A lot of us, myself included, resort to buying second-hand bikes to save some money. There are lots of irresistible deals on the second-hand market. Sometimes, a bike can be practically brand new, less than a year old, and already on sale because the owner didn't really end up using it.
While most bikes on the second-hand market are indeed legitimate and potentially offer a good deal, there are some that hide a deadly secret. It isn't uncommon for a crashed or totaled motorcycle to be poorly repaired and later sold on the second-hand market. While a small drop or slide isn't really a cause for concern, a major accident certainly is, as a bike cartwheeling after a crash can cause serious, irreparable damage.
Let's take a look at a few things to look out for - red flags that could point to a bike's dangerous history of being involved in a major accident.
The bike doesn't ride straight
A motorcycle that doesn't ride straight is a major red flag. You'll feel a pulling or tugging sensation on one side. This indicates that the front and rear wheels don't track properly, which could be caused by a bent frame, bound forks, and a damaged swingarm. This issue should never be taken lightly, as the instability will become more evident at higher speeds.
Before immediately assuming that the bike is hiding structural damage, it's worth considering the rear wheel alignment. It's possible that it was just misaligned due to a poorly executed chain adjustment. Additionally, make sure the front suspension is adjusted properly, with both fork legs at equal height, and check that the wheel bearings are in good condition.
If you're in doubt, it's advisable to take the bike to a trusted mechanic for a thorough inspection. Remember, certain parts of the bike, such as a bent or cracked frame, cannot be repaired. While they can be replaced, it can be a costly repair that may not be worth it in the end.
Major parts have been swapped out or are not original
When inspecting a used bike, it's crucial to pay close attention to each and every part. It's helpful to conduct research beforehand by examining a brand new example of the bike you're interested in. This way, you can compare and contrast the parts you find on the used bike to determine if they match the brand new one. Minor items like turn signals, levers, and aftermarket accessories are generally not concerning. However, if major structural components are not original, it could indicate a more serious issue.
Take a careful look at the bike's foundational components, including the wheels, suspension fork, rear shock, swingarm, and frame. Ensure that they are all original. If any of these parts have been replaced, especially if it wasn't for customization purposes, there's a chance that the bike has been involved in a crash. For fully-faired bikes like sportbikes and sport-tourers, closely examine the bodywork to check for signs of repainting or repairs.
If you have any doubts or uncertainties, it's advisable to seek the assistance of a professional mechanic or simply walk away from the deal and continue your search for a better option.
Visible crash damage
It's not uncommon to find visible damage on used bikes. Many of them may have experienced minor incidents like being tipped over in a parking lot, which is generally acceptable. However, if you notice crash damage in unusual or unexpected areas, it could indicate that the bike has been incompletely or ineffectively repaired. Examples of such signs include scratches on the frame or missing bodywork, suggesting that the bike has been involved in a previous accident. Bent forks could indicate a potential frontal collision, while a damaged swingarm might suggest a high-side crash.
Ideally, it's advisable to avoid bikes that have been damaged in crashes, especially if you intend to use them regularly or for long trips. The structural integrity and overall safety of a bike that has been previously crashed may be compromised. It's better to prioritize finding a bike that has not been involved in major accidents for a more reliable and secure riding experience.
Should you even bother buying a crashed bike?
In some cases, a crashed bike may be listed for sale "as is, where is." This means that the buyer assumes full responsibility for repairing the bike and bringing it back to a functional state. While this might appear to be an enticing opportunity, it can be a treacherous path that carries significant risks. Sourcing the necessary parts for repair can be both expensive and time-consuming. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that major components such as the frame and engine are in good running condition until after the bike has been repaired.
If budget is a concern, it is advisable to explore other options rather than attempting to repair a crashed bike. The cost and time involved in repairing such a bike are likely to outweigh the benefits, especially when compared to purchasing a bike in decent condition. It's crucial to prioritize safety and consider the long-term costs and efforts associated with restoring a crashed bike before making a decision.