Time to Ride: Buying A Used Metric V-Twin
Words & Photos: Randy Bolig
Looking to ride a motorcycle?
You could go an buy a new scooter, but why not take a look at a pre-enjoyed one?
So you have finally decided that you want to join the throngs of enthusiasts that enjoy riding a motorcycle. Like many, you think that owning a Harley Davidson or a new Indian would be perfect. Let’s face it, both companies make great motorcycles here in the USA, but for you, there is one problem—you can’t afford the payments for either of them. For that matter, making payments on any new motorcycle seems a little far from your grasp. Well, maybe you need to look at a used, Metric V-twin motorcycle.
In the bike world, a metric bike is considered to be anything that is not a Harley Davidson or an Indian. If you are considering buying a used Metric motorcycle—or any bike, it’s important to understand exactly what you’re looking for, and that you’re getting your money’s worth. We had a friend that was looking to buy a used, Metric cruiser, but wanted someone with a little motorcycle knowledge to come along and be a voice of reason. This isn’t a bad idea, as having someone come with you that does not have an emotional “gotta have it” need, can save you a lot of dinero and headaches.
When finally start looking to buy a motorcycle keep your eyes open—literally and figuratively. Though purchasing a used bike can cost thousands less than a new one, keep in mind that it is still a used motorcycle. Buying a used bike is not a bad thing if the bike has been taken care of, but you need to determine the extent—or lack of, care it has received. Think of the following as a checklist of things to look at when buying a used motorcycle.
You will definitely want to test drive the motorcycle you are considering to purchase. The problem arises in that many guys will not let you “test ride” their motorcycle. Bike owners are a protective bunch, so keep that in mind. There is a fine line that you need to balance when talking to the owner, and if you are able to prove that you are not only a motorcycle enthusiast, but a serious buyer with cash in hand, persuasion might be a possibility. If you show up with the proper clothing to ride a motorcycle (long pants, a jacket and a helmet), the owner might realize that you are serious. Showing up in shorts and flip-flops will probably get you asked to leave the property. If you show up fully prepared to take a test ride, and show your true intent to purchase a motorcycle, and the owner still will not let you test ride the bike, then he may or may not be hiding something.
If you know ahead of time what make and model of bike you will be looking at—in our case, a 2003 Suzuki Volusia, you can do some research before you go look at the bike. It is a good idea to have a better understanding of what you are looking at, or should be looking for when you look at the bike. When researching a certain motorcycle, Google can be your friend. As far as basics, it’s important to check the brakes, clutch, gas tank, tires, exhaust, and engine. Doing an online search to get any and all information available about the particular model of bike you’re looking at should be a must.
By assessing the overall general condition of the bike before you get too deep into the inspection, you can get a feel for the bike’s history and how it was cared for. We immediately noticed that the Suzuki had almost no scratches in the paint. Since we could tell that it had never been repainted, that was a very good sign. This means the bike had never been laid down. Next, look for areas of the bike that might not have received any care or attention over the years. If the owner just simply hosed the dirt off of the bike once a month, you might find small areas of rust around areas like the cables and such. Another area to check is underneath the engine and transmission. If there are oil stains, it could mean that the owner gave the bike a quick clean up just for the sale.
You might be wondering why we mentioned checking the gas tank? You need to check and see if there is rust or grime (shellacked gas),in the tank. Rust can mean that the bike has been sitting, and/or was not properly maintained. If there is gas in the tank, how old is it, and how does it look and smell. It is easy to smell the difference between good and bad fuel.
The tires, engine, and exhaust are most likely three factors that you’ve already planned to check. Worn tires will need replaced, and that costs money. You need to know how old the tires are and how many miles have been put on them. Even tires with good tread might be dry-rotted and cracked—not safe.
The same idea can be evoked for the engine. Look for signs of neglect, and check the oil before starting the bike. When you do actually try to start the bike, how easily does it start?
Finally, if you do buy the bike, remember to get all of the proper documents (i.e. owner’s manual, service papers, warranty information, etc.) before leaving with your new-to-you motorcycle.