Bike inspection checklist
MCN Editor Andy Calton gives his top tips for buying a bike:
Does the seller have both original sets of keys?
Have you checked the bike for rust, cracks and evidence of repair work?
Have you checked for any evidence of accident damage, scratches and dents?
Turn on the ignition to check the engine starts properly and doesn’t smoke, that the clutch doesn’t slip, and there are no leaks under the bike.
Get a test ride if you can. The seller should let you if you leave some security or if your friend stays behind. Check gears, suspension and brake operation and all that all the electrics are working satisfactorily.
Make sure the bike will start from cold. It’s common for sellers to warm an engine in advance, so call and ask them not to. Not only will you hear rattles more clearly, but you can check that the choke mechanism works and that the battery is in good condition.
Check the chain is in good condition, properly lubricated and the rear sprocket isn’t damaged.
Check the mileage is consistent with the bike’s age and condition – i.e. well worn foot pegs on a low mileage machine should set your alarm bells ringing.
Check the bike’s logbook to verify matching frame and engine numbers. If they don’t match then the bike has been rebuilt after an accident or stolen.
Check the machine’s symmetry. Are handlebars straight and well balanced? Is the chassis well balanced? Are the mirrors bent? If anything looks significantly out of shape it could indicate a serious accident.
Has the bike been raced? Drill holes through bolt heads, tyres with roughed-up edges (covered with ragged rubber in some cases) and heavy-duty aftermarket engine covers are all sure signs of racing history and/or accident damage. If there is evidence of racing then the price should reflect that.
Check the MoT certificate is real at http://www.motinfo.gov.uk/ and make sure you have seen the V5 and all other relevant paperwork - service book, bills for services etc.
What aftermarket parts does the bike have? If there is an aftermarket exhaust is it road legal?
Have the aftermarket modifications affected the insurance premium?
Are the original tools still under the seat?
If the bike originally came with a seat cowl, does the seller still have it?
If the bike has an aftermarket replacement screen, does the seller still have the original?
For the price of a round of drinks you can buy peace of mind by running a comprehensive history check against the bike. Make sure the machine you’re about to buy doesn’t have outstanding finance against it, has not been written off, or hasn't been clocked. As one in eight of all bikes checked have been written off, it’s just not worth the risk buying without one! See www.mcnbikecheck.com for more info.
Trust your gut instincts. If you’ve done all these checks and are still not happy, walk away!