Every now and then, a post on The Kneeslider misses the point, quite a few readers seem to misunderstand what was meant and the post about high tech parts is a good illustration.
In that post the focus was on the potentially serious, or at least inconvenient, issue of electronic parts failing years after a motorcycle had gone out of production. While manufacturers provide replacements for a period of time, most do not do so indefinitely. Parts bikes may be available for a while, but sooner or later, the part will disappear. Then what? It’s not the same as the usual mechanical repair where a bit of thought and backyard engineering can get it fixed, when electronic controls are sufficiently advanced, failure requires new knowledge and skills or repairs will not happen. Is that a problem? Or is it an opportunity?
Comments on the article were interesting. Some seemed to think I was implying electronic controls were failure prone, while others concluded I must be technophobic, wishing for a simpler time from the past. The conclusion often seemed to be I was generally pessimistic about the future of newer bikes as they aged. None of those conclusions are true nor were they the point of the post.
I made a further comment which I’ll quote here:
… It’s not a matter of how easy or difficult it is to fix something with the computer or electronic controls or even how reliable those electronics are. They are reliable and easy to fix plus they offer huge performance advantages. The problem is whether the part to swap will be there when you need it, an entirely different issue. We are just starting to get to the point where the earlier versions of motor vehicles with electronic and computer controls are becoming old enough that parts might be an issue. If we have enough open source replacements or ingenious work arounds, we’re fine. I’m just bringing attention to the need to think along these lines. I’d rather be in control of the process of fixing instead of hoping someone, somewhere is going to bail me out of a tight spot if something fails. I think most of you would, too. (emphasis added)
The problem of high tech parts becoming unavailable is an opportunity for anyone willing to think about it and take action. The more people there are with a problem, the bigger the opportunity for someone who can solve it.
Mechanical parts are less of a problem with the growing ability to manufacture parts on demand with CNC machine tools, especially with decreasing costs putting those tools in the hands of smaller companies and individuals.
Recreating proprietary electronic controls will be another challenge, not insurmountable, but not something the average garage mechanic or motorcycle owner is going to do easily with current technology. If the controls can be cloned or manufactured on an open source platform, which I believe will likely be possible, the problem is far less of an issue, but we’re not there yet. Some guys can do it now, but it’s a skill set still a bit uncommon.
Again, this could be a nice opportunity for a small company or individual to develop these capabilities. Even before the parts disappear, those parts may become quite pricey. If you can offer something for less, something that can be set up for many engines and motorcycle models, you might have something.
Some of you may have dealt with this already. If you have an example of how you ran into a non-existent, out of production part and came up with a substitute, let us know what you did. I think quite a few folks might find it interesting.
If this is not an issue because it’s easily fixed, at the very least, it’s a marketing problem because some of us have missed the news, perhaps I’m unaware of the vast resources already out there to solve this problem. If you know those resources exist, point them out here. If you’re a company offering those capabilities, tell us your story. I think more than a few of us would like to know what’s out there.