It is officially summer now, well in my hemisphere anyway, and I have been taking full advantage of riding in this glorious weather. After the lack of fun road time in the winter the spring has allowed me to reacquaint myself with my pride and joy. However, life moves on, things change and sometimes on a dark night after a few beers, scanning some of the on line listings, I get the feeling that maybe “life is greener on the other side of the fence”. Some of the deals you can find on line are amazing, private sellers especially so, but is it all too good to be true?
Well, if you decide to take the plunge and purchase a new toy for the rest of the summer here is a little advice to stop you getting stuck with a nail.
Registration docs are so important. They are the birth certificate of the bike and should tell you its registration number, its date of registration, its color, the engine number, the chassis number and the name and address of the registered keeper. If it is registered to a different person, then be very careful...there are reasons why this might be but get some proof to back up the story. If the bike doesn’t have the documentation or the engine or chassis number is not as recorded then walk away. Don’t believe “the docs are in the post and I will forward them to you when they arrive” story. If you really want the bike and the seller is telling you this then just say that you will conclude the sale when they arrive, then watch their reaction.
Talking about engine and frame numbers is there any sign of tampering. Are the rivets of the VIN plate in too good a condition compared to the rest of the bike and is the VIN plate itself scratched around the rivet holes? Maybe the plate was removed to powder coat the frame, but maybe also the frame was swapped for some reason, a crash for instance, or even worse the bike was stolen and has undergone an identity change. Another thing to pay attention to is the engine numbers, have they been tampered with, have they been ground out and re-stamped? Do some research, find out on line or by looking at a few of the same model bike just how the engine numbers should look and go with your gut.
Nice shiny bodywork, perfect forks, good signs of a good bike but they can all be replaced easily and cover up the fact that the bike has been in an accident and might have a twisted frame. So take a look at the lock stops for signs of impact. Yes you can replace the steering head easily enough, but those stops butt up against the frame and so any hard impact will have left some sort of sign...unless they replaced the frame but you will know that from looking at the VIN number plate won’t you?
This is one of the few stickers that actually
adds value to your bike!
On the subject of shiny paintwork, all well and good, but if it has aftermarket stickers on it ask yourself “why does it have them”? As any Star Wars fan might say, “let your feelings guide you”, and run your fingers over them. If you can feel bumps and ridges under them then chances are they are covering up a crack or some scratches. It is at this point you need to ask some questions to the seller.
Never be scared or embarrassed to really check things out thoroughly. For example, look under the bike for rotting exhausts, oil leaks and signs of neglect. Take a multi-meter along with you and check the charging. It is a lot easier to put a new battery on the bike than repair the charging system. If the charging current doesn’t increase when you rev the bike then there is a problem. Then there is the old chestnut of being suspicious of a bike that is warm when you arrive. It might start well warm but it could be another story when it is cold. Arrive early, take your time with the other checks and let it cool down as much as possible if this is the case.
This is good, if the bike is running that is!
Finally ask yourself was the advert totally truthful? Did the seller try to cover up stuff and are they still being vague or evasive in their answers? This is the information that will tell you the most about the real condition of the bike. Someone who is covering up stuff now will probably not have been the most conscientious about keeping the bike maintained.
Oh, and one last thought, if it has been for sale for some time, or it is at a real bargain price think... “Why hasn't it already sold?”
There are many bargains to be had out there, just make sure that you get one of them.