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obandoj 10-05-2003 01:20 PM

Re: The Question of Reliability (or stirring the pot)
First lets state the obvious, the motorcycle community has become very divided in many respects, so that everybody is constantly taking pot shots at each other, I, for one, am as guilty as the next person, but for this one I'm going to try to be objective.

The quality of the modern motorcycle, is so incredibly good, that to be fair, we should never complain at all, we should be so grateful that nowadays, anybody can jump on his, hers motorcycle, and without much effort, and with just a little common sense and some routine maintanance, go coast to coast, in comfort and safety.

Having said that, we can ask ourselves, do we deserve to get perfection for our hard earned dollars? Most people will say "of course, this is the 21st century, and we better do so" But in reality, and to be honest, we know that to expect that, is totally unrealistic.

What we should expect, is for the manufacturers, to be honest and fast acting, whenever a problem comes to the surface, and not try to sidestep and ignore the problem, so that the bean counters stay happy. This has been a problem, of which every manufacturer has been guilty of, and without mentioning any names, the worst and most notorious, are the two biggest in the world, we know who they are.

So lets stay on their cases, and keep them honest, so that the quality and durability of our toys, transportation and passion, stays the same or better.

v2-90 10-05-2003 07:35 PM

Re: The Question of Reliability (or stirring the pot)
First, my personal take on the bikes I've bought new since 1997 from a reliability perspective (figured that'd be a good time reference):

97 Honda VFR - Reliable, no problems

97 Honda CBR1100XX (x2, first one stolen) - Reliable, no problems

98 Honda Valkyrie - Reliable, no problems

98 Ducati ST2 - 3 recalls, front brake problems, various bodywork problems, various chassis related problems, fuel injection problems, poor charging system, clutch slippage, not reliable (bike was completely stock)

98 Suzuki GS500 - bad cam chain tensioner, otherwise no problems (wife's bike)

99 Suzuki TL1000R - Bad PAIR valve early, otherwise no problems

99 Suzuki SV650 - Reliable, no problems (wife's bike)

99 Ducati M900 - Poor charging system, jetting problems (related to elevation perhaps?), broken throttle cable (3000 miles), somewhat reliable

01 Suzuki Bandit 1200 (naked) - reliable, no problems

My personal experience on new bikes is limited to Hondas, Suzukis, and Ducatis, but reliability on the Hondas was best, with Suzuki following in second and Ducati's definitely bringing up the rear.

One thing that should be mentioned is the quality and support of the dealers - really makes the difference if/when you have problems. Although I had a lot of problems with my Ducati's (especially the ST2), the dealers (2 different dealers) were very accomodating and helpful, which helped to minimize my frustration. The Suzuki dealers on the other hand, were both horrible (2 different dealers) and the experiences with warranty work were aggravating to say the least. Since I never had any problems with any of the Hondas, I can't speak to the quality of the dealers...

I think the manufacturer-to-dealer relationship is the missing link in all of this. No one wants to have a bike that is a problem child, but when things do go wrong, having a strong manufacturer support system for their dealer network is very important for me. I think if the Big 4 have one achilles heel, that would be it. There's exceptions to the rule in all cases (both positive and negative) with all dealers, but the Big 4 really needs to improve in that area.

lukam 10-06-2003 02:57 AM

Re: The Question of Reliability (or stirring the pot)
I have to agree with the first post most all of todays motorcycles are wonderful compared to many, many years ago so here is my bikes:

82' Yamaha MX100 (first bike) no problems ran wonderful

86' Yamaha IT200 Gas tank cracked, headerpipe leaked exhaust, airbox cover warped

94' Yamaha XT225 Intake manifold cracked, o-rings on oil filter cover leaked.

00' Harley FXD (wife's bike) no problems

00' Harley FXD (my bike) mis-aligned oil pump

HelterSkelter 10-06-2003 03:17 AM

Re: The Question of Reliability (or stirring the pot)
My most unreliable ride without a doubt was my Yamaha junk, no customer service, dealer more interested in servicing 4 wheelers.

My most reliable ride to date my fxstb, 4 years....ZERO problems (I know, who'd a thought a Harley was reliable!!), I do all the maintenance and trust me I'm no wrench.

seruzawa 10-06-2003 04:08 AM

Re: The Question of Reliability (or stirring the pot)
'64 Honda CB100- pretty good. Had to replace pistons frequently.

'71 Kawasaki W2SS (650 Twin). Vibrated terribly at first. Wiring burned up. Parts fell off. After about 10K miles it finally settled down and ran reliably for about another 60K. Eventually the valves got so leaky that it backfired through the carbs and caught on fire.

'54 BSA 500 (B33). Total POS.

'54 AJS 500 twin. POS.

'65 BMW R69. Nothing ever went worng. (Except my spelling.) Wish I still had an R69. Then you can ride a real antique without worrying about getting stranded. People used to ride these things around the globe or from Alaska to TierradelFuego. Probably the very best motorcycle of the '60s.

'71 Norton 750 Commando. Total POS. This one wins the prize for worst bike ever. Although if I include bikes owned by other people I know then the blue ribbon would probably go to Pirella or Royal Enfield.

'67 Ducati 250 Scrambler. Ran reliably for 2 years until it dropped a valve.

'71 Yamaha R5 (RD 350 precurser). Ate 5th gear. Ate spark plugs frequently (they'd go high resistence unaccountably). Oil pump quit and ate crankshaft.

'76 Honda CB750F. Ate Voltage regulator. Horrible vibration problem at 65mph.

'81 Honda CB900F. no problems.

'81 Kawaski KZ750. Cam tensioner problem at 50K miles.

'82 Suzuki GS1100GL. Ate alternator. Replaced altenator and replaced Japanese stock regulator with Brit aftermaket one that soved the problem (Suzuki refused to acknowledge or fix the problem. See the GS owners website.)

'73 Honda CB125S. Decent enough bike. Worn out totally after about 20K miles.

'84 Honda Magna 700. Ate tranny gears. Top end cam problems. There is an aftermaket fix for the top end. Honda routes the oil to the cams after the tranny. A simple fix changes the routing and greatly extends cam life. Most of these bikes eat the tranny. Currently 24K miles on it.

'85 HD Sportster. Stone reliable except for problems with the stock Keihin carburetor. Replaced with an S&S Super Carb which solved the problems. Put 30K miles on it.

'81 FXEF Fatbob. Broken regulator bracket. Needed top end overhaul at 25K miles. The top end problem is normal on shovelheads. Put 20K miles on it. The parts are quite cheap and the fix easy.

'78 IT175. No problems except the usual wear and tear associated with any dirtbike.

'91 Suzuki GSX1100G. Replaced limp stock fork springs. Rejetted carbs to cure midrange leanness. One front wheel bearing went out at about 15K miles. Currently has a weakened shifter return spring that needs replacing. The chrome on the headpipes is nearly gone and these need rechroming. Currently 50K miles on it.

Another bike I should mention was the Yamaha 750 twin of the mid 70's. I never owned one but a friend had one. It ate its crankshaft early. In fact a LOT of these Yamahas ate their crankshafts.

I've had mixed experiences and couldn't say that one Japanese manufacturer is inherently better than any other. I've probably gotten the best use from Kawasakis. HD seems to have solved it's AMF related woes, though I think they went the wrong way when they replaced the XL-61 series with the new 883s which are slower than the old ironhead 883s. My favorite HD is still the Shovelhead. I like wrenching so keeping one running is no sweat. For that matter I enjoy working on bikes so my requirements for satisfaction are lower than people who have to run to the dealer for every little thing. Any motorcycle is going to require some work from time to time.

One thing is certain. Nothing could compare with the utter junk that came out of England in the 60's. Then again none of the bikes I had failed in a fashion that could have been considered life-threatening. The breaking frames problem on the Goldwings should be considered a major blunder as a broken frame at the wrong moment could kill you.

seruzawa 10-06-2003 04:15 AM

Re: The Question of Reliability (or stirring the pot)
P.S. On the '71 Ksaki 650. It leaked oil out of the primary case constantly. The oil would build up on the rear tire and once caused me to crash on a mountain road. When I finally got into the primary case I discovered that the seal behind the the clutch was missing. Apparently it had not been installed originally at the factory.

ValknMag 10-06-2003 04:31 AM

Re: The Question of Reliability (or stirring the pot)
I have far more miles in cars than on motorcycles, but I assume the principle is the same : I've owned 2 Honda cars, and they were incredibly reliable. 200,000 miles on them, and replaced wear items. Even when I sold my '80 Accord for $175 after college it was getting about 35 mpg. I've also owned 2 (and leased one) BMW cars. Far more fun, better handling/acceleration/braking, better layout...and more prone to problems. I figured it was because Honda didn't push the performance envelope with their engines, while BMW did. BMW wasn't cranking out grenades, but they would demand a higher hp/cc ratio than Honda. The added complexity of electronics, sunroofs, etc. doesn't help matters, either.

I've owned nothing but Honda motorcycles, and the only problem I've had was the alternator on the Valkyrie going to doggie heaven at 15,000 miles. That cheesed me off more than the same problem could in my current BMW car, because I expect more of Honda. Seems whenever reliability comes up on this site, some people hop into reductio ad absurdam mode, and point out how people who think brand X is reliable are ninnies, because of a recall or a personal experience. "Reputation for Reliability" means that the odds of getting a trouble free machine are better, not that you are guaranteed a trouble free bike.

obandoj 10-06-2003 04:47 AM

Re: The Question of Reliability (or stirring the pot)
One thing I forgot to comment on in my post (the first one!)

Since we can not expect perfection at any cost, the very big variable here is the quality of service at the dealer level, and this is where it gets really sticky.

Some dealers are wonderful, and they can be counted with the digits of one hand!

The majority are mainly concerned with the bottom line, which means, new sales and parts. The service department is the least of their concerns, they know that most new buyers bring their bikes back at least once or twice, they know they have a steady supply of costumers.

Since you have to deal with the service manager first when you encounter a problem, this is where the nightmare starts.

First, they assume that you know nothing about motorcycles and treat you accordingly, then they try to tell you the problem is something normal for that model, or they tell you that nothing can be done until it breaks, finally when they decide to fix it under warranty, they put it on the back burner, since the manufacturer does pay them for their work, but they take for ever to do so. Finnaly when they put someone on the job, it is usually the $7.50 an hour, new graduate from tech school, who procedes to butcher your bike.

So the moral of the story here, is to pick and choose very carefully when you decide to give a dealer your trust and hard earned cash, sometimes we choose the ones that give us the best out the door deals on a new bike, and that can be a very costly mistake in the long run, caveat emptor!

pushrod 10-06-2003 05:22 AM

Re: The Question of Reliability (or stirring the pot)
I submit the issue isn't as much which bikes are most reliable, but which builders.

You tend to hear about bikes with problems, and seldom hear about those that don't. As noted above, bikes are damn good nowadays.

What is more to the point of this string is how manufacturers deal with the problems that show up when John Q. Public gets a hold of their product and starts Beta testing them in the real world.

My shot is at Harley. First, let me point out I owned a FXRS LowRider for years before I went British, and I loved the bike. Other than the standard base gasket leaks and the transmission output shaft seal failure, it was utterly dependable.

My problem with H-D is the way they handled the camshaft bearing problem on both the later Evo motors and the TC motors. There was a known problem with them, but the dealerships were (are?) not allowed to fix them until they failed.

Quality of dealerships is another issue, which I think is open to too much subjectivity. Some are great, some are not. Some suck. Some are great until they let you down, and it doesn't matter why; they let you down. And, some have a great sales end, but maybe their service department is weak- my most common finding.

My Sprints ('00 and '03) have been as reliable as a hammer, except my new one has had a starting problem since Day One. Funny thing is, it seems to be fixing itself as I put on the miles.

longride 10-06-2003 06:08 AM

Re: The Question of Reliability (or stirring the pot)
There hasn't been a "bad" motorcycle made in probably 25 years. Unless you are an older rider, you don't know the meaning of the word "junk". Like Seruzawa stated about some bikes made in the 60's and 70's were real junk. Today reliability is subjective. If you want to treat your bike just like your car, put in the gas and turn the key, you can't beat Japanese machinery. They will do more and go longer for less than any others. Of course, the excitement level many of these bikes produce is in inverse proportion to their reliability. Some of my most troublesome bikes I have owned have also been my favorites, like my 72 Bonnie, 97 TL1000, and my current 76 Superglide, which I want to sell to Seruzawa so he can feel my pain. My 1980 CBX was both thrilling and reliable, and I boot myself for selling it. My 78 Yamaha 750 triple was cool, and I had an 80 Sportster that was stone reliable for 50,000, less the top end rebuild every 15,000. To me, reliability is down the list to looks and feel. If I dont' like how it looks or it doesn't feel right, all the performance and reliability in the world can't make up for that. By modern standards my old Superglide is a real junk. It vibrates, the brakes are marginal, frame is like a noodle, it has bone jarring suspension, and it needs constant fiddling, but when all is right with the world, it starts one kick and rumbles down the road like nothing else. Some wouldn't have that bike on a bet, but it's got a grip on me. Motorcycles are like women. We forgive alot if they have a grip on your heart, and sensibility be damned.

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