News Feature

Servicing the Moto Enthusiast Niche: Profile on A & J Cycles NY



October 23, 2017 | Rahoul Ghose

a & j cycles | rahoul ghose photos

While dealer service departments definitely serve their purpose, those of us with highly modded bikes – one-offs if you will – look for a more personal level of moto care.

When I lived in Los Angeles my go-to mechanics, Sasan Pirouzgar and Sean Stevenson at MetrikMoto – both bike enthusiasts, racers and former dealer wrenchers – literally treated my bike like it was their own. Moreover, when the bike went in for parts upgrades and regular maintenance, it was a chance to watch and learn … even help. For the unapologetic do-it-yourselfer there’s something special and highly valuable in that sort of interaction.

Now on the East Coast, my 2010 EFI Triumph Thruxton has found another similar setup at Brian Ballard’s A&J Cycles, a small shop in Hillburn, NY, about 30 minutes from New York City.

Ballard, who’s been involved in riding, servicing and building motorcycles since his teenage years, started A&J almost 10 years ago, selling moto parts online.

“Three years ago, we narrowed our focus to Triumph and other modern classic bikes as well as vintage bikes,” Ballard says. “Our personal bikes are pretty modified and we always had customers asking if we would work on their bikes too. So, we opened our shop in January of this year with the help of my wife, brother-in-law Rob (Salle), and good friend (and Lincoln Tech graduate) Danny (Hart).”

Ballard added from the outset he wanted A&J Cycles to be a niche shop that focused more on the customization side of the market rather than the maintenance side.

“Being a part-time shop, we felt there was a bigger need for that aspect of the motorcycle market rather than just basic service and maintenance. We also get to showcase the parts side of our business to our customers. That being said, we still do routine maintenance and have installed way more tires than we ever expected.”

The 40-year-old native New Yorker – born in Suffern – says the retail location meets a need in the community for a shop where customers can see top-end aftermarket parts first hand, before purchase and install.

“This really sets us apart from other shops in the area, being that we are a stocking dealer for Motogadget, Rizoma, Motone, British Customs, Free Spirits and many other product lines. We have done a pretty good job at sticking to our vision. We have had some bumps along the way with some larger projects we took on during the peak riding season. But overall I feel we do our best to make our customers happy.”

aftermarket parts display | rahoul ghose photo
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  Being a part-time shop, we felt there was a bigger need for that aspect of the motorcycle market rather than just basic service and maintenance. We also get to showcase the parts side of our business to our customers. That being said, we still do routine maintenance and have installed way more tires than we ever expected.  

-- Brian Ballard, A & J Cycles
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Today’s install is a fairly simple addition if the time is taken to do it right. As with most Triumph Modern Classics owners, the annoyance of signal lights that don’t self-cancel is something I just deal with, sometimes with anger, sometimes with knowing embarrassment. Ultimately, in a city environment which already puts two-wheeled commuters at risk, riding unknowingly with a blinker light on sends out mixed signals to the drivers around you ... cautionary pun fully intended.

Ballard’s recommendation is a fairly new solution on the market, the Safer Turn STS Self-Cancelling Turn Signal Module (more info), which retails for about $159.99 and requires about two hours install time.

The Smart Turn System cancels your turn signals after recognized maneuvers are completed – lane changes, right or left turns, overtaking vehicles, and even after exiting roundabouts (on the rare occasion when you encounter them in the states).

The system does not work based on a timed response or brake lever release. Rather, the STS unit gathers 300 data elements per second on a motorcycle’s inclination, heading, acceleration and vibrations. State of the art technology and advanced algorithms, capable of detecting every maneuver, cancel the turn signals only when needed, and according to road rules.

The STS even recognizes when the vehicle is stationary and will not cancel the turn-signal. As a backup precaution, if the STS does not recognize a maneuver, an in-built timer will cancel the turn-signal after 15 seconds of driving.

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Specifications: Safer Turn STS Self-Cancelling Turn Signal Module

Unit dimensions: 32x32x45 mm
Unit weight: 155 g
Housing: Aluminum
Power supply: 12 VDC
Consumption: 250 mW
Cable length: 50 cm
Doesn’t drain the battery
Protection against electric shocks
Doesn’t affect motorcycle electronics
Designed and made in EU
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Out of the box the STS includes a controller unit housed in a water, dust and heat resistant aluminum casing, a short wiring loom to connect the unit to the signal light wiring and power supply, and some foam inserts for placement in the signal switch; these allow the signal mechanism to be activated but stops it from staying on indefinitely without the physical mechanism being switched off by the rider.

Ballard says the unit will work with all signal lights whether they’re standard bulbs or aftermarket LED units requiring resistors to function properly. The system also works with brake flashing units which pulse the brake light when the front lever or rear foot paddle are activated.

The install process involves locating and patching into the appropriate wires on the switch wiring loom and inserting the supplied foams into the turn signal switch. This means removing the front headlamp to access the wires, and in this case, cutting into the circuit and installing bullet connectors. As the wiring off the STS unit is quite short, having a shop like A&J do the install gives you the option of having them create an extension to the wiring loom, which can be connected in the headlight bucket with bullet connectors, and run – under the gas tank (about four feet) – to the space under the seat where the STS can be mounted facing forward, levelled and, most importantly, in a hidden location. The shop's experience is also essential when it comes to modifying the physical signal switch as my 2010 Thruxton features a different mechanical setup than newer Triumphs they have worked on. Mine, as it turns out, requires the removal of springs in the system, and the use of the larger of two foam button options provided in the product's box, for the switch to work as intended.

a & j cycles | rahoul ghose photos

Ballard says local, independent shops serve a key purpose in the moto community, offering a level of service larger operations can’t provide. Case in point, while my bike is there, he and his brother-in-law also complete a rear shock swap and setup on a Triumph Sweet Twin, an emergency rewiring on a second Street Twin's aftermarket tail light, signal light replacements on an older Thruxton, and the install of new, tubeless, carbon fiber spoked rims tires on a Ducati Sport Classic. This all happens while a steady stream of regulars drop by to simply say 'hi' and and catch up on the latest parts offerings.

“We come at the industry with a different perspective … we work on motorcycles because we enjoy it, not because it is our job,” he says, as we wrap up the STS install. “We all have full time jobs during the day, but motorcycles are where our passion is. A lot of our customers like the fact that we will work on their bikes while they wait, and then can go for a nice ride afterwards in nearby Harriman State Park. Our night and weekend hours are also a perk customers have pointed out. We know our limitations and have great relationships with other local shops in the area that we refer work to.”

What’s next for Thruxton999, a bike that has already see its fair share of mods? Ballard says you can’t go wrong with lighting improvements, especially on the Modern Classic bikes Triumph offers.

“We have upgraded the lighting on quite a few customer bikes - from installing the LED headlight upgrade from Motodemic, to fitting multifunction turn signals on the rear to increase visibility. This seems to be one of the more popular mods. We do a lot of modifications on 2001-and-up Triumphs, which coincides with our online market.”

Ballard adds he is thoroughly impressed with the quality of high end lighting products currently available.

brian ballard's custom thruxton | rahoul ghose photo
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  We come at the industry with a different perspective … we work on motorcycles because we enjoy it, not because it is our job. We all have full time jobs during the day, but motorcycles are where our passion is. A lot of our customers like the fact that we will work on their bikes while they wait, and then can go for a nice ride afterwards in nearby Harriman State Park.   

-- Brian Ballard, A & J Cycles
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“Between Rizoma and Hightech Speed, we offer multifunction turn signals that serve as turn signals, running lamps and brake lamps. They are super bright and super high quality.”

Ballard’s own ride, a 2007 Triumph Thruxton, has been a labor of love in itself, and a showcase for what can be done with aftermarket parts and a vision.

“I obtained the bike in a trade when my wife became pregnant with our first child. Over the past seven years I have pretty much modified every aspect of the bike from a wide wheel kit, shaving the frame, GSXR Fork swap, and custom paint … the list goes on. But my absolute favorite mod is the Keihin FCR 39 MM flat slide carbs I installed.”

“We can install any of the accessories we sell, or handle your larger projects such as rewiring your bike with a Motogadget M-unit, or turning your bike into a brat, scrambler or cafe racer. Whether it is a vintage bike or brand new, off the showroom, we will work with you to build the bike that you really want.”

Upgrade services include: Inverted Front End Swaps, Hoop Installs, M-Unit Installs, Brake Upgrades, Fabrication, Motogadget Gauge Installs, Exhaust Installs, Complete Builds, Fender Eliminator Kits, Tire Installs, Powdercoating/Painting, Tuning/Dyno Services, Professional Detailing ... and even getting your 40-year-old bike running again.

Thruxton999 heads back to Brooklyn around 3 PM - after lunch at Rhodes North Tavern in Sloatsburg with riding friends - taking the long route around to view some of the changing autumn colors along Seven Lakes Road.

Signaling lane changes and turns honestly seems much less of headache with the new STS unit installed. My forgetfulness in switching the indicators off at the best of times is now rewarded with an auto switch off. Makes you wonder why this isn't an OEM feature on all bikes. As a bonus, the STS even puts on a minor signal light show when you start up the bike ... just to let you know it's operating properly.

The 'modern' in Modern Classic is finally complete.

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A & J Cycles is located across the street from the Mt. Fuji restaurant entrance on old Route 17, five minutes from Rhodes Tavern and the entrance to Harriman State Park / 7 Lakes Drive. They are open Thursdays from 5 to 10 PM and Saturdays from 7 AM to Noon. Call 845.369.4000 or email info@ajcyclesny.com to schedule an appointment. Labor rate for the fully insured shop is $85/hour, though flat rates are available for larger projects. Pick up and drop off bike services are also available.

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Editor's Note: Brian Ballard will be joining the NYC Motorcyclist team as a monthly columnist soon, offering readers his unique brand of moto tech advice.

Comments

  • Very nice article about a great shop!!!

    @nycguzzi
  • I am quite impressed by the STS self-canceling turn signal. They were recommended by A&J Cycle aka Brian Ballard. Excellent workmanship and attention to detail when installing on my Thruxton R.

    Vir Sangha

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