October 4 2012 by Jason Fogelson
You're ready to buy your next bike. You've narrowed down your choices, and you've decided to buy a used motorcycle -- the economy is in tough shape, which means prices are down a little, making this a good time to buy if you can afford it. You've got the cash, you find the bike, and it's time to buy. What do you do next?
Before you close a deal on any used motorcycle, you've got to take it for a test drive.
I've got a few tips that will make that test drive safer and more effective, helping you evaluate a motorcycle before you buy.
- Check with your current motorcycle insurance company. Your current policy may cover you for a test drive on another owner's bike, or it may not. You may be able to buy a short-term binder to cover you for a range of test riding.
- If you're buying from a private party, see if you can convince the seller to bring the bike to your mechanic's shop for an inspection.
- Show up ready to ride, with your helmet, gloves, boots and other riding gear.
- Bring a friend, preferably one who is familiar with the bike you're thinking of buying.
- Perform a thorough pre-ride inspection. If the tires, brakes, hand and foot controls look okay and in good operating condition, you're ready for a test ride.
- Start out slowly, and test the brakes a few times before you bring the bike up to speed. Make sure that you're completely comfortable with the operation of throttle, clutch and brakes.
- Take your time. Ride the bike long enough to bring it up to operating temperature -- some engine issues may not be revealed until the engine warms up.
- Run through all of the gears, and pay close attention to finding neutral. Gears should engage with a solid "snik," with no hint of grinding or clunking sounds, which could indicate transmission or clutch wear.
- Assess the ergonomics while you ride. Can you reach the controls comfortably? Are you confident that you can hold the bike up at a stop? Are there any ergonomics that could be improved with adjustments, or will you need to replace the seat, handlebars or pegs?
- Vary the speed while you ride. Check out the acceleration, deceleration and upper RPM performance. Stay safe, but explore some of the bike's limits.
- Don't waste your time or the seller's time. If you can tell at first sight that a bike is not for you, don't take the test ride.
Now start haunting Craig's List and find yourself a new bike to ride!