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#542394 - 05/10/14 4:33 pm The cost to wire a bike  
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The June issue of 'The Classic Motorcycle' has an article about a guy in the UK who comes to your house and completely wires your classic motorcycle for you. Apparently his skills are in high demand because the article says he's already booked for much of 2014. Oh, the article also says the cost is L450 (~$760).

Some jobs require expensive, specialized machinery, e.g. for grinding a crankshaft or boring a cylinder. But the only special tools required to wire a bike are a wire stripper, soldering iron, and $15 multimeter. Further, the circuit diagrams of all pre-c1960 British motorcycle are hardly complex, having only ~15 wires.

The only two explanations I can think of are that either most bike owners in the UK are extremely wealthy and so L450 is pocket change to them. Or, enough motorcyclists are so afraid of electricity that someone can making a living running those 15 wires and charging ~$50 ea. to do so.

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#542397 - 05/10/14 4:48 pm Re: The cost to wire a bike [Re: Magnetoman]  
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Like you I see no real reason not to wire a bike yourself.

The only time it might be worth it is if you are building the bike to compete in "prefect restore" meets and this guy does the work so it is an exact match to the original factory wiring.

Of course if it is wired to the original factory wiring you really don't want to ride it as it will surely leave you on the side of the road at some point.


Alan
Cleared m out....left only
59 BSA Bantam (Trials)
78 Triumph Bonny (UPS)
02 Suzuki GS500
#542398 - 05/10/14 4:51 pm Re: The cost to wire a bike [Re: Magnetoman]  
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Perhaps his air fare is included in the price?

..> Gregg


Spyder Integrated Technologies
Lucas, BTH, & Miller Magneto & Dynamo Restoration
SMITHS Chronometric Restoration
magneto@spyder-it.com
#542413 - 05/10/14 6:17 pm Re: The cost to wire a bike [Re: gREgg-K]  
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Originally Posted By: gREgg-K
Perhaps his air fare is included in the price?
While his reply is tongue in cheek, for those who don't know as much about electricity as Gregg does, the fact the guy in the article is "generally on the road for up to three weeks at a time" carrying everything needed on his motorcycle indicates how little is needed to rewire a motorcycle.

He's charging for knowledge (and lack thereof on the part of many of his customers), not for amortizing the cost of machine tools or for rental of shop space. Given this, I'm hereby increasing the price of electrical information I provide on BritBike Forum by a factor of 3x... no, make that 4x.

p.s. The guy's motto is ""DO IT RIGHT DO IT ONCE!" Because of this, I can't help but mention that the article ends with "All connected, it's all tested and working fine; time to jiggle the headlamp glass in... the switch is flicked again -- and nothing's working as it should... so off comes the glass again... Connections are broken and new ones made; it takes a little while but at least it will be correct now." Hmm, do it right and do it, ahem, once? (hey, it could happen to the best of us, but then again we don't have that motto).

Last edited by Magnetoman; 05/10/14 6:27 pm. Reason: added p.s.
#542421 - 05/10/14 6:43 pm Re: The cost to wire a bike [Re: Magnetoman]  
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Most of us figure our "shop rate" at .02 to .05 per hour which of course makes our bikes worth $10,000 to $20,000.....trouble is we are never going to collect on this.

Got to say: It looks like the guy has found a need and has the ability to fill it.


Alan
Cleared m out....left only
59 BSA Bantam (Trials)
78 Triumph Bonny (UPS)
02 Suzuki GS500
#542423 - 05/10/14 7:14 pm Re: The cost to wire a bike [Re: Magnetoman]  
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It has always surprised me that classic bike enthusiasts frequently are very skilled in the mechanics of the bike but totally frightened of anything electrical.
I think that lies at the root of Carrots success in UK.
Furthermore I don't think this is limited to UK--I think the same thing affects many enthusiasts in US, Oz etc.
Perhaps the reason it hasn't caught on in US is the longer distances involved for the travelling wireman to travel to get from one job to the other.
HTH

#542424 - 05/10/14 7:20 pm Re: The cost to wire a bike [Re: Magnetoman]  
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Originally Posted By: Magnetoman
The only two explanations I can think of are that either most bike owners in the UK are extremely wealthy and so L450 is pocket change to them. Or, enough motorcyclists are so afraid of electricity that someone can making a living running those 15 wires and charging ~$50 ea. to do so.


A third explanation could be that you are simply unaware of what some UK tradesmen will charge for a day's 'work', and that could be one of the reasons why we are not all extremely wealthy here, also 20% of the cost is likely to be tax (VAT).


Originally Posted By: Tridentman
I think that lies at the root of Carrots success in UK.


Ferret? http://www.motorcyclewiring.co.uk/frameset.html

Last edited by L.A.B.; 05/10/14 7:26 pm.
#542437 - 05/10/14 9:41 pm Re: The cost to wire a bike [Re: Magnetoman]  
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Thanks Les--I got the name wrong.
At least I remembered there were two "r"s and a "t" in it!

#542440 - 05/10/14 10:13 pm Re: The cost to wire a bike [Re: Magnetoman]  
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I agree the price seems a little steep, however the person doing the work has the knowledge to do it and he paid for his education in some way, shape, or form. The saying goes, you pay me for what I know, not for what I do. Personally I do all my own bike wiring but if my computer goes on the fritz I take it to someone with the knowledge to fix it and pay the price.

#542445 - 05/10/14 10:50 pm Re: The cost to wire a bike [Re: Magnetoman]  
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Personally i don't think his price is that high, if he's got to stay locally and work in crap conditions and spend his time travelling about etc. He is probably earning the average wage after paying for petrol etc. I've been into plenty of mechanical and engineering workshops who expect to charge top dollar for work done on clapped out old machinery by so called experts. I've had cranks ground and ruined by idiots who don't know how to dress wheels etc.
If this guy is giving a meaningful warranty on his work then best of luck to him, most guys don't know how to wire a bike and really don't want to know about electrics. Gifted amateurs who do things like put series regulators on permanent magnet Lucas systems are more of a problem in my eyes.

The electrical/electronic game has been so devalued over the last 30-40 years fewer and fewer people are going into it, i fully support anyone who has the gumption to make a go of it on his own.

Like everything, if it was all easy, why doesn't everyone do it themselves.

Nick



#542454 - 05/10/14 11:53 pm Re: The cost to wire a bike [Re: NickL]  
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Originally Posted By: NickL
Like everything, if it was all easy, why doesn't everyone do it themselves.
Originally Posted By: Tridentman
It has always surprised me that classic bike enthusiasts frequently are very skilled in the mechanics of the bike but totally frightened of anything electrical.
The reason I posted this is the point Tridentman makes. It's not that a tradesman doesn't deserve to earn a decent living, it's that people who wouldn't hesitate to rebuild the top end of a Manx Norton in a dim garage would pay someone $750 to do a job that actually is pretty easy compared with most mechanical tasks. Also, this is being paid by hobbyists who are perfectly happy to deal with most other things themselves.

Last edited by Magnetoman; 05/11/14 12:37 am. Reason: typo
#542457 - 05/11/14 12:07 am Re: The cost to wire a bike [Re: Magnetoman]  
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The high cost is probably because in most cases it's not just a matter of replacing 15 wires (most of us non-electrical types can do that), but he has to diagnose faults with dynamos, alternators, regulators, ignitions, switches (and wrong or wrongly connected switches). He probably does more modern classics which are slightly more work and the old brits have to pay up or it would not be worth his time he could use on more valuable work.

I have not read the article, but I am guessing that he also does the necessary removal of tank, seat toolbox, etc. to get to the harness.

Rob C

#542494 - 05/11/14 5:29 am Re: The cost to wire a bike [Re: Magnetoman]  
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Hi,

With respect, you're missing several points:-

. The TCM article was about filling a given space in a magazine, not about illustrating Ferret's talents.

. The TCM writer was a 'journalist' (and they don't have a great rep. this side of The Pond), not an auto-electrician. So I wouldn't draw many conclusions from what was written and printed; I certainly wouldn't start a forum thread based on that article. wink

. Also, by definition, TCM covers old bikes with very simple electrics; as well as working on bikes like that, Ferret will also work on modern bikes.

. You might consider 450 expensive to wire one bike but, by definition, any one bike is using just a small part of his knowledge.

. You're also forgetting the time - when he isn't on the road - he puts into researching particular old terminals. E.g. I know that old Hondas used 3.6 mm o.d. bullet terminals; you cannot buy them retail in GB (anywhere in the world?); yes, he can buy 'em wholesale 'cos he's going to use them but it isn't just one bullet and socket, it's bullets, 2-way and 3-way sockets. 1000 at a time probably. And again for 3.9 mm bullets.

. And that's the common stuff. It was him that told me that some terminals used on old Jap bikes are only available from Japan ... minimum quantity several thousand at a time. Or, despite lengthy research (which he either has to do free or amortise into his rate), some simply aren't available.

. True, he could bodge something available off-the-shelf; but, if you were paying his rate, would you be happy with bodged terminals?

. Then there's cable. Same applies as terminals. Most Lucas colour combos. are available off-the-shelf. Fine if you're wiring, say, a Jap bike that uses the same colours. But what if it doesn't? Or he's wiring a 1950's Britbike. Same question; if you're being charged a hefty rate, would you be happy with any old cable he happened to have in his van?

. Also, with his knowledge of electrics and electronics and his hands-on skill, he could earn much more than he does. He chooses to do what he does but why should he be poor because of his choice? I've spent just one week away travelling like he does but I sure as hell wouldn't do it for that money and hassle.

. If he wasn't around, the vast majority of those bikes would either be scrapped or sit around unused. Even if a given owner tackled a rewire, it would take them far longer than Ferret - my first rewire took me weeks, not least because the work was fitted in as and when around job, home life, etc.

. Ferret's been around for many years doing what he does; that "the article says he's already booked for much of 2014" is probably the best indication of whether he's any good (word-of-mouth being a powerful advert.? smile ).

Hth.

Regards,

#542495 - 05/11/14 5:30 am Re: The cost to wire a bike [Re: Magnetoman]  
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I just buy a new harness, easy to replace the old one working from one end to the other, extra costs are mods for electronic ignition and if its pre 69 or so adding the extra earth wires. Also forgot the silicon grease, use that and your connections will never corrode.

#542518 - 05/11/14 10:38 am Re: The cost to wire a bike [Re: Magnetoman]  
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Wiring a motorcycle isn't that difficult.
Step 1. buy a roll of every color wire available at your local parts store.
Step 2. attach both ends of every wire to something. bigt




Last edited by shel; 05/11/14 10:40 am.

When given the choice between two evils I picked the one I haven't tried before
#542529 - 05/11/14 11:57 am Re: The cost to wire a bike [Re: Stuart]  
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Originally Posted By: Stuart
With respect, you're missing several points

TCM covers old bikes with very simple electrics; as well as working on bikes like that, Ferret will also work on modern bikes.

You might consider 450 expensive to wire one bike but, by definition, any one bike is using just a small part of his knowledge.

old Hondas used 3.6 mm o.d. bullet terminals; you cannot buy them retail in GB (anywhere in the world?); yes, he can buy 'em wholesale 'cos he's going to use them

some terminals used on old Jap bikes are only available from Japan ... minimum quantity several thousand at a time.

Most Lucas colour combos. are available off-the-shelf. Fine if you're wiring, say, a Jap bike that uses the same colours. But what if it doesn't?

Also, with his knowledge of electrics and electronics and his hands-on skill, he could earn much more than he does. He chooses to do what he does but why should he be poor because of his choice?

If he wasn't around, the vast majority of those bikes would either be scrapped or sit around unused

But, none of the above points are relevant to the point of people paying 450 to have relatively simple old bikes rewired. Again, I'm not saying someone shouldn't be paid a reasonable rate for their skills, or that more modern bikes aren't a lot more complex than old ones. I'm saying I'm surprised there are enough customers at that price that Ferret can make a business out of rewiring old British bikes. That there are a sufficient number of old-bike customers at 450 is a comment about the widespread fear of electricity, not about the value of Ferret's knowledge or service.

#542536 - 05/11/14 12:38 pm Re: The cost to wire a bike [Re: Magnetoman]  
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I'm with Shel on this one:

It really is easy and cheap. Tough to spend $50.00 on parts. Sit there with the book on the bench and run wires where it shows.

I think the real question is: Are old bike owners getting like Harley owners (docs, lawyers whatever)who want to own something and stand next to it, ride a short distance on a sunny Sunday afternoon.....but have no interest or knowledge on how to work on it.

The guy provides a service. If people are willing to pay for it more power to him.


Alan
Cleared m out....left only
59 BSA Bantam (Trials)
78 Triumph Bonny (UPS)
02 Suzuki GS500
#542537 - 05/11/14 12:51 pm Re: The cost to wire a bike [Re: Magnetoman]  
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Hi,

Originally Posted By: Magnetoman
I'm saying I'm surprised there are enough customers at that price that Ferret can make a business out of rewiring old British bikes.

But that is my point; you're extrapolating from a feature in TCM to the wrong conclusion - most of his customers aren't owners of old British bikes; if they were, why would he spend time researching and buying obscure Japanese terminals? If that feature had been in, say, Classic Motorcycle Mechanics, would you be asking the same questions?

Britbike owners are relatively well-served with inexpensive and widely-available replacement or upgraded electrical components. In the wider old-bike world, that's unusual to the point of being unique. So then paying someone like Ferret 450 becomes cheaper than some of the strategies Britbike owners take for granted.

Hth.

Regards,

#542539 - 05/11/14 12:58 pm Re: The cost to wire a bike [Re: Stuart]  
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Originally Posted By: Stuart
But that is my point; you're extrapolating from a feature in TCM to the wrong conclusion - most of his customers aren't owners of old British bikes; if they were, why would he spend time researching and buying obscure Japanese terminals?
The conclusion I'm reaching isn't about whether or not the price is reasonable to rewire a more modern Japanese bike, it's that apparently a number of owners of older British bikes with much simpler electrical systems are willing to pay that much in order not to have to deal with those ~15 wires themselves.

#542543 - 05/11/14 1:21 pm Re: The cost to wire a bike [Re: Magnetoman]  
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Hi,

Originally Posted By: Magnetoman
it's that apparently a number of owners of older British bikes with much simpler electrical systems are willing to pay that much in order not to have to deal with those ~15 wires themselves.

But that's always the case ... I could probably have refitted the bathrooms in my house - my brother-in-law would've done in his house although his day job is senior technical lead with a large British utility. But my brother-in-law could not rewire a Britbike as fast as I (or you) could. Likewise, for the bathrooms, it was cheaper and quicker for me to hire a plumber.

Many of the old-bike (including Brit.) owners I know have senior and well-paid jobs, the bike is primarily for riding. Like my first rewire, it would take them weeks to acquire the detail knowledge to not only "deal with those ~15 wires themselves" but do so with the confidence that they aren't going to set fire to their p&j. Or they can hire Ferret for the day, go to work in the morning, earn far more than they're going to pay Ferret and have a bike they can still ride by the evening.

Regards,

#542548 - 05/11/14 1:39 pm Re: The cost to wire a bike [Re: Magnetoman]  
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Must admit that I don't agree with you there, Stuart.
I don't think these Brit bike owners are paying Ferret because they could do the job themselves but prefer to get him to do the job.
You are well versed in things electrical but many of our Brit bike owning colleagues see electricity as a "black art".
Think of the frequency with which relatively simple electrical problems surface on this forum. Think further of the many honest Brit bike owners who when raising an electrical question on a forum like this are honest enough to admit that things electrical are way beyond them.
Now why should this be? I honestly don't know--but many people have no problems in dealing with something concrete like a crankshaft end float setting but are completely lost with more abstract concepts that they can't see--like a high resistance electrical connection.
Just my 2 cents worth.

#542550 - 05/11/14 1:40 pm Re: The cost to wire a bike [Re: Magnetoman]  
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I remember when everyone fixed their own bike.


And ruined it!


Amateur Loctite enthusiast.
#542571 - 05/11/14 2:58 pm Re: The cost to wire a bike [Re: Magnetoman]  
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Maybe an example from a different perspective. I do some paint work for people who occasionally ask. I am not cheap despite doing it at home with no apparent overheads. Now take into account (as Stuart mentioned of Ferret) what I need to have laying around and the quantities of those things.

Compressor
Clean and strip discs
Wire brushes
Dremel
Grinder
Welder
Paint guns (colour)
Paint gun (clear)
Rust killer
Tank lining products
Masking tape
Lining tape
Panel prep
Tack rags
Body fillers
Sand papers
Mixing cups
Thinners
Gun wash
Hardeners
Paint
Cutting compounds
Polish
Wax

Now I dont think painting is all that difficult, same as some people and electrics. People come to me because they do and they dont want to have buy in all these things in order to do the job.

Rod

Last edited by Redmoggy; 05/11/14 3:02 pm.
#542573 - 05/11/14 3:31 pm Re: The cost to wire a bike [Re: R Moulding]  
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Originally Posted By: Redmoggy
Now take into account (as Stuart mentioned of Ferret) what I need to have laying around and the quantities of those things.
But, wiring an old British bike requires a lot less than that. A quick search found complete wiring harnesses for a BSA A10 for under $75. Even if it turned out to need modifications in a few places, all that would be required for that is some wire, a wire stripper, soldering iron, and electrical tape.

Out of curiosity I looked at the wiring diagram in a Kawasaki Z1 manual. It is much more complex than an A10, with circuitry for front brake switch, a brake light failure indicator, starter motor, CDI ignition components, etc. etc., none of which are on an old British bike. I won't even attempt to count the number of separate wires, but it's way more than 15. Given the tangle of wires and components on that wiring diagram I agree that even someone wealthy who understands electricity quite well might well decide he'd rather pay someone else 450 if he needed to have his Z1 rewired from scratch.

But Stuart's plumbing analogy breaks down when applied to wiring a, say, BSA A10. In that case a better analogy would be someone whose hobby it was rebuilding and, um, riding old toilets, and who was happy doing all other aspects of toilet maintenance and restoration himself, instead deciding to pay a plumber $100 for a service call to replace the $5 flapper valve. No doubt such people exist (with motorcycles, that is, not necessarily with toilets), but it's surprising there are enough of them willing to pay 450 for wiring a, say, A10 that a business can be built on this.

#542576 - 05/11/14 3:55 pm Re: The cost to wire a bike [Re: Magnetoman]  
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I do a bit of work as a general handyman. It never ceases to amaze me the things that people cannot do. I have been paid to mend punctures in kids bicycles because Dad cant do it. Bloody hell, my missus could mend a pushbike puncture when she was about 12. I have been paid to fit a toilet seat. 2 bolts with wing nuts. Real hi tech stuff.



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