2008-08-22

BikeBandit.Com - A Canadian Shopper Review

Well, I just received my first parts order from BikeBandit.Com and, I have to say, I'm impressed. Normally, as a Canadian, ordering from US companies and dealing with the whole shipping/border issue is a huge hassle. This time, it was seamless.

I needed some clutch parts for my KLR-650 and, after a little research, I found that you can get the actual Kawasaki OEM parts diagrams right on the web, right in an order form. No dealers required. There are a few sites out there, all of them seem to point to the same Kawasaki parts pages, but the prices are different. These sites typically just take orders and drop-ship from the main supppliers. So, they don't even need to carry an inventory; the actual parts all come from the same place, regardless of the site you order from.

On further investigation, I found that a couple of sites that were interesting: BikeBandit and CyclePartsNation. CycleParts was cheaper accross the board; it seems like every BikeBandit part was about 10% higher. However, there's more than price to consider. There's shipping and customer service too.

With International shipping, at least to Canada, BikeBandit is the clear winner. CycleParts will ship to Canada via USPS (United States Postal Service). Their standard shipping charge is $35. Shipping USPS means that it only costs an additional $5 for the Canada Post GST collection service, plus the duty and GST. Typically, any orders shipped via couriers, like UPS or FedEx, gets dinged with a customs brokerage fee, usually $35 or higher, and of course, GST and duty. Yes, we have a free trade agreement with the US, but parts originally from Japan still get duty added. With BikeBandits, they charge a flat $25 for international shipping via FedEx. However, they include the customs brokerage fee in this; even better, their ordering system also calculates and bills for GST and duty. So, the net effect is that with BikeBandit, you only have to pay once, and you get the parts damn fast. I put an order in on Sunday and it arrived Thursday. I was impressed.

So, shipping via BikeBandit is $25 for FedEx, CycleParts is $35 for USPS, plus whatever they ding you once it hits Canada Post. Also, there is the customs delays that can happen with Canada Post. Sometimes it only takes a week or so, but I've heard horror stories about 6-week delays. Clearly, on the shipping side, BikeBandits is the winner. You could probably save some money on a large order if you went with CycleParts, but you will wait longer too. Oh, one side point to this...BikeBandits won't ship tires or presumably any other large items internationally. In the shopping cart, this shows up as a "Shipping Restriction." I don't know if CycleParts will ship tires or not.

On the customer side, I can't say too much about CycleParts because I didn't order from them. One note in their favour, however, is that their OEM order system shows the quantity required, where BikeBandits does not. Thus, I knew that I needed 7 friction plates for my clutch. The BikeBandit order process was reasonable; actually, I was quite impressed by their system. I've done a lot of web-ordering over the years, and while I won't say the BikeBandit site is one of the best, it's certainly not frustrating, as most seem to be. One particularly nice feature is the ability to chat with a service representative. As I mentioned before, I placed my order on Sunday, yet there was someone there to answer my shipping question about the tires right away. Anyway, after considerable bouncing around, checking this and that out, I placed my order without a hitch. The emailed status reports were clear and timely, while not being too frequent. It always annoys me when I get email after email, all from automated systems before anyone has actually done anything. A simple, "Here's the order we got from you, it's waiting to be filled" is just fine. BikeBandit notifications were about right, though I did seem to sign myself up for spam. I've already got 2 "this week's specials" emails; I might see about getting myself off that list.

So, if you need OEM or even after-market parts for your bike, then I highly recommend BikeBandit.Com. Typically, I go way, way out of my way to avoid ordering anything across the border, but that's just not reasonable with stuff like parts. Even car tires are dirt-cheap in the US compared to anything you can get in Canada. I don't know why, but that's the way it seems to be. So, with some things, it's worth the border hassle. However, with BikeBandit, I finally feel like a US company has properly figured out how to deal with Canadian customers. My one experience with them was good enough for me to write this review. They're just doing it right.


Recommendations for Canadian Bike Shops:

Okay, well, you're screwed, at least parts-wise. Your customers can now order from Kawasaki USA for less than you can order from Kawasaki Canada. So, what are you going to do? Well, if I were you, I'd roll with it and change the way I do things. First, I'd only stock the high-demand parts. Second, I'd be straight with my customers and tell them that they can get the parts cheaper by ordering them direct. Third, I'd set my business up to cater to the people that don't want to wait, only want a small item, or are too dumb to order for themselves.

I'd say, our price is $X, you can get it for less than half that from HERE, but it will cost $Y for shipping. If you want to go riding tomorrow, then you can pay our price, which pays us to stock the part for you. If you only want one little part, then pay our price, which covers our shipping costs. If you're too afraid to use a computer, well then pay us to do it for you. We're offering a service, the price for it is rolled into the parts we sell. Don't like our price? Well, here's where you can go for a better do-it-yourself deal.

My recommendation is that you straight-talk your way out of a bad PR issue. The parts you stock are expensive for a reason, be straight with that and you'll do okay. You're probably not going to be making as much money on parts as in the past, but that's a given. At least, by being honest about it, you can keep your customer's respect.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip - I was just looking for parts for my KLR - I'll give BikeBandit a try.

Cheers,
Vancouver Guy

Dave said...

> Thanks for the tip...

Well, that's the point. Being Canadian, we have to get together and share decent sources. It's not like we have the same options that Americans do.

Anyway, please post another comment after you get your order. So far, this review is based on a sample of 1, some more depth would be good.

Anonymous said...

I have done buisness with a couple US buisnesses for cycle parts and so far Bike Bandit is the best. my second would have been Ride gear (for accessories) and my third would be Ron Ayers (for plastics for my R6).

Anonymous said...

Bike Bandit is pretty fast and the service is good but they now want $38 to ship anything to Canada. Even if it's just $5 paper gasket the minimum shipping is $38. I balked at the price and asked a "livechat" rep is this was correct and he said yeah and suggested that I make big purchases to average out the shipping costs!

Glenn said...

Cool!

I was looking at their site. this cements my decision.

I ordered rear brake pads for my crf230l from a dealer here in Windsor. They ordered WRONG pads twice. This was in late August. I lost time riding.

I will try the Bandit this time.

(Need front pads now and an air filter element)

Thanks again!

Glenn D.
Windsor, Ontario