Why Triumph & BSA Motorcycle Bearings Are Expensive
Here at Classic British Spares I hear a lot of questions throughout the day, weeks and months. Some questions are very basic and some questions seem to get asked over and over again. One of the questions that is most frequency asked is "Why are bearings for British motorcycles so expensive?". The answer to that question is determined on many variables. I will go into more detail below by explaining my 4 reasons.
Imperial Size Bearings
Most bearings fitted to vintage British motorcycles are an imperial size not metric. Very few applications use metric bearings on classic British motorcycles. In today's standards, metric is most commonly used over imperial. In fact imperial bearings are becoming very hard to obtain which is one of the reasons why imperial bearings are expensive because the applications are somewhat "unique". Metric bearings are usually half the price of an inch bearing. If you head down to a local bearing supplier and you show them an imperial bearing that was removed from a vintage Triumph, BSA, or even a Norton, they will most likely tell you that the bearing cannot be obtained through there sources. Imperial is another term for inch.
Import Tax Duty
Importing bearings into the Unites States can be very risky depending on where the bearings are manufactured, sent from, type of bearings and the material in which the bearing is made from. For example, the RHP bearings that are sold under part number 70-2879 and 68-0625 are usually the bearings that are known to be expensive. Why? RHP bearings are made in England and the U.S. has regulations and restrictions on what type of bearings you can import into the United States. In this case bearings that are sent from England to the U.S. tend to have really high import tax and duty fee's against them. When suppliers (me and others) import bearings we have to distribute the fee's and taxes equally on the number of bearings that are imported. This is usually the main cause of why bearings are expensive.
Have you ever heard that term you get what you pay for? When it comes down to engine components you want to put the best quality components into your engine. Some folks try to build a Triumph or a BSA motor on a budget. One of the most expensive (and crucial) parts that need to be replaced are the bearings. Just a typical Triumph twin roller bearing is usually right around $89.95. Get my point? I have seen a lot of "knock-off" bearings for about $30 made by company's in India and in China. Those are the bearings that you want to stay far away from. Brand name bearings will always be more expensive but the quality will be superior. RHP bearings have always been known to be a superior quality brand.
Since the Triumph motorcycle company along with BSA and Norton are no longer in business many parts are not available and will need to be replaced at some point. Replaceable components such as bearings are specific to our application. What does that mean? Bearing size and clearance rating are correct only for our old motorcycles. Bearings fitted to our old Britbikes may not be fit any other application such as vehicles or machinery. This makes our bearings specific to our applications. RHP bearings for example make special batches of bearings for our needs. This another reason why bearings are expensive in our industry.
"Bearings are expensive because of the hoops and leaps that we have to jump through..."
There you have it. Bearings are expensive because of the hoops and leaps that we have to jump through just to have the bearings produced and imported. So the next time you order a bearing don't assume that the supplier you are purchasing it from is trying to get rich off of a bearing. Instead understand all the rules, regulations and time that we have to manage to have the product stocked on our shelves to keep your motorcycle on the road.