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>Buying a race bike - what to look for...

Because of the very nature of motorcycle racing, its pretty safe to say that the machine you are about to buy has had a hard life, and despite the current condition the bike is in there is no guarantee that the engine won't explode on your first big race - as they say "that's racing".

You should also appreciate that there is a lot of risk involved in purchasing a used race bike, and before parting with your cash there are a few things you should check out which will in some way help reduce risk.

Buying a used race bike is very similar to buying any used motorcycle. The only real difference is where the wear and tear occurs. Always be wary of bikes that look too good to be true, they usually are. Be cautious - buying a stolen race bike does nobody any favours and you should seek to find out as much about the seller as possible and ensure the ownership and registration documents are in order.

Use your common sense - if the seller wants to meet on the side of some road and not at their home, be wary! Ask questions about the bike, it should be obvious if the guy knows anything about the bike or has just acquired it with a pair of bolt-cutters.

Checklist: before you buy...
  is it stolen?
  is it knackered?
  can you fix it?
  is it any good?
  extra parts and spares?
  running costs/parts availability
  is it a good deal?

 1. Registration and ownership documentation

Make sure the bike is suitable for sale

Registration and ownership documents: If you are looking to purchase a road racing bike that started life as a road based sports bike ask to see the registration document and check it against the serial numbers on the frame and engine. If the document doesn't support the serial numbers or the serial numbers have been altered in any way the bike may contain some stolen components you will not be able to get the bike through scrutineering (i.e. you won't be able to race it).

If the bike is being sold with a spare engine(s) or frame(s), ask for those documents as well.



 2. Race-kit and trick parts

Trick parts are expensive to acquire

Race-kit and trick parts: If the bike is being sold as a machine with a winning record, ensure the seller hasn't swapped the trick parts (i.e. modified brakes, suspension, engine mods, exhaust) for standard equipment. Have a good look at the bike and if you can't tell the difference bring along someone who can.



3. Spare parts

Spares are really useful...

Spares: Race bikes consume parts. Ask to see what spares are included in the purchase.

Handy things to have are: spare wheels and tyres (one set for dry tyres one set for wets), clutch and brake levers, throttle and clutch cables, clip-on bars, footpegs, sidecovers, sprockets, clutch plates carburetor jets, steering dampeners, bodywork... Ask if there are any special tools required to work on the bike and if they are included in the deal.



 4. General condition of the bike

Shop around and get a bike that's in good shape

Condition: Check for signs that the bike has been properly cared for and is well presented. A gungie race bike, with missing or stripped bolts, and resin filler in the engine casings indicates it has not been properly maintained, and should be avoided. Shop around to find something in good condition.



 5. Engine

Engine: condition and state of tune

Engine: Find out who has tuned the engine and if it has been rebuilt find out how many times (ask to see receipts). Ask how many racing hours are on the engine since its last rebuild.



 6. Frame

Check the frame thoroughly

Frame: Check for crash damage. Look for any hairline cracks around all frame welds. Is the frame straight? Check the alignment of the front and rear tyre alignment with a plank of wood or a straight edge.

If you are buying a classic race bike, check for rot or rusting.



 7. Suspension

Check for smooth action, no leaks, and excessive play

Suspension: Front forks: Check that the forks are not bent (a nice smooth sliding action with no snagging), that their surface is smooth and unpitted, and oil the seals are not leaking. Lift the front of the bike up so the front wheel is off the ground (i.e. put a crate under the engine) and check there is not excessive play in the headstock.

Rear Shocks: Ensure the rear shock is in good condition, does not sag and rebounds swiftly after compression.



 8. Clutch

Does the clutch have much life left in it?

Clutch: Look at how the clutch is set up. If the adjustment is fully wound out - there may not be much life in it. Ask the seller if there are any spare clutches and cables or if any special tools (like a clutch tool) come with the sale.



 9. The Test Ride

The test ride is the most informative part...

Test ride: We have found that the best way to check a vehicle out is during the test ride. Here are just a few things to check during the test:

Ease of starting: make sure the engine is cold before you try and start the bike so you can listen for any rattles, knocks or anything out of the ordinary indicating main bearing or big end problems. Once the engine is warm ensure the it can idle freely and doesn't stall when dropping from higher rpm's

Ensure the clutch engages well and is not slipping under hard acceleration

Ensure the engine pulls HARD when it comes into its powerband. Its worthwhile to do a compression test on each cylinder if you have a gauge.

Ask a friend to look for excessive exhaust smoke when you ride by.

Ride through as much of the gearbox as you can. Ensure the gear box is in good working condition, doesn't have false neutrals, or slips out of gear under power.

Check the front brakes are grabbing well and are not pulsating (indicating warped disks). Check the forks aren't saggy or diving excessively under braking. Also ensure the bike doesn't pull to one side under heavy braking (indicating bent forks, frame, or uneven brake setup).