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A couple of days after Christmas 2003


Opinion: Price Fright These bits obviously aren't corroded enough yet... Leave them down there for a while longer.

Have you spent a fortune on shiny new spares and then been sadly disappointed? Claude Nomonet has. Never mind the quality, he says, look at the price!

With my usual flair for timing, winter's chill is gripping the land and the 'quick tidy up' , guaranteed to turn my classic wheels into a head-turner, is nearly finished. Throughout the process, I (and by association, my wallet), have been stunned by some of the price labels attached to innocent-looking bits of machined alloy, the ones which were sadly necessary to breathe life once more into the old wheezer. As most of the bits originated several thousand miles to the east of Birmingham, I should not really have been surprised, but the worst offenders were the aftermarket bits, which although cheaper, genuinely verged on the useless.

Is an air-hacksaw like an air-guitar?Take the front mudguard as an example. With originals nigh-on impossible to find, and the old one beyond repair, the local shop recommended a 'universal' guard which would economically save the day. When collected, the lack of weight in the package set the alarm bells ringing. Ripping off the brown paper immediately reduced around 50% of the goods' already meagre poundage.

Inside lay the puniest attempt at metal forming I have ever seen. Thinner than a modern car wing, which are themselves testimony to other uses for milk bottle tops, the universal mudguard had a rolled edge at front and sides, with the rear flat. An exploratory plonk between the forks revealed the reason, as it had a curve only suited to a moped wheel, despite a width that Harley would have approved of.

Reaching for the air hacksaw (I am lazy!) revealed a resistance to the blade which was so feeble that the blade was distorting the guard rather than cutting it. A pair of tin snips finished the job with consummate ease.

Which raised another problem. How could chrome be sliced so easily, and why were there no signs of flaking? A closer look at the dull surface revealed no further clues as to the finish but it had definitely never seen the inside of a plating bath, despite the catalogue description. Once it was properly mounted I would like to say it looked fine, but it still remained a dully glinting, misshapen, hand-cut embarrassment.

You are probably thinking that I should have taken it back, before hacking it about, and I should really, but experience with other bits in the rebuild had destroyed any belief in a replacement being any better, especially as I had spotted a batch of 'chromed' headlamp shells in my local classic bike emporium, stamped from the same appalling material.

Sadly other bits have been just as bad, with fork seals that failed in their efforts to keep oil in, fork gaiters so thin that a well known prophylactic supplier would have been proud of them, and footrest rubbers that slipped swiftly into place, and off again with similar ease.

The final straw in this soul-destroying tale was a friend's purchase of a socket set for 30 or so, bought against the advice of many. The friend triumphantly started his mechanical career by placing his first socket on a rusty fitting, and immediately split the skin on his knuckles as the pawls in the ratchet snapped!

It would be easy to moralise, and reject the cutting of financial corners, but sadly some of these bits represented the only choice locally, and mail order can be equally fraught with danger. Maybe I am just tight, and expect more for my money than others (quite possible!), but surely I cannot be alone in my quiet despair about the amount of rubbish being flogged at the moment?

Now that's what I call a picnic...

Are the bargains out there?


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