FOR BUYING A USED BIKE
Thinking of buying a used bike? Here’s how to avoid getting stung…
W e’ve all lusted after bikes we couldn’t afford, but the great thing about patience, and that price slashing thing called depreciation, is eventually unachievable purchases become much, much more achievable.
But before you let your excitement get the better of you, and you hand a wedge of cash over to an unknown seller, take a good few seconds to weigh up the bike in front of you and work out if it really is the dream purchase you’ve been lusting after, because, frankly, you’re pretty knackered if it’s not the bike you thought it was. Buying used is a process that should be treated with finite caution to ensure you’re not being caught out, and to help you with that process we’ve come up with 10 expert-inspired steps to see you don’t get your pants pulled down…
1 Do the legwork
Once you have decided on the model of bike you want, spend a few evenings doing a bit of background research. Get on a dedicated forum and check for reoccurring issues so that you know what faults you may need to watch out for. Forum users are often very knowledgeable and more than willing to help, so stick a post up asking the question. Then research the actual bike. Was the bike updated? Has it been recalled? Ensure you know as much as possible so you can be 100% certain it is the bike for you, and then write a checklist of issues to look for. Now it’s time to start looking for the bike.
2 Be patient
Buying a bike is exciting and it is all too easy to get carried away and throw cash at the first one that pops up. There are hundreds of bikes for sale so there is no rush. Spend a few days checking the classified ads to get a rough idea on the bike’s market value so you know if the one you eventually decide to view is under or over priced.
Be picky and also look very carefully at what the bike comes with. Accessories always cost more to buy new than they are worth used, so if you want panniers buy a bike with them already fitted. But remember that while a race can sounds ace and a tail tidy cleans up the rear end, the MOT man may not be as appreciative.
If possible insist on getting any original equipment, especially the exhaust, included in the sale. Once you are happy you have selected the bike, it’s time to act.
Call the seller, ask as many questions as possible and only when you are 100% happy this is the bike for you, organise a meeting.
3 Bring a friend
Buying a bike is exciting and it is very easy to get carried away in the moment, so ask a mate to come along with you. Tell him he is there to be impartial and be the voice of reason. They don’t need to know about the bike, that’s your job, you have done the research, but they are there as a calming influence. Get them to come with you when you view the bike and listen to what they say.
4 Arranging the viewing
Some sellers are nervous about inviting people around to their house, which is understandable. If the seller asks to meet you at a public location this is okay, but never actually complete the deal there, just view the bike. Never, ever, view a bike in the dark or in the rain if it is outside, you will be rushing to get dry and you will miss any issues. And give yourself plenty of time, don’t try and cram it into your thirty-minute lunch break!
5 Visually inspecting the bike
Take your time looking at the bike, run through the checklist of things that your research has highlighted and ask the seller questions. Does he have any service history? How long has he owned it? What’s it like to insure? Take a torch with you to look in the bike’s recesses for signs of oil leaks. Be thorough and detailed and look for the visual clues that hint at the bike’s past. Are the hero blobs scraped? Do the tyres have chickenstrips? Is there any crash damage? Is it an aftermarket fairing?
And ask your friend what they think – and listen to their opinion, that’s what they are there for! If you are at all unsure, now is the time to talk away.
6 Mechanical check
Spotting major mechanical issues is tricky, however before starting the bike ensure it is cold as a pre-warmed bike may not smoke while a cold one will. Listen to the starter (especially on a V-twin) as that may hint at a damaged sprag clutch and when it is ticking over listen out for the rattle of a cam chain tensioner on its way out.
Look for oil leaks, blip the throttle a few times to see if it responds crisply and check the exhaust valve is opening and shutting. Now, with the motor off, go over the suspension for oil leaks (wipe a bit of paper cloth around the seals), check the bearings for play and ensure the suspension linkages aren’t seized, that the brake calipers aren’t sticking and that the discs aren’t warped.
If the bike has an alarm or immobiliser, ask if the owner has the red ‘master’ key (especially on Yamaha models) and ensure the tyres and chain/sprockets have a bit of life left in them. If all is well, it is time to move on to the paperwork.
7 Owner check
Check the address and name on the logbook match the owner’s name and address and ask for his ID. The excuse ‘I’m selling it for a mate’ should make alarm bells start to ring – walk away.
Check the engine and frame number match the logbook and don’t look like they have been tampered with and inspect the bike’s service history. A file stuffed full of receipts is a very good sign, a total lack of service history is a worry. Remember, you don’t know the seller from Adam, so go with your gut, if something feels wrong then it probably is.
Again, confirm with your mate that you are doing the right thing and if you are both happy, then it’s time to get serious…
There’s lots of temptations in the used market, but think carefully before you hand over your dough.
If a seller rocks up with a bike in a van, there’s a good chance something’s not right.
Check engine and frame numbers correspond.
Look for rust in the tanks.
Scuffed fork legs are much harder to disguise.