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5 Reasons Not to Buy an Old Motorcycle

cafe racer

Want to buy a cafe racer? Think again.

A month ago I purchased a 1979 Honda CB650. It was meant to be a cool little project for me. If you’re thinking of going the cafe racer route, you’d better either know something, or think again. Here are five reasons not to buy an old motorcycle.

  1. Hard to find parts: Let’s face it, a motorcycle that hasn’t been in production for twenty years probably hasn’t had new parts made for it in twenty years, so what happens when the manufacturer’s stash runs dry? You’ll have to turn to used parts, which in turn hold their own mysterious paths and problems.
  2. Long wait and backorders for parts you do find: Say there are parts available, or still being made. Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who’s bike is still being sold in some remote, desolate, part of the world. Do you think you’ll simply be able to get the new parts in for the next day? Of course not. I’ve seen parts on back order for 12 weeks. That’s a long time to wait for your bike’s essential needs.

  3. Kilometers hurt motorcycles: The longer a motorcycle’s been on the road, the more kilometers its likely to have. General wear and tear from road travel and age can wear away at a motorcycle. Even the effects of time can dry up seals, gaskets, and rubber. Tens of thousands of miles of road can leave an engine, tires, filters, oil, fluids, seals, brakes and more, beat up and in need of servicing.

retro-cafe-racer-vintage-used-motorcycle

  1. Neglect hurts motorcycles too: So you’ve found an old bike with only a few thousand original miles on it. Is it a catch that you’ve found? Not really. It’s the sign of a motorcycle that’s spent most of its life sitting, neglected, alone in a garage, or outdoors. Engines and moving parts seize up. Tires crack. Filters, fluids, carburettors, and gas lines get gunked up. Even something with very few kilometers can be a significant investment.
  2. Few repair shops and mechanics knowledgeable about older bikes: What’s the “points” system anyway? Fewer and fewer new mechanics are learning this and the ins and outs of older bikes. Let’s not forget that in the past we saw a lot fewer twins like we do today. There were tricky british tripple cylinder engines. Finicky japanese inline four cylinder and V-4 cylinder engines that take time to scrub clean and balance. Simply put, finesse wasn’t always guaranteed, and every twenty year old motorcycle’s particular quirky characteristics won’t be common knowledge in today’s motorcycle repair shop as it was two decades ago.

I wish I could have kept my 1979 Honda CB650 but it was just going to be too much headache for me. Ultimately, I bit off more than I could chew. I broke even on my purchase and signed up for a weekly motorcycle maintenance class. Maybe next time around I’ll get it right.

In truth, it isn’t all bad. Many people get unlucky, or make wise, informed decisions. If you’re undecided about what to do, please read 5 Reasons to Buy an Old Motorcycle.

Adrian S.

About Adrian

Adrian is the YouMotorcycle Editor. He never planned on becoming a blogger, but liked the idea of sharing his passion and encouraging others to get out and ride. He believes that anyone thinking about buying a motorcycle should hurry up and buy one, and that everyone who already owns a motorcycles should ride more. He likes V-Twins, scooters, and breaking social norms. He occasionally wears a suit and high-top sneakers when he rides to work. Sometimes he takes out his tools and everything goes from bad to worse. Sometimes everything just falls into his lap. Whatever the case he stays grateful and always tries to learn. If you feel motorcycling is a lifestyle, follow him via social media.

7 comments

  1. Thanks, Adrian for the tips. I’ve looked at both articles and still am undecided. On the one hand, buying an older motorcycle would truly be an all-in hobby because you would have to maintain it. On the other, the point of owning a bike is riding it.

  2. RT @LeaderMotorcyc: To buy a new or used #motorcycle? What is your opinion? http://t.co/1ZpL4GOH2F http://t.co/q7Fc5gnkYk

  3. RT @LeaderMotorcyc: To buy a new or used #motorcycle? What is your opinion? http://t.co/1ZpL4GOH2F http://t.co/q7Fc5gnkYk

  4. Buying an old motorcycle CAN be a bad idea. If you don’t have the knowledge or confidence to do the work yourself it could turn into a nightmare. BUT with some research and let’s face it a great deal of commitment it could turn into the adventure of a lifetime. parts for old bike are out there not just used but new remanufactured and aftermarket. the research comes in finding out what bikes are being supported by the aftermarket and remanufacturing community. that Honda 650 was probably a decent choice. You may have given up early.

    • Great comments, and I think that’s a fair assessment. At the time of this article (four years ago), I was living in a condo with limited space. My parking spot was a single space, miles from any electricity and with poor overhead lighting. The condo board seemed fine with me having multiple bikes in my one spot, but I didn’t want to push the limits by disassembling a motor in that space. To make matters worse, it was an open garage, meaning limited protection from the elements.

      Now I’m in my own home, with a two car garage complete with a motorcycle table lift and space for all of my tools. Given my present situation I probably would’ve kept that bike as a winter project. At the time, passing her along was the right choice.

  5. For the last 8 years I have been running a 1986 VFR750 – in all that time I have bought 3 batteries, oil and filters and two sets of tires. The only real part I have had to find was a fuel level sensor – I got a new one, it took me 3 weeks of ringing around. I have a 1972 Triumph Trident 750 – I can get any part withing 10 days, even though the company that made them has been out of business for over 30 years.

    I am a member of the Vintage Motorcycle Group in Canada which helps. It really helps to have a garage and good tools.

    I am currently restoring a 1972 Honda CB350.

    It really helps to have someone experienced when you buy. I am restoring the Honda CB350, because there were lots made which means that someone out there is making parts. They are used for Vintage Racing which also means a good part scene.

    I you want to go this route ask around – be prepared to learn. What you will get is a unique machine that is truly yours.

  6. 5 Reasons Not to Buy an Old Motorcycle – YouMotorcycle – https://t.co/wCShEo3E3U #motorcycle #motorcycling https://t.co/rk7Q4twoW3

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