Buying Used Bikes - Rumblings

Feeling Used
Here's a tip for anyone in the market for a motorcycle, either new or especially used (assuming you know the model you're interested in): go online and subscribe to the e-mail list/bulletin board for that model-for example, five minutes on Google turned up this site boasting 810 Thunderbird Sport enthusiasts: http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/triumphthunderbirdsportriders/. Art Friedman obliquely referred to this when he mentioned the Vulcan Owners and Riders Club in his section on "Pre-owned Travelers" (Dec. 2006).

These folks can tell you about all the quirks of their chosen ride, differences between model years, mechanical gremlins and how to correct them, what problem areas to look for in a used model, what tires work best and where to get them the cheapest, etc. Heck, there are usually a few folks on the list with the mechanical expertise to field strip and reassemble these bikes blindfolded.

These lists are a great resource for finding used bikes, as members routinely scan local classifieds and post bikes they see for sale. Occasionally, a list member will sell their beloved bike, which will usually be in excellent shape. Finally, if you're considering a "long-distance" purchase (through eBay, Cycle Trader, Craig's List, etc.), there's likely to be a list member nearby that can scope out the bike for you and give you a detailed assessment (but not when the auction ends in nine minutes). It worked for me: I live in Rhode Island and bought a bike in North Carolina thanks to the recommendation of an e-mail list member who drove 90 minutes each way to check out a bike for me.Mark MacKinnonvia e-mail

Please, you mustn't view a "used" motorcycle as abused and uncared for! You wouldn't give up on a person because they had been in a few bad relationships, would you? I mean where would most of us be if our spouses or significant others had taken that position? I, for one, would be alone rotting in some barn... forgotten, much like my current bike was, unloved and unridden for more than two years! But with a little patience and care (and very little money, I might add), I have found a faithful companion.

So don't think of it as a used bike, but a rescue. I can hear [my bike] singing that old Beach Boys tune to me now, "God only knows what I'd be with out you." It's the same song I sing to my dear wife. Find your Thunderbird! It's out there waiting!Gary McMichaelvia e-mail

I read with interest your Off Idle editorial in the December issue. I've had two good experiences with buying used.

Two years ago, I bought a 2002 Honda VT 750 Spirit from an acquaintance and had a very good experience with the buy and the ride. I believe that the "bullet proof" design of Honda machinery and the fact that I had some pretty good ideas about how the bike had been maintained/ridden made my risks very low.

Then in Feb. 2006, I purchased a 1999 model of Honda's mighty GL-1500 Valkyrie. This, too, has been a very good experience so far. The Valk had only 20K miles on it, and since it too came from (or through) an acquaintance, I had a pretty good idea of its history.

I have riding friends who have also bought used motorcycles and virtually all of their experiences have been positive. I also believe that buying used is an excellent way for anyone new to riding to "test the water" while minimizing their financial investment.Dan J. WillisMidlothian, TX

Personally I can't see paying top dollar for a new bike when one a few months to a couple of years older can be had for so much less. The more you save per bike, the more bikes you can have, right?

I bought my 2001 Road King Police bike in 2002 with 7040 miles on it for $14,700 when new Road Kings were well over $20,000. My initial price and sales tax were less, enabling me to more readily make the changes to "make it mine." I've been more than satisfied with my purchase and despite having bought it without a warranty, it's been reliable and mainly trouble-free.

My sister similarly bought a 1999 Electra Glide Standard in 2002 for $11,000; a new one was at or over $20,000. The only issues with that bike were cracked header pipes (exhaust) and bad air shocks, both of which were relatively cheap and easy fixes, especially when considering the difference in price between a new Glide and this three-year-old one.Chris PhilbrookPlymouth, CT

Thanks to everyone who worked so diligently to try to hook me up with my used dream bike, the Triumph T-Bird Sport. You must have sent me a hundred links to worthy bikes, which, of course, overwhelmed me so completely I still have yet to make a move. But I'm trying! -J.E.