A word of warning before you ride the bike of your dreams home
This isn't your typical guide to buying bikes, it's more a reminder not to overlook the details once you do find that perfect bike. Let you tell me my story in the hope your first ride doesn't end with a tow truck and a lot of frustration.
I had been looking for a bike for about 5 months. I had two others to sell before I had room so I was taking my time to find exactly what I wanted. Unfortunately the one I wanted was a 3 hour drive from home (^_^) The owner was nice enough to shoot me some good pics so I knew I wasn't wasting anyone's time. I convinced my wife to go with me to check it out and most likely buy it. From experience I've learned it's cheaper to find a perfect bike and pay a little more than buy something that needs a bunch of work. Even if you do the work yourself a ratty bike will nickel and dime you to death. Even with being the owner of a store this makes more sense so heed this advice. Save your money for making it yours, not buying stuff the previous owner should have taken care of.
We got to the guy's house to check out the bike and it was pretty much what I expected and wanted. It was a 7+ year old bike with 4200 miles. He said he rode it for a little over 1000 miles and the previous owner had it in storage for years. You can tell the bike hadn't been ridden because the tires had little wear and had more in common with hard plastic than rubber. The brake lever also stopped just short of the grip. After a while thinking about the tires we talked about the price. I took a miracle ride around the block on the 500lb monster to make sure it ran. I was nervous, the brake fluid wasn't doing it's job and the tires were just as expected, hard plastic rim protectors. Before going on the test ride I just stared at the bike. I wasn't sure if and how I was going to ride this thing home. I felt the guy was lucky to be alive to sell the bike. I went ahead and decided to take it. I didn't want to spend the extra money and make the day trip again with a truck. That proved to be an error.
I suited up waved good bye and rode off into the rainy night. Riding down the road from his house I was being extra careful not to slip on leaves and stay upright. The handling was what you would expect from hard as rock tires. It was a rough jarring ride, I guess the spongy brakes helped balance things out (^_^) Coming to one of the last stop signs before getting on the Highway the bike fishtailed and went wild. As I tiptoed up to the stop sign the backend broke loose, applying a little more front brake sent the front skidding. I did my best to get things back on track to no avail. It must have looked comical from a bystanders perspective. I must have only been doing 5mph with the bike wiggling back and forth doing it's best to pitch me off. The backend passed the point of no return one last time and I was launched into the intersection superman style. Lucky I was wearing full riding gear. Somehow I managed to break a rib and all the aches and pains with failed flight followed.
How could I have avoided this? Patience is a virtue I still need to learn. After waiting months for a bike I couldn't wait one more day. I wasn't worried about the rain, I've ridden 100,000+ miles in all types of weather from snow to dust storms. I'm lucky I fell then rather than later. Even if I rode home in the dry we don't know if someone could have pulled out in front of me or not. Things could have ended a lot worse. The bottom line is no one should have been riding that bike until it was looked over and all questionable conditions had been corrected.
Brakes. The brake system is what keeps you alive. If the brake lever doesn't stop until it almost hits the grip don't ride it. Brake fluid turns over time from heating and cooling. If your brake fluid is questionable it needs to be changed. I actually had a near death experience on another low mile "stored" bike for this reason. In that case the brakes seemed to work fine until they locked on me in a corner. You need to make a habit of changing your brake fluid every couple years with a bike. Dirt bikes more often since they lead a harder life. I knew better than riding a bike with questionable brakes but I did it anyway.
Tires. You may look at those tires and say, "Wow, those babies are new". You should ask, "just how new are they?". In the case of this bike I knew the tires had to be replaced. I knew I was afraid to go any place on tires that were that old. Tires have a date code, you need to check it before going anyplace on a bike.
Here you can see the tire's date code. These tires were made on the 24th week of 2002. The first two digits are the week of the year and the last two are the year (starting from 2000). We aren't even going to talk about three digit pre-2000 tire codes. If your bike has a three digit date code your tires are too old (^_^) Your tires may have some letters or numbers before the date code but you need to worry about the date code. It's a good idea not to ride on tires more than five years old. Anything past five years and they aren't doing their job.
When tires get old they become hard. The ride suffers first then you start to move into dangerous territory. You won't enjoy riding a bike with old tires and it's just not safe. The misunderstanding about tire condition is responsible for tons or deaths and accidents year after year. Please replace your old tires and enjoy your bike. The same goes for cars but who cares about cars. Two Wheels Forever.
Make sure you spread the word about proper motorcycle care. You may save someone's life.
This story does have a happy end. The damage to the bike was very minor since it was built like a tank and it took such a low speed spill. I spent the next day fixing things, checking the bike over, bleeding the brakes and replacing the tires. Man, what a transformation. Of course it was raining but let me tell you, it was a completely different bike and ride. I enjoyed that night the way I should have enjoyed my first ride with my new machine... Well, except for the pain.