Can you fix it? Your motorcycle won’t run, what are the chances you can get it going? What if the bike in question has the highest technology available, perfectly metered fuel injection, precisely controlled electronic ignition, variable valve timing and throttle by wire, have your chances increased or decreased? Suppose, the company that made it goes out of business, does that change anything? What if the particular model was only manufactured for one or two years, are you feeling a little uncomfortable?
For the better part of a century, since the internal combustion engine was invented, if you understood how engines worked and you had a reasonable assortment of tools, a methodical bit of troubleshooting would get her fired up. Air, fuel, compression and spark, combined in the right proportions and at the right time and you had a running engine. Once running, you could adjust and tweak until it was humming along or at least running well enough to get you home where you could do a proper repair. It’s pretty darned satisfying to know you’re going to get home or if you’re home already, to know you can fix what’s broken, but times have changed.
Engines have improved, computer control has given us precise fuel metering and ignition timing over the entire rpm range, not to mention variable valve timing, antilock brakes and throttle by wire, the bikes you can buy today are on an entirely different plane than the vintage machines of yesteryear, there’s no comparison on almost any level, but, as I asked above, can you fix it? No assortment of tools will repair electronics that have failed. If the chip fails, the bike dies. No parts available mean you have a serious problem.
Look at the vintage bikes constantly restored and resold over many decades, a well equipped machine shop will return them to like new or better than new condition with an engine more reliable than ever. Original parts are long gone but you can rebuild them indefinitely. Now look at the newest bikes. Electronics are surprisingly reliable and take a lot before failing but when they do, it’s a trip to the parts counter or a search for a parts bike. Failing that, the bike sits.
It might be worthwhile thinking about whether the engine can be devolved into something a bit more basic. Can you fit a carb in place of the fuel injection? Can you run a throttle cable in place of throttle by wire? Can you turn the cutting edge but non functional hunk of metal into a running engine again? It’s an interesting thought as some current motorcycles begin to age and companies cut costs, closing up completely or maybe not carrying the parts they used to. It’s something to consider even before you buy that bike in the first place. High tech is cool, but repairable and running might be better.
Before you start assuming these observations come from some sort of technological Luddite, I can tell you I’ve spent multiple decades using assorted voltmeters, oscilloscopes and a very well equipped toolbox repairing some pretty complex equipment, replacing integrated circuits and other discrete components, repairing and modifying the circuit boards themselves when necessary and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process. It’s fun, but it also has limitations, there is no substitute for replacement when a chip fails. You don’t open it up, you carefully desolder it, remove it and install a new one. If it’s in a socket, it’s quicker but the same process of remove and replace is involved. Chip manufacturing isn’t something done in a local small business, the replacement is ordered from a supplier who gets it from the electronics manufacturer. How long will they be making them?
We’ve become accustomed to throwaway computers and appliances, you can open them up but there’s nothing you can fix. When something like a motorcycle runs into the same limitation, what do you do? It’s food for thought.