Hot or rot?
Can barn-find bikes be brilliant bargains?
When winter blows, and Jack Frost nips at one’s toes, the sensible motorcyclist’s thoughts turn to the Winter Project. In our mind’s eye we see ourselves unearthing some unknown treasure, invariably called a ‘barn find’ by the seller, even if it’s in the city centre and the nearest so-called barn is a shed at the local kids’ petting zoo. You’d think London was the American Prairie, there seem to be so many barns in it.
And we dream of what our project will look like when it’s finished, in the spring. The cynosure of all eyes; the envy of our friends. Of course, it rarely works out like that. I have a brace of Suzuki TS250ERS (one complete and running, the other neither of these things), and the project’s been stalled for five years.
So I thought it would be instructive to see what so-called projects are out there. Almost all projects are old classics. Even they raised my eyebrows. Would you pay £5700 for a seized and slightly foxed 1967 Lambretta? Somebody did. Someone else spanked only £500 less on an old T120R Bonneville in bits. That was described as a ‘barn find’, as it happens.
Modern(ish) bikes are exceedingly rare, apart from damaged repairables. Four grand for a Gold Wing 1800, 176,000 miles up, imported from the US? No thanks. A 2004 FJR1300 that was overheating as the fan didn’t kick in, plus a few scabs and scars, was somebody’s for £1600 – not bad if you have the tools, time and experience to fix it. A Triumph Sprint ST 1050 looked good for £1200, but the oil leak “round the filter and sump plug” sounded ominous.
Remember this: the real reason why a bike is being sold as a project is because someone else has worked out that it’s too hard and/or expensive to fix. Avoid.
‘Barn find,’ you say? Where’s the nearest cashpoint?