A Guide to Buying Vintage Wheels

The 10 things you need to know

By The Editors

10 Things to Know Before You Buy a Vintage Motorcycle
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23 October 2015

Unlike the automobile — with its air conditioning and Bluetooth and ability to literally drive itself — the motorcycle still provides a purely visceral experience.

No radio. No temperature knobs. No yellow-bellied coffee holders or seat warmers. Just you and flapping cheeks and two-lane blacktop. It is, in essence, a nostalgic experience. Especially when you pair it with a nostalgic bike.

But before you start your hunt for some vintage wheels, there are things to consider. Some used moto salesmen, like some used car salesmen, do not have your best interests at heart.

We consulted our fine friends from Brooklyn’s Jane Motorcycles to educate us.

Here are their 10 commandments.

1) Make sure you get a clean title. Never buy a bike with a salvage title, which denotes that an insurance company that paid a claim for it has deemed it a total loss of value.

2) Buy the cleanest bike you can find that is running properly. Mechanics first, cosmetics second.

3) Spend the most money you can. You’re not buying a coffeemaker, you’re buying something that ought to be one of your most prized possessions. Do not try to save a dollar here and there.

4) The bike that is rough but rides is much better than one that’s been sitting for 40 years. 60,000 miles and taken care of is much better than a low-mileage bike that's been sitting idle for years.

5) Be prepared to spend money no matter what. That cherry vintage bike that rides off the lot and needs no additional work for a couple years? That’s called a unicorn.

6) Check all electrical, lights, etc. before you drive it out of the shop. As is the case with cars, the most innocuous components can often be just as expensive to replace as more prominent deficiencies.

7) Make sure it starts when cold. If you are going to see the bike for the first time, tell the current owner not to start the bike before you get there.

8) Be prepared to upgrade the suspension, brakes and tires. There are some things you can skimp on and still navigate the road safely. These ain’t them.

9) Try to buy it as stock as possible. If it has been chopped, there will be more problems.

10) Ask for receipts of everything that has been done to it. Even if the guy selling you your bike "just has one of those honest faces."

Worth it? 100%.

Four wheels may move the body, but two wheels move the soul.

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