Be­fore you in­vest in an ac­tual clas­sic …

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - DRIES VAN DER WALT

CAPE TOWN — Retro bikes have be­come very pop­u­lar lately and many man­u­fac­tur­ers have a retro of­fer­ing in their line-up.

But what if you want to go the whole nine yards — buy an ac­tual clas­sic rather than a mod­ern bike made to look old?

If you plan to ven­ture into the world of clas­sics for the first time, there are a few things you need to con­sider.

One of the first is to de­cide what you want to buy, not just brand and model, but also age. As a rule, the older the bike, the rarer and more ex­pen­sive the spares will be.

Lim­ited-pro­duc­tion ex­otics may be more valu­able than mass-pro­duc­tion ma­chines, but spares for those may be much harder to come by.

For your first clas­sic it is a good idea not to go too old or rare. The late six­ties and the sev­en­ties are good pe­ri­ods for a first clas­sic.

An ex­pert in your own right

Once you have de­cided what you want, be­come an ex­pert. Read ev­ery­thing you can find on the spe­cific bike and chat to mem­bers of fo­rums or own­ers’ clubs ded­i­cated to the model.

There are many un­scrupu­lous sell­ers out there and hav­ing good back­ground knowl­edge will help pre­vent you from buy­ing a lemon.

Be­com­ing a mem­ber of an own­ers’ club is also a good idea, as it will help you source spares and re­solve tech­ni­cal prob­lems once you have bought your clas­sic.

For a first-timer it is al­most al­ways bet­ter to buy a com­plete, run­ning bike rather than one that needs mas­sive restora­tion. As with any sec­ond-hand bike, care­fully check out the bike’s me­chan­i­cal and struc­tural in­tegrity, and have a po­lice check done to en­sure that you don’t in­ad­ver­tently buy a stolen bike and risk for­feit­ing your in­vest­ment.

Re­mem­ber that many clas­sics are more main­te­nance in­ten­sive than mod­ern bikes, but the hands-on na­ture of own­ing a clas­sic is part of the ap­peal. Older bikes are usu­ally eas­ier to work on than their mod­ern coun­ter­parts and get­ting to know your clas­sic in­side out is a re­ward­ing part of own­ing one.

Mo­tor­cy­cles don’t take well to just stand­ing, and when you own a clas­sic much of the ex­pe­ri­ence is in ac­tu­ally rid­ing it. I (and I as­sume many other rid­ers) love the feel of an older bike. To me, they seem to have more char­ac­ter than many mod­ern ma­chines. That said, there are safety con­sid­er­a­tions to bear in mind when rid­ing a clas­sic.

Know what you’re buy­ing

While older bikes have much less per­for­mance than their mod­ern coun­ter­parts, they lag even fur­ther be­hind in terms of brak­ing and han­dling. You also don’t have the ad­di­tional safety net of mod­ern elec­tronic rider aids such as ABS and trac­tion con­trol. Take the time to fa­mil­iarise your­self thor­oughly with your clas­sic’s han­dling, brak­ing, bal­ance and per­for­mance be­fore you do any kind of spir­ited rid­ing.

As men­tioned be­fore, main­te­nance is an im­por­tant part of own­ing a clas­sic, and sooner or later you will need to find spares. Some of the big­ger own­ers’ clubs have their own sup­pli­ers of parts and even com­mis­sion the re­man­u­fac­ture of hard-to-find spares, so join­ing one of them might be worth much more than the mem­ber­ship dues.

Al­ter­na­tively, take ad­van­tage of the ease of find­ing and im­port­ing things via the In­ter­net. This has the ad­van­tage of al­low­ing you to source spares from re­gions with cli­mates that have been kind to the old stuff.

Lastly, a vi­brant in­dus­try has grown from sup­ply­ing the clas­sic mo­tor­cy­cle in­dus­try. There are spe­cial­ist sup­pli­ers that have a good se­lec­tion of re­man­u­fac­tured and re­place­ment parts for many pop­u­lar mod­els of older bikes to make your spares buy­ing a lot eas­ier.

Own­ing a clas­sic can be ei­ther ex­tremely re­ward­ing or ex­tremely frus­trat­ing — which ex­pe­ri­ence you will be in for will de­pend on the level-head­ed­ness with which you ap­proach it.

If you do de­cide to take the plunge and buy your first clas­sic, here’s to hop­ing it will bring you many years of pride and joy. — Wheels24.

PHOTO: MBIKE.COM

A bike from the sev­en­ties, like this 1977 Kawasaki Z1-R, is ideal for the clas­sic rider who wants a bike that is easy to main­tain.

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