Inspect a bike in five minutes flat

A guide to filtering out the garbage

WHETHER IT'S a private sale or in a dealer's showroom, viewing a secondhand bike can be a testing experience for anyone, especially if it's your first time. With so many secondhand bikes for sale right now there's always the danger of picking up a machine that's been clocked, crashed or just plain abused. So how do you go about sifting out the garbage?

Here are some simple steps that'll allow you to inspect a bike in five minutes maximum. If you like what you see then hang around and ask more questions. But if you're not happy and the bike's a nail then walk away and find another - remember - it's a buyer's market.

So you've found an example of the machine you're after, it's at the right price and you're happy with what the owner's told you over the phone. It's now time to inspect it in five minutes flat.


Check all the documents thoroughly to ensure the bike's legit. Frame and engine number's should tally, as should the MOT if it's applicable. Check the service history too. Accept no excuses.



The walk round

Stand back and have a walk around the bike before homing in for a closer inspection. You're more likely to notice mismatched panels or a twisted subframe from a distance than standing six inches away.



Wheel alignment

Are the forks or frame twisted? Get someone to sit on the bike with the bars straight and then squat down ten feet in front or behind the machine to see if the front wheel lines up with the back. Use a plank if the owner has one to hand. It's a slightly crude method but worth doing.



Tyres, chain and sprockets

Check the condition of consumables, as they're a good haggling point. Chipped wheel rims usually means numerous tyre changes, so be wary if the owner claims the bike's low mileage. The state of the chain and tyres are a good indication of how the bike's been treated.



Close up inspection

Like what you see so far? Have a closer look at bar ends, levers, footrests for signs the bike's been down the road. Take a peek behind the fairing too. Bodged fasteners, suspension adjusters and screwheads mean the owner's not much idea about home maintenance. Look for leaks dripping from the radiator, forks or engine.


This quick inspection should take no more than five minutes, if you know what you're looking for. After that, test ride the bike to see if the engine, clutch, brakes and gearbox are sound. If you're not happy with any of the above then walk away and find another example.

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