Sunday, 24 March 2013

Top Purchases for your Motorcycling.

On both Twitter and on my blog, I asked a simple question. “What is the single best thing you ever bought for your motorcycling?”

The results are very interesting.

By far the most popular single item was heated grips, and by a considerable margin. You voted this the best item by a factor of three over anything else. I suppose this could reflect the geography of the people that answered in that most live in countries that have a colder winter. It is however surprising that more manufacturers don’t offer their own brand of heated grips, but rely instead on after-market suppliers.

Running in second place for the most bought item was a music system / speakers for motorcycles. Again, not surprising, as so few motorcycle models have these as an option. A lot of riders do like to listen to music while on the road, so again, perhaps this is an omission the manufacturers need to address.

As a surprise, in third place was after-market exhaust pipes. I didn’t see that one coming, but in hindsight, we all do see a lot of motorcycles with non-standard pipes. I suppose it is the one item most changed on some brands, especially Harley-Davidson, whose owners like the distinct noise that come with different pipes. Harley-Davidson themselves no longer sell these types of pipes that increase power and noise and I should think they regret having to stay within certain environmental criteria with their standard machines and parts. They are certainly missing out on a huge market. Many sports bike riders also like to improve performance by using race-can type exhausts.

Seen as a whole, it is accessories FOR THE RIDER that forms the largest group of purchases, with protective clothing, raingear, boots, helmets, special sunglasses, heated jackets and custom molded earplugs that some people consider are the best things they have bought for their motorcycling. We all need these types of item, but a lot of riders singled out one of these as the BEST thing they had bought.

The next largest group of items riders thought were the best purchase was accessories for their motorcycle themselves. The list of answers is below, in no particular order.....

Better headlight bulbs
GoCruise throttle Control
Scottoiler chain lubrication system
Power Commander 3 (allows adjustment of fuel injection systems)
Luggage / travelbags / topbox
A centrestand
Ape hangers
EZ Pass holder for a windshield
Custom seat
12v charging port
Cruzer Cady
Flashing LED brake lights
Louder horn
Fork Brace
Heel / toe shifter

I’d like to mention just three of these. Better headlight bulbs. Hello manufacturers, are you listening? It s a pretty poor show that riders feel the need to have to go out and buy these at all. Almost all of the bikes I have owned have had poor headlights and it seems in common with others, I too have felt the need to improve the lighting. It is a terrible state of affairs that some riders think the BEST thing they have ever purchased for their motorcycling is better headlight bulbs.

Many riders suffer from an aching throttle hand due to having to hold the throttle on their bikes at an almost fixed position, especially on long rides on open roads. Most riders suffer from this, but few motorcycle manufacturers do anything about it. Some larger bikes have cruise control and riders seem to fall into the category of loving this, or thinking it is a joke. My main touring bike, a Harley-Davidson Road King, has electronic cruise control and it is wonderful, but at the same time, I wouldn’t need it if I was commuting shorter distances. Any journey that has you in the saddle for most of the day really does need some form of throttle control, even if that just gives a few second rest and the opportunity to move your wrist around.

A final drive chain, used to transfer power from the engine to the rear wheel of a motorcycle is, well let’s admit it, pretty ridiculous. You have a critical moving part on your vehicle that needs regular adjustment and lubrication, that if not done properly can be very dangerous. Just imagine if car manufacturers did that. Even worse, riders having to resort to buying an external lubrication system such as a Scottoiler, shows what a crazy situation this is. Surely motorcycle manufacturers can come up with an in-built system to keep a part lubricated!

The remainder of the list of best buys shown above are almost all personal choices to match the style of riding that the respondents do, but perhaps the louder horn and better brake lights are also things the manufacturers should have got right in the first place.

One type of response really impressed me. Some people said their best buys were about how to improve their motorcycling in general. A motorcycle safety course stuck out as a really good response and to think that this is the best thing a some people ever bought for their motorcycling is impressive. Books about roads to ride show a hunger by some to find better riding and waterproof road maps, as selected by one rider, showed a willingness to ride in all weathers.

Of course, no survey would be complete with at least a few jokers. These responses made me laugh – a motorcycle, gasoline and a solo seat!

Okay, this wasn’t a huge survey, but it was responded to by a good number of people, so I assume it fairly reflects motorcycling. My overall conclusions from the responses are....

  • Manufacturers have to do better in providing good quality, safer and more comprehensive motorcycles.
  • A lot of people want to stamp their individuality of their motorcycling.
  • People don’t like to get too cold.
  • Interestingly, just one riders best product was to do with making themselves more visible to other road users and nobody said anything about hi-vis.
  • Motorcyclists spend a lot more money on after-market goodies than car drivers.


RichardM said...

I think that the only reason for having flashing LED brake lights is to make yourself more visible.

Pretty interesting survey.

Gary France said...

Quite right Richard. I have amended the summary.

Charlie6 said...

Great compilation Gary!

Didn't even think of upgraded does make you wonder about what manufacturers are thinking....


Redleg's Rides

Nikos said...

Trouble is most uprated headlamps are technically illegal.

I have prepared my answer for when you ask again in July - air mesh textile suit for comfortable riding across Europe to Garmisch and further (Greece?)in temeperatures averaging 30C/90F.......

Troubadour said...

Manufacturers must keep their MSRP competitive and do so by cutting costs. Exhaust systems, windscreens, crash bars, panniers or saddlebags are all dealer installed options. By not offering ABS brakes, cruise control, heated grips or sound systems they can sell bikes for less. Not to mention freight, dealer prep and set up are all additional fees tacked on later.

Manufacturers go as far as using a standard headlight bulb, cheap signal lights or brake lights to meet minimum DOT standards and keep cost down. Rubber brake lines are cheaper than braided steel lines, thin wall tubing for handlebars is much more cost effective than heavy duty bars, plastic switches, light duty regulator/rectifiers, lighter gauge wiring, foam in the seats, forks, shocks, tires, the list goes on.

This of course has created a huge parts and accessory aftermarket which allows us to upgrade, customize and farkle our bikes, making them as individual as we ourselves are. This not only helps with the initial cash outlay of buying a bike but enables us to fund our hobby a little at a time as we can afford it.

Besides, what would we do if all our bikes came finished from the factory... ride?

Dar said...

Great post Gary. I have a huge list of bests and think they all increase my safety, visibility and overall ride comfort. The headlight and brake light are issues I ave with my bike as well and that is another thing I would definitely ask manufacturers to do better in that area.

Canajun said...

Great, now I have 37 more items I need to buy. :(

Seriously though, great list Gary. It does give one food for thought about where to spend the shekels next - LED lights all around for me, I think.

Trobairitz said...

Interesting results from the survey. Thanks for the compilation. So many things to enhance the pleasure of riding......

I forgot about my Go Cruise throttle control. That is a must for me to help with the numb fingers too.

Thomas Osburn said...

Nice info and good post. I like reading what others thought was important.

VStar Lady said...

Gary - now I have a list of so many things I didn't know I needed until now :o)
Really - did nobody mention a 12 volt plug for charging all the tech on the go, or a GPS system? Afterall, what's worse than being cold ... being cold and lost with a dead cell phone!)
But truly, the only thing I really wish I had that I can't add - ABS ... (everything else is pretty much frosting,

Black Inazuma said...

"Interestingly, just one riders best product was to do with making themselves more visible to other road users and nobody said anything about hi-vis."

That's probably because bikers are aware that wearing hi-vis is very poorly related to the decreasing incidence of collisions with cars: "Honest officer, I never saw the motorcyclist until he hit me."

Biker awareness is far more likely if a car driver used to ride a bike themselves or knows of someone in their family who is a biker.

It seems that bikers always see other bikers!

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Gary:

Now we re talking about dated technology, but the headlight and the riding lights that came on my 1995 K75 were adequate. But I discovered that I liked simulated daylight in front of my machine.

I discovered that the selection of bulbs for the headlight was better in the UK and I could find much brighter options (also illegal) than in the US. The HID lights I put on the bike were a delight in rural America. And the Moto Lights followed the front wheel through the curves.

Then again, I may just like lights.

Fondest regards,
Twisted Roads

Dean Bartosh said...

Agree Gary. The stock headlights from most manufacturers are pretty lame.

A couple of the best purchases I ever made though were the extra-large saddlebags and the Mustang seat.

I got really tired of bungy-cording everything to the back seat so the bags are awesome!

The seat is kind of like the headlight issue though. It's pretty pathetic that I have to rip off the manufacturers seat in order to get a comfortable ride.

WooleyBugger said...

This was a good survey and lets us know what others are thinking, which in turn gives us something more to think about ourselves and our bikes.
Tires, did anyone mention tires???

WooleyBugger said...

Oh, forgot to comment on the aching throttle hand. Buddy of mine bought a paddle type grip to help him out. The grip can still be used as normal but has this little paddle for your hands heal - palm at thumb - to rest on at hiway speeds.