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The RealClassic Bike Buyers' Guide - Choosing a Classic - Choosing a Classic
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Are you thinking of buying a classic motorcycle? Before you take the plunge, consider the advice of our RealClassic riders - folks who have been there, done that, spent a fortune and survived the wrath of The Better Half...

  • If You Buy A Bike In Bits, make sure you have boxes and boxes of the correct nuts and bolts, especially the special fasteners that hold the engine, gearbox, suspension and frame together

  • Do You Want To Ride it, or to spend more time showing it?

  • The Best Condition example always works out to be the cheapest in the long term

  • Ignore Marque Snobs and armchair experts

  • A Big Single is perfect for chuffing around the lanes at 50ish

  • A Late Triumph/Bsa or early Jap four is great for tearing along in reasonable safety at speed

  • Suss Out Spares availability cos it's no use buying that Caledonia Purple Majestic if everything has to be made specially.

  • Learn The Art of riding without brakes and invest in a right leg strengthener!

  • Buy The First Bike you fancy - it'll be a dog anyway, so get it over with.

  • Buy Another Bike To Use whilst the first is being fixed.

  • Buy a BSA B25! Cheap, easy to work on, surprisingly nice when running well. The MOST underrated bike? Probably.

  • Make Contact/Join A Club of a marque that takes your fancy. This gives you the best exposure good advice and probably also the best sources of machines to purchase. Follow your heart, because that is what keeps you spannering and riding - not good sense!

    Six complete strangers, walking up to each other.

  • Be Ready To Walk Up to complete strangers, and see how they turn into your bestest mates

  • Buy The Best You Can Afford, preferably with some sort of comeback when it goes pop on the way home. A modern Enfield would be a good starting point

  • Don't Buy if you haven't heard it running

  • Get Someone who knows a bit about that particular machine to check it out with you and get the same bloke to ride it if possible

  • Check that there are no complications with SORN or such like. If you're really, really taken with it, then forget all the above and buy it anyway!

  • Ignore Anyone who tells you not to buy a Triumph/BSA triple - they're wonderful! But be prepared to seek advice on maintenance

    Don't buy beige. Unless you have to.

  • Buy What You Want and ignore everyone else's opinions. You're going to ride it (not them); you're going to fix it (not them)

  • Buy A Big Toolbox for all the tools you will need

  • Enjoy It For What It Is, not what it should be. If you buy the top of the range sporting model of yesteryear then be aware that these were often at the limits of engineering reliability. That's why the higher mileage chaps tend to go for the lower-down-the-range models

  • Do Not under any circumstances buy a Ducati single. They are like a combined heroin and crack cocaine habit: highly addictive and expensive to maintain

  • Ride More Than One example of your chosen model first. The older they are then the more examples you should ride - no two old bikes are the same

  • Buy A Bike that is ridden regularly by the person you are buying it from

    If you want a purple one, don't settle for a yellow one.

  • Remember That the choice of bike is a personal one, just because you like it, doesn't mean anyone else will

  • When You Roadtest it, don't be afraid to give it some stick - a sure way to show up bodges / poorly assembled bike.

  • If It Is A Brit classic then the brakes MAY take some getting used to

  • Beware Of Overpriced examples: don't be afraid to haggle and be prepared to walk away

  • FS1Es on

  • Don't Listen to people who say 'What you need is a...' If it's such a good choice, why haven't they got one?

  • Buy Something you will ride and cherish. Otherwise, what's the point?

  • Decide What You Want the bike for (long distance riding, local bimbling)

  • Check Out The Spares market - availability and cost. See if there is an owners' club if so contact them asking for advice

  • Ask To See as many bills / old MoTs as poss. Find out as much as you can about the bike, and play dumb when you go to look at it

  • Never show your eagerness to buy to a vendor!

    Always tie hair back before getting too close to a running engine; advice that the gentleman on the left ignored...

    Expertise provided by: Andy C, Real Mart, Emm, Will M, KarlB, Graham Ham, M20 Mike, Jerry, A65Bill, Hamish, FerG3, Hallspeed, Anarchy, KentShaun, SED and PaulG80. Thanks chaps!

    If you've got some more sage buying advice then send it to TP @ and we'll pass it on so everyone can benefit from it…

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