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things to look for when buying your first machine

4703 Views 8 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  gunsmoker
alright guys, after pining over numerous articles and posts here and across the interwebs its time for me to seriously start looking for a bike. I think primarily i'm going to look for a ninja 250r (preferably 08 or later as i like that style better OR maybe an sv650).

my question(s) is this - what all should i look for?

i realize this is a ridiculously broad question, but i mean what kind of things should i keep my eye open for? i have bought used cars before but nothing in the world of motorcycling. i want to make sure i'm not getting "lemon" or a bike that will fall apart on me my first week riding it.

i'm looking for any suggestions you all have. thanks, and i really appreciate all the knowledge that is shared on here. i can tell i will frequent it quite ofter. :)
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i want to make sure i'm not getting "lemon" or a bike that will fall apart on me my first week riding it.
Unfortunately there is no way to make "sure" that doesn't happen.

A bike that looks clean and starts good cold and runs good is probably gonna be OK. Having maintenance records is a plus.

Avoid any used bikes where the owner says "It only needs......"
If that is true, you should have DONE it already.

Also avoid one that has a LOT of "cuts and bruises".
A little scrape here and there is not bad but lots of the probably means abuse.
No or minimal damage, clean paperwork, look at routine maintenance items like the chain, is it oily and fairly tight or slack, dry and rusty looking, is the oil level within the sight glass? color won't tell you much but lighter is better, do the tires look like they have enough air in them? The bike should start up and run smoothly with no weird knocks or ticks.

Simple things like that will tell you a lot, the bike doesn't have to be spotless, in fact a few miles worth of road dirt will allow any oil leaks to be apparent and show the bike gets ridden. I think you're on the right track with the 250 Ninja, it's a good bike to start on. Just use common sense and your own judgment in choosing a bike, remember they made thousands of them, don't get rushed into buying one you if you have a bad feeling about it, there's plenty out there.
I've always thought that the external condition of a motorcycle is a good indicator of it's internal condition. A bike that's rusted, scratched, has faded paint, etc. is probably a bike that's had it's maintenance neglected. That's not to say that EVERY shiny clean bike has been maintained, but it's more likely.
I like to have a bike with some miles on it. If it has been sitting for long periods without running then that is a problem for the 250.
After 11 years, I'd like to kick this thread to the top and solicit new input from anybody that has experience buying and then actually riding, (not immediately flipping) motorcycles.

I actually can't contribute much-- I don't remember the details of the used dirt bikes I bought back in the 80s and 90s. I know that none of them were lemons and the only problems that cropped up came after years of intermittent hard use.

Just six weeks ago I bought my first real motorcycle meant for the street, and the first powered two-wheeled vehicle that I've owned in 25 years. It's old-- a 1996 model. I got it from a mechanic who intended to fix it up more thoroughly than he did but he said he just didn't have the time and he was a one-man operation at his shop.

So he sold a cheap. Told me it ran too lean & needed carburetor re-jetting. He'd already cleaned the carburetor in an ultrasonic cleaning vat, changed the clutch, changed all the fluids, and put two new tires on it.

When I took it for a short spin on the day I picked it up, it seemed to work perfectly for the 3 mile test ride but on the 40 mile trip home it started overheating.

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He warned me it might because it was running to lean and couldn't be adjusted. It it needed new jets, so now I'm working on that.
But I've made several short trips with it totaling 280 miles in the last six weeks and I'd say the bike is just as the seller described it. I expect that the carburetor jets will fix my "too lean, too hot" problem.

BOTTOM LINE: There are some issues, like overheating, that you would not know when the motorcycles only been idling for three or four minutes and then you take it out on the street for another five minutes and then bring it right back to the sellers home or place of business. It takes a longer ride to find out if it's got an overheating problem.
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My suspicion:
If the cooling system (radiator, pump, fan, etc.) really is in good working condition, then for the combustion temperatures to be high enough that the cooling loop can't keep up........the pipes would probably be glowing bright red.

I don't think that is the cause of your overheating least not the ONLY cause.
I seem to have fixed the problem with these 2 steps:

1-- I changed the radiator cap, and the new one is 1.3 bars or pressure instead of 0.9 bar.
(I think that's 16 lbs. vs. 13 lbs, going from memory). It's still within specs recommended per the owners manual.

PS: The new radiator cap has a built-in thermometer, but I'm not sure how well it works if the coolant level drops more than half an inch, which means the hot water will not touch the probe on the inside of that cap.

2-- I ran a bypass grounding switch to force the radiator fan to come on anytime I flipped the toggle switch. And in the 5 months since I did that, I have found that it is helpful to turn the radiator fan on all the time the motorcycle is running even when I'm cruising down the highway 50 miles an hour for several miles stretches. The temp always runs cooler with the fan "on" in such circumstances compared to having just the wind try to blow through the radiator but having the non-turning fan blades directly behind the radiator interfering with airflow.

Other notes:

I flushed and refilled the cooling system back in September but the prior owner had done it less than a year before so the "old" coolant came out nice and clean.

I probably should've tried replacing the temperature sensitive radiator fan switch with a new one -- it only would cost $18 for the part and not much labor.
But I decided to just go with the manual toggle switch which grounds the fan circuit.

I KNOW my in-Radiator temperature sensitive electric switch is defective because I've seen the coolant get up to 220° F and the fan will not come on through its own circuit-- it only comes on when I flip my toggle switch which grounds it through a parallel circuit.
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