How to take a second-hand motorcycle out for a test ride

Helping you find a cracker for 2018

By Alan Dowds

IF you're buying a brand-new motorcycle, then test rides are easy as pie. You just want to see if you like the bike – there's no real need to worry about finding any problems with that particular machine. Plus, dealers are set up to offer rides, with demo bikes, insurance, licence checks and the like.

In comparison, getting a test ride on a second-hand motorcycle in a private sale is full of pitfalls. You need to convince the owner to let you have a wazz on their pride and joy, and if you do get a ride, you want an OCD level of attention to detail, to spot any technical faults before you drop the cash.

Here, then, are five tips to performing the perfect used bike test ride, with some pictures of bikes currently for sale in Visordown’s Marketplace section tempt you along the way.

Find the ad for the Ducati Scrambler Desert Sed pictured above here.

1: Before you go

This process can start as soon as you see the bike and chat to the seller. Once you have the reg number, you can do an HPI check to see if there's finance outstanding, or it's been written off by an insurance firm. If it's old enough you can research the MOT history, and also check if it's taxed or SORNed. Ask the owner what you need to get a test ride, and expect to need proof of third party insurance. Your own policy might cover you to ride bikes you don’t own – check with your broker. The seller may also require the purchase price, or a large chunk thereof, as a cash deposit (and a word of caution here: if you're selling a bike, do insist on payment before handing over the keys for a test ride). 

Before you have a spin, give it a good once-over to check no-one's wasting their time. Feel the engine to see if it's cold: a poor-starting engine might well be pre-warmed up by the owner so it fires up first time on the button. The fact they spent three hours jump-starting it off a Scania truck this morning may slip their mind…

Any obvious cosmetic damage will affect the price of course, but might not rule the bike out for you altogether.

  • Find the ad for the decent-looking Honda CBR600 pictured above here.

Do some safety checks before you go out: are the tyres legal (you could get the penalty points on your licence if they're bald), holding pressure and without serious damage? Make sure brake pads have some friction material, and the brake fluid's topped up. A quick check of oil and water can't hurt either (if it blows up when you're riding it, the owner might try to blame you and keep the deposit…)

Look at the state of the chain and sprockets and see if there are any fluid leaks either on the motor or on the suspension. Finally, check the dashboard for any brake or traction control warnings, and see if you can scroll your way through all the options you should have.

  • Find the ad for the 2011 Suzuki GSX-R1000 picture above here.

You're away, woo! Now, don't get lost in the reverie of the moment, especially if this is a bigger and fancier bike than you may be used to. My first big bike was a bit of a dog which blew up within a fortnight, but the test ride had knocked my socks off because it had 55hp more than I'd ever ridden before…

Check the basics first: can you select all the gears? Does it rev smoothly all the way to the red line? Does the clutch slip, judder or snatch? Are there any odd noises? Rattles, knockings or squeals, which vary according to the engine revs are seldom good news…

  • Find the ad for the Aprilia RSV4 RF Super Pole pictured above here.

Assuming the engine ticks all the boxes, turn to the chassis. Does the steering pull to one side? If you take your hands off the bars, does it start weaving? How are the brakes? Does the suspension feel plush and controlled, or is the bike bouncing about over bumps and ruts? Are there any thuds when you brake (loose steering head bearings can cause this)?

Flag up anything unusual in your mind – it might help to stop halfway and take some notes on your phone or a notebook. Then, when you get back, go through your list of queries with the owner to see if they have any explanations. Then you can take a view on whether you want to haggle a discount based on what you've found, whether you're going to walk away, or if you're happy with what you've seen and ready to buy.

  • Find the ad for the Kawasaki Z650 pictured above here.




The only thing I would add is to make sure the bike isn't stolen. If you give him money for the bike he might take off while you test ride it. I had to pick up a few bikes that we stolen. One of the owners said he just bought it and didn't know. But he could be lying.
Wayne @

I couldn't agree more. There are some petty people out there.

I seriously can't believe these things are still happening. But you make a good point, we have to be careful, always.

Yeah, these are all good tips. It's just so hard to trust people nowadays, especially when you find them on the internet. I know a few people who thought they were buying a great bike and it turned out to have a whole host of hidden issues. Gotta trust your gut about people too.

Lauren at

It's always good to take it to a mechanic to have them look over as well. If the seller won't let you do that, it should be a red flag!


I couldn't agree more. You can always bring an expert mechanic with you to check the second hand vehicle/motorcycle before buying it. On the other hand, are you a business owner and have you heard about profit first? If not, check it here:

next-level technology and a strong 649cc engine, the Z650 naked sportbike is a compact middleweight without equal. I would stroll this bike in our small town.

Thanks for sharing such a guide. I'll be sharing this information to a friend of mine who's planning to buy a 2nd-hand motorcycle.
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I enjoyed very much the bikes featured on the video, a Ducatti, off-road enduro type.
I am fascinated with these bikes as well as the brand, looks really tough. There's nothing wrong in owning a second-hand, it just need a little bit of love.
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This is my dream bike ever. How I wish I can purchase one someday. It looks durable and high-quality.

Ducati bikes price starts at Rs. 6.78 lakh for the cheapest bike Scrambler and goes up to Rs. 54.90 lakh for the top model Ducati Panigale V4. Worth the price!
The source is doing an online consultation service for ducati.

everyone is dreaming of ducati. The reason they are so expensive is they are Italian. Because they are so expensive and Italian, a lot of shops are hesitant if out right not willing to work on them.

This is my dream bike since high school, i got kawasaki instead, since my budget wont let me a ducatti.

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The second-hand motorcycle looks stunning. It still looks brand new to me. How I wish I could conquer my fears and ride one of these bikes someday. On the other hand, just in case you need someone to take care for a deck and fence installation and repair for your home needs, see this guys

that scrambler is awesome! My first bike was an old honda many memories!

One of the greatest modern Ducati bikes ever!

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This is a beautiful bike!

Thank you for the tips on how to make sure we buy a decent motorcycle if it is secondhand. Cheers from

Thank you for the guild. Very helpful in buying new motor.

That is a crazy beautiful Ducati.

Wow !! Great post !! It has a lot of pieces of information that can really help a lot. Please keep posting and posting. I am impressed. Thank you so much for posting it here.

I am glad that you posted this article. I cannot afford brand new vehicles and it is great to know that I can just buy secondhand items and know how to test drive it. Cheers from

These bikes are great, and the site looks awesome. Thanks from

Make sure the bike isn't stolen to - I've found tht this can some times be an issue. I had to get the police involved a few times in my experience.

This is an excellent post. I am in a buy and sell business. I will benefit a lot from this article. Best regards from

Yes I admit I can't afford these bikes especially Ducatti, but there are market for used but not abused bikes somewhere, therefore, that's my go to place. Check out also, they also displayed some cool stuff.

i love it

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Thanks, very good post. Keep posting. Thanks for sharing.
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My husband loves motorcycles and I am sure he will love reading this article.

I really love motorcycles. I hope I can afford the one who you featured it.

This is such a good article that highlights such a great point: pay attention to the details. Make sure everything checks out and the bike is free of major flaws. Thanks for sharing, can't wait to buy my next one!
-George, co-owner of

Aside from my all time favorite motorcycle brand Indian Motors, Ducatti is a beast in the modern world. But I prefer vintage ones.

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Always take it out for a test ride before making the decision to buy. If the seller won't let you it's better not to bother. Great post! Lots of useful tips.

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