What to look for when buying an old bike

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jdvorchak
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What to look for when buying an old bike

Post #1 by jdvorchak » Sun Dec 16, 2012 11:17 pm

I am not sure if this belongs in the "Tech Discussions" forum. Moderator please feel free to move it.

Collectively this forum has an incredible amount of talent and most importantly experience with old bikes. I was just reading some posts, in the tech discussions, and I find myself wondering "how do these guys end up with bikes that are so much of a challenge to just get running let alone street worthy?" Then it struck me. Of course a portion of it is luck but I also realized that I have years of experience reviving old stuff. How is it I seem to end up with "good buys" and great running bikes all the time? That being said, how do I relay that experience and insight to others?

Let me start with what I think I know and let others jump in and "spread the wealth". There are a lot of buying guides and helpful hints on other sites like Randakk or Steve Saunders goldwingfacts.com or goldwingdocs etc. etc. Take advantage of those wonderful sites. The problem I have had, with other sites, is they way they are presented is a one sided view. The author's ideas or perspective. I propose to offer a multisided view by garnering the wealth of knowledge contained here. If this proves usefull maybe someone could edit or just glean the good stuff and make a good article for the "How To" section. If you decide to do that please give credit to those who have contributed.

I'll kick it off.

Buy with your mind not with your heart! It's just a bike and there are plenty out there. Keep emotions out of it. I promise that you will be disappointed if you are emotionally attached.

I never buy anything "cause I need it". I buy because that is the one I want and the deal is too good to pass up. Let me say that again. The deal is too good to pass up! Don't settle. Get what you want and don't be in a hurry. A clean running bike that is leaking fluid out of the "weep hole" for $2000 is NOT a good deal to me. One that has been sitting in a barn for 20 years but the cables still move and the engine turns over for $150 is a good deal. There again that is a good deal for me. It probably isn't a good deal for you if this is the first bike you've owned in 20 years. We have found that it usually takes from $1000 to $1500 to get one in perfect safe riding condition. Be sure and factor that into the deal. Have I bought bikes that I didn't know if the engine would turn over and had compression? Yes! But I never paid over $250 and I think I know what I'm doing.

First and formost be selective about what you want. GL1000, 1100, 1200, 1500. Do you want it in the Standard or dressed version? Once you know that, limit your search. The exception to that rule is if someone gives you a bike or the deal is just too good to let it go.

Take a long hard look and make sure everything you want is there. I don't mean all there in boxes or baskets! Leave that one for the more experienced buyer. I can't emphasize that enough. Missing parts are show stoppers for me unless the bike runs and rides GREAT and is dirt cheap! Even then I might not jump on it.

Cosmetics. If you are not a body man or have a relative that is, pass up the scratched, rusted and dented bikes. Unless they are parts that you don't intend to use like a fairing or bags or "crash bars" or you want to build a ratt bike. Seats can be recovered but seat pans are sometimes hard to find.

Anyone else want to jump in?
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2010 HD Ultraglide Classic Limited
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81 GS750EX

Previous bikes: 84 GL1200 STD, 83 KZ550LTD, 83 CB1000, 78 CB400A, 82 CB900F, 79 CB750K, 2001 GL1800, 2000 Dyna Super Glide, 1972 CB350 K4, 1985 GL1200A, 1997 1200 Sportster, 84 GL1200I, 82 Honda CM400E, 81 Suzuki GS650L, 72 Triumph Bonneville 750, 72 Honda CB350, 66(?) Honda 305 Scrambler, 6? Yamaha yz250, 62 650 Matchless (Norton-Villers).
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Re: What to look for when buying an old bike

Post #2 by BusaRider » Mon Dec 17, 2012 12:11 am

When buying any old bike or car( out of a barn etc), I estimate what it would be worth parted out and make my offer based on that. If it turns out to be a runner etc..that is just icing on the cake and not a disappointment....
'81 GL1100 - Café with a Twist * 1990 Suzuki GSXR-1100
2000 Triumph Speed Triple * 2010 BMW R1200GS
2013 BMW S1000RR * 2013 BMW K1600GT

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Re: What to look for when buying an old bike

Post #3 by acemagneeto » Mon Dec 17, 2012 12:29 am

Good info JDV. And I can tell it comes from years of experience. My '78 is the first bike I've owned in 12 years. It was on Craigslist forever and the price kept dropping. When it hit $450 I went to have a look. I didn't know anything about it or what to check or look for...and the seller knew less than me. Anyway I talked him down to $300 and brought it home. Had I known then it would take $12-1500 to make it right I would not have bought it. Since then I've discovered the NGW, Randakk, how to bring an old GL back to life, and the joy of riding one of these great machines. I know now I got lucky on this one and will be much better informed on the next. For a newbie like me it was worth the knowledge gained alone. A big thanks to you and all the good folks on this site. Did you know the '78s were the only year to have red needles on the speedo and tach?
1978 GL 1000

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Re: What to look for when buying an old bike

Post #4 by sunnbobb » Mon Dec 17, 2012 4:20 am

Good work JDV.
I found the end of the internet

---- Bradshaw Bikes custom polishing for your wing. Visit us on facebook!

1978 Learning Experience
1980 County Road Hauler "Brain Damage"
1978 Cafe Custom Gl1000 "Vyper"
1977 Bulldog Inspired "Vaincre"
1981 Street Fighter GL1100 "No Quarter"
1983 Supercharged Street Drag "Anubis" (in worx)

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Re: What to look for when buying an old bike

Post #5 by chewy999 » Mon Dec 17, 2012 7:42 am

All sound advice, especially the 'buy with your mind and not your heart'. If you need to take a buddy for moral support, then make sure you take their advice, even if it's not what you want to hear. That was my first mistake. I bought a brand new GL1100 in 1983, and always regretted selling it, so when the chance came to buy another Goldwing, a 1980, and the bike was in front of me, all I could hear was 'buy me, buy me'!

Then make a plan as to what you want from the bike. I had big plans of making it immaculate, until I saw the price of parts, as well as the availability. You need to decide what is acceptable to replace with pattern parts, and what needs to be genuine. E-bay is a good place to start, but care has to be taken. I have bought items from all over the world, and I have to admit that trawling the net has been good fun at times, and totally frustrating at others. Got to be said that a lot of the US sites are the worse, so many of them list the parts as available, and you go through the process of ordering, only to get an e-mail a few days later that the part is out of stock/obsolete/no longer available! That said, it is a great feeling when you do track down a hard to get item, amazing what some people have lying around. All of that is before you start making the bike look pretty.

Be aware of your capabilities. I have an engineering background from the RAF, (23years ago), and I know which way to turn a spanner, and I'm a great believer in the advice,' don't force it, use a bigger hammer' :shock: , but until this year, I had never stripped carbs down! That is where the forums come in.

As was previously said, ask questions on the various forums, and find a favourite, (NGW obviously), but there are several that are worthwhile.

I don't have 20-20 hindsight, so;
should I have bought this particular bike? Probably not!
Do I regret buying the bike? Of course not. At the end of the day, I WILL have a Goldwing again, and that is what everyone should have as their objective. anim-cheers1

Jon
Previous Rides,
1980 CB250N Good to learn on
1981 CX500 good mid range tourer, went to Austria on it!
1983 GL1100C Pride and joy, sold when I bought my 1st house, big mistake
1985 GL650 Silverwing another mistake, horrible bike
1986 CBX550 Good commuter
1989 Suzuki GS750 (1976) cheap and cheerful until a dog ran out in front of me on Xmas Eve, 1991
Current bikes
2010 CB1300 back on a bike after 19 years, two divorces, children grown up etc
1980 GL1100 NOW ON THE ROAD, still use CB1300.

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Re: What to look for when buying an old bike

Post #6 by Greg » Mon Dec 17, 2012 9:30 am

Best advise I can give is :
Buy one that runs with good compression and tell the romantic in you to shut up while you are walking away if it doesn’t. Or you gonna end up paying the price .. tumb2
75 GL1000

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Re: What to look for when buying an old bike

Post #7 by Roady » Mon Dec 17, 2012 1:11 pm

Excellent advice, JD. This one belongs in the How-To forum and hopefully will grow.

After a few years here I've seen that the cost of a 'runner' is about $2,000. That's for a decent, safe and patina'd bike. That's either purchased that way or taken from a $300 barn find to finished product (doing the work yourself).

Watch for rust and overly dried out rubber (like pegs, not so much tires).

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Re: What to look for when buying an old bike

Post #8 by gregforesi » Mon Dec 17, 2012 5:38 pm

Luck certainly plays a part.
My preference for an old GL is that I hear it run. The internal parts are getting really scarce so I want to know there isn't a rod knock or other serious problem. If it was (say) a CB750 then the internals are easier to come by and I wouldn't be so concerned about it running (or even turning over).
Regarding these wings - the looks don't matter. Mileage barely matters. Blown head gasket or blown waterpump doesn't matter.
A rusted frame is a deal killer.
If it will end up a custom, then that's one thing. If it will be a restoration back to showroom new, then other things become important (grab rail comes to mind).
No decision should be made from the heart unless the machine is really rare. If the machine you're considering was a popular model, then look at a bunch and get the one that feels right, that the price is right, and that is most complete.
For a 4 cylinder Goldwing that has been sitting - plan on throwing $1500 into it no matter what condition it's in. It may be more and it may be less, but $1500 is about average. That will include a complete brake and carb overhaul, and new tires. The price of paint is not included.

Get the title free and clear.

Make sure YOU can do 95% of the work or that $1500 will be way under where you end up.
2006 GL1800 (Brutus Maximus)
1978 GL1000 (White Trash - 2012 BOTY
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Re: What to look for when buying an old bike

Post #9 by Bugdaddy66 » Mon Dec 17, 2012 9:01 pm

All great advise above, just throw in my 2-cents. Don't buy a project unless you want a project instead of a motorcyle to ride. I love the build and the project, but I will have friends that see the finished product and want to do the same thing. I encourage that if they seem interested in the process more than the end product. If it is the bike they are most interested in, they are better off buying the finished bike, they will lose all hope during the build. Besides, most of us don't get back out of a project what we spent in time and material to build, so they come out ahead buying from us anyway!
Todd Logan (Bugdaddy66)
"Never argue with a moron, they'll always drag you down to their level and beat you with experience."
1978 GL1000 Daily ride/Tour buddy
1981 XS650 Hot Rod
1978 SR500 Cafe project
1981 XT500 Beater

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Re: What to look for when buying an old bike

Post #10 by sunnbobb » Mon Dec 17, 2012 10:52 pm

There have been many changes in how I go about putting a wing together. From every build, I take away another lesson learned. I remember the first wing project. It was a free bike, dropped in my driveway. It was big, dirty and intimidating, I had no idea where to start and I was nervous. I can now walk up to a pile of parts and assemble one. Experience and time are the only things that can get you there. If you have never worked much on bikes, start with a runner and ride it until it breaks. Then fix it. You will think "that wasn't so bad". After fixing and improving things over time, you will look at an entire project and think "that isn't so bad". Teaching yourself along the way, you will make mistakes. If you don't, you are either extremely gifted or not learning anything. One day you look at the pile of parts and start to dream of doing something different, and you have the confidence to make it so. You will assemble and disassemble each part 3 or 4 times to get it "just right".

So how does this play into "what to look for when buying a bike?".. Buy a bike that fits exactly what you are looking for and matches your level of skill. If you eventually want to build it into something special, ride it first, and get to know the bike, so when you finally start your project, you understand what everything does, and how it is all interconnected. And pay attention to detail.

I won't say I'm a builder, but I'm set on becoming a professional. I never selected building as a hobby or career. I just started to wrench and never stopped. And have learned from every step. I still have projects on the back burner because at the time I stopped working on them, I was getting beyond my capabilities. Slowly, I am returning to those projects with the skills and knowledge I needed to finish them in the first place.

Wrench, Bleed, Ride.
I found the end of the internet

---- Bradshaw Bikes custom polishing for your wing. Visit us on facebook!

1978 Learning Experience
1980 County Road Hauler "Brain Damage"
1978 Cafe Custom Gl1000 "Vyper"
1977 Bulldog Inspired "Vaincre"
1981 Street Fighter GL1100 "No Quarter"
1983 Supercharged Street Drag "Anubis" (in worx)

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Re: What to look for when buying an old bike

Post #11 by Roady » Tue Dec 18, 2012 8:28 am

That's 3 great pieces of advice from the masters.

One other thing that I look for when buying anything mechanical: Pay close attention to the details. Nuts, bolts and screwheads will tell you if the previous mechanics (PMs?) were hacks or gorillas with monkey wrenches. Inspect the screws on the bottom of the float bowls, remove the side covers and look for rounded off bolt heads. Are the brake bleeders in good shape with rubber covers in place. Little things like that can tell you a lot.

Moved this to How-To's and nominated for ShopTalk.

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Re: What to look for when buying an old bike

Post #12 by Oldewing » Tue Dec 18, 2012 8:31 am

good stuff, second for Shoptalk
82 GL1100 Interstate-Oldewing (under going MAJOR work, fresh frame, NEW motor)
68 CB 350 Wifeys and oh so cool
06 GL1800 Comfort and Nav-Farkels(RAT rode it, and came back, THIS thing has too many Farkels)

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Re: What to look for when buying an old bike

Post #13 by chargincharlie » Fri Oct 24, 2014 4:26 pm

i purchased a 82 wing running drove it home a month later desided to change oil and flush radiator after flushing the radiator was full of stop leak so to say it was not leaking out of weap hole when i got her and drove it on long ride she ran cool guy said he was a mechanic lol ya stop leak mechanic anyways i changed out water pump fun job after 3 trys i finaly got it rite she runs good but needs a carb sync or i would love to change her over to single carb i changed plugs other day 3 looked good one was wet i added synthetic oil in her and fresh anti-freeze without the crap that hurts aluminum im hoping someday to get the engine rebuilt of a replacement i accualy picked up 2 1981's the dude said one runs one no title so i striped the no title down for parts the other one carbs seem to be frove up glad i did not pay mutch for them also yesterday i went to check air pressures before ride front was ok when i checked the back it knocked the valve stem loose and lost all its air so i had a good rear tire on parts bike i took off old and installed the other yes was not mutch fun but was not to bad so im riding again yes i greased final drive checked oil level with fresh oil she seems good so far took a few 30 mile rides since then i just found another wing today during work its for sale he wants $1,200 not worth it but i want to hear it run maybe i can work out a deal with the guy never have enought parts for these oldwings if i can get it i will make it a bobber so becarefull out there lots of scam artist will lie just to make a sale check everything if bike is leagl take it for a ride make sure she dont overheat


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