If purchasing a brand new dirt-bike is not an option, there are many used ones to choose from. Maybe you want to start a project and don’t know where to start. Hopefully these tips can help.
I have purchased many dirt-bikes throughout the years and many of them have been very old and worn. But not all old bikes are to the point of extinction. Some are not so bad and do not require much work at all. Knowing a few tips can help you develope confidence in what you’re buying. It can also add some purchasing power depending on how you negotiate. Granted some dirt-bikes are completely toast and if not careful, it can really hurt the wallet and cause frustration. Lost time and money takes the fun and excitement away from a potentially awesome ride!
I’ve put together a few suggestions and tips to hopefully help in the decision process of purchasing a used dirt-bike. There are many other things to consider which are not listed here.
Don’t Get Too Emotional
Have you ever wanted something so bad there wasn’t anything anyone could say or do to stop you from buying it? I get this way sometimes when looking at dirt-bikes. I can see the potential an old bike has and even though it may be a complete basket case, I just want to tear into it and fix it. Believe it or not, there are many bikes out there that “run” just good enough to take it for a test ride. Once you get it home, you can’t get it started again because the owner had certain “tricks” to get it to run.
I found if I don’t take the time to look it over and I just buy off of emotion, I may end up with a lemon. If you can’t control your emotions, it usually helps to take a good friend (or in my case, my wife). This will help keep you sane and it helps to have an extra set of eyes to look things over. Remember also: There is always another bike! It’s okay to walk away sometimes.
Know Your Budget and Get the Proper Paperwork
Just like anything else you plan to purchase, you should have a budget. Having a budget, and sticking with it, helps keep things in check when it comes to buying parts, licensing, and any other hidden costs. You don’t want to blow all you have on a bike that you can’t put new parts on, if it needs them.
If you buy a used bike from a dealer, the paperwork should be taken care of and you shouldn’t have any problems. KEEP THE PAPERWORK! I’ve purchased many dirt-bikes without the proper paperwork, and even though I was able to obtain it, it was a bit of a hassle and cost extra to obtain it. If you’re buying from an individual, unless you only plan to ride on private land, make sure they have the correct paperwork to properly transfer everything into your name. Even if you do only plan to ride on private land, having the correct paperwork helps if you ever plan to sell your machine.
Ask About the Maintenance
Once you’ve found a bike, ask about the maintenance that has been performed. Many times, a used dirt-bike has had multiple owners so the current owner may not know, but he/she should at least know how the maintenance has been throughout his/her ownership. If they cannot give you a straight answer, be aware. A few basic things to note:
- When was the oil changed last and how regular?
- Has the air filter been cleaned regularly? (this can easily be checked on most dirt-bikes)
- Has the chain been lubed regularly?
- Is the coolant fresh and correct?
- Look for leaks of any kind
- Has the engine ever been rebuilt or overhauled? How long since the rebuild?
Aside from a major engine rebuild, these things are fairly simple and should be performed at regular intervals. If they have not been, they can lead to bigger issues. Maintenance is critical. What good is a bike if it doesn’t have an engine that has been maintained!
Get Good Photos
If you’re looking in your local classified ads or perhaps an ad online, get some good photos to get a good look at the machine. If there is only one photo on the ad and it looks like fuzzy cat, (unless you’re looking for a cat) ask if you can get some better photos. The phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words” is really true if you have a good photo. Checking out photos closely can help determine if you should really purchase or not and can save a lot of time and potential headache.
Here are a few photos of a bike I purchased. After discussing the maintenance of the machine, I asked the owner to send photos of each side, the overall bike, as well as close ups of the engine. Again, make sure they are good pictures. From the pictures, I could determine things the bike needed right away. This helped me put together a price list of extra parts needed to get the bike how I wanted it. Each bike will differ in look, but all will have similar components. This particular dirt-bike is a Honda XR400R.
Look for any visible leaks. Normal wear on an old bike is expected.
Dirt and stains will usually clean up. Check for tears or rips to decide if it needs to be replaced.
Fender burns may indicate the dirt bike is burning oil. Pipe may also be bent under the plastic.
Bent handlebars are a good indication the bike has been wrecked or tiped over pretty hard. Check to make sure the handlebars and cross bar are parallel.
Always check the rims in pictures and in person, for any major bends or cracks. Check for signs of leaking in the fork seals, they may have a lot of dirt build up.
There are many other things that may be visible when seen in person. A few things can be:
- Cable wear or breaks
- Oil leaks
- Brake pads
- Light bulbs (if equipped)
- Brake fluid levels
- Fresh oil and fluids
- Clean air filter (very important)
- Controls movement (throttle and clutch should be smooth)
- Chain and sprocket wear
- Control levers
Photos can only get you so far but can show some of the more critical items. From these photos I could tell right away I would need to purchase new tires, handlebars, and possibly a new seat cover. This could add a couple hundred dollars more to your purchase. This bike could probably function “ok” for a while, assuming the engine is good of course. However, if you’re looking to go for a long ride, go racing, or would like something a little more dependable, this bike would take some work. Hopefully by learning to take a little time to look at the crictical components, this can be an aid in your search for a new ride! Trust your instincts and new found knowledge and good luck!