Ask RideApart: How Many Miles Are Too Many On A Used Bike?

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Too Many Miles used Bike

You ask, the community answers. It’s Ask RideApart. This week: How many miles are too many miles on a used bike?

Photo: Roens

This week’s question comes from reader Tim, who’s taking advantage of low prices over the winter to shop for an upgrade to his Ducati Monster. He asks, “There are some amazing deals on early and mid-2000s sportbikes out there, but many have 20,000 plus miles on them. Should I worry about high mileages? How much life do these bikes realistically have left in them?”

So, readers, can you help Tim? Do motorcycles simply fall apart at a certain mileage point or will they keep ticking along longer than expected?

Have a question for us? Post it on our Facebook page, or on Twitter using the #AskRideApart hash tag. We will select the best topic from our submissions and post them here each week.

  • Justin McClintock

    Vague answer here, but it really depends on what kind of bike it is and how it’s been used. A 2003 GSXR that’s got 20,000 miles on it but has spent half it’s life at the track? Steer clear unless you’re simply looking for a track bike. A CBR600F4 of the same vintage that’s been used as a commuter? It’s fine. I personally know a dude with over 100K on his. An RC51? The owner is selling it because he found out what replacement parts cost now. A Triumph Bonneville? Go for it. A Royal Enfield? How many engines has it been through?

    Basically, look for signs of how it’s been used. If everything is drilled and safety wired, its probably been beat on. If its still got the stock exhaust on it and the bike looks pretty clean, it’s probably alright. You can also chat with the owner and get a feel for just how much they may or may not know about taking care of their bike. That goes a long way as well.

    • SniperSmitty

      I Love my F4. It’s a 2000 with 24k and it runs like a top. I use its warm up time to gear up and/or set up my JVC adixxion camera. I have only owned 3 bikes, all have been Hondas.

      • Piglet2010

        My F4i (before I sold it) blew quite a bit of oil smoke, but then for all I know its first oil change might have been when serviced before being sold at ~11K miles.

        • SniperSmitty

          That is a little while. Check my walk around video on YouTube. My channel is SniperSmitty42. I have a few vids up there. Keep the dirty side down Piglet.

  • E Brown

    Personally, I don’t worry about it, and I’ve never had a problem with a used bike I’ve owned. Modern engines are built to last if cared for properly. People worry about them being thrashed but to be honest it’s just like sports cars – most people that own them CAN’T come close to really pushing them. My most thrilling rides on my CBR600RR would put Marquez to sleep, and I expect the next 20k miles to be as trouble-free as the first.

    • Hugo

      I sold my 01 F4i with almost 20k on it, and it ran flawlessly. No restrictive emission stuff, no new technology headaches. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a bike like that if was looking, it was taken care of, and the the price was right.

      • APG7

        My ’02 F4i is at 26k. I swear the early 2000s F4i’s are entirely indestructible besides the annoying cam chain tensioner.

        • Jesse

          They are tanks. I would love one in decently clean shape.

  • Tall Jones

    100k is generally too high.

    • NOCHnoch

      Or just broken in on a VFR

      • Slacker

        /Boxer motor

    • CruisingTroll

      From a market perspective, perhaps, only because there’s almost certainly many other examples of the same bike available with lower mileage. From a mechanical perspective, see my post above.

    • Tall Jones

      This post was meant as a joke, though I stand by the statement that generally 100k is too high. Obviously that would depend on a lot of factors that have been expounded upon in other posts. Good follow ups though, makes me feel a lot better about the 37k on my own odometer!

    • sykerocker

      T3 (first generation Hinckley) Triumph, you’re talking not quite half its life. The factory has a ’94 on record with 240k, engine block was still within factory specs. Mine at 115k has lots of life to go.

  • it_weenie

    It depends. I know that is a crappy answer, but it’s true. I had a 1993 CBR 600 that I absolutely dogged the crap out of. If I wasn’t bouncing it off the limiter, I was parked. I opened it up at 18,000 miles (~29,000km) to do a valve job and it was perfect inside. I didn’t even do the valve job, just buttoned it back up and away we went. I bought a Triumph Sprint with just under 30,000 miles and ended up rebuilding the engine 4000 miles later. One of the ring grooves in the piston rolled. Triumph NA was awesome so I still have it and love it.

    If it’s going to be your daily driver, take time to be selective, but I wouldn’t run away from something with 20,000 miles just because it has that many. If you’re looking for a second bike, go for something that stirs your soul, miles be damned. It would also help to know if you’re handy with your own maintenance. Rebuilding my own engine was fairly simple for me once I found some extra info on triumphrat. I did it over the winter and I feel like I know my bike much better. If you can do some maintenance on your own, find something that you can get parts for cheaply and have at it. The engine has as much life left as you’re willing to invest.

  • Jesse

    If you have a good idea of what the maintenance has been for those ‘high miles,’ you’ve got your answer. I bought a Honda F3 with just north of 26k on it, and it came with a book of detailed and copious notes about what got replaced when, with what, and how often. With a good look into it’s history, I knew this bike was cared for.

    Adding to the “I know a guy with” stories: A friend of a friend had a Blackbird with about 200k on it, before it got destroyed in a pretty horrible accident that left the rider badly injured. Regular maintenance is the friend of the used bike market.

    • markbvt

      +1. Maintenance is key. If the bike has been well cared for, mileage doesn’t matter much. My 2.5-year-old Triumph Tiger 800 XC turned over 50,000 miles last month and runs just as well now as it did the day I picked it up, because I take care of it. On the other hand, I wouldn’t trust a bike with only 5000 miles on it if the oil has never been changed, especially it’s three or four years old.

    • sharper86

      To add to this I would not only look at the maintenance history of the bike, but also what will be due in the near future. I purchased a 2008 Monster 695 with ~21,000 miles from a mid-50s guy who used it as a commuter bike. It seemed to have been subjected to gentle use, hadn’t been dropped and had a complete service record. The problem is that it was soon due for a valve adjustment and service for about $800. Not long after I had to replace steering head bearings and I am now looking at a new clutch, belts, chain and sprockets. Given my experience, I think knowing a bike’s maintenance intervals is as important as its history.

      • Scott Otte

        A new clutch at that few miles is just bad luck. However knowing the service intervals and how close the next one is should be a big part of buying a used bike.

      • mms

        Agree with Scott , a new clutch at that few miles? Check the levers, if they’re aftermarket they might be dragging on the clutch. Been there, done that ;)

        • sharper86

          Thanks. I’m at about 30k miles now, which may still be too few miles for a clutch change. What makes me think I need a new one is that I feel the engine slip in 5th/6th gear when I give the throttle a good twist.

          • mms

            That might just be fun Ducati mayhem, if it’s slipping upwards. Could be hot, could need new springs, could just be irritable. Keep really close tabs on it. And if it’s slipping downwards, might be time to get it checked. The clutch went out last year on one of my Ducs, I’m sure it was very amusing to passers-by. The last mile home was 5mph at 7000rpm with wheelies every 20 feet and I’m sorry to say I couldn’t resist the urge to shout “YEE HAW!”. But a 695 has a wet clutch? So then you get to look for leaks, fouled fluid, etc too. Especially look for warping on the clutch plates, if you take it apart. And if you have an adjustable clutch lever, try setting it at the farthest out position and seeing if that makes any difference.

            • sharper86

              I think I’m going to take advantage of the cold weather and pull it apart to have a look. Dumb question, but what’s the difference between slipping up/down? Thanks for the advice.

              • mms

                Slipping up would be if it slips from 5th to 6th… down would be if it slips from 6th to 5th. When my clutch went out, it slipped down occasionally (like.. once or twice every week or two, for 6 months or so) from 6th to 5th… then it happened more frequently.. then i lost 3 gears in about 10 minutes one evening, and lost the rest when i had to stop at a red light. Disclaimer, I’m no mechanic, I’ve just broken a lot of stuff in a lot of different ways. Good luck! :)

          • Piglet2010

            That might just be a matter of adjustment.

          • Scott Otte

            I’ve got 65k on my 05 Monster 620′s clutch. Could be that it was abused before you got it, which would be a bummer.

      • Sylvain Dumas

        italians can be a bitch, i ve got a valve adjustment every 6k,

      • Speedo007

        The new Monster will fix most of this, but even with my evo, the maintenance schedule is ridiculous compared to other bikes out there. Love the bike, but miss the “modern bike type” maintenance schedules.

  • Jay

    I recently sold my ’94 VFR with 53,000 miles on it and it ran like new and was reliable as a rock all the time I had it (except for the rectifier/regulator module).

    • NOCHnoch

      My ’98 VFR has 35k on it. I’m expecting to get another 100k+

    • IRS4

      Still have my 94 Viffer with that same mileage, and loan it out to RTW bikers coming through L.A. Rock solid bike, aside from the plastics gradually vibrating apart.

    • Frick

      My ’94 VFR has 63K on it, runs like a top and always starts right up.

  • appliance5000

    A related question is how few miles should raise flags? If a 15 year old machine has 2000 miles the concern becomes that it’s been sitting unused for years. You have to question dried seals etc. – it could be a worse situation than a high mile bike.

    A lot of people recommend a used bike as a first bike. – I think with such good low priced new machines becoming more available – it’s a lot safer and less frustrating for a new rider to buy a new bike. with FI and ABS you can concentrate on riding.

    • NOCHnoch

      Used ABS bikes are coming onto the market, and I don’t really think that carb’d bikes are harder to ride. They may take a bit more maintenance but not very much.

      • appliance5000

        In some ways they’re easier – smoother throttle response is one thing that comes to mind. The main issues are warm up time and what happens if this is rushed or you have a small vacuum leak.

        To an experienced rider this is trivial. Wait a minute or 5 or 10 get on and go. Not too many new riders – used to modern cars – want to to do this. So they ride off and stall on the first turn while in gear.

        Vacuum leaks cause uneven idling and stalling when you’re at operating temps – if you know its a leak it’s easy to track down – a new rider just sees a screwed up bike and another repair job – frustrating.

        It’s a concern that FI makes moot.

        • Slacker

          Also living in Colorado will affect carb’d bikes quite a bit… loss of power and potential for trouble when getting up higher into the atmosphere causes trouble even on FI bikes. Carbs become all but dangerous.

  • Brian

    if there is a model you are interested in, find a model specific forum for it and do some due diligence and educate yourself….you’ll find out really quickly what is high, what is low, what is good and what is bad, and what key specific things to look out for.

  • Jordan

    It really depends on the nature of how the bike was used and how meticolous the owner was. If the bike saw mostly street use and was owned by a level headed rider, I would say the sky is the limit with the appropriate record keeping. One big ticket wear item is valve shimming due to wear, but I would wager that metals have improved so much in the past thirty years and with basic air filter maintenance, it’s almost a non-issue now-a-days, especially on street ridden motorcycles. You do have to be realistic about the suspension and brakes not seeing appropriate service, since most people probably don’t even consider it.
    The thing you need to consider is potential flaws a model of bike might have that don’t necesarrily relate to its mileage.

  • motoguru.

    Mileage is just a number. If it’s been taken care of, nothing is too much.

  • Scott Otte

    When did 20,000 become high mileage? That’s less than 2 years of riding…

    • E Brown

      Which can be part of the problem/concern from newbies buying used. Since so few people ride daily/commute, most bikes on Craigslist or Cycletrader have low miles, so they get suspicious when a bunch of 5-year old supersports (the perfect newbie bike, according to newbies!) have 5k miles and they see an ad for a bike with 50k. The guy with 50k is the safer bet because he’s depended on the bike to get around, while the 5k bikes were likely low-sided at 5k after a year or two and sidelined by spousal interference until time to clean the garage.

      Modern engines are built to last – some Italian! require more maintenance than others, but pretty much anything you don’t neglect or crash will keep on keeping on. There’s a guy on ADV with over 200k miles on a Monster.

      Worry more about condition than miles.

      • Scott Otte

        Funny you should comment on the Italian bikes =) I have over 65K on my Ducati Monster. I wouldn’t recommend it as a commuter bike because of the service intervals, but it’s engine is still going strong.

        • Sylvain Dumas

          same for my guzzi about 1000 dollars in maintenance every 6000 miles but well wotth it

  • mms

    Recently hit 29,000 miles on my commuter, a Ducati Supersport 1000, and it’s only caught fire once in the past year. I might have trouble selling it.. And yet the 1986 Dnepr MT-16 i just got has less than 600 miles, and it runs like it’s been sitting for so long that all the gaskets have turned into dust. Oh wait, they have. My personal rule of thumb is to check something for signs that squirrels have been living in it. The rest is, as everyone else has pointed out, totally bike- and situation-dependent.

    • Lee Scuppers

      +1 on the squirrels. They know quality when they see it. Never steered me wrong.

  • Chanson

    For the bike in the picture (Yamaha Vmax) there is no such thing. I met a guy riding one with 75k and all he did was change the oil and one valve adjustment.

    I don’t think there really is a number that is too many, most of these machines get totaled, either in one accident or a culmination of them, before they reach that magic number. It’s really more about the maintenance than the wear, so if you have an over bore or neglect oil changes you can run into problems but that is more a factor of how many owners as opposed to how many miles.

  • Jason

    As others have said it depends on the bike and maintenance. I’ve purchased a FJ1200 with 56K miles without any concern because I knew the bike had been maintained. I rode that bike for another 30K miles with no issues before crashing and totaling it. Even then, a Legends car racer bought the engine with broken cases for $1500.

    I’ve also purchased a 34 year old KZ400 with only 1300 miles. It had only been registered for 2 year after it was purchased and then parked in a barn. It required major work to the carbs, brakes, suspension, electronics, etc and still doesn’t run quite right.

    I had a dealer’s license a couple years ago and noticed that auction prices for sportbikes dropped of significantly at 10K miles

  • Steven Mansour

    The answer is that it depends on the bike. Based on experience, 20,000 miles (32,000km) on a Ducati 848 is approaching end-of-life. The same mileage on a Honda or Victory means it’s barely been broken-in.

    • Philip Azzara

      What was the story with your 848?

      • Steven Mansour

        My ex-girlfriend’s 848. Properly maintained at dealer. Between 19,000 and 21,000 mile we suddenly had: cracked radiator, hole in tank, black smoke, and stalling at lights. Until then it had been rock-solid. Great bike, and hopefully that was just bad luck, but that was my experience. Still love Ducs though.

        • Philip Azzara

          Thanks for the reply. As the owner of a 2012 848 corse, this concerns me.

  • Adam

    A bike has too many miles on when it fails to deliver the amount of fun and/or reliability you desire compared to the newer bike you want and can afford. For a wealthy guy who gets to ride once a month because he is so busy there is a near zero tolerance for breakdown. Hard starting on that carbed 5 year old bike? Just get down to the shop, trade it in and plop down cash for a 2014. For your semi-retried vintage scooter repairer there is no such thing as “too many miles” because fixing things is part of the joy they derive from ownership.

  • John Ogren

    Is it a BMW? 20k miles is barely broken in! My ’85 k100rt has 68k miles and looks brand new. Many of them get 200k or more. There’s no set number. Just do your research and use common sense.

    • BillW

      Yep. I personally know several people with over 100K on their BMWs, and most of them don’t ride them gently, at least in the twisties. That’s not to say that they’ve all been trouble-free, of course. Generally, the engines hold up very well at high mileage, but clutches, transmissions and final drives can be problem areas.

  • William Connor

    Depends on the bike is my answer. Older Ducati’s if the maintenance wasn’t done right I would worry about, same goes for any bike but more so bikes with short maintenance intervals. HD will typically be due for a rebuild around 20-30k. Japanese standards may never need maintenance from what I have seen messing around with older bikes.

    • Piglet2010

      That is pretty sad considering the low specific power output and red-line on H-D engines.

      • William Connor

        Don’t disagree. Some don’t even make it that long.

        • Piglet2010

          Japanese standards from the 1970′s would usually make it to 50K, and much improved metallurgy and manufacturing tolerances are available today.

          Are the H-D engines really that poor, or do they get trashed by idiot owners sitting around revving them in parking lots before a proper warm-up, and/or overheating them in hot weather?

          • William Connor

            It’s a combination of factors. The HD motor uses some pretty wide tolerances to compensate for being only air cooled. Most of their competition while air cooled are more specifically air/oil cooled. Victory for example uses jets in the motor to direct oil to the con rod connections and other high heat areas that allow tighter tolerances and better longevity. Yamaha does this as well, although not all Yamaha twins come with an oil cooler standard whereas Victory does on every model.

            • Piglet2010

              And the oil cooler on my Bonnie is almost as big as a radiator would be. To be fair, Victory does specify their engines as being air/oil cooled.

              Funny thing – my TW200 lacks an oil cooler and fuel injection, and the design dates back to the early 1980′s, yet the specific torque is almost as much as a new H-D Twin Cam 103, while the specific power is about 1.7 to 1.8 times as much. :)


  • Steven Crichton

    If it’s like cars.. providing they are maintained an engine should be good for 100k miles ( diesel 200k ) before a full rebuild. of course the exceptions are highly strung ones.. although 99% of the time anything over a 400cc bike is an older rider, who is much more conscious of maintenance. In the UK a 125 is normally thrashed to an inch of it’s life by teens. I personally have a 1150gs and on most forums the 50k mark is referred to “Just broken in”

  • SniperSmitty

    My 2000 HONDA CBR F4 had 24k when I got it this year. Thing runs like a dream. Honda bikes are very well built. I paid to run the vin number and only service showed up. I was pleased and bought it on the spot. I have put over 5k miles on it and all it needs is a new rear tire before next season. It handles wonderfully and has instant throttle response for a carbureted bike that is 13 years old.
    Keep the dirty side down riders.

  • kent_skinner

    Modern manufacturing lets companies build amazing bikes. As an example, I know 4 guys who are retired and ride all the time. They ride fast, in all sorts of conditions – rain, sun, pavement, fire roads, with gear for camping trips, or just a tank bag with lunch. They maintain their bikes, but they are all far from being trailer queens.
    All 4 have at least 60,000 miles on their DL650 (Wee Strom). They all bought them new, and have multiple bikes. These guys spend a lot of time riding. Yes, I’m jealous.

    None of them have any serious mechanical problems. The worst problem so far is a clogged fuel filter, due to a bad design. They did a 30 day, 9,000 mile ride to the Arctic Circle (with 3,000 miles on dirt), with camping gear – and brought no spare parts other than new tires and a tube (just in case they tore a hole in a tire). Nothing went wrong. Nada. Zip. 36,000 combined miles on bikes with 40,000+ miles on them at the start, with no problems.

    One of the bikes, now at 75,000 miles, will burn 1/2 quart of oil in 1,500 miles if flogged at high RPM all day. They avoid the freeways, so that isn’t very common.

    I didn’t flinch when I found a great deal on a 650 V Strom with 22,000 miles. I got out a stack of cash and ride away on it.

  • Slacker

    I bought my Beemer at 85,000 miles two years ago… at 112,000 now. Basically the rule is, do the normal checks you would, check the service intervals (hate to get stuck with a big service right after buying a machine!), but high mileage is nothing to worry about. If you can get service records, that’d be best.

    • zweirad

      I’ve been riding Beemers for about 20 years. My current ’09 R1200GS has 40K on it. It’s just getting broken in. I sold an ’01 K1200RS at 45K to move to the GS. The K bike was also just getting broken in. There are a number of marques that can handle miles, BMW, Honda, even Harley Davidson. The keys are to get the maintenance records and to keep up with it. I would walk away from a 15 year-old bike with only 30K. That’s about 2K per year. Not enough to keep the seals lubed and likely that problems kept it from being ridden.

      Bikes like the BMW and Honda tourers are over-engineered. They are designed to provide long service lives. When they aren’t run, issues often crop up. Thus, a low-mileage bike may be more expensive than one that’s been ridden. Look at what bikes are faves of the Iron Butt Rally riders: Yamaha FJR, Goldwing, BMW R and K tourers, Kawasaki Concours. These bikes are ridden knowing that they will get their riders to their destinations. (Of course, I have to insert a jab at BMW final drive failures, otherwise someone else will.)

      For me, I would stay away from some of the more exotic bikes like KTM and Ducati. They are high-strung and require a fair amount of maintenance to remain reliable. They also may not be ideal choices for someone that’s looking for a bike that will give them high mileage without high costs. I’d also stay away from first year bike regardless of the marque. There are too many teething issues that crop up on these “beta” bikes.

      • Morty

        Ditto on the Concours , I bought a well used 1999 with 67K miles on it 2 years ago (after being out of riding for 24 years) for the princely sum of $2000 . It now has 94k miles on it and except for a lil rust that got into the carbs when i first got it ,it has never let me down . I intend to keep it even tho I’m looking for another bike .

        • zweirad

          That Concours will just keep going and going. There’s a reason Kawasaki didn’t revise it for so long. They got it right from the start. The only thing I’ve heard to do is to beef up the front springs to give it a better ride.

      • Morty

        Ditto on the Concours , I bought a well used 1999 with 67K miles on it 2 years ago (after being out of riding for 24 years) for the princely sum of $2000 . It now has 94k miles on it and except for a lil rust that got into the carbs when i first got it ,it has never let me down . I intend to keep it even tho I’m looking for another bike .

  • ThinkingInImages

    It’s so conditional. The oldest motorcycle I had was a Honda VT500 Ascot that had over 70,000 miles on it and the engine was fine. On the other hand, my Honda FT500 needed some minor work at 15,000 miles. A big, air cooled single could be a little fussy. Sometimes that’s part of their charm. I also had several Suzuki GS air-cooled four cylinders. Those were built very well and had some high mileage. Overall, other than wear and tear items, all were solid motorcycles and meticulously maintained. I’m slowly adding miles to my CBR250R and it will also be well maintained.

    There’s two points here: these were/are fairly low stressed motorcycles, not highly tuned sports motorcycles. Maintenance matters. There’s a lot more to it than just changing oil.

  • grindz145
    • kirby123

      Oh man, another ’84-86 Nighthawk 700s rider? Awesome! (though my ’85 700s is just under 20k miles…)

      • grindz145

        Just a baby… My Nighthawk S is adorned with Studded knobby tires and auxiliary battery pack for winter riding. Still, a great motorcycle.

  • Larry

    This is one of those things where I’m a bit of a hypocrite. My bike has 84k km (+50k miles) and it still runs great. I’ve taken care of it and I know it still has lots of life left in it. I have no plans to sell it, in part because it’s not worth much on the used market with that kind of “high” mileage. That said, I would sell it to my best friend with a clear conscience. But…I would never buy a used bike with such high mileage myself. And the only reason is because it’s generally unnecessary. I looked for the better part of one summer and finally found the bike I wanted in the fall with just 4000km on it. If money is truly tight and you’re willing to risk it, and have intimate knowledge of how the bike was maintained and esp if you’re handy a higher mileage bike can be a great way to go. But if you have a little more $$ to spend and are patient you will eventually find that low mileage bike you’re looking for. People buy the wrong bikes, too tall, too powerful, pick up a bike for their girlfriend who never touches it or they just get into riding and quickly realize it isn’t for them. So bikes with a few thousand or even a few hundred on the clock pop up pretty regularly. There’s no reason to panic and grab the first CBR600 that comes along…plenty of fish in the sea, relax, take your time…you’ll find your soulmate.

  • Fzilla

    I’ve owned a 2001 FZ1 since 2007- I love the bike and have no desire to replace it, but of course I fantasize about what I’d replace it with (Hellooooo, RC8!)- When I read on a forum about a woman, with the exact same bike as mine, who had recently passed 200,000 miles on hers, I decided to not worry about the 46,000 miles on mine and just ride the crap out of it. Most bikes are so over-engineered and overbuilt that they’ll last a good long time as long as they’re ridden regularly and subjected to a smidge of maintenance. If a bike has sat for too long unridden, that’s when problems arise. High mileage on a bike is not a problem. My first bikes were clappers with ‘high’ miles that I got for crazy cheap.

  • CruisingTroll

    As noted, “it depends”. There are scads of Goldwings out there with 6 figure mileage. Pretty much ANY of this century’s sport-touring/touring/luxury touring bikes will be fine at 100k, EXCEPT the suspension. For a non-neglected bike, aside from normal consumable components (chains, brake pads, tires), the two areas that go first are clutch and suspension. The engines though? Other than race bikes and dirt bikes where the maintenance is measured in hours, all you need do is change the oil, coolant and air filter per maintenance schedule, don’t ignore the valve checks, and they’ll be good for 50k-200k+.

    The flip side is “are there even lower mileage examples of the bike you want available”? If you’re patient, there probably is, especially if it’s a fairly common bike. Want a 2003 Japanese supersport with <7,500 miles on it? Shouldn't be hard to find. This is even more true of cruisers, as more of those have been lifestyle/aspirational purchases and ridden less frequently. As a general rule, other than bikes in the various touring categories, the more expensive the bike new, the slower mileage is accumulated.

  • kevin

    Sometimes sitting can be even worse than being ridden. As others have said, the bikes with high mileage were probably owned by someone who was serious about riding and therefore looked after his or her machine. It also probably wasn’t the previous owners first or second motorcycle as people tend to go through a couple bikes quickly before they settle on the ‘right’ one for them. What this means is that there’s a good chance the high mileage bike was ridden by someone who was experienced and cared for it properly. The 6 or 7 year old sportbike with only a few thousand miles on it on the other hand was probably somebody’s first or second bike that they crashed/got scared of/ran out of money to own and it’s probably had a couple owners, none of whom were experienced riders or especially interested in preventative maintenance. I wouldn’t let mileage be a definite deal breaker on a bike until you’ve seen it in person. Most modern motorcycles will go 100,000 miles, properly cared for. Even sportbikes. I’m pretty sure there’s a couple 100k+ mile R1′s out on the internet that are pretty well known, as an example.

  • sykerocker

    My ’95 Triumph Trident is going to turn over 115,000 miles before New Year’s Eve at my current rate of riding. It’s a lifetime keeper because: a. I love the bike (and have had way too many adventures with it), and, b. I seriously doubt if I could get $1000.00 for it anymore. Never mind that it’s clean, almost mint, and completely reliable.

    It’s not the only bike I’ve had like that. Traded my ’00 Tiger in with 50k on it. My ’98 FXSTS left my garage at 47k. The BMW K75C that was replaced by the Tiger had 75k. Last year I picked up an ’86 FXR with 10k on it – that’ll be around for the next ten years, at least.

    I’m not worried about the bike’s age or mileage, I’m worried about the DPO.

  • ThinkingInImages

    With used motorcycles, even with maintenance records, there’s still wear and tear repairs that may have been neglected. I’ve seen some beautifully prepped for sale rubbish. At first glance, they look like new. Then you start digging in and discover the brake fluid hasn’t been changed in a decade, there’s slightly weird cable routing, paint that’s slightly faded or slight corrosion on one side, but not the other, front to rear alignment is not quite right. I can go on.

    If you’re interested in a particular old motorcycle, do some research. What did it look like new, what factory changes were made during it’s life (other than style)? What’s the parts supply like? Is there an entire industry devoted to rebuilding the thing because…?

  • Jonathan Ward

    I would say anything above 60,000 is getting a bit high. I bought my Fazer with around 9,500 miles two years ago (2001 model), but only because I envisaged doing high mileage. She’s now approaching 40,000mi and has yet to cost me a single penny in non wear and tear parts. I think that demonstrates how motorcycles can easily exceed 20,000 which is considered ‘excessive mileage’ by some UK dealers. Although I cannot prove this, I believe keeping services up to date also helps to keep a bike problem-free. I’ve maintained my Fazer’s full service history for that reason. Every 8,000 miles she’s in the garage.

    Rather than miles, I look for a service history and signs of rust. This is a better indicator in my opinion about how problem-free a bike will be longer term.

  • brian fleenor

    That is an impossible question to generalize. Mileage on most modern day bikes is nearly negligible. Depends a lot on the specific bike and owners. I’ve heard of CBRf4′s going well over 100k miles. Problem is, lots of sportbikes are beaten and trashed right out of the dealership, so you really need to just do a very close inspection of any bike you purchase for signs of possible misuse/abuse.

  • DrRideOrDie

    I put 22,000 miles on my Fz1 this year. She’s still running like a beast. They aren’t a Harley. I do like that many people don’t actually ride their bikes and sell them after they have sat in the garage more or less for 3 years and log about 5,000 miles. Good deals for me.

  • di0genes

    Everybody worries about engines, but there are other part on a motorcycle that wear out much sooner. 20-30 K is nothing for a 500 cc or greater street bike engine that has not been used for racing, but near the end of the life of a chain, brakes, and possibly suspensions. Transmission and clutches don’t wear out so much as they are destroyed in minutes by rider stupidity. In my experience when a bike is finally sent to the breakers the engine is still running. Rear shocks can be expensive to replace or rebuild. Shaft drive neglected maintenance can have very expensive driveline problems. Most of this stuff is fairly easy to check visually, and the owner should have a record or at least be able to tell you when the chain and sprockets were replaced, etc. etc.. Check transmission and clutch by holding WOT to redline in second gear.