Six-Pack: Bike Buyin' Basics


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.

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Commented on 5-17-2010 At 06:13 am

Some real gems there, don't forget when some one tells you "It runs great" to take that with a big grain of salt!

Commented on 5-17-2010 At 09:01 am

nice post man....

Commented on 5-17-2010 At 10:34 am

If it does run, get it good and hot... made the mistake of test driving and it ran fine until I was on the way home and the engine got hot and then stopped b/c it was overfilled with oil to make it run decent temporarily.

Commented on 5-17-2010 At 11:14 am

Who invited the dick? hahah!

Commented on 5-17-2010 At 11:15 am

Don't buy something thinking " I can fix that it's no big deal." If you haven't owned an old bike or any bike, buy a damned Evo. There's no shame in riding a modern engine and you want to ride. Then when you've hung around enough geezers and have a good network of fellow wrenches, buy the Pan/shovel you want.

And if it's a kicker only, make sure it's cold before you try it. I made the mistake of buying a kicker only 96 S&S powered rigid. I weighed 160 at the time and it fired right up. I wasn't even thinking that it had been running for a good long while before I tried it. It ended up being a fucking nightmare. Vapor locking, shitty clutch grabbing, springer bouncing. The trouble is that I had let my ego and sense of cool get the best of me and I bought a bike that was too much for my skill level, both on the road and with a wrench.

Commented on 5-17-2010 At 11:37 am

Yeah - the offer-n-walk away bit is almost impossible (for me anyways) to do but is def. the way to go. I finally was able to do that and the guy dropped the price by 400$.
A lot of times it's not that the owner is trying to rip you off or anything, it's just that "my sh** is awesome" syndrome. It didn't take this guy to long to realize that nobody was offering him what he thought it was worth = it ain't worth what he thought.

Commented on 5-17-2010 At 12:50 pm

it runs great...6 years ago when i stored it in my damp basement. it just needs a battery.

Commented on 5-17-2010 At 02:32 pm

Buyer: I'll give you this much for it. Seller: Well theres been a lot of interest and there's five guys coming to look at it this weekend. Buyer: Cool let me know if you still have it after the weekend, but I might not be willing to pay as much then.

Never get pressured, or put into a bidding war on some dudes driveway. I had a buddy show up to buy a pan basket and he had cash in hand as was willing to pay the full amount the dude wanted. He said he wanted to wait for another dude who called to show up and see if he would pay more. "see ya buddy, if you want to sell your stuff that way put it on ebay"

Commented on 5-17-2010 At 05:03 pm

good advice, another pair of (experienced) eyes is always helpful.

Commented on 5-17-2010 At 07:06 pm

It's a love affair. When your bike finds you, you have to get to know her...

Commented on 5-17-2010 At 07:17 pm

when i bought my 72 sporty in boxes i was like what the fuck now. i bought the manual and rebuilt MY BIKE i love that dirty bitch. definitley know what you're buying before you buy.b cool!

Commented on 5-17-2010 At 08:40 pm

Take a Bro and don't be afraid to walk away is probably the best advice in this blog. Also the if you don't know buy an Evo is gold. No shame in being young with much to learn. Show some class and us Graybeards will help you.

Commented on 5-18-2010 At 06:30 am

My advise is to know the market, and if you can get it for under market value, don't shit kick or walk away. Then some guy will come with the cash and buy the thing without the haggle or tire kicking and you'll wish you would have bought the thing.

Thats how I got a 48 Pan for cheap. Lots of guys bullshitting trying to get it cheaper and no one stepping up.

The secret is knowing when to pass and not letting your emotions get the best of you when the price is too high, but at the same time knowing when to pull the trigger on a good deal without waiting for the uber-good deal.

Commented on 5-18-2010 At 06:59 am

Make an offer and walk away ... that's good stuff ... wish I had done that on my last purchase.

Commented on 5-18-2010 At 08:10 am

Wow this joto bravo just might have a clue, now if he only had the arm strength to keep them up..Good jpb joto bravo, good fucking job, you left out intimidating the fuck out of the seller,

Commented on 5-18-2010 At 12:30 pm


Commented on 5-18-2010 At 06:58 pm

remember when you haggle and get the quick "yah yah yah that will work."
know that you just lost and you're buyin the beer on the way home.

even pros lose the haggle game once in a while.


Commented on 5-20-2010 At 10:03 am

Great advice and article!

Commented on 5-20-2010 At 05:48 pm

yea very very good info..

Commented on 5-24-2010 At 01:16 pm

Awesome info. I will have to keep some of these in mind on my next purchase...

Commented on 5-27-2010 At 03:48 am

you have got to be shitting me.....

Commented on 3-8-2011 At 10:49 am

some good advice in both the article and also in other comments that have been posted here. Intimidate the seller that's a pretty good one.

Commented on 3-20-2011 At 07:27 am

Amen brother...also, Harley started stamping the serial numbers on the frame as well as the crankcase in 1970. You wanna be sure they match because the title follows the frame. If the engine# is different you'll need a separate bill of sale for it...How do you think I know that? Doh!

Commented on 3-24-2011 At 01:37 pm

If you want a bunch of Lowballers to call, put it on Craigslist... If you have trouble getting your price, have a 1%er help you "convince" them (works for buyer OR seller) LOL!!

Commented on 3-28-2011 At 08:09 am

Keep your emotions out of the deal. Walk away is great advice and be honest with yourself about what you KNOW and what you can do. If it does not RUN, treat it like it needs everything. I think every bike I ever bought was "just rebuilt". Some were and some WERE about to be.......
Remember guys, it's a buyers market right now for most bikes. Use it to your advantage. Happy hunting.

Commented on 1-28-2013 At 11:27 pm

Nice guidelines, I did all except the vin check...even if it comes with paperwork, run the VIN! I didn't and I've been crying myself to sleep for a month now after a two year build.

Commented on 7-9-2013 At 04:14 am

damn Zemag thats lame lol but now you know right i never thought bout carfax but nows a great time to do it!!

Commented on 8-17-2013 At 10:01 am

Good advice in the article. "It ran good when parked" when was that? yesterday, last month ten years ago. Another good one you hear is "No title, but you can get one easy. All ya have to do is file for a lost title..." never fall for this, if was so easy they would have done it already.
"I'm selling this for friend." Okay, I should be dealing with your friend then, where is he?
So you have a title, why is it not your name on the title?

Commented on 3-23-2015 At 05:56 pm

yup, was running when I put it away last year. So, how did that tank get filled with varnish and why did it take a 3 lb sledge to get the piston out of the cylinder. Its all there, in those boxes. Then it took $450 in nuts and bolts, alone, to get it put together. Not my first rodeo, but damn, I do it every time. Still very happy with the outcome.

Commented on 3-23-2015 At 05:56 pm

yup, was running when I put it away last year. So, how did that tank get filled with varnish and why did it take a 3 lb sledge to get the piston out of the cylinder. Its all there, in those boxes. Then it took $450 in nuts and bolts, alone, to get it put together. Not my first rodeo, but damn, I do it every time. Still very happy with the outcome.

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