The outside of a motorbike engine seen up close near the exhaust

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Time For A Change

Post Received 6 July 2021

By Ian Douglas

Are you any good at buying and selling motorbikes? Past performance shows that I lose out every time, but I meet bikers who gleefully tell of machines that they sold on at a profit. You must have to have a good eye for a bargain, not spend overmuch on anything while you own it, be a competent mechanic, be patient enough to wait for the right buyer and a poker face at negotiating. 

Usually when I have sold I have, for some reason, fallen out of love with that bike and simply want rid of it in order to move on. Conversely, I tend to find it difficult to find a particular motorbike that I want within reasonable range of our home, so I can end up going through dealers who offer transportation arrangements.

Private purchases are a potential minefield. You inspect the bike of course but to some extent you assess the person who is selling. You might ask the reason for the sale but are they levelling with you or is there an ulterior motive? I have not followed up promising advertisements because their tale did not appear to tally. 

It does not help that often as not the vendor will decline to let you have a ride whereas dealers tend to accept that buyers like to try before purchasing. I think you need to run through the gears and test the brakes. People are asking an awful lot for certain old motorbikes these days but, of course, the market decides prices. If you want one badly enough you can become caught up in this inflationary spiral.

A cartoon of a rider viewing a private bike with all the pitfalls in text boxes

But why get involved in this torrid business if you do not have to? A member of the owner’s group for my bike has had his machine for ages. It has now done 250K miles. He has been looking at other bikes on the assumption that his will soon become uneconomic to repair but it keeps going. He says it has seen him through a divorce, five girlfriends and now his new partner. 

It is a natural thing to want a change of motorbike but if you can resist the itch then it might save you a whole wad of cash. However, I'm incorrigible. It's this game we are in, it is our hobby, we need to shop and mix things up to some extent to keep our interest bubbling away. 

If you are determined to buy then the preferred route is surely to purchase a motorbike in the best condition possible. Do up a tatty bike and the prospect of coming across hidden nasties can increase. Plus, when it is restored, the remaining original parts probably will not be as nice as if you had gone down the other road. 

Tatty bikes are potential money pits, projects tend to remain projects, and do you really want to wait before you can get your ‘new’ used bike on the road?  Restored machines are another doubtful area, how competent was the restorer? Too bad to find yourself undoing and redoing work that seemed fine.   
Another thing is that you generally get used to any bike so a fresh machine can seem a desirable upgrade as it brings something different but then, in the fullness of time, you become used to that. Every bike appears to have its positives and negatives, sometimes you genuinely can no longer live with one of those minuses so you must either modify the machine or ditch it for another. It is a tangled web. It is also a strange phenomenon, how many times have you heard a biker bemoan a motorcycle that they sold and now profoundly regrets selling? I have been there myself although, at the time, there seemed to be compelling reasons.

Cartoon dad looks at buying a motorcycle while the rest of the family wants to spend money on other things

Retirement can take a bit of getting used to, you miss that everyday contact. Superimpose lock-down and life got even more isolated. It's times like this that the mind can wander into possible new purchase territory. 

I took to looking at videos, specifications, reviews and Facebook groups for those models that I had long held a fondness for. I studied advertisements, made enquiries, both viewed and had a ride on some but none suited. At last, I found something I liked at the right price, it is a case of getting back into the current market which seems to subtly change. I shouldn't have bought another machine but somehow I feel I need a treat after the lockdown blues.

Share your own motorcycle trading musings - click here.

Reader's Comments

Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Sharon and I know a chap who (allegedly) ALWAYS makes money on every bike he buys and sells. I've never made a profit on anything, let alone a motorcycle. I don't suppose it helps if I buy it with 10,000 miles and keep it until it has 70,000 miles on it though.

Bikes I've regretted selling? None really because by the time I've done with them they're pretty much dead.
20/07/2021 09:26:25 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
I'll await the second installment with bated breath.
20/07/2021 13:18:20 UTC
Bogger said :-
I'm always trawling the internet for bikes I fancy.

If I type in a certain model of bike on Ebay, for instance, it obviously brings up a list of bikes for sale.
The first thing I look for on the images is not the bike, but how neat/tidy/clean/well kept is the garden/garage/house.

If they can't be bothered to look after the aformentioned, they certainly will not look after the bike.

Crap garden? next bike please.

20/07/2021 18:52:30 UTC
ian said :-
good comments - had not thought of a sequel, good idea. yes checking environment is a useful clue.
20/07/2021 20:56:42 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Jeeeez, best not try selling a bike from my place then.
20/07/2021 21:37:28 UTC
Bogger said :-
Just take the images at Sharons place LOL.

21/07/2021 09:34:51 UTC
RobEll said :-
I've had a run of buying, selling & trading in bikes this past lockdown. Now I'm sure and certain that I'm finally happy with the bike I've chosen, 100%, no questions whatsoever... hopefully. I recently traded the CB500F for a bargain of a Tracer 700, Which turned out to be the GT model, neither I nor the dealer seemed to know until he lugged out two heavy AF Yamaha side panniers! I do believe they might have undervalued it a tad bit so I'm a happy camper. I still must've lost well over £2k on bike parts and downpayments on three bikes over that time so I can't afford another bike unless I sell some organs. It's been two months and I love it. It's upright, tall with good wind protection and punchy enough to get me into trouble. Handling is less precise and quick to turn in than my old SV650S but it only gets a bit vague over the worst of country roads. I'm certainly no Joey Dunlop so the 'better' handling was lost on me anyhow. One day I might even clean it and post a photo of it too. Ha! I'll never really clean it.
21/07/2021 21:23:13 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I keep on repeating myself endlessly but... that MT07 motor (the same as your Tracer 700) is an absolute peach. Go on RobEll, show us ya wheels.
22/07/2021 08:58:04 UTC

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