Why is it so hard to buy a bike?
For the past 6 weeks I have been searching for a motorcycle to ride across the country with my friend on an epic journey of a lifetime. Over that time I have gone from ďneedingĒ a 1200cc mile eating monster, to all I need is 500cc, to the 650cc class is perfect for a middle weight guy like myself. This soul searching for what bike or bikes I should focus on took a couple weeks an is still not completely settled as everyday my search yields a bike I didnít consider that may be a new direction to go. I also have test ridden a few bikes, sat on and inspected even more bikes, and even made an all cash offer to buy a bike on the spot, but yet here I am still cross country bike-less!
How is someone with $6500 cash burning a hole in his pocket, looking to buy a motorcycle right now still not owning one? How in this new electronic age of perusing thousands of bikes and filtering them down to the few bikes you may actually want in minutes online more difficult than when I use to read through the old cycle trader to find and buy bikes years ago? Well the internet canít filter the human elements that go into buying and selling a motorcycle.
Dealers try to take advantage of unsuspecting buyers with exorbitant fees. I settled on a versys 650 and happened across an ad claiming $2,500 off MSRP on last years 2017 model, but after haggling with them 15 minutes for an OTD quote their OTD price was within $400 of a brand new OTD 2018! How can a bikes MSRP be $2500 less but total OTD be within $400? FEES that how! I have a local dealer here in SF that I frequent for parts and gear that was awesome to deal with on checking out and test riding the versys 650, but when it came time to purchase, their OTD price was $1000 more than I was quoted from another dealer about 50 miles away.
Sellers inability to afford the bike they are selling. How does this affect me as the buyer you may ask? Well Iíll tell ya. On two occasions I found Honda CB500xís, during my 500cc is plenty phase, and offered to come pick up the bike with cash in hand if everything is copacetic only to be informed that they donít have the title because the bike isnít paid off yet. In this current low rate environment money is cheap so everyone can get loans on just about anything. This results in many people buying things they cant afford soon after regretting the decision and trying to get out of it by selling only to find out the system has them trapped in debt.
My extensive motorcycle experience also plays a huge role in keeping me from buying a bike. I have owned, bought, and sold 46 bikes over the past 23 years and have a pretty good knowledge about how the process works. My last long motorcycle trip, from SF to Vancouver, involved me buying a brand new bike just for the trip. Fortunately the trip took place in October so dealers were more willing to give up the fees in order to clear inventory. I ended up with a brand new 2016 KTM RC390 for $5800 OTD which I sold after the trip for $5,000.
My experience also keeps me from buying bikes that have $100ís or even $1,000ís of dollars in needs either for basic maintenance or equipment for the trip. I came across a really sweet Aprilia Caponord at an unbelievable price within my budget and was ready to swoop on it with the quickness. Unfortunately with a little digging I found that the bike had a growing list of needs to be addressed before it would be up to the trip which would ultimately put the bikes final cost in line with other more expensive Caponordís on the market.
The contenders in order of my current preference. This can and does change weekly, daily, even hourly! I have changed this list twice just while I was writing this today!
2015+ Versys 650 LT- This appears to be the perfect bike at this point. I was able to test ride a brand new 2018 model at my local dealership and felt it fit me perfectly. Not only does it come with factory color matched Givi panniers, but it also has an easy to adjust preload for the rear shock for easy adjustment based on load. I spent a lot of time trying to negotiate a deal on both a 2018 and 2017 model from various dealerships here in California even making an all cash offer within a few hundred of the original OTD quote, but was not able to finalize a deal. I also found a perfect one about 100 miles away and was all set to go pick it up when the seller finally confessed to not having the title in hand. Frustrating to say the least.
CB500x- A little small for a trip of this length, but affordable and economical, I see this as the Prius of cross country bikes. There was an owner of a CBX at a shop I frequent who just had his serviced and took the time to talk with me about his. He was a fairly new rider, but was already on his second long trip with the bike heading to Canada from SF as I had done just a few years ago on my 390. He had done quite a few upgrades for touring including a crash bar that unfortunately was tested by a parking car and didnít protect the shifter assembly resulting in the trip to the shop. Obviously this bike is aimed at a newer rider, but I find riding small bikes fast way more intoxicating that riding big bikes slow!
2012+ Yamaha Super Tenere-This was the first big 1200cc mile muncher I searched for when the opportunity to embark on this adventure presented itself. The ďS10Ē as itís called in some circles is a big heavy BMW GS competitor with what appears to be most of the capability at a fraction of the price. I found a nice looking white with red stripe that had a couple nice upgrades in my budget the only problem being it was 4 hours away! If it was closer I probably would have bought it already.
Mid 2000ís BMW R1200RT/GSA- These are held in high regard by many in the motorcycle touring and adventure camps, but they are expensive to run and maintain. I test rode a good friend of mines 2006 R1200GS and found it very tractor like and wasnít the most impressive bike Iíve ridden, but my friend really thinks BMW is the bomb. One thing that confused me right away was the turn signals. Why would anyone think a three separate button system is viable on a motorcycle? I actually came across a really nice looking 2006 GSA recently and was ready to pull the trigger, against all my intuitions, but alas it was bought by someone more foolish than myself just before I could!
Harley Road King- What could be more American than crossing the United States of America on a Harley Davidson? The friend Iím riding with inherited a nearly new (800 miles!) 2009 Harley Electra Glide Classic with all the bells and whistles so it makes the Harley even more intriguing. This may only be a pipe dream as the Road King, or any Harley for that matter, is hard to find at my budget, although I have come across a couple Police bikes that were within range.
A little Background:
I am a full time motorcycle enthusiast with my main focus being preservation of 90ís & 00ís European two-strokes. I have owned and ridden over 45 motorcycles and scooters since 1995 and co-founded Bay Area Two Stroke with a couple friends back in 2004. My good friend Ari, also a co-founder of BATS, and I have taken a couple of longish motorcycle trips together including riding Aprilia RS50ís from SF to LA and KTM RC390ís from SF to Vancouver. We are able to take an open ended trip across America thanks to coinciding sabbaticals in our professional lives and have talked about doing this for years.
, Bangkok, 85 ADV
Past: Typhoon, NCXD, 2X RC390ís, '11 Madass,'12 PW50, KTM BR 65, Aprilia BR50, 2X Aprilia RS125ís, '04 DRD, Ď08 WR250X, 7X '03 Derbi SM's, 10x Aprilia RS50's, 2x Derbi GPR, 2x Aprilia RS250, 2X Mito, 2X NSR50R, '90 NS50, '94 HRC RS125, '90 HRC RS80, '88 YSR63 (1st 2stroke!), '89FZ600, '89KLR250(1st Bike!)