The bike buyer’s checklist



The bike buyer's checklist

Take this with you when viewing a bike and get your most cynical mate to check it all off.

1. Paperwork

There is no point going any further if the paperwork isn’t in order.

  • Does the seller’s address match the logbook?
  • Do the engine and frame numbers match the logbook? The frame number is found at the front of the frame just below the handlebars. On most bikes the engine number is towards the back of the engine.
  • Does the colour and model name match the logbook?
  • Is there a service history? Does it make sense, do the names on the invoices back up the ‘two careful owners’ story?
  • Is it MoT’d? Why not. Is it not roadworthy? An MoT should be part of the deal.

2. The quick look round

  • Are all the panels there and in good condition? Are all the screws and fasteners present, do the panels fit properly?
  • How are the tyres? Are they the correct sizes with plenty of tread and not squared off. This is where the centre of the tyre wears flat through prolonged straight line use. It can still be legal but there’s a ridge that you feel as you lean the bike over.
  • Are the chain and sprockets properly adjusted and plenty of I ife left (chain not coming away from the sprocket when you pull) or sagging and rusty?
  • Does the suspension still have its damping? Push the back end of the bike down quickly – does it spring back up like a pogo stick or rise up smoothly (like it should)?
  • What do the brakes look like? Do the pads still have plenty of material on them?
  • Instruments. Do the numbers line up on the mileometer? (if not the mileage could have been adjusted). How many different keys are there? (there should be one that does all the locks. If not, chances are it has been stolen or badly damaged at some point). Do the locks look butchered?
  • Exhaust. Is the downpipe out of the engine in good nick? Are the bolts rusty and seized? Original or aftermarket end can? If aftermarket is it legal to pass an MoT? Is the original available?
  • Wiring. Under the seat, behind the panels, behind the headlamp. How much is bodged and taped together, where does that aftermarket alarm fit in?
  • Check the oil level while cold.

3. The start-up

Does it start easily from cold?

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  • Let the owner warm it up – does he thrash the motor when still cold?
  • Is the exhaust blowing at the engine manifold? -you’ll see the smoke better when it is cold.
  • Does that rumbling go away when you pull the clutch in? If so, it’s nothing to worry about.
  • Is it idling at the right speed?

4. The test ride

Remember that you must have passed your CBT and have motorcycle insurance to be legal to ride it on the road. Chances are that you won’t have insurance because you don’t yet have a bike.

A dealer might let you test ride it on his trade insurance, but if it is a private sale you’ll either need to go pillion (check that the seller has a full licence), get a mate with a full licence to test it or take your test ride off the road in a car park or similar.

  • Does it go into gear easily and does the clutch release smoothly?
  • Does the engine make power smoothly? Is there any hesitation when you open the throttle?.
  • How slick is the gearchange?
  • Does it idle smoothly as soon as you stop?
  • Does it accelerate cleanly away from a stop and through the gears?
  • How does the steering feel – smooth or notchy?
  • Are there any clunks from the front when you brake? (worn head bearings). Or a pulsing through the lever? (warped brake disc)
  • Is it overheating, do all the instruments and lights work?
  • What happens when you release your grip on the bars (bar wobbles indicate knackered head bearings, steering to the left/right is a bent frame).
  • How does the engine sound now it’s warm?

5. The cross examination

Ask all your questions again. Inconsistent or exaggerated answers could also be lies. Query the contradictions, be certain you trust him because this isn’t just about right­bike-right-price, it’s also about right-bike-full-stop.

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Make your offer based on the faults you’ve found, not just ‘will you take £600 for it?’ If he won’t haggle then leave your number and go. There’s another CBR125 in Bolton with your name on it.


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