Cheshire Bike Breakers’ Director, Lee Jones spoke to us about his motorcycle dismantling operation; how it all began and where he sees the future of his business and the industry.
Lee’s business has been up and running for almost 5 years now. Before this he managed a local car dismantlers before deciding to make the break from the car business to set up business for himself and being a biker and having knowledge of motorcycles since the age of 10, this only added to his choice in setting up a motorcycle dismantlers.
In the early days, Lee was the only person involved but now they are a team of four. He said motorcycles are his passion, something he very much enjoys and the business continues to grow, bettering each year’s performance.
There were quite a few motorcycles in the yard where he worked previously and he made a start with them. He saw an opening in the market so took the opportunity to start Cheshire Bike Breakers. He did well from the first few motorcycles he dismantled so continued to increase their intake which also meant taking on extra staff.
They started off with sports motorcycles such as BMW’s & Ducati’s, but as time went on, they were becoming fewer and more difficult to source as the majority of them would wind up with larger operators and not a small breakers yard like theirs.
When we asked him if it was easier to start up with regard to licences and legislation, he told us that the company he used to assist them tried to get the business on a lower tier but this was not to be as they are on exactly the same tier as a car yard, something he does not see as a problem. He said: “We’re dealing in the same hazardous waste and substances as a car yard, so no, although it would have been nice to get on a lower tier cost wise, I agree with the decision – it is what it is and we understand the reasons behind this.”
Dismantling motorcycles is exactly the same process except without air conditioning gas. “We deal with the batteries, brake fluid, oil, coolants and waste tyres, so it is the same sort of process.” They use a basic depollution kit as they don’t have fuel tanks to drill in to. A larger kit would be an unnecessary outgoing for their operation at this moment in time according to Lee. They use manual vacuum tools to draw the fuel out. Economically the set up costs are less than a car breakers yard; fewer specialist tools are required to dismantle motorcycles compared to cars.
He said an advantage to setting up a motorcycle breakers other than the costs, is that less space is required. They can fit a fully dismantled motorcycle in to four storage boxes, whereas a car would require 2-4 intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) and a shelf for the engine alone. Logistically, motorcycle parts can be posted out by a local delivery service rather than using pallet companies.
They don’t use software, everything is stored and because he started the business from scratch, all parts have been labelled from day one so they know where everything is without the need for any software. There’s a basic tag for each item which is then allocated to a specific area. He said that software isn’t required at their site at this point of the business. They are happy with the labelling system they’ve got and it works well for them especially as they are not a huge site. Parts can be located on the site within minutes rather than having to go through a barcoding process to source where the parts are.
Currently they stock 426 motorcycles which have been broken down for parts and a further 50-60 motorcycles waiting to be broken down. Their weekly output is around 5-6 motorcycles, which are then listed on eBay and their website.
All staff members are bikers which helps when it comes to customer queries about specific motorcycle parts. They have repeat customers, especially when they are enquiring about a particular motorcycle they need a part for. They are always the first port of call for their old customers and they will try to accommodate where possible. Lee said they offer a “personal touch”, something he believes is achieved because they are a small operation. He wants to keep his customers happy so that they return and recommend them to others.
As for where their motorcycles are coming from, Lee told us that a number of motorcycles come through a contract they have with the local authorities. They also deal with an insurance salvage group online and most of their high end motorcycles come via this route. They also buy direct from customers who have crashed their motorcycles.
As far as categorisation is concerned, only category N and B apply to them. There are more cat Bs about now since the recategorisation but fortunately, so far they haven’t faced any problems with this.
Motorcycles are broken on site, Cat B frames are destroyed; cut up and put in the relevant metal skip for a local metal salvage company to collect and weigh in for them. Around 20 frames a month are disposed of in this way.
We asked Lee what makes his business a success. He told us he is passionate about what he does, he has “a never give-up attitude”. Though he is not content with being a small operation, he wants it to grow, something which will take hard work and time but something which he is prepared to do. He said “having good, positive people around you is paramount to success”.
He has already begun his campaign to grow through advertising for high-end salvage and so far they’ve had some good feedback and are working with some larger companies who are happy working with them, purchasing the motorcycles from their yards as they see them as an inconvenience.
He told us that they have reached out to become collectors through insurance companies but as their operation doesn’t collect all vehicle types, they haven’t yet been successful in agreeing terms. It seems that car yards end up with motorcycles even though some see them as an inconvenience.
Lee is keen to build the business and finding new contacts is the way to go. They offer a good service. Their driver is on the road everyday and can collect a motorcycle within two days anywhere in the country. He told us he was offered a contract of 50 motorcycles a week but they are not quite ready to take on this amount just yet but this is his goal in the future. Ultimately he is looking to build his business through good contacts offering high-end salvage.
We asked if he faced any problems in the industry. He told us: “Sourcing a steady feed of good quality motorcycles is becoming more difficult as we grow as a business” He said “4 to 5 years ago this wasn’t a problem, but overtime we have noticed that they are getting harder to come by.”
Lee said that motorcycles will eventually go in the same direction as cars as far as electric goes. Already some electric alternatives can be seen in motorcycles such as the Moto E. It’s just a matter of time until it becomes the norm.
Visit Cheshire Bike Breakers at www.cheshirebikebreakers.com