Friday, November 6, 2020

Old Royal Enfield part ordered on eBay didn't fit

It's nobody's fault but mine, but I got the wrong part when I ordered a replacement clutch cable on eBay from India for my 1999 Royal Enfield Bullet 500.

I wasn't careful.

Back when my motorcycle was new I always ordered replacement parts from Classic Motor Works, the U.S. importer, based in Minnesota. Sometimes I would get the wrong part, but it was always replaced with the correct one at no cost to me.

Thankfully, I had still have a few spare cables and oil filters I ordered from Classic back then.

It's a good thing, because, sometime after the new United Constructed Motor came along, in 2009, Royal Enfield India itself took over distribution in the U.S. The corporation had to line up a new dealership network and, naturally, interest in carrying parts for the old iron-barrel Bullets (which was nothing like they now had on the showroom floors) wasn't central.

Fortunately there are excellent parts suppliers filling the gap for the old stuff and at least one of them, Hitchcocks Motorcycles in the UK, even has the old parts books online.

I first gave Tim Hirdler a try at Western Cycle Supply in the U.S. Tim worked at Classic Motor Works and is a Royal Enfield parts wizard.

Unfortunately, they were out of stock on the clutch cable I need. Tim promised to seek a supplier and let me know when it came in.

I can use one of my spare cables until then. But the ever present temptation of trying eBay in the meantime drew me in. For one thing, Royal Enfield parts from India are generally not expensive.

On the other hand, I knew this was risky. All I would have to go on was the photo in the eBay ad. Almost no other information (such as the length of the cable for sale) usually appears in these ads. Return policies are typically unforgiving.

I had an added problem. My Bullet carries a sticker that gives its build date as June, 1999. That is a critical date, for parts. It makes my motorcycle an "early 1999." Different parts, including new handlebar controls (and thus, I presume, specific new clutch cables) were fitted starting with July, 1999.

Close-up photo of clutch cable ends.
The ends of the clutch cable I need (gearbox end is at top).

It was my understanding that my Bullet has the pre-July, 1999 Magura controls. So, when I saw the eBay ad for "Magura Type Levers Spare Clutch Cable Fits Royal Enfield Early Models," I figured I'd found what I needed for sale in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, India.

Except for this: the photo in the ad looked nothing like the broken clutch cable I'd just taken off my bike. There was no mention of how long the cable might be, but it was clear that the little nubbins on the ends of the cable, that hold it in place on the motorcycle, were quite different than mine.

"Please refer to the pictures above before finalising your purchase," the ad advised.

I looked at the photo in the ad, but to misquote Paul Simon, "a man sees what he wants to see, and disregards the rest."

I assumed the photo, rather than my wishful thinking, was to blame for any discrepancy.

Close-up photo of clutch cable ends.
The ends of the clutch cable I got on eBay.

The cable that arrived from India is described on the bag label as "O.E. part No. 1455408/B." The inner cable is 52 1/2 inches long (two inches shorter than I need). The outer cable is 49 5/8 inches long.

The eBay seller in India is not to blame for my wishful thinking. They offered to refund my money if I shipped the cable back to them, but the cost of shipping would wipe out my refund, so I didn't bother. 

I turned to the parts books at Hitchcocks and found "Part No. 142543 Cable, Clutch, Magura Levers (Before 06/99), Indian Made."

The drawing in the Hitchcocks part book, and the photo in their catalog, showed a cable just like the eBay item from Ghaziabad.

In fact, nowhere in the Hitchcocks parts book and catalog could I find a drawing or photo that looks at all like the cable that fits my Bullet.

I wish I had done at first what I then did next: I emailed Hitchcock's Motorcycles at info@hitchcocksmotorcycles.com with a photo of the cable I need, and got a response immediately from Allan Hitchcock himself.

"Part 142543A should be the cable you need," he wrote. He attached a link to the very cable I need, described in its "fitting guide" as for Indian made export Royal Enfield Bullets from 1989-1999.

There it was: the word "export" and the letter "A" added to the part number: 142543A! The photo showed it appears to be just what I need.

Why couldn't I find it earlier? I don't know.

Why would the "export" bikes use a different cable than home-market Bullets of the same year? I don't know.

Hitchcocks even lists an extra-long (five inches longer) version of the clutch cable. I like this because it's long enough to wrap around the nacelle instead of bothering to fish it through. Very handy when trying to replace a clutch cable roadside, in the dark. It's Part No. 142543L.

4 comments:

  1. "When in doubt, let Hitchcock's sort it out"
    They have always been a godsend when it comes to parts sleuthing. Especially with the older models made by RE for Indian back in the 50's. They have a collective knowledge base that equals hundreds of years of experience. I have received no compensation for this unbiased review !

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  2. A critical step here is to make sure the cable end has some wiggle room in the clutch arm. A bit of judicious file or Dremel work on the cable end can give it the angular freedom to rock a bit, reducing the possibility of fatigue fractures at that point. Don't forget to grease the handlebar end cable pivot also. I just use the Hitchcocks heavy duty cables on everything, as I have had poor luck with the factory cable ends "cast lead" fittings crumbling to dust. The HD cables have larger housings & inner cable wires, yielding much better feel & greater reliability. The extra $10 looks trifling when standing alongside the road 30 miles from home... ;-)

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  3. Barnett Clutch and Cable is the industry standard. Tell them what you want and you know you are getting top quality. Buy from E-bay and you could be getting any sort of junk cranked out of Pakistan or Taiwan back alley shops complete with fake factory authorized logos on the packaging. Your life is worth more than that.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Buying from E-bay poses many pitfalls but also provides a rich source of parts for Royal Enfields.
    The key being finding a decent seller whose goods arrive in marked,sealed,R.E packaging.
    Then you can always check the P.N.tally.
    It may take several attempts or could be the 1st one you try but the savings are incredible.
    Just as long you are not in an immediate need!
    Hitchcocks purchase their parts from somewhere!
    Of course, the Hitchcock team provide excellent quality parts for any year of Royal Enfield bikes & will, through my 23 years of (in)experience buying & even selling parts/bikes, always offer advice if needed.
    Without them I would have been f****d on many occasions.

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