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Old 09-17-2012, 03:26 PM   #1
uraberg OP
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Best bike for the budget?

I figured, since this question is about the wisdom of buying an older bike, or a high mileage bike, this would be the most appropriate section of the forum.

I recently helped a new rider acquire his first motorcycle. He has just passed the MSF course, and had a budget set for a bike of around $1500. He is very much into the idea of doing his own work, but is completely unfamiliar with it.

Within his budget, we found two types of bikes. One is the older bike; mid seventies, honda cb's and what have you, or newer high mileage bikes.

More or less, at my insistance, we decided to go with a 1996 BMW R850R for $1600 with about 100k miles on it. Known problems are: worn brake rotors, and a "hickuping" third gear, most likely because of a bent shifter fork. The hickup only occurs when really getting on it, or heavily engine braking. He knows that this is a problem that involves getting into the transmission, and fixing it. No other way.
Unbelievably, there are no maintenance records (they got lost between the first and second owner), and we still went for it.

I've asked my friends about the wisdom of this decision, and they are divided in two camps. One says that you are guaranteed to run into problems on a high mileage bike (more so than an old bike), and the other says that it is better to start with a more modern bike, and do what needs to be done.

So what say you? what is the best bike for the budget? Would you choose an older bike with lower miles, or a newer bike with higher mileage?
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Old 09-17-2012, 03:46 PM   #2
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Why not door #3? A newer bike with low miles? He could have searched out thru the many low mile Ninja 250s-500s and gotten one with well under 10k miles for that much. Add the grand or so at least you will dump into a 100,000 mile bike and the door of recent, low mile bikes open even further. $2500 will get you a bevy of "recent", if 1996 is recent, bikes in the 600-750cc range of either standard, cruiser or sportbike style not to even mention the DS options.

You screwed him IMO.
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Old 01-11-2013, 05:00 AM   #3
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Why not door #3? A newer bike with low miles?
Or door 4? Older and high-miles? The upside of a project bike is that the rider gets to know it pretty well before putting significant miles on it. But I like mechanical work. I've seen others start with projects and learn pretty well how to do the work. I choose older bikes and don't usually believe the odometer (a '75 with 16k-miles wouldn't be that worn-looking).

Your friend said he wants to learn to do the work. The BMW has good parts availability and many sources of information and tutorials. It's not like he was looking for a diamond and you sold him some coal.
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Old 09-17-2012, 04:08 PM   #4
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I tried getting him on a smaller displacement bike, or a dual sport. He did not like the idea of dual sports at all (He'll come around at some point, I'm sure), and he is a pretty tall guy.

The reasoning behind the BMW was That all it needed right now was front brake rotors, used, just to get him going for a while, It is not a high HP bike, but nonetheless more than highway capable (He does want to do very long rides) (Not saying that a 250 ninja would not be capable), It is pretty easy to ride with the low CG, and he really likes the beemers...

He's not going to put $1000 in right now. So it's not really equal to $2500 right now.

But your point is well taken. Maintenance will be higher, until it is all sorted out. The engine sounded very tight though, with no oil leakage (or seepage) from any joint.
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Old 09-17-2012, 04:20 PM   #5
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Didn't you say it needs the trans opened up? I can usually find $1000 worth of work on a 20,000 mile bike, never mind 100,000.

A guy in another thread just bought a ZR7 with 20k iirc for $1800. Bike is mint. Roll a 100,000 mile bike in my driveway and offer it for free and 99% of the time I'll tell you to take it back.
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Old 09-17-2012, 04:49 PM   #6
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Yes, third gear has a hiccup. We will do the work ourselves this winter, and most likely, it is only a bent shift fork. It is only a problem when really getting on it. All other gears work with no issue, but yes, it does need to be addressed.
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Old 09-17-2012, 04:56 PM   #7
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You'd open the trans and not replace every bearing and worn piece? The forks, gears and shafts should be inspected thoroughly. Clutch dry on that one? You know the deal while you are there and all.
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Old 09-17-2012, 04:58 PM   #8
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Can I jump in? Find out cost on BMW parts. I wouldn't think that is the cheap way to go. If logic and reason drove us, we'd be riding KLRs. Find another 1500 and do better. Hell spend that on parts soon anyway.
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Old 09-17-2012, 05:13 PM   #9
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Can I jump in? Find out cost on BMW parts. I wouldn't think that is the cheap way to go. If logic and reason drove us, we'd be riding KLRs. Find another 1500 and do better. Hell spend that on parts soon anyway.

The question is what to do within a certain budget. making the budget larger (for the immediate time) was not an option. But believe me, I have suggested the KLR specifically. A lot.
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Old 09-17-2012, 05:15 PM   #10
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The question is what to do within a certain budget. making the budget larger (for the immediate time) was not an option. But believe me, I have suggested the KLR specifically. A lot.
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Old 09-17-2012, 05:20 PM   #11
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You suck as a friend.





I have a spare milk crate. That's why.
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Old 09-17-2012, 05:56 PM   #12
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The question is what to do within a certain budget.
The 'new rider' part of that equation makes it tough.

You want them to focus on learning how to ride, not 'what part will fail me next'. with the really old bikes it is cables, seals, intake boots, dry rotted tires, old crappy technology chains... crap like that. A modern high-mileage bike, if it got that far, had somebody looking after it. It probably got at least the minimum maintenance. But something expensive could happen any time.

I think patience and a wide set of parameters is the way to go. That ZR7 up in Road Warriors was a great buy, and a good example of a bike that never sold well, with crappy resale, that is actually really good.
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Old 09-17-2012, 05:10 PM   #13
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No, that's not what I'm saying. I would want to replace every bearing and gasket, but hopefully no more than that (plus the one shift fork). I am saying that I'm optimistic about being to rebuild the tranny to a point where it is good for another 50k miles or so with less than $300 or thereabouts in parts.

I could be completely misguided. I've never rebuild a transmission.

I guess this thread could be seen as how misguidedly optimistic I am
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Old 09-17-2012, 05:25 PM   #14
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Old 09-17-2012, 06:05 PM   #15
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Agreed. The trans definitely has me worried, and without knowing what ever happened to the final drive, it is high up on the list of items to look into as well.
Finding something that is reliable out of the box within these budget constraints has proven difficult.
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