Is motorcycling expensive or affordable? Yes. Wait, … what? The simple fact is that you can spend as much or as little as you want to and enjoy it either way. The latest and greatest factory machinery is often beautiful to look at with all of the performance the pros demand, but if you want to ride on the street with a bit of the competition look, have fun and still have money left over for little things like utility bills and groceries, then take a look at something from a few or a lot of years past and spend some time, instead.
For example, the Indian Scout FTR750 flat tracker above is the real deal, if you have deep pockets, you buy it, get yourself a pro rider, head to the track and party with the big boys. Oh, yeah, the price is a mere $50,000. As race bikes go, it’s right in line with what you would expect, but what if you’re not really planning to make a lot of left hand turns sliding around a flat track, you just like the look and want to ride?
Well, how about this Harley Sportster? It’s a 1988 model with a Storz tail section and Corbin seat, Storz stainless pipes, a 1250cc engine kit, high performance cams, ported and polished heads, Dyna 2000 electronic ignition, S&S Super E carb, and a 70s era Harley Sprint tank. The Biltwell moto handlebars look right and this bike comes with something the Indian above doesn’t have, dual disc brakes up front. The seller is asking $4500. Now think about that.
If you were thinking about buying an older Sportster and doing a lot of the same work and adding the same parts, it would cost you more than that to do it yourself. If you have a Sportster of your own to start with you can do it for less, especially if you invest a little time shopping for the right parts. Either way, you get a fun ride, the tracker look, great performance and you don’t have to break into your piggy bank for every nickle and dime you have. Motorcycling is very affordable.
New is nice, but used offers a lot
Whenever we talk about the declining sales of motorcycles, it means new bikes are sitting in showrooms gathering dust, but used bikes are a great deal. If you’re a young guy who wants to ride, don’t buy the new $1000 iPhone that probably doesn’t do any more than your old one and put the money toward a good used bike or parts for your current ride. It’s all about priorities. Do you want to buy something just because it’s new or would you rather spend money to do something new?
No warranty to void if you’re just learning how
Buying an older motorcycle is a great way to save money because the bike costs less to begin with and by doing the work yourself you don’t have to pay a mechanic. You don’t know how to work on the bike yourself? Then get out your wrenches and take it apart. There’s no warranty to void and you’ll learn how it’s put together. It isn’t brain surgery, it nuts and bolts, wrenches and screwdrivers. You can do this.
Very little bodywork, it’s mechanical and electrical, it’s easy to learn
When you buy an old car, there’s an acre of sheet metal to worry about. Rust, corrosion, kinks and dents make bodywork a major concern, but with a motorcycle the bodywork is minimal and far more manageable, most of the work is on the mechanical and electrical parts. The newest bikes have a lot of digital electronics and software to contend with so an old bike has the advantage of simplicity. You can learn the digital systems later once you have the basics down.
Old bikes do everything the new ones do
When new bikes offer flashy new paint and graphics or small changes in design, what are you really buying? Your old bike won’t have anti-lock brakes or fuel injection, entertainment systems and who knows what else, but properly maintained brakes work fine, a carburetor isn’t hard to rebuild and you can understand exactly how it all works. Amazingly enough, whether cruisers, standards or sport bikes, the motorcycles of twenty or thirty years ago were perfectly capable of doing most anything a brand new one will do today. They look just as good, and depending on your taste, the vintage model might look better.
There’s no excuse not to try it
If you want to ride motorcycles or would at least like to try it out, don’t use the excuse that it costs too much, because it doesn’t. Buy a used one and then, do everything yourself. You’ll learn a lot along the way, build confidence as you acquire new skills, see the results of your work right in front of your own eyes and have something to show for your efforts. If you do a good job in repairing and maintaining your bike, you can probably get your money back if you ever decide to sell your ride.
Buy new later if you want to
The manufacturers want you to buy new, obviously, and articles like this might not make them happy, but if you start riding now with a good used bike, you might want a new one later, but if you never start riding, you’ll never visit a showroom in the future. Start with affordable and used, build your skills and if you want a new one later, great. If you stay with used forever, that’s great, too. It’s your money, it’s your choice, but give it a shot. The satisfaction of riding a bike you know all about because you work on it and maintain it, maybe modified or got it running when it didn’t run at all is an experience you shouldn’t pass up. So, what are you waiting for? Get a bike and get out and ride.