Choosing a Used Motorcycle

Ensure you purchase the right bike the first time

How to Choose a Good Used Bike

A few simple steps

Once you have decided which bike fits your budget, body, and riding style—and spoken to your insurance broker to make sure that the insurance for that model of bike is affordable—you can now start hunting for your used bike. A few excellent sources of used bikes, are Kijiji, Craigslist, Facebook groups, dealers that have taken bikes on trade, and motorcycle clubs. Once you have found a bike that is at the right price, here are a few basic checks you can do yourself to ensure that you aren't buying a lemon:

Used bike lot
  1. Engine: Make sure the engine is cold when you arrive; a warm engine can disguise problems starting.
  2. Suspension: If the bike has a centre stand, place the bike on it and see if there is any play in the rear swing arm. Then, rock the bike on to the rear wheel and center stand and see if there is any play where the front forks are attached to the frame.
  3. Brakes: If possible, visually inspect the brake components to ensure they are not excessively worn.
  4. Tires: Inspect the tires for uneven wear and adequate tread depth, paying particular attention to the depth of the tread in the center of the tire. A worn tire may have chicken strips; bald in the center, and lots of tread on the edges. As you will be using the center of the tire when riding unless cornering, tread in the center is very important. Also, as rubber degrades with age, check for cracks in the rubber, as well as when the tire was manufactured. Many experts recommend replacing tires that are more than 5 years old to prevent random catastrophic failure from aged rubber. Using an accurate tire gauge, ensure that the tires have the manufacturer's recommended pressure (before riding, to ensure the tires are cold) The recommended tire pressure will be located on the frame of the motorcycle, and will vary depending on the weight of the rider and equipment.
  5. Lights: Turn on the lights. Some bikes turn the lights on automatically when the ignition is placed in the on position. Make sure that the head light has both a low and high beam, the tail light works,front marker lights work, then check that the brake light activates with both the rear and the front brake being applied separately. Also check that the left and right turn signals work as well as the four way flashers.
  6. Carburetor: Once you have inspected the bike for basic safety, you can start the bike. On carbureted bikes, it may be necessary to use the choke to start it and warm it up, but if the bike is difficult to start there may be problems with the carburetor. Once the bike is warmed up, you should ensure that it will idle without stalling. If you have to blip the throttle to keep it running, there are most likely problems with the adjustment of the carbs.
  7. Test drive: When taking the bike for a test ride, start out slowly while you become familiar with the motorcycle, and then try various maneuvers such as cornering, starting, and stopping,to ensure that the bike performs as it should.
  8. Exhaust: If the bike is fitted with aftermarket exhaust, pay particular attention to it backfiring on deceleration, as this is an indication that the carbs or fuel injection have not been set up for the exhaust, and the engine may become damaged.
  9. Paperwork and inspection: After you've determined that the motorcycle is a good fit for you, is mechanically sound, and you've agreed on a price with the seller, you should be provided with a used vehicle information package in Ontario, which will allow you to transfer the motorcycle in to your name. To register the motorcycle in Ontario, you'll need to take it to a mechanic to have a safety inspection completed, and provide proof of insurance.