How to buy the perfect winter hack

Published: 07 December 2010

Buying a second bike to use as a winter hack can make sound financial sense and put some fun into winter riding. Read on for advice on how to make sure you buy the right bike at the right price.  

There are a number of benefits that come with running a winter hack. Your 'proper' bike stays safe tucked up in the garage, away from salty roads, corrosive rain and the possibility of a costly icy low-side - so it remains in good condition with a lower mileage, holding its value and saving you money. 

A winter hack can also be a lot of fun. It takes the pressure off winter riding as you're less worried about damaging your pride and joy, letting you concentrate on keeping warm and enjoying the ride.    

Some of the best bikes to consider are those favoured by despatch riders, like the Kawasaki GPZ500, Honda CB500 and Yamaha XJ600 Diversion. Single-cylinger trailies also make alot of sense for their reliability and simplicity, such as the BMW F650, Aprilia Pegaso and Yamaha XT600.

Look for high value, not low price
One mistake some people might make is going out and buying literally the cheapest bike they can get their hands on. This might seem like a good idea in the short term, but just because a bike is initially cheap to buy doesn't mean it will be a bargain for you in the long run, especially when it refuses to start one cold winter morning and you have to spend more money on repairs.

The simpler the better
The more modern and complex a used bike is, the more there is to potentially go wrong. For a winter ride what you need is old-school simplicity, which is why single-cylinder trailies make such good commuters and hacks. Since you'll probably be looking at bikes that have already seen a few winters, sturdy build quality also becomes a pretty big plus. Hondas are good for this, but bear in mind replacement parts can be more costly.

Be prepared to look uncool...
Some bikes are perfectly capable machines that for some reason or other are totally undesirable. They never struck a chord with the bike-buying public, never quite found their niche or simply fell out of the ugly tree and hit every single branch on the way down. Fortunately for us, that makes them bargains on the used market and therefore perfect winter hack material.

Naked all the way
The ideal hack is definitely a naked bike. Faired bikes have a number of disadvantages. The plastics are a hassle to take on and off if any maintenance is required. They'll also be damaged in a spill. The ideal winter hack should brush off a low speed low side with ease. Go naked and consider crash mushrooms and handguards to protect engine and levers. If you need wind protection for motorway miles, you can always fit a screen.

Common as muck
Don't be tempted by rare imports or anything with suspect reliability. The more common the better. Look for something that's been around for a while and has been produced in decent numbers, then parts will be cheaper and easier to find.

Check the consumables
Make sure that the tyres, brake pads and chain & sprockets still have life left in them. The bike might not be such a bargain if you wind up having to replace some of these parts. However if you spot faults and have the skills to fix them yourself, point them out to drive down the price.

With all that in mind, check out the MCN Bikes For Sale section to see what potential winter hacks are available in your area.

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