Looks can be deceptive

Published: 16 July 2017

Bikes for sale

Sometimes a service history isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. I have come across a nice clean bike before with a service book that has all the stamps in the right places and nothing else. I’ve known people who’ve made up their own service stamps, and I’ve even known someone who used to filch dealers’ stamps from off their service countertops while the staff weren’t looking.

People are getting more imaginative when it comes to disguising the history of their bikes. I am a keen photographer with an extensive Nikon collection. People don’t carefully wrap their cameras in tape just to protect them against knocks. They do it because it protects all the bits of the body that can exhibit wear on the edges and corners. When it comes to selling the camera, they pull off the tape. People do this with bikes as well. Plastic dipping is on the increase, and it’s not always because someone likes the look of an eye-watering yellow/maroon/green colour clash. It hides the mileage quite nicely.

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With modern bikes though (as with modern digital cameras) there’s an electronic footprint. The service records of my Kawasaki H2 (including, I suspect, the naughty bits like maximum speeds and revs attained) are downloaded at service time and kept in some electronic repository. It’s getting easier to double check. For older stuff though, you want to see receipts.

If there’s a service stamp for a 36,000-mile overhaul a year ago, and the seller owned the bike at the time, there ought to be a receipt. Follow the paper trail and quiz the owner about things like tyre pressures and steering head torque settings. A genuine seller will have the paperwork and, sometimes, the answers. In short, don’t just go by appearances.

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