Frequently Asked Questions

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  
** Disclaimer: The information contained herein is offered as free advice.  Please use your own discretion in choosing  to follow it.  I will assume no liability for any action taken on your part concerning this information. **
 

1. SELLING A MOTORCYCLE , WHAT IS ITS VALUE?  

I no longer give estimates of a motorcycles worth. I get way too many each week. Hopefully the following will help you value your motorcycle:
 
This is a tough question because there are so many variables. There are some price guides out there, but they are sooooo far off the real market because of the small sample size they use in their surveys that no one who is knowledgeable of the market really considers them to have any validity. No two old bikes, even the exact same year make and model are truly alike. Physical condition, mileage, prior maintenance (or butchery thereof), and your level of trust in the person selling it-- all effect the pricing. Also what a bike sells for also depends on where it is located. Large metro area will bring more than say, Bismarck , North Dakota . Shipping a bike has become VERY expensive, so distance and locality really counts. 
 
My motorcycle web page pricing may not be a very good guide for you. I spend a lot of time and money locating, buying, andpreparing for sale the bikes you see.  Because of my web page and advertising, I get over 500  specialized buyer web hits a day that you will never duplicate in your marketing efforts.   People who buy my bikes are usually those that have been looking for a very long time for a very special bike.  Consequently unless you have a very long time to wait, you  will not likely not be able to sell your bike at the price level that  you may see on my site.
 
You can check websites like EBAY, www.cycletrader.com or www.craigslist.com to get a general idea of the value of your motorcycle. Remember that the asking price is rarely the selling price. If your motorcycle is not complete and currently in good running condition, you can cut the price as much as half.   In reality an old motorcycle is only worth what someone will offer you for it in the time frame you need to sell it. Youcan only find this out by testing the market which can be a long frustrating process.
 
Do you buy motorcycles?

Yes, occasionally, but I have to buy them at a steep discount because who knows what it may take to get them running properly --and more importantly, I hate to work for free.  If you are interested in selling your motorcycle, please send me close up digital pictures and tell me what you want to get out of it. 

 What is the best way to sell a classic motorcycle?
 
I am not certain of the best way in your particular case, but one of the worst ways is to advertise them in the local newspaper. People generally want newer motorcycles and have little appreciation of the value of a classic bike. You usually don’t get many calls or a very good price.
  • Craig's List- possibly a good place to buy bikes if you are mechanically inclined, a poor place to sell. Most buyers are bottom feeders and you will not get top dollar.  Also do you want people coming to your house?
  • Ebay. There are positives and negatives to selling on Ebay.. 
    • The Good: Ebay gives the widest audience. I have seen some motorcycles sell for great prices, and I have seen some that didn’t bring what they were worth. Those that are in near perfect condition can bring premium prices. Otherwise they are often lost in the shuffle. However, it is certainly better than selling in the newspaper.
    • The Bad: If you aren’t a current EBAY user, there is a raft of information, including bank accounts etc that you must divulge online before you can even get registered to sell.   Sometimes people steal your ebay account and cause you all kinds of grief. I once had it happen to me! It is your worst nightmare. Someone hacked my account and listed a $1500 sewing machine. (SEWING MACHINES come on!) By the time I got to look at my account, they had four other similar listings on a 24 hour with a “buy it now” option. People had already bid on them. It was absolutely horrifying! Try getting someone at Ebay to talk to you! It appears as if Ebay has taken care of the problem, but boy am I gun shy now!
    • Also, you must understand how EBAY works.  You pay your listing fee no matter what. There are a lot of dead beat bidders. They win the auction, but never show up to buy the product.   Ebay will bill you for completed sale. You have to go through the rigmarole of getting it adjusted. It is a big Hassle and potentially expensive to re-list. I have seen bikes that had to be relisted 3 times to get a real buyer to show up and pay for it.
  • My advice is that if you decide to sell on Ebay, reject bidders that have feedback scores below 10, and require a good sized deposit to be paid within 5 days, or threaten to give bad feedback.
  • Cycletrader.com It can be expensive, but it gets good national coverage. Also Walneck’s Classic Cycle Trader Magazine (associated with cycletrader.com) gets good newsstand coverage. 
 

2. PROFESSIONAL MOTORCYCLE REPAIR OPTIONS

Do you do repair work on motorcycles for people?
 
No. I spend way too much time fixing up the ones I have.
 
I cannot get any of the major dealerships to work on my motorcycle. They say it is too old.
 
Yes, unfortunately, most dealerships will not work on anything older than 10 years. Look for an independent motorcycle shop and tell them the year and make of bike. Sometimes you can find an independent shop that will work on anything. Most shops do not want to take the project on, because they have such difficulty diagnosing and then finding parts to complete the repair. Your best bet is to join a club like the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club. Once you get connected, members can often point you in the right direction. You can go directly to www.vjmc.orgYou can sign up online with Paypal. If you sign up please list me, David, member #4720, referred you. Otherwise, see my Section 5 below on the steps you can take to get an old bike running.
 
Where do I get parts for old motorcycles? 

Obviously I have thousands of classic parts on my web site, it is a good place to start :)

Some parts are easier to obtain than others.  Engine parts, drive train, and cables are often available.  Sometimes even the major manufacturers can surprise you by still having some very old parts in stock.  Check there first.  Gas tanks, plastic and body parts are VERY Difficult to find and even harder to match on color.  Ebay seems to be the best bet, but sometimes you have to wait months to see what you want to buy.  Please be careful, parts are often improperly advertised, and even a part that fits a particular motorcycle may not fit yours because the Japanese sometimes substituted different parts during the same model year.  This can be especially true ordering from Asian reproduction companies.  The parts they sell may not really fit your bike so be very cautious 

A really good option is to join the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club.  www.vjmc.org  For a $30 annual investment you get a beautiful full color magazine bi-monthly that is chock full of information and technical tips.  Also you get free buy/sell ads that run both in the magazine and online.  

Tell 'em David sent you, member #4720! 

3. BUYING A MOTORCYCLE  

What is the best way to buy a used motorcycle?
 
A good way is to buy it from a dealer who will give you a warranty — unfortunately most will not. The next best way is to buy it from an individual that is trustworthy where you can actually go and see the motorcycle. Take a knowledgeable friend with you. Do not be surprised if they do not let you take a test ride because there is considerable liability involved.  DO  NOT RIDE ANY MOTORCYCLE FOR ANY DISTANCE WITH OLD TIRES, EVEN IF THEY LOOK GOOD!   Rubber deteriorates and that tire is spinning around at hundreds of RPMS you do not want to take the chance of a blow out.
 
What about buying a bike online?
 
The biggest problem is that you cannot get a look at it before you buy it. Closeup digital pictures help, but it is still not like looking directly at the motorcycles. Also sometimes you get caught up in a bidding frenzy and pay too much for something you really don’t know much about.   Unfortunately Ebay is a real gamble. It seems like people specialize in taking tantalizing distant pictures in really bad light. The actual product you pick up can really be a disappointment. Consequently, bid with caution. 
 
I want a good looking bike to match my memories. Should I buy a classic bike in the condition that I want, or should I try to buy one that has potential but that I can fix up and restore myself?  
 
Unless you are very mechanically inclined, skillful in the art of paint/ body work AND have a good source of parts and lots of cash, you will usually spend a lot more money and time trying to restore it yourself. You will drive yourself crazy, it will cost you A LOT MORE than you planned, and the end product is usually not what you thought it would be.
 
I want to buy a motorcycle. I will be using it for serious transportation. Should I buy a newer bike, or a classic bike?
 
If you will be counting on your bike for basic and especially high speed transportation you shouldprobablythe newer bike. I am not saying that a well maintained classic bike is unsafe for riding.  Many people use them as such and they will perform adequately.    If they have good tires, brakes, and regular maintenance they are very suitable for most any kind of riding. However, there have been major breakthroughs in engineering and technology, handling and braking that make a newer motorcycle safer than a classic bike.  
 

4. LEARNING TO RIDE - BE SMART ABOUT IT. 

What is the best way to learn how to ride a motorcycle?
 
Absolutely the best way to learn is to take a Motorcycle Safety Foundation Class. They are offered in all states. http://www.msf-usa.org/  It is inexpensive, they provide a motorcycle that fits you, and they teach you not only the physical side of operating a motorcycle, but also the mental part-- how to position yourself in traffic so that you can stay safe on the streets. All you need is a helmet and over the ankle shoes.   
     
Another alternative to get started is with a small, off road motorcycle and a large enough safe area off road to ride it-- that is a great way to learn clutch, shifting, and basic handling.  Wear a helmet long pants and boots.  Also expect you may fall off once or twice as you are learning.
 
An organized way to learn to ride on the dirt is the MSF Dirt Riding School they have a website http://www.dirtbikeschool.com/dbsloc.html and locations in most states. They will even provide you a motorcycle to ride.
 
I have never ridden a motorcycle, I want to buy one, but I want to get a smaller one to learn. However, everyone tells me that I will soon want to trade up, so why not get the bigger one to begin with?
 
Do not buy too large a bike too soon. It can be hazardous to your health and will discourage you. Get a good safe used bike that fits you. You need to be able to have your feet flat on the ground when you are sitting on the machine.  Unless you are a very large person, all brands make a 250cc starter motorcycle which is great to learn on. You can always sell it later, and you won’t lose too much in the process.   See the information on the MSF course listed above. After taking the course you will have a much better idea of the size and type of motorcycle you will want to buy.   
 

5. HOW TO GET A NON-RUNNING MOTORCYCLE ON THE ROAD AGAIN                                      

**Note: all Japanese Motorcycles use metric tools.**
Use plastic gloves and eye protection. No smoking, and keep open flames away from your work area!
 
To begin, buy or obtain a Model Specific Repair Manual. If you can get an OEM factory manual, that is best.  As an alternative, Clymer's has an extensive collection.  Actually, many large city libraries even have copies for your particular model. 
 
  1. First check and make sure that it has proper oil level in the crankcase. Almost all motorcycles have a dip stick or a "sight glass" to determine the proper oil level. Some much older and usually small two cycle bikes will only have a small set screw somewhere on the lower outside of the engine case towards the bottom. If you back this screw almost all the way out, oil should seep out and you know it is properly filled. This oil is just for the transmission, as a two cycle piston gets its lubrication from the gas/oil mixture. If not at the proper level add the proper amount of the correct weight of oil. If you want to be totally protected in the process, change the oil before you proceed.

    Check Air Cleaners for disintegrated foam filters, obstructions, and, believe it or not, birdseed or nests which mice often drag into intake systems (even in covered garages). You do not want to suck them into your carburetor!

    For those motorcycles with just a kick-starter, it is best to have a new battery. It helps, and in some models, is an absolute necessity for it to start. Also an old fully discharged battery will not absorb voltage spikes and you can possibly blow out your VERY expensive to replace light bulbs. If it is an electric start you will need a new battery just to turn the starter over.

    Once you put a new battery in it and turn the key on, do the turn signals, horn and brake lights work? That is an excellent sign. Next, does it have gas in the tank? A motorcycle must have good gas no more than a year old to function properly and start.  If it is very old gas, the chances of the bike starting are not good. Is the gas actually getting into the carb(s? The way to tell is that sometimes carbs have a drain plug at their bottom and you can back it out and see if gas runs out.  If so, it is getting gas to the carb. If not, pull off the gas lines at the petcock, will gas flow? If not, move to step 3.

    Turn the key on. For pre-1980's bikes, put the choke on half setting. Post 1980, full choke. Make sure the engine on/off switch is in the run position!  Will the kick starter kick the engine over smoothly? Or will pushing the electric start button turn the engine over? Do not keep the electric starter turning over for any more than 10 seconds at a time. Give it a few minutes’ rest after 4-5 attempts. You may give it only the very slightest of turns on the throttle while it is cranking. Do not keep twisting the throttle hoping it will start. You will flood the engine with gas!

    If it doesn’t start, go to the next steps. Remember if it has been sitting for years with old gas in the tank and carburetor, your chances of starting are unlikely. Both gas tank and carburetors will need to be fully cleaned out. Carb internal jet passages are tiny, and the gas turns into varnish which clogs them. It will not start, and even if you get it running, it will not idle cleanly if these passages are not clear.

  2. Buy brand new spark plugs of the proper heat range. Do not count on the fact that the current spark plugs in the bike are the correct ones. Someone may have installed an improper heat range or length in it. A motorcycle parts department will have reference books to tell you which plug your model should use. Make sure that YOU are not standing in moisture and are touching only the rubber cap, or you may shock yourself. Turn the ignition key on. Take the plug wire cap off an existing spark plug of the engine. Put the new plug into the plug wire, and ground it(touch it) to the engine cylinder. Then have someone else kick the kick-starter over. If it is an electric start, push the button.

    If you see a spark jumping across at the electrode of the spark plug or to the engine block that is a good sign. Sometimes you will need to do this with lights out because the spark is difficult to see. If it is sparking, put the new plug(s) in the cylinders, and follow the choking procedure above.

    If it is not getting spark you have a problem. If it doesn’t spark, it could be a myriad of other items. First check for a blown fuse. Fuses are usually located close to the battery area. Replace only with the same amperage fuse! Check for power at the ignition breaker points which are usually under a cover near the top of a cylinder. If it doesn't have points but has an electronic ignition you cannot do this step.

    Are the points opening and closing? You may have to replace breaker points, and set timing. Make sure your engine start/stop switch is functioning properly and is not electrically shorting you out. If it still will not spark, then unfortunately the problem is more complicated than I can explain in this paper. 

    IF THESE STEPS DO NOT WORK AND YOU ARE MORE MECHANICALLY INCLINED TRY:

  3. Take off the gas tank. Drain all old gas.  Remove the petcock. Clean the petcock screen that protrudes up into the gas tank.  Do not try to blow high pressure air through the petcock, you will ruin it. I would not attempt to disassemble and clean the petcock any further unless you are very mechanically inclined and have on hand very hard to find petcock rebuild parts.  You can save yourself a lot of headaches by buying a new petcock, which unfortunately can be $50 or more.

    Get “milk stone remover” from a farm supply store.  Mix it at about 25% ratio with water.  Plug the petcock opening and put the mixture along with a cup of old bolts into the tank.  Slosh them around vigorously a few times each day to break up the rust. Let this mixture sit for at least seven days, then empty. The mixture can be re-used. Put the petcock back on, and fill the tank approximately half full of gas.  In the open position, see if gas flows through the petcock.  If it is a "vacuum" petcock from some models, this approach will not work.  This type of set up requires that the petcock be hooked up to a vacuum line which pulls the mixture through the petcock.  With a vacuum petcock, the "prime" setting may allow gas to flow. The goal is to see if the petcock actually works.

  4. Take the carburetors off and completely disassemble them. Be sure to wear gloves; old gasoline is some of the nastiest stuff.  Be careful; take digital pictures or observe the process fully as there are many small parts that can be lost easily. Soak all carb parts in parts cleaner for two days. Warning: do not put any rubber parts, composite parts, or painted carb bodies into parts cleaning solution; otherwise, they will be ruined. Next, blow out all jets and passages thoroughly with compressed air. Set the mixture and idle screws to factory specifications. Reassemble.
  5. Follow previous choke instructions and try to start the engine. Use only a maximum of 1/8 turn on throttle while cranking or you will "flood" the carb. If you get it running, let it run at low speed for about 10 minutes, and then change the crankcase oil.
  6. If it does start in neutral, be careful.  Sometimes clutches will seem fine, but they stick.  So when you put it in gear it just goes-- with no way to disengage the clutch.  Point it in a direction where you have plenty of room to ride, or brace it up against a solid object like a block wall.
  7. Please dispose of all chemical waste responsibly by recycling.
  8. Inspect the tires carefully; the best practice is to put new tires on if you have any concerns about their condition.

6. GETTING A MOTORCYCLE SHIPPED

I have shipped motorcycles all over the United States, as well as working with frieght forwarders to get them shipped overseas.  With today's gas prices unless you are close, it may not worth it to pick them up yourself.
 
You have many options to get a motorcycle shipped today.  Major companies do a great job, but it will really cost you--at a  minimum $700 and way up! they have huge 3 deck semi's that will come and pick up your bike safely.  However, I find that the shipments take about 3 weeks longer than using a local carrier because they send the bikes to a central location, then reship.
 
I have found that I get some very discounted shipping by going to www.uship.com    There you put your potential shipment out for bid.  Shippers have ratings just like on Ebay.  Then you evaluate whether you want to use them.   Regional shipments can be even less.   However, check out their ratings carefully, there is an element of chance that you could be ripped off.  
 

7. WHAT KIND OF MILEAGE CAN I EXPECT FROM MY VINTAGE BIKE?

It will certainly depend on many factors. How large is the engine, How many cylinders? Is it stop and go traffic, how fast do I accelerate? Am I really trying to get better mpg or am I riding hard? 50cc step through bikes From Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki were rated well over 100 mpg when they were advertised new. Scooters and small 100-150 cc bikes ridden normally in town should get close to 70-90 mpg or better.   Even the larger bikes mileage can be impressive. the last time I checked on my CL 350 Honda on a 70 mile trip in the country with  minimal stops and speed usually between 40-55 mph, my mileage checked out at 62 mpg! Warning, however, crotch rockets may only get 30-40 mpg if you ride them stoplight to stoplight flat out. Individual results may vary.