In our first two installments of “What to Look for In Buying a Used Motorcycle“, the focus was primarily on the initial look and feel of the bike.  With the first two parts of the inspection out of the way, it’s time to start the engine.

  • Turn the key and engage the starter.  Here are things to observe and evaluate.  When the starter is applied, is it noisy?  Does the starter operate smoothly?  How long does it take for the bike to start?
  • Listen closely to the engine while it is running.  Are there any unusual noises coming from the running engine?  Knocks, taps and squeals are all indications that you might just want to pass this one by.  Does the bike smoke?  If it does, is it white (oil) or black (carburetion)?  Smoking is never a good sign (even if the bike is legally old enough).
  • As the bike warms up, climb off and again look for leaks.  As the temp goes up, leaks may be revealed.
  • Get back on the bike.  Pull the clutch and place the bike in first gear.  Is the clutch action smooth?  Does the clutch drag?  Try and take the bike out of gear.  Does it shift out of gear easily?  If not, the clutch may need adjustment.  Put the bike back in gear.  Start to release the clutch.  Does it engage smoothly?

At this point, we’ve done all we can to inspect the bike without taking it for a ride.  Most used bike sellers are a bit reluctant to let the bike out of their sight, but if you can swing it, you should definitely go for it.

Tip: Create and bring with you an inspection checklist covering all the tips outlined in Part I, Part II, and this part of the series.
Note: Look for a bonus part of the series that will include a video of all the steps discussed so far in what to look for when buying a used motorcycle.