The worse the
economy gets, the more popular motorcycles become. Theyre
a cheap and fun way to get around. Rat bikes
older models that maybe dont look showroom-new anymore
but run fine even more so. You can still find mechanically
sound, if a bit aesthetically impaired, rat bikes for $2,000 or
so. Sometimes, if youre lucky, a lot less so. As an example,
about a year ago, I stumbled on a 1983 Honda GL650 Interstate. This
is a middleweight touring bike with a windshield, fairing and lockable,
weatherproof storage compartments making it ideal for longer
trips and much more practical/useful than a sport bike. I snapped
it up for $1,400 with 12,765 original miles on the clock. I now
have a 60 MPG bike thats a lot more appealing to me than a
50 MPG and $25,000 hybrid.
A buddy scored
a couple of older Nighthawks each of them costing less than
$1,500. They have some dings; the chromes not perfect anymore.
But the bikes are 100 percent solid, mechanically.
bikes have their owns set of issues. The first of these is that
many dealers wont touch a bike older than 15 years or so.
Some draw the line at ten. Many people do not know about this informal
rule and get a surprise when they take their newfound oldie
in for a valve clearance check and carb adjustment.
This is very
much unlike the situation with cars. You can take a 20-year-old
Honda to virtually any Honda dealer provided its a
sure why this is but be advised, it is.
In any event,
its important to factor this fact into your decision whether
to buy an older bike especially if you cant do most
major (and even minor) work yourself. Ask around and see whether
theres an independent shop/mechanic in your area you can go
to. There probably is with the caveat that specialists are
often even more expensive than a dealer.
issue is related to the first: parts. Both availability and
expense. The first is fairly obvious, even if many dont think
about it much.
The good news
is that, for most major brands (Honda, Kaw, Harley, etc.) basic
maintenance stuff (oil filters, brake parts, etc.) usually remains
easy to find either at the dealer parts counter or through aftermarket
mail order suppliers such as Dennis
Kirk or (for the Japanese stuff) Sudco.
Even after the bike is 30-plus years old. I have a 76 Kz900,
for example, and it has never been a problem to get those things.
takes a few days for them to get here via UPS. But no big deal.
about ten years or so, the availability of factory-new replacement
trim parts, electrical bits and pieces and even things like factory
footpegs/grips, etc. often begins to peter out especially
if the bike was not a popular model that was produced in large numbers
over a period of several years. Watch out for low-production bikes
built only for a year or two like my one-year-only 83
GL650. If I ever need certain parts unique to this one model, built
for only one model year, I will be on a Mission!
Honda is better
than most in terms of parts availability chiefly because
while old man Honda himself was alive, it was official company policy
that Honda would continue to manufacture parts for all the bikes
it ever made all the way back to 60s-era Honda Dreams,
even. But old man Honda is dead and gone and the policy has
changed. While it is still generally easier to scrounge parts for
older Hondas, its not as easy as it used to be.
the rest of the article
[send him mail] is an automotive
columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2012 Eric Peters
Best of Eric Peters