Buying a three to five-year-old bike


Three to five-year-old bikes can be the trickest of the lot to buy, but fear not, here are some top tips to help you.


Check the service records carefully. Low mileage bikes might only have had two oil changes in five years. Are there receipts to back up the service book stamps? Don’t overlook the HPI check either. These bikes are still expensive and surprisingly likely to have been written off. Double check the bike’s engine and frame numbers with those on the logbook and make sure that the names and addresses (in a private sale) match the current seller. Otherwise there’s a chance this is a back street dealer.

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If an aftermarket pipe is fitted, ask if the original is available. Some owners try and sell them separately. Ask them to refit the standard one and pay for the cost of re-adjusting any fuelling that’s been modified to suit the race pipe. That should be enough to make them throw it in for free.

Chain and sprockets

The originals will probably be worn out by now. Hooked, filthy sprockets and a chain you can pull off them is just a £200 bill-in-waiting.


Rear shock absorbers can have lost much of their damping by 15,000 miles and will need replacing or rebuilding (£200-800). Fork oil will also need replacing (£50 at a dealer).

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Most last two to five years, so hopefully it has just been replaced. Budget around £60 if not.


Should be rattle free. Is the oil thick and golden (just changed) or runny and black (a couple of hard summers old).


Rubber hoses will be past their best by now. Replacements are expensive but a set of braided steel items costs £100. Get a friend to lift the front wheel off the ground and spin the wheel. Are the discs rubbing (warped)? Does the wheel run freely? If not, the calipers are sticking.

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Have a good look behind the fairing for corroded engine cases or exhaust pipes. Most people clean the bits you can see, but few bother with the hidden areas.

Chassis wear

By this age a bike could be needing new wheel bearings, steering head bearings and swinging arm bushes, all of which could add another £500 to your bill.

Don’t panic

If this sounds scary, then don’t worry. Make your list of what needs fixing and use that list to knock money off when you’re haggling.

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Most bikes of this age will be on their third or maybe even fourth owner. Many will have been dropped at least once and will have been personalised with aftermarket parts. At this age private sales are as good as a dealer. The bike should still be in decent nick, any early problems will have been sorted under warranty and because the bike was bought new before the price rises of 2009, it will still be changing hands based on old values. Make sure you drive a hard bargain though or you could end up with a five-year-old bike for not much less than a pre-registered, delivery mileage new one. Expect to find a tidy bike with no more than 15,000 miles showing, with most of the original paperwork, both keys and a reasonable service history.


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