A call to the KDX owner reveals that he actually does not know much about it, but he puts me in touch with the friend he purchased it from, a "certified" mechanic (two words that usually make me run like hell). This "certified" friend seems reasonably knowledgeable, but the deciding factor in my going to look at the machine are his last words to me, "This is not your normal, clapped out 20 year old piece of shit." Sounds like something I might say.....
Scheduling a time to look at the bike proves nearly impossible due to the owner's work schedule, and I almost give up. We finally agree to a late evening appointment, which sucks because it will be well after dark by the time I arrive breaking my Rule #1 (I have several rules when purchasing a used Craigslist bike, some of them follow below. This list is not complete, I am not ready to give up all my secrets, because the next bike I buy might be from you.):
1. Never look at a bike in the dark. You can't see shit and you will miss something. Just like women, motorcycles always look better when the lights are low and many a defect surfaces in the cold light of day.
2. Always be prepared to buy a bike on the spot and take it home with you that day. Leaving the machine in the soon to be ex-owner's hands any longer than absolutely necessary is asking for trouble. Sometimes they get nostalgic and take "one last ride" and break something they conveniently forget to mention, for the shadier sellers, they will occasionally remove good parts in favor of less valuable or junk items. There is nothing like taking what you know was a running motorcycle home only to find the bastard removed the battery while you went to get your truck (true story).
3. Set your price limit before seeing the merchandise and have exactly that much cash with you, preferably locked up in your vehicle with another party who will remain there. Obviously the seller does not need to know you have any cash on or near your person at all, let 'em think you are a CL tire-kicker timewaster.
3a. Have a little extra cash with you somewhere in case the bike is really cool and you really have to have it and it exceeds your price limit!
4. Make sure the VIN# on the title matches the VIN# on the frame. Been caught out once or twice on this, not fun.
5. Never let on that you know more about motorcycles than the seller. Ask open-ended questions like: "What can you tell me about the bike?" and then let them run their mouths. They will tell you more than you ever wanted to know in an effort to look honest. If you catch them blatantly lying don't point it out right away, it might come in handy for negotiating later.
6. Don't point out every little thing in an attempt to get a better price, this is what scumbags and Craigslist lowballers do. For many sellers their pride is more important than whatever silly offer you make after noting every scratch, ding and spot of rust. Kneel down, touch the items that concern you (like tires, shredded seat cover, weeping fork seals) and ask the seller about them. I find it is best to let them come to their own conclusions. Don't rush, let your concern and internal struggle show.
7. NEVER test ride the motorcycle! This might seem counter-intuitive, but there is just too much that can go wrong here (crashes, blowing the damn thing up, getting pulled over by a cop to find out the thing is stolen/not registered just to name a few, grabbing a handful of front brake to find out there is none, etc., etc..). Let the owner drive it up and down the street and shift it through the gears for you. Pay attention and you will know if they are skipping gears or if the clutch slips horribly. Today's streetbikes are so fast that you can't tell much riding around a cul-de-sac and most of what you need to know will be readily apparent just by looking the machine over: leaking suspension, rounded off bolts and odd fasteners, that goddamn orange silicone squeezing out of every gasket and mating surface.
7a. IF YOU MUST TEST RIDE the motorcycle, don't crash the fucking thing! This is self-explanatory.
8. Remember, projects cost two things: time and money. Lots of both and something most of us are short on. A $500 bike becomes a $2500 project before you even get to ride the damn thing. If you care at all about riding what you are buying, pay more for something that is working, you will save in the long run. I need to remind myself of Rule #8 constantly, or my house would be filled with dilapidated motorcycles.
9. Add-ons add no real value. A $1200 motorcycle with a $1000 exhaust system is not a $2,200 item. Stock, untampered with is best and I don't want your sweaty Joe Rocket mesh jacket or stinky 15 year old Fulmer helmet and damn near every repair manual can be downloaded dirt cheap from the information superhighway.
10. Walk away. If the deal isn't right, walk away. Unless you are buying Gunga Din or some other historically significant motorcycle, there is probably another one out there just like it and the next one might be nicer and have a nicer price!
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