Or so the old Partsman says, usually when he’s trying to pass off a “will fit” part of suspect ancestry and functionality on you. That slippery (and not just his permanently grease stained hands) old Partsman has nothing on the current web savvy purveyors of parts via the internet.

Back when my “83 BMW R80ST was first freed from it’s shipping crate, we didn’t have online parts shopping and didn’t need it. BMW had just one model line of bikes then to confuse things, so a good dealer could easily keep a good supply of parts on hand. The system worked well- visit (had one a couple miles away then) the dealer and buy the part, or if it was a less common part they might not have, call ’em up and order it. That dealer gave up BMW when they told him he had to lay out thousands for special tools for the K bikes. The dealership then went to another old school dealer about 10 miles away, who gave us good service until the long suffering owner wanted to retire. Redlining that dealer for their inner city location, BMW wouldn’t transfer the franchise to either of the well heeled prospective owners the retiring dealer found. That left BMW’s “pet” dealers in the ‘burbs, who had never stocked parts worth a darn and still don’t. That stuck me with an 80 miles round trip to Moon in Monticello, who despite looking like a boutique manage a decent stock of Airhead parts, or a 200 mile roundtrip to Judson Cycle sales in little Judson, MN who had just about everything an Airhead ever needed and the owner/mechanic/partsperson/guru seldom need consult the parts books, online or dead tree. Then BMW squeezed them out, leaving me a dysfunctional Victory/BMW dealer 120 miles to the south of my current Buffalo Ridge sanctuary or Moon now 150 miles to my northwest.

So I’ve been forced into the brave new world of online parts procurement. Now some enterprises do this well- I can surf over to fordparts.com , look up the part I need, and the site will even tell me what Ford dealers near me actually have the part in stock. NAPA has a nice system at napaonline.com that does pretty much the same thing and more- find the part you need from the millions available, see if it’s in stock and where, and you can even have the local NAPA store hold it for you just in case the other ’53 Borgward owner in the country decides to buy that same obscure part at that store that day. Out of stock? Just place your order online and it’ll be delivered to your local NAPA store, usually overnight. You can see why I’m a proud owner of both Ford and NAPA stock!

Now you’d think that an “elite” provider of motor vehicles to the “elites” like BMW would have at least as proficient a parts provisioning system as mass market Ford and aftermarket NAPA. Well, we can dream of such things, but BMW, which never really mastered the old school parts system, is leaving it to their dealers to come up with online parts provisioning. An online parts store for the thousands and thousands of parts that BMW keeps creating for their too many lines of vehicles is not a small undertaking; And certainly beyond the means of the old school mom & pop dealers we love. So it falls that maybe a handful of major market BMW dealers have online parts stores, and neither works all that great. I’ve given up on Max BMW’s- it won’t even work on this computer, which runs Windoze ( I had to make my contribution to the Microsoft monopoly to run BMW’s DVD only service manual for the F800), never mind Linux, and it probably has convulsions when faced with Apple OSX, never mind an iPad or iPhone. So I’m stuck with Bob’s BMW, the guy who’ll never sell me a bike because he refuses to discount anything. In my world, “suggested retail price” is just the seller’s ridiculous opening offer in the bargaining.

So in need of an array of gearbox parts for this coming weekend’s Airhead Gearbox Tech Weekend in KC and some rings for the ST as well, I placed an online order with Bob’s last wensday. Then nothing happened- no e-mail reporting shipping, no charge to my credit car, no nothing. We’re getting to crunch time- I’ve got a 400 mile drive to KC so I need parts by friday and preferably thursday, and it’s tuesday. So I call Bob’s and fight my way through their phone system, finally by chance finding the Shipping person. She’s been out sick and some of the bits are on back order, but I was reassured that they’ll be here thursday. I’ll believe it when I see it- I’d picked the only affordable shipping option, USPS 2-3 day Priority Mail, which with Bob’s seems to always mean FedEx Home Delivery, a kinda cheesy UPS clone formerly know as RPS that Fed Ex bought from Roadway. It’s holiday “peak season” in the parcel biz, and I suspect I’ll be sitting here ’til sundown friday, then making a long overnight drive to KC with or without the parts.

I could go on about the recent batches of defective ignition points and neutral switches that have eminated from BMW  of late and the 70 mile away “local” VW dealer that doesn’t even stock all the proper parts for a timing belt change… But this post, and the crappy parts service we get from too many suppliers, has gone on for quite long enough.

Maybe tomorrow we’ll delve into Chevy’s mass market turbo cars or whether the Airhead frame was flexible by design…