1. Do your research
It goes without saying, but research is a lot more than simply knowing how much a low-kay clean example of the model you’re looking at is worth. It’s worth finding out the model’s idiosyncrasies, what’s likely to go wrong with it, if it was subject to any recalls, thing like that – forums are a good place to trawl for this information. Good researchers will know the replacement price of the model’s consumables, too, like tyres, oil and air filters and chain and sprockets. All of this will be invaluable if and when it comes time to negotiate the price.
2. Study the photographs
You’ll generally find the photographs posted online depict a motorcycle in slightly better condition than the one you inspect. But if the photographs in the classifieds reveal a broken lever, for example, or worn tyres, or even a deep scratch in one of the fairing panels, get a price for the replacement part if and when it comes time to negotiate the price.
3. Check its history
Before you even bother spending half the day travelling to and inspecting the motorcycle, plug its numbers into Bikesales’ sister website www.bikefacts.com.au. This will tell you if it’s still got money owing on it, and it’s debt you’ll ultimately acquire if you agree to buy it before you check.
4. Feel the cases
When you turn up to inspect the bike, put your hands on the engine cases and feel if they’re warm. If they are, the seller has warmed the bike up before you’ve arrived and it might mean he or she is trying to hide something. Ask them, their response when you put them on the spot should indicate if it was for the wrong reasons. It’s even a good idea to ask the seller not to start bike before you arrive, so you’ll be able to know if it likes being started from cold and if it has any untoward noises or tell-tale signs.
5. Does it all line up?
It’s easy to tell whether a bike is straight, and therefore has had a relatively easy life, when you know what you’re looking for. If the doesn’t have a centre stand, look around the shed and see if there’s a paddock stand and ask the seller to put it up on it. Stand back and crouch down: do the wheels line up? Is the rear wheel centred in the swingarm? Are the forks parallel? Spin the wheels to make sure they’re true and not buckled. Check for any tight spots in the chain, and while you’re there, be sure to a look at the condition of the sprockets.
A set of decent tyres for a sportsbike is going to set you back at least $500, so be sure to take the time to check the condition. As well as the tread depth, check for cracks and signs of age. Often if the bike’s been unused for a couple of years, the tyres might look like they’ve still got life in them but they’ve hardened to the point of needing replacing. If you’ve done your research you already know what a tyre for the bike is going to cost, so use it to leverage your negotiation process.
7. Ride it
Before you negotiate, if it’s registered and if you feel comfortable, take for a squirt around the block. A blocky isn’t going to tell you a great deal, but it’s going to reveal any big mechanical issues fairly quickly, like malfunctioning brakes, gearbox issues, a sticking clutch or a sloppy steering head. And, most importantly, if you actually like riding it! And before you leave the driveway, be sure to agree on a solution in the unlikely event that you don’t bring the bike back in one piece.
8. Take a torch
Don’t worry about looking like a nerd. It’s handy for checking for rust in the tank and inspecting things like tread depth and the condition of the chain and sprockets — especially if you’re in the corner of a dark garage. It’s worth slipping a screwdriver in your back pocket, too. You can dip it into the oil filler cap and see the condition of the engine oil. If it’s black and thick, chances are it hasn’t been very well looked after. A transparent oil is good oil.
9. Books and battery?
Be sure to check the service history, enquire as to the location of the original owner’s manual and check under the seat to see if the original tool kit is still there. While the seat’s off, cast an eye over the battery and look for any corrosion or signs that it might be up for a new one soon.
10. Know your budget and be prepared to walk away
This is the most important and probably the hardest thing of all. Before you leave home, know what you’re prepared to pay, and stand form and ensure you don’t get caught up in the excitement of a potential new bike. Be confident in your research and your reasons behind your negotiation and if you can’t agree on a price, walk away. Your patience will pay off.