Used Bike Buyer's Guide - Feature Review - Dirt Rider Magazine

Dear Dirt Rider,I know you've been getting hit pretty hard with the "which bike should I buy" questions but I've got a slightly new spin on the question. Suppose you've already decided to go with a thumper, but your budget will only allow for a used bike. I've heard all sorts of horror stories about the new breed of high performance thumpers blowing up. Can you guys divulge which models/brands are more prone to engine failure? I'm considering a 2002 CRF, should I be worried?Thanks
Chris Lubas

Chris, buying a used bike is always a risk. Any brand, any model in any person's hands can fail. It's our experience that the new thumpers, with simple regular maintenance, are no more prone to engine failure than the next machine. This is what you have to find out, among other things.If you're considering the purchase of a used bike, two-stroke or four-stroke, how confident you'll be in your purchase depends greatly on who you're buying from. You need to look at the previous owner of the bike, if you're buying from a private party, or find out as much as you can about them if you're buying used from a dealership.It's a big plus if you know the person and how they take care of their stuff. If they're the type to jump their Pontiac LeMans over railroad tracks, you should think twice about buying a used bike from them—even if you know them.If you don't know the person selling the bike, look for clues of cleanliness or mechanical ability. If they have a cherry '68 Chevrolet pickup, fully restored and running in tip-top shape, and the bike you're considering seems in similar condition, you might feel better about buying something used from them. If they're garage is sloppy and their mid-90's Dodge has a dent in the tailgate and reeks of cheap, blue-labeled beer, you might want to think twice.But watch out. Some guys are good at cleaning stuff but lack a little on the mechanical side. The bottom line is this: it's always better if you know the person and/or their reputation at the local shop or among other riders is good.Once you've found the bike, interview the seller and ask these, and probably other, questions:
• How many hours are on the bike? (If they don't know, it's a bad sign)
• Where did you buy it? (you can ask the dealer about the bike and owner's reputation)
• What did you do with it primarily? Moto? Trail? Desert? (you need to know if it's already set up for what you ride, or if you'll be spending more money getting it that way)
• What regular maintenance have you done and at what intervals? (Especially with four-strokes it's important they changed the oil often and checked the valves to ensure they aren't out of spec)
• What major problems did you have?
• Where did you have it worked on if not done by yourself?
• Why are you selling it?After you get a good feel for the person, ask them if they'll show you around the bike. It's easy to check all of the following with nothing more than a couple T-handles and a stand. And if they want to sell the bike, are confident in its condition and have the time, they shouldn't have a problem letting you look it over. Check out the following:Motor
• Clutch plates for wear and/or discoloration
• Ease of starting. Hard starting can mean tight valves or other problems
• Valve specs. This is a little more complicated but they still might be up for it.
• Compression test if you have the equipment or if it's for sale at a shop.
• Exhaust fumes should'nt be excessive or heavily colored
• Exhaust noise should be equal to stock or lower. Loud pipes don't necessarily help a bike. In fact, most of the time, bikes aren't usually jetted correctly for them and the loud exhaust is actually hindering performance and reliability of the motor. Quiet is a good thing when it comes to exhaust—especially if you're buying a used bike.
• Visual inspection of carburetor for leaks or cracks
• Airbox/air filter condition (should be clean and prepped for a ride)
• Radiators should be straight, clean and have little or no bent fins.The Frame/ Subframe
• Cracks and stress marks in joints and on ground-contact points should be looked at closely
• Excessive rubbing (a good sign of wear and if they're being honest about how much time is on the bike)
• Inspect swingarm for stress cracks, dings or previous repairsHandlebars/Controls
• Stressed, cracked or bent bars need to be replaced
• controls should be free-working (brake lever, clutch lever/cable, throttle assembly/cables)
• Hot-start circuit should work smoothly—not sticking closed or open.
• Headlight, Electric start, Battery etc. if an off-road/dual-sport bikeSuspension/Wheels/Tires
• Check to make sure shock and fork seals aren't leaking.
• Push up and down/ sit on bike to check proper operation of suspension.
• Check for pits or dings in lower fork tubes and shock shaft
• Check for dents in the rims and loose or over-tight spokes.
• Check for stress cracks in the hubs and wheelsWhat not to care about:• Grips. It's an old trick to put new grips on an old bike to make it feel new. New grips on a clapped-out bike make a big difference in how nice it feels but don't do squat down the road. Grips are cheap, ignore them.
• Plastic. Again, pretty plastic covers up a lot and can make a bike look a lot newer and nicer than it is. It's nice to have clean, even new, plastic on a bike but it doesn't have anything to do with the mechanical quality and should be looked through, not concentrated on.This sounds a little overwhelming when you read it in a list like this, but really it's quite easy to inspect all of this—including valve specs and even compression, in less than an hour. It's your money, so take your time and leave the situation, with or without a bike, confident you made the right choice.