Mike Deutsch at Blotto Parts has been hustling rusty iron for years, so he knows the game as well as anyone. We enlisted Sucker Free Mike D to share his words of wisdom for this ChopCult Six-Pack, and the knowledge he drops is bound to save you some coin when it's time to turn someone's trash into your treasure.
So, after saving all your pennies from the paper route and slinging the bud you’ve pinched from Pops’ sack all summer long, you’ve finally got enough scratch to buy a knucklehead of your own. Slow down there, sonny boy. Before you blow your load like you did last Tuesday night on Tawny at the Tastee Freeze, take a second to reflect on some bike-buying basics. I like to call my tricks of the trade “How to Hustle a Hustler.”
Step 1: Ride, then Decide. Before you choose a bike, figure out what you’re looking for. Do you want a machine you can ride all summer long, or are you looking for a project you can tinker on between episodes of “Jon & Kate plus 8.” Are you partial to panheads, or are you ready to start a tumultuous love/hate relationship with a Trump? These are questions only you can answer, but only one thing is certain: it’s a buyer's market. In the immortal words of Kenny "The Gambler" Rogers, "Ya gotta know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em." That's why you need to figure which bike is going to please you most often, and how much money you've got to spend. Once you've gotten that far, do not deviate from your budget or your plan. If you've got to borrow your bro's bagger, steal your sister's Sportster and kipe you comrade's Kawi, do what it takes to figure out what kind of freedom machine you're looking for.
Step 2: Wait and Evaluate. Spend time on places like ChopCult, JockeyJournal, eBay and CraigsList to determine what a particular make and model is selling for. While you're lurking around, figure out how available the bike you're looking for is on the open market. Are there a lot of your dream machines to choose from, or is your dream sickle a little harder to find? What about options and accersories? Sometimes a bike loaded up with chrome-plated plastic might not be exactly what you’re looking for, but all that bolt-on bullshit can be flipped for an instant rebate at the local swap meet or the H.O.G. message board. Just because the bro spent 500 bucks for pleather saddlebags and "Live to Ride, Ride to Work" trinkets doesn't mean you have to compensate him for those mistakes. Also, never decline the seller's extra parts or take-offs, as these can easily be turned into quick change when it's time to turn your slick sickle into the next ChopCult feature bike. Do your research and you'll quickly determine a fair baseline price for the bike your loins have been yearning for.
Step 3: Lookin’ and Lurkin’. After picking your dream machine and determining fair market value with the best research tools available, start lurking on CraigsList at all hours of the day, multiple times a day if possible. The early bird gets the worm or the knucklehead, as the case may be. Have cash ready when the deal that's too good to pass up comes by, and be ready to scoot out the door at any given time to peep your potential putt-putt. If you're looking for a 1936 to 1969 H-D, this is the Holy Grail of motorcycles and they can be a little harder to come by. Start by talking to every greybeard in a long-sleeved defunct Harley dealership t-shirt you see. These cats know where the old iron is but don’t expect them to give up the knowledge easily, or for free. Instead, give them your phone number and offer a finder's fee. This goodwill gesture is sometimes the only way you’ll get invited into the treasure trove of choppers that live in the clubhouses and tweaker's dens working stiffs like us never get invited to. Use the same line if British bikes are your thing. If you see a bloke wearing knee-high boots and sporting an Ace Cafe t-shirt, ask him if he's got any mates who might be interested in parting with some old pot metal from across the pond. Or as DicE Matt Davis might say, "Ton up, Bruv!"
Step 4: Run it, Son. The Vehicle Identification Number or VIN, that is. On old bikes, always run the VIN through your local DMV to make sure it’s not on listed on any stolen vehicle reports, or worse, registered as a Special Construction. Special Construction titles vary from state to state, so I won't get into the pitfalls of this situation today, except to say you’ll have a hard time insuring a Special Construction bike, and that it's becoming more difficult to export SC bikes to certain countries, as well. My short recommendation: buy original. An authentic Harley or Triumph adds instant value and will make your bike that much easier to sell when Pro-Street becomes The New '70s digger. If you’re buying a newer bike, run a CarFax report on it. They cost around 35 bucks per pop, or you can buy a five-pack of CarFax service for around 75 bones. Sounds expensive, I know, but it’ll save you lots of time in the long run. There's no sense looking at a bike in Vegas if its been salvaged in California. CarFax will show the important facts about the dates of registration and also note any accidents or insurance claims associated with the VIN, even if the accident or claim was in another state.
Step 5: Inspect and Re-Inspect. When you go to the aforementioned tweeker den to check out that period-correct bobber chop with the neo-traditional tribal skull paint job and the old-school red wheels and "gangster" whitewalls, bring a friend. Better yet, bring someone who actually knows what he’s looking at, maybe someone who's owned the kind of bike you're looking at. An extra set of eyes can help you spot potential problems, and these flaws will give you leverage when it's time to bargain. Sometimes, we get so excited about our pending freedom machines we forget to look at the important stuff like the VIN boss, belly numbers, case repairs, aftermarket parts, late night meth-induced frame repairs and the three rolls of electrical tape wrapped around the "OEM" wiring harness. Don’t let your feelings cloud your judgment. Take your time and don't be afraid to ask your friend for his advice and you'll eventually land the perfect pan, Beezer, or troublehead as the case may be.
Step 6: Walk Away. Decide what the sickle's worth, make the seller an offer and walk away. Don’t haggle for hours over a ‘72 OIF Triumph that doesn’t have a title. Remember: you hold the cards and the cash. If the seller's desperate, Dudes are desperate, capitalize on this fact by giving him your price and walking away. Easy to say and hard to do, but it's the best bargaining tactic I know of. If that ironhead Sportster is destined to be nestled in your garage, it'll happen.
Good advice from a fellow who knows. To read more from Mike D and his scene, visit Blotto Parts.