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Buying Used

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10 Things to Look Out for When Buying a Used Bike


It wasn't long ago that buying a used bike was very dicey. For one, so many improvements came each year that a year-old was bike was technically obsolete; even worse was the bike would most likely be worn out because of the quality of production and materials. But since the mid-1990's, suspension development has settled on around 12 inches of travel, engines all have become water-cooled and disc brakes are standard equipment. More importantly, though, the quality of production, fit and finish, durability and overall reliability of off-road motorcycles have come to a level at which buying a used machine can be a competitive and cost-effective way to obtain a well-performing bike.

Yet people in general, and men in particular, tend to judge things by how they look (duh), assuming that if a bike looks good, it must be a good ride. Consequently, the motorcycle business has become very skilled at prettying up used machinery. A new fender, a fancy graphics kit, PJ-1/VHT touch-up paint and some silicone polish can make almost any bike appear well kept. Off-road motorcycles are unique products for how much abuse they must endure, especially considering how often they are washed. As a result of hitting deep mud holes and being hit by 200-psi pressure washers, bearings dry out and parts rust. The real test of a used bike is not how shiny it is but how well it has been maintained and what kind of mechanical shape it's in. The purchase price is only a part of the cost of restoring a used bike to operating condition. It is not unheard of for unsuspecting buyers to spend more on parts and repairs than on the machine. How can you tell if a bike really is in good shape, not just good-looking? Following are 10 clues to help you avoid buying a lemon in disguise.

1. Overall Condition

2. Wheel Bearings

3. Steering-Head Bearings

4. Brakes

5. Suspension

6. Swingarm Pivot

7. Suspension Linkage

8. Chain and Sprockets

9. Powerplant

10. Transmissions and Clutch


By Dick Burleson, edited by Kelsow.

© 2003-2011, Nova Scotia Dual Sport,

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