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Thread: The Noob's Guide to buying 2nd Hand Bikes

  1. #1
    "Master Yoda". Banditman's Avatar
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    Default The Noob's Guide to buying 2nd Hand Bikes

    Thank you to everyone who gave the words of encouragement over the Noob's Helmet guide. Here's another one for you to chew through!

    Buying a Second-hand Motorcycle or Scooter

    There is nothing wrong with buying a 2nd hand bike, but you do need to know a few things first. The obvious disadvantage is that you will have no dealer or warranty comeback if there’s a problem unless it is a newer model with a warranty still in place, but make sure that the warranty can be transferred to you. You may not be able to get finance either.
    The plus is that you can often get a bargain privately – if you know the potential pitfalls to avoid.
    · It’s stating the obvious, but start by knowing what you actually want. If you’re only ever commuting do you need a large-capacity cruiser? If you’re going to be touring with your wife do you really think that superbike’s going to be practical or lead to a divorce? Just because you know someone who uses a certain bike for the type of riding you have in mind doesn’t mean it’ll suit you. When you know what you’re actually going to use the bike for – and be honest with yourself – then start asking the following:
    · What type of bike am I looking for: cruiser; on-off road; sportsbike; superbike; tourer etc? What engine capacity am I considering? You’ve already narrowed down your list.
    · What is available on the market that meets my needs, or is my heart set on a particular make & model? Don’t be closed-minded or afraid to look around. Unless you’re after a classic bike buy a bike that meets your needs, not Brand X because you had one or your dad had one years ago. They don’t make them like they used to: nowadays they’re generally much better.
    · Knowledge is power: Buy magazines with bikes for sale & reviews and get to know what’s out there. Look at the average market prices & which conditions command which prices. Ask riders and shops about specific models. The 1989 Brand X you’re eyeing may have had some major problems & recalls you don’t know about but they will. The internet is a fantastic resource in this regard, with owners’ forums, ride tests and magazine articles just a Google away. Find out about the model(s) you’ve selected as a final cut. Learn their production life dates, colour schemes, modifications etc. This will help immensely when shopping. If you're buying or wanting a classic bike this is a must-do, but you'll probably be pretty clued up about it already.
    · Grey or official? Official bikes were imported by the South African distributors with full spares backup. Grey imports are bikes and scooters brought in by non-franchised dealers, usually at cheaper prices. Japanese-spec models are most common. A typical feature of these is a 200km/h restriction in the form of an electronic limiter. There are many cases where the differences are virtually non-existent beyond this, but be careful! This whole topic is an area where AMID & non-AMID dealers come to blows. This article is looking at it purely from a consumer’s point of view.
    · Blind dates: Is that 2004 model actually a 2004, or a 2001? Second hand bikes & scooters imported into South Africa have been sold as the year they were registered here. I personally have a friend who was sold a 2000 model Hayabusa as a 2002. This situation has been changing, but beware of unscrupulous dealers or ignorant private sellers.
    · Some models (often in the 400cc range) have little or no spares available in this country, and the older the bike the harder it can be to locate the spares. Ironically it’s easier to get parts for a 1950/60s British bike than an early ‘70s Honda 750 in some cases!
    · If you’re going the grey route, choose a popular model sold in large numbers. Not only will spares availability be better, but selling the bike one day will probably be easier as well.
    · If you’re going to trade up at some point, try to choose a desirable model that you won’t struggle to sell later. Just because you like that Day-Glo orange & purple R1 doesn’t mean anyone else will.

    Now you have the knowledge, the hunt begins

    · Don’t limit your search to the shops and private sellers in your city alone. If there’s nothing suitable don’t get fobbed-off with the next best thing. It may well not be.
    · EVERY 2ND HAND BIKE OR SCOOTER PRICE IS NEGOTIABLE! Especially when you’re holding folding (cash is king). Unless it’s a super-rare vehicle at a Sotheby’s auction, there’s room to negotiate. Try to aim to get 10% off of the price being asked.
    · Thanks to the National Credit Act times are tough in certain segments of the trade, so they may well come down a bit in price to make the sale & move the bike. Be reasonable though, & don’t take the Mick with someone trying to make an honest living.
    · Take a knowledgeable friend with you. If something’s caught your eye then definitely do this. They will give a dispassionate & honest opinion while you may be blinded by desire.

    · DEALERS: Ask around your city about the dealers. Who is good, who is trustworthy, which is best avoided by a mile. Get more than one opinion.
    · Take a look at the other bikes on their floor – what impression do you get from the dealership. Are they prepped for sale, or are they often grubby or wearing worn-out tyres. Remember you’re not looking for a flash building, but experience and competency. If you can see the workshop at all from the showroom (quietly) do they look like they know what they’re doing or take pride in their work? Are YOU being treated as a serious customer or just tolerated or patronised (sadly common with lady customers)? Go where you’ll be welcomed & respected.
    · Are they interested enough in your business to find what you want, or are they more interested in telling you what you can’t have & why you should rather take what they’ve got.
    · Will they give you some form of guarantee on the bike? If not then what will they offer?

    · PRIVATE SELLERS:
    · First impressions: What does the garage/house/bike or scooter look like? If they can’t look after their home or themselves, would they have cared for the bike? Sometimes the case is yes with a diehard enthusiast, usually it’s no. Don’t be fooled by socio-economic status or accent. Poor doesn’t always mean neglect, and rich doesn’t always mean care.
    · Walk around the bike and LOOK at it. Does it live up to the sales description? Is it well maintained or has it been given a quick scare with a washcloth to look good for sale. You can tell by getting down close. Look under the fairing plastics, around the rear shock(s) and swingarm, & around the yokes and head stock. If they’ve hardly ever cleaned it well, you’ll see traces of rust, dirt or a thin brown film covering hard to reach places. Has the seller even bothered to clean it for the sale?
    · Does the seller know about the bike? Ask when it was last serviced and what was done. Ask if there’s a service history/collection of receipts etc. with the bike. Ask where they had the bike serviced (you can phone the place later and ask THEM about the bike as well). If they service the bike themselves, do they actually know how to? If the garage is well-equipped with tools and manuals it’s often a good sign. Ask what grade & quantity of oil it uses.
    · If the bike’s close to its next service date, try to negotiate the cost off of the sale price OR pay the asking price IF the owner has it serviced first.
    · Does the seller brag about power, wheelies and burnouts? Does he tell you how the bike corners so fast & low he can scrape the footrests? Walk away now or face a potential money pit. All of those stunts tend to wear out chains & sprockets, steering head bearings, cush rubbers and engines. They haven’t done that? Carry on looking at the vehicle.
    · Does the mileage seem suspiciously low for or extremely high for the year? Higher mileage is not necessarily a bad thing, as it shows the bike is ridden regularly. Is that low mileage because it was a cherished toy, or because it has never run properly?
    · Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. More and more buyers want bikes to be as standard as possible. Anodised nuts & bolts, tinted screens and headlight covers, huggers, tank protectors, aftermarket indicators and exhaust cans have little bearing on value with Japanese bikes – no matter what the owner thinks. If you really like the bike as is then ask if the seller has the original exhaust and parts, as you can change them around when you come to sell the bike one day. The only real exceptions here are with BMWs and Harley-Davidsons where official accessories are desirable and can add value. Note that Japanese cruisers are NOT Harley-Davidsons in this regard.
    · Look at the handlebar end weights, clutch, brake and gear levers, mirrors, indicators, foot rests, exhaust system and engine cases. Are they scratched, scuffed or scored? Are they bent into interesting shapes? The bike’s probably been dropped. This may have caused expensive repair damage. Are those badly-scored cases ok or were they “repaired” with sealant or steel putty? If they care so much about the bike, why weren’t the levers replaced?
    · Marks on an alloy-framed sportsbike are NOT good, as there may be internal fractures which have critically weakened the frame beyond repair. Small marks may show that the bike/scooter toppled over at some point, which is not uncommon but not necessarily a problem beyond minor cosmetics.
    · Look at the paint on the petrol tank and side covers. Look at the wear on the handlebar grips and footrest rubbers. Does it look like it matches the given mileage?
    · Is the paint standard for the model and year (here’s where the knowledge helps) or is it a custom or respray job? Custom paint is not uncommon, but is it hiding accident repairs? Ask why it was repainted. If the owner wanted a particular paint job that’s not a problem – as long as you like it enough to live with it too. Ask if the bike has ever been in an accident and repaired. Look at the quality of the repaint. Shoddy workmanship=cheap job.
    · If the bike has a full or half fairing, take a good look at the panels. Do they line up correctly? Are they damaged in any way? Misaligned plastics could be hiding panel brackets or frames bent by a fall. New plastics get VERY expensive on some bikes, and may not even be available in the country on older models if they’re available at all. Mismatched panels are probably replacements for damaged ones & haven’t yet been painted to match.
    · Look at the wheel rims for damage. If they are cast wheels look for cracks in the rims and spokes. If they’re spoked, feel for loose or damaged spokes.
    · What condition are the tyres in? Will they need replacing within 500km? Are they cracked and hard from age? If so then bargain the price of replacements off the selling price or have the seller replace them if he wants full sale price.
    · A tyre that’s worn right to the edge with roughened edges and little rubber “beads” is a sign of hard, fast riding and heavy throttle use. Will it need servicing soon, especially a major service? Are the brake pads/shoes nearing replacement? Negotiate the cost of that off the sale as well, or (again) have the seller do that if he wants full price.
    · Don’t accept having these jobs done by the seller ON TOP of the asking price – he should be selling the vehicle as fit for purpose. If the sale is “as is” that’s a different matter, but you should still negotiate the costs off. It’s your money.
    · Check the condition and tension of the chain and the wear on the sprockets. A dry, rusty and loose chain needs replacing, as will a worn sprocket. At your cost or theirs? A slack chain has not been adjusted, which shows lack of attention. Is that the norm for this bike’s owner?
    · Do the levers, footrests and stands move smoothly and silently or are there more squeaks than a haunted house?
    · Check the front forks. Is there any sign of damage (dents, bends) to them? Are the sliders (chrome) rust-pitted? This can be expensive to fix. Are the fork seals in good condition or perished from age? Bounce the bike on its suspension and look again. Are there thicker/excessive streaks of oil on the sliders? This shows a blown seal. If the forks are adjustable do the adjuster screws show signs of being butchered?
    · Check the back shock(s) the same way.
    · Look at the fasteners, nuts & bolts. Are they damaged or rounded off by bad maintenance?
    · If the clutch and brakes are hydraulic then what does the fluid look like in the sight glasses? If the bike’s more than 2 years old ask when it was last changed. If cable operated, check the free play and cable operation. Sticky cable = old un-lubed cable.
    · Look at the sump plug and oil filler cap – do they have a little hole drilled through them? If they do, it’s probably been a track bike. The plugs are drilled because track bikes have to have lock-wiring done all over them to comply with safety regs.
    · With the bike on the centre stand (if fitted) or upright if not, turn the steering fully from side to side. You are feeling for stickiness, “notchiness” or overly loose and floppy steering. This shows steering head bearing damage, which will usually cost nicely over R1000.00 to fix on a big bike. You can also check by pushing the bike forward and grabbing the front brake. Any obvious movement in the steering together with a “clunk” noise is bad news. If you’re not 100% sure what you’re doing then get someone with experience to check.
    · Take hold of each wheel and try to move it from side to side on the axle. Excessive movement (detected as a knocking sensation) indicates worn wheel bearings. Look for leakage of grease from the bearings themselves.
    · Look closely at the engine for oil leaks. If the bike’s obviously not been looked after but the engine/chassis were recently steam-cleaned or jet washed that should raise a potential warning flag. Check the radiator & hoses (if fitted) for damage and leaks. Check the fuel system for leaks. Check the exhaust system for damage.
    · Feel the engine. Is it warm? Why? Did the seller start and warm it up before you arrived for some reason? Is the battery too old to start the bike, or there’s a charging problem he’s hiding? Start the engine and let it run for a while (more than 30 seconds!) to get to operating temperature. While its running listen for suspicious knocks or clatters from the valvetrain and crank. Look for oil leaks around the filter, head gasket and other gaskets, drain plug etc. Look at the radiator/coolant system for leaks while it’s under pressure. Is the exhaust blowing? Is the engine running evenly? If you have any suspicions then ask to come back another time to start/hear the bike from cold. An honest seller won’t have a problem with this. If they get all defensive, then what are they hiding?
    · Take a breath: Unless it’s a rare classic or (honestly) limited edition there is ALWAYS another example of the bike you’re after, even if you have to look for a while. If you’re pretty sure you want that bike then go back again for another look. If it makes you feel better then ask the seller to give you first refusal. You might see more than you did the first time which could change your mind. If you don’t then your friend just may.
    · Last questions for yourself: Does the bike fall within your budget or is it worth stretching a bit. One way or the other, have you included the cost of decent quality safety gear (helmet, gloves, jacket & boots) into your budget if you need it?


    If you’ve prepared yourself as best you can, use the wisdom & help of knowledgeable friends, and enjoy the hunt for the apple in the pile of lemons, then buying a second-hand bike can be a lot of fun. It’s really not as daunting as you think.

    Happy hunting.
    Last edited by Banditman; 09-10-2008 at 11:57 PM.
    Try not. Do or do not, there is no try.


  2. #2
    Evil Biker Scum halo123.'s Avatar
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    Posted via Mobile Device wish u put this up two and a bit years ago . Hehe. Other thing to aske ie the bike has been washed . Where it normally parks as they may have washed the evidence of a slow oil leak away. And listen to your gut. Got That uneasy but feeling but want the bike . Walk away. And think abt it .

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    Biker Trash Nano's Avatar
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    Whats the rule of thumb to finance? From what Ive heard, you cant get finance on a second hand bike thats older than 10 years? Is this correct?

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    Hooligan Biker SlaYer's Avatar
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    Default I wish I knew

    Wow, how I wish I knew all this before buying my CBR400.

    What a mistake of note, shimming needed to be done about 4 months after purchase. Had to replace the exhaust collector just before that.

    And now she is out of order because of a broke inlet cam. I think I covered about 4 months on it and I acquired it about 2 years ago. Not only the problems but parts are close to impossible to get.

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    EyeCandi's Nemesis
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nano View Post
    Whats the rule of thumb to finance? From what Ive heard, you cant get finance on a second hand bike thats older than 10 years? Is this correct?
    I think it's closer to 5 years ...

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    G day Gents and ladys
    I am looking for a 06/07 Suzuki sv1000s in a good condition and with low
    milage ,if any one could assist.
    Thanx
    0839682945

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    The infamous Kinni N Nikki K's Avatar
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    Yet again Banditman, Thank you.
    another gem saved to my bike folder
    !!!!!!!!!!!!!SUZUKI GN 250!!!!!!!!!
    and now starts the hard work.
    !!Neophyte Alert!!

    Warning of Potential Cluelessness & Multiple Explanation Requests.

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    nice article,
    will def use this when assessing the bike i eventually buy!

  9. #9
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    Great artivle, im sure i could use this in my next purchase.

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    Dear Banditman,

    Thank you very much for the tips. I just had a look at the bike i would like to buy.
    The owner is one of the presidents of his club. He is selling the bike because he upgraded
    to a larger bike.
    The bike that is up for grabs is a 2003 Suzuki SV 650 S, with 44 000 Km on the clock, selling for 29K.
    He himself bought the bike second hand.
    I was actualy look for a Honda VTR Fire Storm. But those move faster than a poep on a cold winters day.
    (selling faster than toilet-paper )

    Last night i read your post on first time buyers. You said it beter to start small, however i can ride the 125 type
    bikes, and know how to handel it (basics). So i decided to go with your option no.2, which is to go for a good medium class bike.
    You spoke about the SV 650. Taking in account that i love Hondas (CBR SuperBlackbird mmmm Heerlik Herman !!),
    i felt that it is wise to start at the bottom.
    I will use the bike as transport, while my baby, Opel Astra, is going in for a overhaul and tune-up.
    But i will also use the bike for breakfast runs ect. I am tierd of watching and drooling over other bikers, having all the fun.
    Now i have the money, and this deal sounds very shweet.

    Do you have any advice, as i am not shure how long the bike will be available.
    Ok, just for information, i still have to get my learners and licence.

    But i am realy iching to buy a bike. Not this one in particular, but overall.
    However, i want to do it right from the get start . Because if someone sais to me again " o no, its so dangerous! Do you know how many poeple dies on bikes ?! You are crazy !! " , i realy am going to do something very unatractive to that person.
    I know that i can be a safe and responsible rider. Hence the membership at TB.

    So,to all the other people, not riding a bike, get used to it or bly stil.
    Bikers are here to stay ! And i want to be a part of it, Think Bike Style like even.

    I will apreciate all the advice i can get.

    Thank you.

  11. #11
    "Master Yoda". Banditman's Avatar
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    Hi and welcome aboard. I'll put my answers in blue, in between your questions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kragkaskar View Post

    Thank you very much for the tips. I just had a look at the bike i would like to buy.
    The bike that is up for grabs is a 2003 Suzuki SV 650 S, with 44 000 Km on the clock, selling for 29K.
    i decided to go with your option no.2, which is to go for a good medium class bike.
    You spoke about the SV 650. Taking in account that i love Hondas (CBR SuperBlackbird mmmm Heerlik Herman !!), i felt that it is wise to start at the bottom.
    I will use the bike as transport, But i will also use the bike for breakfast runs ect.

    With a bit of riding done, and as long as you do a proper riding course to get the skills up to speed and accurate, an SV would be a good mid-range choice for a sporty bike. They've earned a good rep since Suzuki brought them out in '98. Good enough in fact that Suzuki UK have just reintroduced them to the market (after dropping them in '09 & replacing them with the Gladius - basicaly a naked, updated SV).

    Don't get too hung up over brand names. The Japanese manufacturers don't really make bad bikes these days. Some handle better than others because of the design purpose or budget, but the term "bad" or "dog" doesn't apply anymore. At least not the way it did before '95 (ask older bikers about some of the junk that was sold in the Eighties).


    Now i have the money, and this deal sounds very shweet.

    Do you have any advice, as i am not shure how long the bike will be available.
    Ok, just for information, i still have to get my learners and licence. But i am realy iching to buy a bike. Not this one in particular, but overall.

    Here's where the temptation sets in like a fever. Have you considered the costs of decent quality riding gear along with the purchase price? Too many people overreach on the cost of the bike & leave little for ATGATT, which they don't buy for several years as they're still paying off the bike.

    There will always be another bike & deal. You might have to look for a while but you'll find one. If you're not ready & able to buy the achine & ATGATT without putting yourself in the dwang financially, then maybe hold on a while. If the bike's a real gem, you're friends with the owner and they're willing to hold on to it until you're ready then that's great.

    You'll need to insure the machine as well, so at least get your Learner's out of the way. Do a good beginner's course. You won't have a bike of your own just yet but you'll still have a few extra weeks/months to add to your bike piggybank too. It's better to go into any deal in life feeling happy with it than to repent at leisure.

    However, i want to do it right from the get start .
    And that, sir, you are already doing.
    Try not. Do or do not, there is no try.


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    Good solid advice. Just like the helmet and the Leather jacket pieces

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    Hi banditman

    Thanks for the tips and advice, I plan on using it! I'm planing on buying a second hand bike maybe a bajaj pulsar, possibly in march hopefully by that time I'd have got my learners and licence test over and done with, and enough money for gear(I only have the money for the bike). I'm 20 turning 21 and a university student, and I've always wanted a bike so decided I'm going to do it. Only problem is I don't think my dad would approve better yet help me with money, so I'm trying to get everything done by myself. After all the research I've done and help received I only have one last question... How do I handle the paper aspect when I want to buy a bike, meaning what papers do I need and how do I transfer the bike into my name?
    Just looking for that thrill in life

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    Hey guys if any of u have a copy of the leaners papers could u plz drop me a mail bruce@layarstudio.com

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    After my accident 5 days ago I am looking to get another bike.
    I can only purchase second hand and my budget isn't fantastic either.
    Which bike is the most reliable and easiest maintenance and cheapest to maintain and can go far with only maintenance and little repairs to broken parts. I have burnt my fingers when I was continiously replacing parts on my VFR750, a mistake I will not soon make again thanks to this thread.
    I was also thinking about the SV650. I am going to use the bike to work and back mostly 35km to work and 35 km back home.
    Please help

  16. #16
    "Master Yoda". Banditman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by supernova View Post
    After my accident 5 days ago I am looking to get another bike.
    I can only purchase second hand and my budget isn't fantastic either.
    Which bike is the most reliable and easiest maintenance and cheapest to maintain and can go far with only maintenance and little repairs to broken parts. I have burnt my fingers when I was continiously replacing parts on my VFR750, a mistake I will not soon make again thanks to this thread.
    I was also thinking about the SV650. I am going to use the bike to work and back mostly 35km to work and 35 km back home.
    Please help
    Welcome to the forum supernova.

    That's a bit of a "pice of string" question:
    What is your budget?
    What's the smallest capacity you're willing to go to?
    I'm guessing form the VFR & SV comments you're after a sports tourer-type of bike. VFR's are great bikes, but they're not cheap to work on when they do go wrong.

    I don't think there's any single "most reliable" bike out there although the Honda C90 Cub would probably take that prize, and you want a bigger machine than that. There are a few bikes that would probably fit your taste & need bracket, but again - what budget?
    Try not. Do or do not, there is no try.


  17. #17
    Hooligan Biker supernova's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Banditman View Post
    Welcome to the forum supernova.

    That's a bit of a "pice of string" question:
    What is your budget?
    What's the smallest capacity you're willing to go to?
    I'm guessing form the VFR & SV comments you're after a sports tourer-type of bike. VFR's are great bikes, but they're not cheap to work on when they do go wrong.

    I don't think there's any single "most reliable" bike out there although the Honda C90 Cub would probably take that prize, and you want a bigger machine than that. There are a few bikes that would probably fit your taste & need bracket, but again - what budget?
    Hi Banditman,
    I guess the smallest I am willing to go is 250cc and the budget I am having is R20 000 - R30 000

  18. #18
    Smooth bottomed bunny hugger Brendon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by supernova View Post
    Hi Banditman,
    I guess the smallest I am willing to go is 250cc and the budget I am having is R20 000 - R30 000
    Honda CBX 250 (also known as a "Twister") ... can't go wrong

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    Hi TB and all members

    i am currently on the look out for a bike (82' GPZ 550 Uni-trac) and finally found one i am interested in. i contacted the seller he seems like a pretty straight forward guy.

    I asked him about the bike and he says all is well mechanically. He also tells me the bike has been scrapped and all it needs is to go for a reregistration and roadworthy and all is hunky-dory.

    i am a first time buyer of secondhand roadbikes (had a few dirtbikes) so i know nothing about buying second hand privately. Is there anything i need to be worried about buying from this guy (the whole scrapped bike thing) or is this how one does things?

    Any advice will be muchly apprected, please if possible could replys be sent to gary@veracruz.co.za as i only have limited time on the net due to "the man" watching me...

    PS if anyone has a GPZ 550 for sale at a good price, drop me a mail. i am in Pretoria.

    Thanks, Gary.

  20. #20
    Little frunker. Ares's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Roodepoort
    Bike
    NC750X (Frunkenstein!)
    Region
    Gauteng
    Posts
    2,423

    Default

    Thanks for the post, Banditman

    Will certainly read \ Print again before embarking on my next hunt!

    I usualy start looking at this web site for specs and reviews when I think I might be interested in a bike:

    http://www.motorcyclespecs.co.za/

    Dont know if anyone else has a better site, but I havent found one as yet...

    Happy riding!

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