#1 Always know the true value of the bike before going to inspect it.
#2 All used bikes have at least 1 problem with them.
#3 Make sure you bring along a mechanic with you so they can properly go over the bike with a fine tooth comb to find the problems.
#4 Always remember that sellers talk a lot of shit and will try to use pressure tactics to close the deal.
#5 The buyer is in the position of power, not the seller. Commit to walking away from a deal if it doesn’t stack up.
#6 Be patient! Wait for the right deal.
#7 Ride the bike and warm it up completely to detect all the issues.
#8 Use the cost of fixing the problems on the bike to negotiate the price down.
#9 Bike dealers aren’t always honorable. Scrutinize a dealers bike just as carefully as a private one.
Ready to go looking for a bike?
Hunting for bikes is an exciting time in a dirt bike riders life! It’s sort of like a rite of passage for moto heads.
Expect friends to get involved in the hunt with you and put dibs on the test rides.
Maybe your uncle might weigh in with his opinion of what to get, plus the good ole’ lecture from mum/dad about safety… lol its a seriously fun time ;D
Obviously the best option is to go see your local dealer, hand over the cheddar and roll your preferred bike straight off the showroom floor.
Buying new is the best choice if you can afford it.
But if you don’t have the lettuce to do that, you will have to go to the used market to buy a bike.
Buying a used dirt bike is definitely a solid option if you do it right.
There are plenty of bikes out there that have been properly looked after.
Unfortunately there are also a lot of lemons out there as well!!
These lemons have had the shit thrashed out of them but have been polished up quickly to sell to an unsuspecting sucker.
Don’t be the sucker!
In this article I am going to take you step by step through my 9 golden rules of buying a used bike.
Also, I will show you what steps you should be taking so you don’t get ripped off.
If you get this right, you will soon have a quality used bike in your garage that will do its job well and give you many years of riding pleasure.
But before that.. here’s a question that I hear people talking about sometimes>>
Should I buy a cheap, busted up bike and work on it slowly?
I get asked this question quite a bit.
If you really know what you are doing with bikes and quick draw with a socket wrench in your hand then yeah, it is a good idea to build a dirt bike project.
You won’t save any money with this option but guys rebuild bikes because it can be fun to do
If you are a more casual rider and don’t know much about mechanical stuff, it can turn into an expensive headache.
It could even turn out to be just as expensive as buying a brand new bike in time and cash.
But if you are going to take this option, do these calculations first!
Firstly, go see your local dealer and work out how much money you will need to spend on parts.
Secondly work out the cost of a bike mechanic to help you out on the harder bits.
Then calculate your time spent in the garage to rebuild it!
I’ll bet you that the total figure is close to buying a new bike off the showroom floor.
So ask yourself these questions..
Do I want to spend all that money and maybe up to 40-50 hours restoring a bike?
Or do I want to save up that cash over a couple of years and wait until I can buy a brand new bike? (which means you won’t have a bike for 2 years)
Or should I just buy a quality used bike and start riding immediately?
From a perspective of money and time, the answer is obvious. That is why buying a quality used dirt bike is a really good option.
The 9 Golden Rules of Buying a Used Dirt Bike>>
Rule #1 – Know the Bike’s Value!
To understand the value of used dirt bikes, jump onto online bike sales websites.
Then do a search for the bikes you are interested in and print out as many examples as you can.
Then take note the bikes make, model, age and mileage and match them with similar bikes you have found.
You can put this data into a basic spreadsheet if you like so you can build up a database of bike data over time.
Keep doing this and you will begin to see approximate values jumping out at you.
In fact, if you keep practicing this skill, just the sight of any dirt bike will trigger an approximate value in your head.
Once you have this skill locked down, you will be able to negotiate a used bike from a position of strength and confidence. You will get a better a deal.
Rule #2 – All Used Bikes Have Problems.
As bikes get older and well used, things start going wrong.
Unless the bike is a 3 month old trade-in, it’s going to be up to you to figure out what those problems are and think about whether it’s worth taking on those problems.
Minor issues are easy and cheap to fix but big problems may cost you more to fix than the cost of the bike!
To figure out these issues, read on as I have laid out the right steps below to take to discovering these problems.
Rule #3 – If you Aren’t a Good Bike Mechanic, Bring Along Someone Who Is.
This one simple rule can save you from some serious headaches down the track.
A bike mechanic will be able to properly inspect the bike and discover the problems really quickly.
If you don’t know any mechanics, pay for a mechanic to come out to look at the bike.
Trust me, this tiny investment will be the best decision of your dirt biking life!
Rule #4 – Sellers Talk a Lot of Bullshit.
A seller will tell you how fast and powerful it is, how well maintained it is and how it has only one owner its entire life.
They will also tell you a story about how awesomely reliable the bike is and how easy it is to do wheelies on it.
They’ll even tell you how your dating life will come to life by buying their bike ;D
This is all smoke and mirrors to get you to make the deal quickly.
Another common tactic is to use pressure to get you to commit.
They will tell you that there are 2 other people that are coming to buy the bike in a ‘couple of hours’.
Or they may cut your examination of the bike short and get irate with you if you won’t commit to buying quickly.
Keep a critical mind, don’t be pressured and pay no attention to the bullshit.
If there is constant pressure from the seller to buy, use Rule #5.
Rule #5 – Commit to Walk Away From the Deal if the Bike Doesn’t Stack Up.
Fortunately for you, there are heaps of bikes being traded on the used market all the time.
So this means that if the bike is no good or the seller is being an asshole, be polite and walk away!
There will always be plenty more bikes to look at.
You are in the position of power, not the seller. This leads me to Rule #6…
Rule #6 – Be Patient.
If there are no bikes to inspect, be patient and the right bikes will pop up in no time at all.
Make patience your ally. Yeah, I know it’s really exciting and you can’t wait to get that really cool bike into your garage to show off to your friends and family…
But impatience is dangerous!
If you go into a negotiation with the idea that you must buy the first thing you see, you can be guaranteed of getting ripped off.
This is called ‘impulse buying’ and experienced sellers can smell impulse from a mile away.
Rule #7 – Start the Bike and Ride it.
Buying a used bike that you have never started or rode is really a bad idea.
You need to ride a bike to fully diagnose and discover any problems that can’t be seen when it’s standing cold.
When a bike is in full operation, use all the gears, levers and instruments and discover any issues step by step.
Get the bike warm because a warm bike will show up any engine problems that a cold bike will not.
A sneaky tactic by dodgy sellers is to let you start the bike but then turn the engine off only after about 30 seconds, and then quickly apply pressure to try to get the sale. This means that there is something wrong with the bike that can only be discovered once the engine is warm.
A legit seller will have no problem with you running the bike for as long as you need and riding it to your satisfaction. If a seller won’t let you ride the bike, grab your wallet/purse and run the other way!
Rule #8 – Negotiate.
Negotiating for a better deal is always a good idea as sellers will start with a higher price, knowing that they will be bargained down.
The way to negotiate with a bike is to find all the things wrong with the bike and give each problem a value.
For example, if the front suspension is leaking, give that a value to fix or replace, (example $200) then negotiate that value off the total price of the bike.
If there are problems and the owner won’t offer to fix them or come down in price, walk away and find a better deal.
Rule #9 – Dealers Aren’t Always Honorable.
Even though buying a bike from a dealer is generally a good idea, there are some dealers that will sell anything for a quick buck and leave you with a piece of junk.
So be careful with dealers.
Don’t trust paperwork (like log books) because they can be easily forged.
You are buying a bike not a log book! So you have to inspect a dealer’s bike just as rigorously as a private seller’s bike.
How to Discover Hidden Problems on a Dirt Bike.>>
Step 1 – Be Upfront and ask the Seller if There are Any Problems.
If the seller says that there is nothing wrong with it they are probably lying. There is at least 1 issue with all used dirt bikes (Rule 2).
If step 1 doesn’t work then move onto the next steps.
You need to do the next step anyway but honesty from the owner can go a long way in a negotiation.
STEP 2 – Send in Your Mechanic..
and take a careful look at the following points on the bike –
A. You need to expect that fittings should show some wear but still be in reasonable condition.
Check the cables, radiator hoses, master cylinders and hydraulic lines. Check for leaks after you have warmed up the engine and taken it for a ride.
B. The spokes should be tight and not bent out of shape and the rims need to be straight when you spin them.
If the rims are buckled, this means that the bike has been in a heavy crash.
Rims are expensive to replace so don’t miss this step.
C. How is the condition of the tires? Is there plenty of tread left or are they completely worn down? If the tread is really worn down you will need new tires.
D. Check that the brake rotors are straight and not bent. To do this spin the wheels and check that the rotors don’t rub on the brake pads.
E. Check for leaks in the master cylinders and calipers. Check the fluids in the master cylinders. Any leaks?
F. Is there coolant in the radiator or is it empty? If it is empty, the motor may be burnt out.
Is there coolant in the radiator or is it just water? If it is water, you can expect corrosion in the radiators. Check for leaks.
G. Check the oil levels in the engine. If it’s low, the engine may be burnt out.
Ask the owner of the last time the oil was changed. If they don’t know you may have an engine problem.
Check for leaking oil after you have ridden it and warmed up the engine.
To check for leaks, run your hand under the engine and around the oil bolt. If there is a skid plate, ask the owner to remove it to check for leaks.
If they won’t remove it, the owner may be hiding a serious oil leak.
Also, check for leaks around the kick starter, the front sprocket and the gear shift.
H. Check the chain and check that the front and rear sprocket teeth aren’t worn down. This is a sign that the chain is too loose and on its last life.
I. Check the frame for fractures and big dings. Check this carefully as paint can hide issues.
If they are really bad, it’s best to avoid the bike completely as the bike has been in a tremendous crash that has busted up the frame.
J. Check the slack in the swing arm pivot bearings, wheel bearings and steering head bearings.
To do this, apply forward, backward and side to side pressure to these areas and if they move under pressure, you have bearing issues.
K. 2 Stroke mix. If the bike is a 2 stroke, ask the owner what premix ratio they used.
If they don’t know they have probably been mixing it wrong and the engine may be over worn from too little oil in the fuel.
L. Have a look at the air filter. Is it dirty? Is the air box full of dust? This is a classic sign that the bike has hardly been serviced.
M. Are the front forks leaking? If they are they will need to be replaced or it may be signs of a bigger issue.
A great way to check the wear on the front and rear suspension is to put all your weight on the peg. If the front and rear suspension push down and rebound at the same speed then the suspension is healthy. If not, either the suspension is setup incorrectly or the suspension is worn out.
Check the static sag. Lift the rear of the bike up as high as it can go without picking the rear wheel off the ground, then let it go. The seat should drop by no more than about 25mm.
This is called static sag.
If it drops significantly further than this, the shock absorber has been worn out. The same goes for the front forks.
To check the static sag you will need to bring a retractable tape with you and measure between the center axle nut and the bottom of the rear fender at full stretch and then released.
Use my 9 golden rules for buying a bike and you will avoid buying a piece of junk that you will need to spend a fortune on to get up to an acceptable standard.
Have you had some used bike horror stories? Share them in the comments box below and let me know what you think of my 9 golden rules.
If you liked this article please give it a like on social media and share it with your friends.
- How to Whip a Dirt Bike. A Beginners Guide to Getting Sideways. - September 23, 2019
- The Best Dirt Bike Tool Kit for Trail Riding [that Won’t Break]. - August 6, 2019
- How to Wash Dirt Bike Pants. 5 Tips for Making them Last Longer [and 5 things to never do]. - August 5, 2019