What is a collectible motorcycle? They always seem to be defined by price which is another way of saying a lot of people are trying to buy the few that exist. Why do certain makes or models skyrocket in price years after their demise when similar bikes sit unloved and forgotten? We all have stories of motorcycles we thought about buying when new but they didn’t appeal to us enough to part with the money only to see that bike appreciate several times over in value. Or we saw a used bike we could have picked up for a few hundred dollars but passed by then a few years later the bike is worth $20,000. Maybe your story is the opposite, you bought a bike you “knew” would be a great investment and years later the price keeps dropping and you can hardly give it away. Then of course, the most common story, you sold it years ago and can’t get it back for 10 times the price. Is it all just random chance?
Motorcycles, like cars, seem to follow an age related demand curve. As individuals age, they get to a point where they are able to buy those things they wanted when they were young but couldn’t afford. As baby boomers now pass through that time, we often look at the motorcycles and cars we remember and chase after them. Demand gets high, prices rise and once again they’re out of reach. Hmm … But the particular makes and models we want the most are precisely those everyone else wants and there aren’t enough to go around so the second tier makes and models become desireable. The greater the number of buyers, the deeper the demand and finally anything of a particular era is “collectible” which means expensive. As we boomers age, who will buy those investments next time around?
The safest way to buy is to get something you’ll enjoy, right now, not years later when you’re counting your cash. Buy it, ride it, maintain it, and if things work out maybe you’ll sell it later for as much as you’ve spent, maybe a bit more. If you buy a motorcycle purely for the investment, you’re playing a dangerous game. If you don’t really like it and the price drops, you’ve lost twice. You didn’t get the enjoyment and you lost money, too.
Manufacturers get into the game by building special models, like the Desmosedici RR for instance, and those able to afford one, run out and grab them up. It’s a spectacular bike, no doubt, but will anyone really ride one and enjoy it and take it on long weekend rides with their friends? Will they take it out and race it, risking a crash and broken bodywork? Or will those bikes sit in garages, carefully preserved, never used, while the owner waits for their big win at a future auction?
Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see more buyers ride the wheels off of those classic bikes, repair them when they break and ride them some more? Vintage racing is great. Old bikes, long past their youth, booming around the track, sometimes blowing up, then repaired and raced again. I hope that new Ducati gets a lot of track time from their new owners when they finally get delivered. After all, the fine wine you never drink might as well be water. What’s the difference?
A very entertaining book written in the mid 1800s, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, examines many investment schemes and manias where everyone had to have something and was willing to pay huge sums of money until it all finally collapsed, usually very suddenly. I really like the tulip bulb craze, yep, tulip bulbs! But it’s no different from all of those folks who are swept up in their eagerness to buy something even though they have no intention of actually using it as intended, but instead, just want to resell it for some amazing gain to someone else who wants to repeat the process. It’s called the “greater fool” theory, no matter how foolish you were, there’s always someone just a bit more advanced and willing to pay more.
Instead of waiting to own that perfect bike, buy what you can find and afford now. There are lots of excellent motorcycles for sale of all makes and models just waiting for you. Can’t afford the Desmosedici RR? Get a nice used Ducati Monster, they’re great bikes. Ride it, maintain it, keep good records and maybe someday you can pass it on to someone else who will enjoy it as much as you did. If a motorcycle you want is priced somewhere in the stratosphere, think about why that is and if you only want it because everyone else says it’s supposed to be a great bike even though you had no desire of your own to get one, maybe you should look at something else. If you buy it anyway, just be sure you don’t spend money you can’t afford to lose.