Tips For Buying A Used Dirt Bike

Our ultimate checklist when considering a used bike

Two-stroke used bike rebuild
Two-stroke used bike rebuildDirt Rider

Buying a used dirt bike will either save or waste money—it comes down to the bike, not the price. Some are beyond realistic repair; a free bike is a rip-off if everything is toasted. Don't be swayed by aftermarket accessories, especially a suspension revalve, which is tuned specifically for each customer. Look at the bike in the light of day, get a short test ride to make sure everything's working, and look for these warning signs.

Controls: If the grips are torn, the handlebar is bent, the levers are tweaked, or the clutch and throttle movement are rough, assume the bike was not cared for.

Bolt missing from clutch lever
ControlsDR Staff

Drive: A worn chain and hooked sprockets are a glimpse inside a motor that likely has also been neglected.

Frame: Check for cracks, welds, and bashed engine cradles (get under the bike and look up at them) for signs of a hard life.

Wheel Bearings: Put the bike on a stand and try to wiggle the wheel, pivoting at the bearing. Wobble indicates wear.

Swingarm and Steering Bearings: Feel for any possible side movement in the swingarm. Check for front and back movement in the fork.

Rims: Put the bike on a stand and spin the wheels. Feel the spokes. Replacing wheels is expensive. Replacing new spokes to new rims isn't cheap, either.

how to tighten spokes dirt bike
RimsSean Klinger

Radiator: Ensure the airflow is clear (fins unbent) and the fluid level is visible when you take off the cap (when the bike is cold).

Coolant level
Coolant levelDirt Rider

Air Filter: Check that the bike has an air filter installed and that it's clean. Ask the seller to remove it and look for dirt or dust in the intake tract (bring a flashlight for this).

Air Filter
Air FilterDirt Rider

Compression: Push the kickstarter down; you should feel compression in the engine.

Hard Starting: A clogged carburetor pilot jet will make starting difficult. Also, on a four-stroke, hard starting could indicate tight valves. On a two-stroke, it might mean chipped or cracked reeds.

Smoke: White smoke indicates a water leak, likely from a blown head gasket.

Oil: Check the oil (engine and trans) if you can. Frothy and cocoa-colored oil indicates a water leak (or from a water crossing), dark and thick indicates neglect.

Oil Level
Checking Oil LevelDirt Rider

Seeping Oil: Before and after a test ride, check the cases for cracks and the engine for weeping oil leaks or areas that have been recently wiped clean.

Suspension: Check for oil on the bottom of the shock shaft and the fork lugs. Feel for nicks on the lower fork tubes. Ask when the suspension was last serviced. It won't perform well with old oil and worn bushings.

Title: In states that require titling, check that the title matches the bike's VIN and the owner's ID matches the title. A title "signed" by the previous owner is tough to prove sold by that legal owner. Register the bike in your name once you buy it.