Unless you plan on never riding them and only using them as show-pieces, the decision to purchase a classic motorcycle is a big one. No matter where you find classic motorcycles for sale or what you find, there are a lot of variables that affect the performance, value and reliability of each vintage machine. Here are a few things to think about before signing on any dotted lines.
Do the Research
No matter the make or model, classic motorcycles are unique to the manufacturer, use and owners they have had. To cut down on the possibility that one is a “lemon,” research the make and model and pay attention to professional and user comments or articles. Online reviews can tell a lot about whether a bike is worth investing in.
Talk to a Mechanic
Find someone that specializes either in the type of bike you are interested in or in classic bikes in general. Chances are they or someone they know has had experience with the bike make and model you are interested in; if your cycling universe is small enough, they might even have owned the bike you are ogling and can reveal if it has any quirks.
Decide How to Buy the Bike
Is a dealer the best way to go? Or should you only look at a classic motorcycle from a private seller? How about an auction? Deciding before looking can save a lot of time.
A dealer will cost more. A private seller, particularly if it is the original owner can shed a lot of light on the particulars of the bike. Auctions are probably the riskiest, but the prices can be awesome.
Kick the Tires
Don’t just eyeball classic motorcycles for sale. Test them out – on the road and through a physical inspection. Bring someone along if you can that understands bikes and will know what they are looking at. Verify the clutch, brakes (front and rear,) rotors, tires and drive belt are in good shape at the very least.
Check the Paint, Smell the Gas, Eyeball the Oil
Look for paint bubbles that indicate an underlying rust issue. If the gas has a varnish odor, the chances are very good the bike has sat for a long while. If the oil is really dark or if it has air bubbles or a brownish residue on the dipstick, it likely has water. Each of these should affect your asking price; a combo should make you think twice.
Classic motorcycles for sale can come with a lot of red flags and problems. If you are careful, though, you can avoid most issues. The key is to take your time and not base your purchase on how the bike looks, but on the evidence it is in good condition.