Thursday, April 19, 2012

Passenger Car Motor Oils and Motorcycles: Dangerous When Mixed


Written By: Castrol Motor Oils

When it comes to questions about motorcycle oils, this is the one consumers ask us the most frequently: “Can I use the same motor oil in my motorcycle as I use in my car?”  Seems reasonable right?  Both have engines that require lubrication and both passenger car and motorcycle oil share some common grades like 10W-40 and 20W-50.  So, what do we tell them?  Absolutely not.  Why you ask?   

The key point of difference can be summed up in two words “common sump,” (maybe I should have said “sumped up in two words?”)  Motorcycles typically have one, while passenger cars do not.  So what does this have to do with the fluid?  Simple.  A common sump indicates that the lubricant needed to protect vital components in a bike’s engine, gearbox and clutch are contained in one place.  Since the fluid is stored in one place, it would stand to reason that there is only one fluid.  On the other hand, a passenger car has multiple sumps and thus require multiple fluids (transmission fluid, gear oils, etc.) to protect the same vital components.  So, critical  components for motorcycles are lubricated with a single fluid, while passenger cars require multiple fluids to protect the same components.

Although motorcycle oils and passenger car motor oil are similar in their composition, the additive packages are balanced differently due to the type of performance and protection they must provide.  Since motorcycle oils are lubricating three different components with a single fluid, they require a highly engineered additive package to address the unique requirements of each component.  A typical passenger car oil only has to provide protection and performance for the engine of which fuel economy and emission system protection are the key priorities. As such, passenger car oils include friction modifying additives which reduce friction in specific areas of the engine such as the valve train and piston ring/cylinder.  The reduction in friction yields fuel economy improvement.  Also, passenger car oil contains lower levels of Phosphorus and Zinc.  Both of these ingredients must be controlled to adequately protect the vehicles emission system.

Since a motorcycle is inherently more fuel efficient than a passenger car and fuel economy is not as important to the consumer, motorcycle oils do not require the use of friction modifiers.  In fact, friction modifiers can affect wet clutch performance.  “Wet clutch” simply means that the motorcycle’s clutch is immersed in oil.  Should a clutch be immersed in an oil that includes friction modifiers (like a typical passenger car oil), these additives will be absorbed on the clutch plates and as a result, the clutch will start slipping.  This will cause a loss of power transfer to the back wheel, overheating as well as increased wear.  Motorcycle oils, which do not include friction modifiers, are specially formulated to provide the appropriate level of “grip” to the clutch plates, but still provide the protection needed to ensure proper functioning and years of reliable service to the consumer.  In short, friction modifiers are good for passenger car engines but bad for motorcycles.

The other key difference is the level of antiwear additives used in motorcycle oil versus passenger car oil.  Motorcycle oils typically require high levels of antiwear additives to provide a protective barrier, preventing metal to metal contact in the transmission gears due to the extremely high loads between the gear teeth.  Direct contact of the gear teeth can lead to scuffing or scoring of the gear teeth surfaces while vibrations typical of high revving engines promote fatigue induced damage like pitting.  Passenger car oils do not need to lubricate the transmission as there is a separate lubricant (automatic transmission fluid) charged with this task (back to the common sump concept).  So, a passenger car oil will not have a high enough level of antiwear additives to lubricate and protect a motorcycle’s gearbox.

In summary, passenger car oils include additives (friction modifiers) that are harmful to motorcycle engine components and don’t include sufficient levels of antiwear additives that your bike needs to function properly.  Formulating a motorcycle engine oil means finding the optimum balance between engine protection, clutch performance and gear protection due to a common sump. Conditions which are not considered when formulating passenger car engine oils.  So, when choosing an engine lubricant for your bike, select one that is specially formulated for motorcycles.  Your clutch and gearbox will thank you and the reward will be years of reliable service. Click here to learn more about Castrol Motorcycle Oil.





Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Touring Tip: Touring Two-Up


Part of the enjoyment of motorcycle travel is sharing the experience with others, particularly doing so with non-riding passengers who are experiencing the exhilaration of motorcycling for the first time. Whether it’s a trip around the block or a journey cross-country, it’s important for a rider to properly prepare their passenger, their motorcycle and themselves before departure. The following are the three most essential areas to plan for when touring two-up.

Passenger: Unlike riding in an automobile, the passenger on a bike should be an active participant. Passengers should: (1) wear protective gear; (2) understand how to lean with the motorcycle on turns; (3) be tall enough to reach the passenger pegs; (4) hold on to the rider’s waist or handholds on the bike; (5) avoid sudden movements; (6) keep hands and feet clear of moving and hot components; (7) avoid banging helmets with the rider when stopping and (8) stay relaxed and supple with the bike’s movements.

Motorcycle: Because the bike will be carrying more weight with a passenger, weight distribution, center of gravity, suspension, performance and handling characteristics of the motorcycle all will be affected. Considering these factors, the rider should ensure that: (1) the rear suspension preload is adjusted appropriately for the additional weight; (2) tire pressure also is adjusted for additional weight and (3) the gross vehicle weight limitations specified in the owners manual are not exceeded. And, of course, it goes without saying that the motorcycle should be designed to accommodate a passenger.

Rider: The motorcycle rider must appropriately modify his or her ridingtechnique when touring with the extra weight of a passenger, because: (1) stopping distances will increase; (2) handling will not be as crisp as riding solo; (3) passing distances will increase; (4) cornering clearances may decrease; (5) pressure on the tire’s contact patch will increase and likely reduce traction on wet or loose surfaces; (6) additional weight over the rear tire will likely increase the effectiveness of the rear brake; (7) gusty crosswinds will have more surface area to grab onto; (8) throttle and clutch response will be altered and (9) last, but certainly not least, it’s important to make sure that the passenger is comfortable with the riding pace and that their biological needs are being met. Riders generally should have at least one year of solo riding experience before transporting a passenger. They also must ensure compliance with legal requirements for passengers in the states they will be touring in, such as minimum age and necessary safety gear.

Seeing the country two-up on a motorcycle, with a special someone, can be a wonderful touring experience, but riders must make sure that the proper safety precautions are followed to provide a safe and enjoyable riding experience.


This article is published with the permission of RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel Magazine. It is not for sale or redistribution.

RoadRUNNER is a bimonthly motorcycle touring magazine packed with exciting travel articles, splendid photography, maps and GPS files. Subscriptions are available on our website, or by calling (866) 343-7623.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Like A Bike Facebook Photo Contest



In honor of the American Motorcyclist Association Get Out & Ride month, we’re holding a fan appreciation contest to giveaway five $50 gift cards to help you get out and ride this Spring. Upload a photo of your motorcycle, or one you found on CycleTrader.com for your chance to win a free tank of gas.


 Five grand prize winners will each receive a $50 gift card.
Ten second prize winners will each receive a CycleTrader prize pack





Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Touring Tip: Riding In A Proper State Of Mind


Written By:  Jim Parks, RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel

It’s been observed that operating a motorcycle is 90% mental and only 10% physical.  In addition, scientists tell us that we are not consciously aware of most of what the mind is doing in everyday life.  Do you consciously think about breathing or making your heartbeat or which foot operates your bike’s gearshift? Like an iceberg, some 90% of the brain’s activity is taking place below the conscious surface. This may fly in the face of some historic perceptions of motorcyclists as brawny he-men muscling heavyweight cruiser-type bikes down the road.

The predominance of an expert rider’s mind, over his or her physical strength, was never made more clear to me than during a track school day.  The students were overwhelmingly males, riding large displacement bikes.  They would streak down the track’s straightaway at warp speed, but then almost panic and brake to a near stop before entering the upcoming hairpin curve.  This was followed by them riding tentatively around the ensuing chicanes, s-curves and sweepers before again launching into rocket-mode on the straightaway.

Meanwhile, the instructors, one of which was a petite female riding a Suzuki SV650, were passing the students with such ease that the scene was almost comical.  Clearly muscle power and physical prowess were not ruling the day and, for that matter, neither was the significantly higher horsepower of the students’ mounts.  Through the course of the class, it became painfully obvious (although not in the physical sense) that superior riding skills were mostly due to mental training and focus, not bicep size.  The day ended with a cadre of humbled, but wiser and more proficient student riders.

How does this all relate to your next motorcycle tour?  The mental aspect of riding a motorcycle safely is of paramount importance, regardless of whether you’re riding to the neighborhood Starbucks or going cross-country.  I’ve organized my tips for “riding in a proper state of mind” into the following three categories:
  1. Before the Ride:  Similar to going through a mechanical checklist of your bike before riding it, perform a mental status Q & A before hitting the starter button.
  • Am I fit, relaxed and calm?  As noted above, riding a motorcycle proficiently and safely on the street requires a high degree of mental focus.  That focus will be impaired if a rider is tired, emotionally upset or mentally distracted with other pressing matters.  Make sure you’re rested and able to concentrate on the mental demands of motorcycling.
  • Have I considered the weather, road and other riding challenges I’m likely to encounter on today’s ride?  Mentally project the riding conditions you are likely to encounter during the upcoming day’s ride so you will be mentally (and physically) prepared to deal with them; this also will reduce the likelihood of you encountering unanticipated problems.  This is somewhat like an athlete envisioning a winning performance. 
  • Was the last bike I rode different than the one I’m on now?  Each motorcycle has its own unique handling and riding characteristics.  Once your subconscious mind has been programmed on one bike, it usually stays programmed for that bike, at least for a period of time.  Consequently, it’s usually wise not to ride your current mount aggressively, until the reprogramming has taken hold.
  • Am I preoccupied with thoughts other than those about today’s ride?  If your conscious mind becomes focused on something other than the ride, the important external sensory information needed for safe riding is probably being compromised.  Your subconscious mind may well know how to operate the motorcycle, but it may not be perceiving and processing possible threats, such as a stray dog running loose, debris in the road, a car entering from a driveway or a hundred other potential risks.  Sometimes, distracted riders will automatically slow down, miss a turn, blow a curve or exhibit some other warning signal that lets them know their mental focus is compromised.  If this happens to you, or you observe it in a fellow rider, it’s time to take a break and get refocused.
  • Are riding conditions distracting my concentration?  Much of our passion for riding emanates from our experiencing the surrounding environment with all five senses.  Those sensory experiences, though, can become mentally distracting if they’re too intense, usually in the form of heat or cold.  Riders also can become distracted from physical discomfort, like a full bladder, a headache or some other malady.  Riders should identify and eliminate the distraction at the earliest opportunity.  Whether it’s stopping to cool down with a cold drink, adjusting layers of clothing, using the restroom or something else, it’s important to alleviate the cause of the mental distraction. 
  1. During the Ride:  It’s important to monitor your state of mind and how it’s affecting your riding while you’re motoring along. Ask yourself these questions:

This is not to suggest, however, that riding a motorcycle will always be as comfortable as riding in an air conditioned car.  It clearly won’t be, but riders should take the actions necessary to minimize physical discomfort when that discomfort is sufficiently high enough to compromise their mental focus.  If the discomfort is moderate and not physically threatening, here’s a technique I’ve used quite successfully:  just don’t think about it!
  • Am I in “the zone”?  When someone first learns to ride a motorcycle, they have to consciously think about the actions necessary to operate their machine: let out the clutch, twist the throttle, change gears, look through the corner, push on the handlebars, properly apply braking, etc.  Before venturing out on the street, however, these actions have to be practiced and become second nature, not requiring any conscious thinking.  

To obtain a high level of riding proficiency and safety, however, motorcyclists must substantially expand and refine their basic riding skills.  There are literally hundreds of additional techniques to be learned and riders should make progress learning and mastering them every year.  Each new skill, whether it is learning how to ride through curves more effectively or adding new street survival skills for avoiding accidents, the process is always the same.  Practice the technique until performing it becomes automatic or until it has migrated from your conscious mind to your subconscious mind.  Riders always know when they’re riding with their mind, because they get that very pleasurable “Zen” or “in the zone” feeling of effortlessly flowing with the road.  If you’re not flowing with the road, figure out why.
  1. After the Ride:  To continuously improve your riding and safety skills, it’s important to answer several questions after the ride:
  • What did I do or not do today that could have led to an accidentAt the conclusion of the day’s ride, debrief yourself on whether you made decisions or took actions that increased your risk of an accident.  For example, was I riding too aggressively around several blind curves or was there a “close call” that I could have avoided?  
  • What were the lessons learned today for future rides?  After your debriefing and self-evaluation, make a mental note of any changes needed to your riding style and strategy that will make you a better and safer rider in the future.  

There’s no reason that proficient riding lessons learned have to be learned the hard way.  Use your head and ride safe.


Thursday, April 05, 2012

Touring Tip: Selecting a Touring Motorcycle


Written By: RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel

You’ve been riding locally for a while, but now want to start taking overnight trips of a much greater distance. Although any motorcycle (and many scooters) can be used for touring, some are much better for this purpose than others. Before the shopping phase of selecting a touring bike can begin, however, there are six fundamental questions you need to ask yourself:
  1. How much can I afford to spend?  In addition to the purchase price of the intended new or used bike, you also need to consider the cost of any modifications or aftermarket products needed to make the bike meet your touring needs. For example, if the intended touring bike is a standard (or naked) bike, the cost of installing an aftermarket windshield, luggage, seat, etc. should be added to the purchase price in determining how much the bike will cost.
  1. Will I be riding solo or two-upTouring with a passenger often translates into needing a more powerful bike with more carrying capacity than touring solo. As a rough guide, a two-up touring bike should have a carrying capacity (riders + gear and luggage) of at least 450 pounds. (GVWR – lbs. wet) and put out 60 hp or more.
  1. What type of roads am I likely to be touring on?  This is a key question to answer, because the answer will determine the best type of bike for your touring needs:
  • Interstate/Mostly Straight Roads: Luxury touring, cruisers, touring cruisers, standards
  • Twisty/Technical Paved Roads: Sport, sport-touring, standards, dual sports with at least 650cc.
  • Unpaved Roads: Dual sports with at least 650cc.

These are just general guidelines, because I’ve toured on gravel roads with cruisers and sport touring bikes (although not for a great distance), and I've also ridden cruisers and luxury touring bikes on technical, twisty roads and had a great time.
  1. Do I plan on camping or staying in hotels/motels?  If the intended touring bike will be carrying camping equipment, then it obviously will require greater luggage capacity than if you will be staying in accommodations with fixed walls and a roof. Also, it’s helpful for a touring bike taken on camping trips to have external hooks, grommets and other tie-down hardware for strapping-on additional gear externally.
  1. What length of trips am I likely to take, both in terms of number of miles and days?  Longer trips impact several of a bike’s key touring attributes discussed in the section below, including carrying capacity, fuel range, and comfort.
  1. What is the maximum seat height of a bike that I can ride safely?   Many touring bikes have adjustable seat heights and other bikes can be lowered an inch or so with aftermarket suspension components. Because fully loaded touring bikes are, by nature, heavy, it’s very important that riders not exceed a safe seat height for their particular inseam. 


    Answering the above questions, will give you a strong basis for evaluating the following key attributes of prospective touring motorcycles:

  1. Reliability:  The prospect of a breakdown on a lonely stretch of road far from home can be a most unpleasant experience. For this reason, a touring bike’s reliability is of paramount importance. Select a touring bike with a demonstrated reputation for reliability. If the bike under consideration is used, try to determine the care with which it has been maintained; have a qualified mechanic check it out before purchase. All other things being equal, when evaluating used bikes, less mileage is better than more.
  1. Riding Range Before Refueling:  This is somewhat dependent on what type of touring you will be doing and where you’ll be doing it. In highly populated areas, a range of 125-150 miles is probably sufficient. For more remote areas, a bike with a range of at least 175-200 miles should be selected. Auxiliary fuel tanks can extend a bike’s range, but be sure to observe proper safety precautions when transporting additional fuel on your motorcycle. For off-pavement touring in remote areas, it’s probably not possible to have too much fuel.
  1. Carrying Capacity & Type of Luggage:  Bigger bikes do not necessarily have more carrying capacity than smaller ones. Therefore, it’s important to calculate each bike’s carrying capacity by subtracting the bike’s wet weight from its GVWR. The amount of carrying capacity needed equals rider(s) weight + riding gear + luggage (and any camping gear). Also, the convenience factor of having lockable hard luggage is an important consideration in selecting a touring bike.
  1. Comfort:  A motorcycle’s long distance riding comfort often determines a rider’s level of enjoyment on a trip. Riding comfort is mainly a function of the following:
  • Wind Protection:  Because wind buffeting is more tiring during a long day of riding, and it can increase the risk of hypothermia, wind protection is clearly one of the most important considerations in selecting a touring mount. Fortunately, the aftermarket can help you accessorize rides that don’t come with adequate wind protection from the factory.
  • Suspension:  A bike with an adjustable front and rear suspension will allow riders to dial in the proper settings for the load they will be carrying. Unfortunately, many bikes have suspensions that aren’t adjustable, except possibly for preload and damping in the rear and are sprung too soft. Here again, the aftermarket can help supply solutions.
  • Seating Position:  The ideal seating position for long distance riding is for the rider to be leaned slightly forward with his or her feet positioned under their thighs. Handle bars positioned below the triple clamp and rear set foot pegs put riders in a “jockey position,” which is great for corner carving, but can be quite tiring for the wrists, arms and legs. At the other extreme, the stretched out, laid-back riding position on some cruiser bikes concentrates the rider’s weight on the tailbone, which also can become very uncomfortable on a long-distance ride.
  • Seating Support:  To help keep their motorcycles cost competitive, some manufacturers don’t provide a high quality seat with their new bikes. For multi-day riding, it’s important that a seat have firm support that’s not concentrated in one area. Even a relatively short motorcycle ride usually will reveal any shortcomings in a seat. If your stock seat doesn’t do the job for touring, aftermarket seats can provide a big improvement in long distance comfort. The best solution, however, may be a seat that is custom made both for your bike and your body.
  1. Sportiness:  There’s usually a noticeable trade-off between a bike’s sportiness and its comfort and carrying capacity. For example, a sport bike can be a lot of fun for a day of zooming over twisty tarmac, but it may not have the level of comfort and carrying capacity you need for extended trips. If you’re a young and spry sporty rider, who needs only enough luggage to carry fresh underwear, or if you’re older and much less spry, then the decision on what type of touring bike to select is probably not a difficult one. But most of us are somewhere in-between and there are sport-touring, standards, cruisers and other types of models that can meet our individual needs. And it’s worth mentioning that many of today’s larger touring bikes can be pretty agile on all but the most challenging roads. In the final analysis, though, only you can determine what the right mix of sportiness versus comfort will be for your touring expeditions.

Selecting the best bike to meet your needs, unfortunately, is made more complicated by the interactive nature of the considerations discussed above. For example the best motorcycle for your touring needs may be a luxury cruiser, but purchasing a new one may be cost prohibitive. One possible way to navigate through the selection process is to numerically rate each of the considerations. For example, estimate how likely it is that you will need extra carrying capacity for camping or riding with a passenger or how often (and how fast) you’ll be riding technical, twisty tarmac.

Don’t be overly concerned about trying to select the perfect bike to meet your motorcycle touring needs for the next 20 years, because your preferences and the motorcycling hardware offered by manufacturers will likely evolve over time. And who wants to ride the same mount for 20 years anyway?

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Shopping for a Used Motorcycle

Written By: RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel 

Buying a used motorcycle intelligently requires considerably greater effort than just walking into a showroom and selecting a new one. There are both risks and rewards with a previously owned machine. You can get far more bang for your buck, while letting the original buyer take the big depreciation loss. A used motorcycle purchase can have pitfalls though, so you’ll want to do some homework beforehand.

Before You Buy

Determine realistically what your budget is, and be sure to include money for potential repairs, tax, registration fees, and insurance. Next, choose the category of machine you’d like, such as touring, sportbike, cruiser, naked, sport-touring, or dual sport. Deciding what make, model, and year you want makes searching simpler, but it also could prevent you from finding a great deal on a comparable model.

Once you narrow down what you’re looking for, familiarize yourself with market values. There are price guides with extensive free listings, such as Kelly Blue Book and National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA). You can also get a good idea of what models are selling for by looking in large metropolitan newspapers, owner’s club magazines, and CycleTrader.com.

Research the common problems of the models you’re shopping for online (use a search engine such as Google) and by talking with enthusiasts. Some brands and models are very expensive to maintain. Before shopping, familiarize yourself with the cost of replacement parts and labor for service, such as valve adjustments on the specific model. Don’t be in a rush, and try to avoid buying the first bike you see unless it’s truly a great deal. 

Too many buyers shop strictly by lowest price. It’s easy to overlook or minimize the amount of work a bike needs and the cost of repairs. Often a more expensive bike in better condition turns out to be the best value in the long run. If you plan to ride regularly for commuting, rather than just occasionally, then a low-mileage machine may make more sense.


Inspection and Test-Ride

Before even going to look at a motorcycle, ask the seller to email some high-quality digital pictures that show overall condition and close-up details in good light. And when you’re ready to go looking, never shop after dark or in inclement weather, as you’re likely to miss issues that would be more obvious in the light of day. Also, even if you are knowledgeable about motorcycles, bring an informed friend for a second opinion. If that’s not possible, find a shop that will do a pre-purchase inspection for you, and get the seller’s permission in advance. 

When you go shopping, you’ll want your inspection to identify any signs of wear and tear from use, damage from abuse, crashes, or tip-overs, neglect from skipped maintenance, and exposure to the elements. Some of these potential problems can be determined just by looking, while others will require starting the engine and taking a test-ride.

Ask the seller not to start the bike before you arrive, as starting the bike cold will tell you more about its condition. Check the oil color: honey-colored indicates recently changed; black means old oil and neglect; white milky streaks indicate coolant is leaking into the oil; and metal flecks show major engine damage. Note how readily the engine cranks over and fires up, listen for unusual noises, and look for smoke. Blue smoke indicates oil consumption, while black smoke is from excessive fuel richness. Ask to see all service records and receipts.

Inspect the electrical system, gauges, battery, and lights. Test all accessories, lights, and switches. The sound of the starter cranking (if so equipped) is a fairly good indicator of the condition of both the battery and the starter.

On liquid-cooled bikes, check coolant level and color, but only open the radiator cap when the engine is cool. Coolant should be green, not rusty or murky brown, which is a clear sign of neglect. Oil in the coolant probably means major internal damage. Also, no coolant is very bad. 

Many sellers will let you test the bike if you ride a motorcycle there, behave seriously and responsibly, inspect the bike thoroughly first, and have the money to buy. Do a pre-ride safety check and then take it for a careful test. Feel how the clutch engages – does it chatter or slip? Does it fully release when squeezed? Also note how the transmission operates – be on the lookout for false neutrals, hard shifting, noise, and jumping out of gear. Apply the brakes and push down on the suspension, noting how it responds. Test the brakes and controls for lever response and effectiveness. Without a test ride you can’t check these items properly.

On belt-drive bikes, check the condition of the belt and pulleys. On shaft-drive bikes, look for signs of oil leakage, and listen for noise when you test ride it. If the bike has chain drive, check the condition of the chain and sprockets. When stopped, grab the chain at the rear-most point, on the rear sprocket, and pull backward. If you can pull it off the sprocket enough to expose half of a sprocket tooth or more, it’s worn out. Hooked sprocket teeth require replacement.

If the handlebar seems out of alignment with the front wheel or anything looks crooked, the bike has probably been crashed. Check for problems such as a cracked or bent frame, fork, or swingarm. Also, inspect forks and shocks for leaks, scratches, rust, and bending. Look for changed or mismatched colors, damaged handlebars, mirrors, clutch/brake levers or turn signals. Be aware of dents or scrapes in the gas tank or exhaust, and broken or cracked plastic panels (sometimes covered by stickers). Additional signs of crashing are parallel scratches on engine cases, frame, fenders, and fairings.

Plating, paint, and bright work are very expensive to replace, and corrosion can cause all sorts of problems. Faded and weathered paint, decals, seats, gauges, and windscreens, plus rust, and pitted chrome and aluminum show that a bike was left uncovered, outdoors, for long periods. Peek inside the tank with your flashlight for rust and sediment, and sniff for stale gas, which smells like old varnish. If the gas is old and the bike doesn’t run well, it’ll need a thorough fuel-system service.

Check tires for cracks, tread depth and age. Look at both sides of both wheels for dents, cracks and damaged spokes. See if they wobble when turned. Tires should be replaced after five or six years, so be sure to inspect the date code, which is indicated by the last four digits following the DOT stamp on the sidewall. The third and forth digits from the end reference the week, while the last two digits indicate the year of manufacture. For example a date code of 2409 means the 24th week of 2009. Items such as tires, batteries, chains and sprockets are readily replaced and shouldn’t be deal-breakers, but their price with labor should be deducted.

Aftermarket parts such as hop-up kits, loud racing exhausts, rubber chunks around rear tires, etc. may indicate abuse. Holes drilled through the heads of bolts for safety-wire on brake caliper bolts, exhaust, engine, or drain plugs, show it was a race bike – which likely means lots of wear and tear.

Before purchase, ask about everything related to the bike, including keys, any free or included spare parts, plus the toolkit, owner’s manual, service manual, etc. Keep notes of all the pros and cons of each bike you look at and take photographs too. List the problems you find, and then use these in negotiating a good price, if necessary.

Buyer Beware

Try to shop locally. If a used motorcycle is far away, then it’s difficult to inspect the machine prior to purchase, and it’s costly to transport it. Sellers often optimistically rate the condition of their machine, but when you inspect the bike, it may be nowhere near as good as you expected. If you’ve traveled far, the effort expended could coerce you into making a purchase.

Consider what travel expenses and/or shipping costs will add to the purchase price. If you know someone who lives near the seller, ask if s/he will inspect it for you and verify the condition before you buy it.

Any time something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Often, the reason a bike is priced inexpensively is because it has serious problems. If there aren’t mechanical issues, it may have a salvage title, which could indicate major damage, or even stolen property with forged paperwork. Also, in some states, the buyer may be left with expensive penalties and renewal fees for an expired registration.

Before money changes hands, carefully compare the VIN on the frame and engine, to the VIN on the title. Verify that there’s a clear title in the name of the seller, without any lien holders, and get a signed bill of sale. Check the mileage recorded on the title, and also note if the indicated mileage is consistent with the bike’s condition.

As for the seller, know whom you’re dealing with. Ask to see a photo driver’s license, and compare the name and address to that on the title. Get a phone number and an actual address (not a PO box number), and then verify the information. Also watch out for scams, such as when a seller asks you for a substantial deposit up front and then disappears. It may seem like a nuisance, but the effort you expend now will pay big dividends later when you’ll be enjoying the long life-span of your used bike.