

Fortunately, it didn’t come to that. A week before my ride, a set of Fat Boy tires showed up at the Indore dealership and the Goa dealer managed to get them for me. I had to pay for shipping from Indore to Goa. But at least I didn’t have to postpone my ride or travel 6,500 kms on loaned tires.

This parts problem isn’t just with Harley-Davidson. I have friends who own Triumph motorcycles and complain that they need to wait for months for parts. Another company that is clueless in India is KTM. I own a KTM Duke 390 which has a seat as hard as a plank of wood. I don’t know what the folks at KTM were thinking when they designed that seat. However, KTM has a brand of parts and accessories called PowerParts and under that brand they sell something they call an Ergo Seat. That name irritates me because KTM is basically admitting that the stock seat they provide on the Duke 390 is not ergonomic. Its a old trick that motorcycle manufacturers (specially Harley-Davidson) use to sell accessories. The will fit their motorcycles with the most uncomfortable seats and then sell a whole range of exorbitantly priced seats for each model they sell.

Anyways, I asked the parts person at Goa KTM dealer to get me the Ergo Seat and got a blank stare in return. After a few moments he said, “Sir, I will try my best.” I replied, “Don’t bother“, because I knew where this was heading. I also knew that I was going to visit the US shortly and figured I maybe able to get the part myself. I found the Ergo Seat on Amazon.com, ordered it and had it shipped to my hotel in Rock Hill, South Carolina, where I am at moment.

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But here is the thing I want to highlight about the US. I’ve been here so many times and I haven’t seen a single KTM Duke 390 on the road. Yes, there are a ton of Harleys here and so I would expect the Harley dealers to be packed to the rafters with parts and accessories for them. The only KTM bikes I’ve seen here are the dirt bikes and a few adventure motorcycles. On the other hand India is flooded with Duke 200’s and 390’s.

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I was at Rock Hill Powersports yesterday looking for longer and softer shock absorbers for my Duke 390 for better off road performance. As expected, I didn’t see a Duke 390 in the showroom. But they told me that they would sell me one if I wanted one. They would order it and it would be here in a couple of weeks. I asked them about parts and service. They replied, “That won’t be a problem, Sir. We will take care of the motorcycle.” I believed them. This is the USA after all. You get motorcycle parts here.

  • chaibhai

    True, Deelip…. The problems/shortages we face here in India is most often not the dealers fault but that of HD-India’s slack attitude towards their customers. However, I do believe that for their part, the dealerships here in India, after “5 years of Freedom”, ought to be putting a whole lot more pressure on HD-India as well as HD Global to sort their shit out….. We, the HOG’s, make the events happen, we are the ones marketing the Harley brand: Harley ought to start showing us the respect we deserve (here in India) and put us on par with the rest of the Harley Works.
    Cheers & have a good trip!

    • Ashish

      Guys
      You should contact http://www.bikegear.in for all parts requirement.
      They will arrange any part for you provided you give them proper part#.
      As far as KTM PP they do most manufacturers products like BMW,Ducati,Kawasaki,KTM,Moto Guzzi,Benelli & Lot more.
      You can call them at : +919024901313

      • Ashish, are you suggesting that the folks at BikeGear have figured out how to get parts into India but the large established motorcycle manufacturers haven’t?

        Also, I don’t know about other dealers, but Harley-Davidson dealers refuse to fit any part that is not purchased at another Harley-Davidson dealership. So even if a Harley owner gets a part from a company like BikeGear, he will need to fit it at some local garage. And that will void the warranty and cause more problems.

        You see where this is going, right?

        • Sandy

          Deelip BikeGear has imports OEM & After Market Parts which are not available at most places in India

  • Custom Made

    Hi Deelip, Firstly, dont take whatever I say personally. But as a motorcyclist to motorcyclist, truth be told.

    1. Motorcycles are always MARKET SPECIFIC. They have always been and always will be. There is a lot of trick to the trade than what meets your eye as a consumer.
    2. Your conception of USA is wrong. Lets take the Honda transalp. Its a EU model bike that was sold in the USA for a couple of years, but your logic does not apply here, as its still developed and sold in EU and there is no way to get parts for it the USA. It was sold widely all over the world (and still is, in many markets) but USA as a market never got the concept of a Do it all motorcycle in 1987 when it was first launched.
    3. There are various reasons why the KTM 390 is not launched in the USA. Just so you know, KTM+Husky beat the $1-billion barrier for motorcycle sales this year. They sell around 190,000 units and India sales is a meagre 15,000 units. So technically, small road bike market is really an emerging market for them, and majority of KTM’s $ comes from the purpose specific (read as “off road”) bikes that they sell.
    4. Majority of the people in India, possibly dont consume “consumables” (like you), so there is a direct effect on the supply chain of parts, accessories, etc etc. If you dont think this is true, open olx and check the bikes that are for sale, and you’ll realise that most of them were garage queens.
    5. We are so far away from understanding “practical” motorcycles, and India has a long way to go. My guess is, its not going to change in my lifetime. So, its better to accept some facts, and stop “Upgrading” motorcycles, and instead make better choices depending on what kind of riding you do etc.

    Keep the shinny side up. Cheers,