It's impossible to be sure these days, but if we're lucky by the time this magazine reaches the newsagents, the weather should have improved enough to herald in the new motorcycling season... and if you haven't bought your motorcycle by now you're going to find it quite difficult to pick up that elusive bargain that this magazine keeps on insisting it's possible to buy for next to nothing.
The motorcyclists really in the know will have spent the early months of this year reading the classified ads in their local papers and MCN, phoning around and visiting vendors, making silly offers which people strapped for cash will have had no choice but to accept. There are other, more dubious characters, who having spent the winter months spending all their spare cash on used bikes are now sitting on a small stock of machines that will be sold to those slower off the mark at a handsome profit.
But don't panic, there are still bargains to be found for those willing to put themselves out a little. Certainly, now is definitely not the time to try to bargain with dealers, their experiences of the past few years has apparently convinced them that a stock of good used bikes is the new way to pay for their new Porsches, and at this time of year they don't want to know about silly offers. It's a sign of the times that dealers now prefer to deal in HP rather than in cash, because they cop a nice commission off the credit company (which helps to explain the extortionate rates of interest they demand).
There are two ways to approach buying a used bike from the classified ads. The first is to rush around to the vendor with a wad of cash before anyone else. If you live in Central London it helps to get MCN on Tuesday (but don‘t expect me to tell you where to buy it...). This is the best way to go if the bike is either very cheap or very popular. The other method is to wait for one or two weeks and then ring up the hopefully desperate advertiser and make a very silly offer. This is the best method for bikes that are slow moving or advertised at a high price.
When buying any bike it should be remembered that the real monetary value of the bike is not necessarily the price it is advertised at; if no-one is willing to buy the bike then it is only worth what a dealer is willing to pay for it. A quick perusal of the USED GUIDE will reveal that the trade buying prices are extremely low in comparison to most private selling prices. Thus, there is a great deal of room for manoeuvre when buying bikes that are not in very great demand by the motorcycling public.
Naturally, nothing is that simple, for many bikes are hard to sell because they are unreliable or just plain dangerous to ride (or if you're very unlucky, both). But there are still a host of bikes that sell slowly, yet are very useful devices. Suzuki GS550 and 650 Katanas can, for instance, be extremely hard to sell, but are just as reliable and usable as the much more popular stock models.
To list other such potential bargains would be to waste space as each reader has his own needs, but most of the models on the market can be found in the USED GUIDE and matched with your particular requirements.
Regular readers will have realised that I've long had grave objections to wasting large quantities of money and will go to extreme lengths to make sure that I find a decent bike at a low price What continues to amaze me is that people still believe that if a bike is advertised at a high price it's automatically going to be as good as its price suggests, or that a bike on offer for little money is immediately going to fall apart. My experience of the used market reveals that the advertised price often has little connection with the true condition of the motorcycle on offer. For every high price matched by an immaculate machine there are two or three that are merely the result of the vendors optimism.
The most amusing part of trying to buy a used bike is in reading between the lines of the adverts. These often make estate agents blurb look the work of angels. Travelling hundreds of miles to find some bike advertised as immaculate is really on its last legs, is just one of the minor problems encountered in the search for that real but elusive bargain.